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Not a frequent diarist but I just read this diary and felt compelled to share my stories from teenage years of indiscretion as a young white guy living in a majority black neighborhood similar to Ferguson.  I posted this on my Facebook page but thought it worthy of posting here.


Having a lot of problems dealing with the situation in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere.

The game is rigged against many of our fellow citizens. I find the militarization of our police force frightening to the point where I, as an upper middle class white man find myself reluctant to call the police for help for fear of the situation escalating to a life and death situation.

But his is a story about white privilege.

Keep in mind while all this was happening I lived a neighborhood very similar to Ferguson. Inner city Indianapolis. My neighborhood was 75+% African American.
It is the story about how when 14 years old I stole my mothers car while my parents were at a show, picked up my friend and chose to try and get on the Interstate ramp while smoking a joint. Joint got dropped and as I bent down to pick it up, I slid off the ramp (it was raining heavily) and got stuck.

The cops showed up and took one look at us and knew we were stoned. He asked us where the weed was. I told him the truth...we threw what we had left in the raging culvert.

Did he bust us and treat us as criminals. No....he called the theater, had my parents paged and waited for them to come get me in the rain standing on the side of the Interstate. White privilege.

Then when 18 and planning on spending the evening at a friends drinking and smoking, I stopped a nearby liquor store and talked an old black guy into buying me a 12 pack of Miller bottles.

Got the beer and pulled out onto 38th street and went to the corner light. Totally sober. Light turned yellow and the cars coming East slowed so I went for the left turn on yellow. One car decided to go for the light and I t-boned them. Passenger in the back seat was 8+ months pregnant. Broken beer bottles all over the passenger floor board.

I used a pay phone to call my friend and when the police officer showed up, I told him it was my fault and explained the situation. Told him I had not been drinking and he could check the broken/unbroken bottles to prove that point. He was very cordial and I was somewhat shocked by his almost "friendliness".

Shortly thereafter my friends who I was going to meet showed up. John's house was only two blocks away. But Gerald came up and said "Hey Greg, What's up?" Gerald was black. I could not believe how this white police officer that was basically giving me a free pass for being an underage in possession of alcohol a pass but he was about ready to throw Gerald in a choke hold for saying hello.

Fortunately, Gerald backed off and nothing got escalated.

And here is the crazy thing, the f'in cop grabbed the unbroken beers out of the car before the tow truck took it away and handed them to me and said "have a nice evening".

White F'in Privilege. You have it whether you get it or don't. And your white privilege keeps others (and our country) from reaching their potential.

Originally posted to FarmerG on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 07:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by White Privilege Working Group and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good story but for last line.... (6+ / 0-)
    And your white privilege keeps others (and our country) from reaching their potential.
     The way the cops treated you is the way they should treat everyone...give the parents a chance to get involved before courts do, as in the first case, and access the situation and if the person is honest and seems remorseful enough to have learned a lesson, let it slide.  That treatment does not "keep others and our country" from reaching their full potential, it is good policing.  We need to change bad policing, not restrict good policing.

    Well, now you are just trying to be reasonable...and I'm in NO mood to be reasonable!

    by quiet in NC on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 08:38:52 PM PDT

  •  It's very important for more white people who (16+ / 0-)

    have an epiphany about their white privilege to write stories like this.

    It's why I wrote one recently.

    The more we offer up stories different but the same at heart, the better the chance that a white person stuck in the but I'm a good person, I'm not racist path of thinking.

    They focus only on what they themselves have done or said and keep missing that it's NOT what you do or say as a white person.

    It's ONLY how the world treats you, because you happen to be white.

    Your story is a perfect example.

    THANK YOU for sharing.

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 12:09:25 AM PDT

  •  heh, (10+ / 0-)
    White F'in Privilege. You have it whether you get it or don't.

    Some people do not argue in good faith. Their only purpose is to disrupt and cause strife. Best to not engage them.

    by Drewid on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 01:38:50 AM PDT

  •  privilege that belongs to one group is a human (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ahumbleopinion, NYmama

    rights violation for another group. i have definitely been the beneficiary of it, i don't understand why it is so hard for so many to recognize or admit.

    bring your own petard.

  •  So true (10+ / 0-)
    And your white privilege keeps others (and our country) from reaching their potential.
    I think back to my high school and college years and think about all of the chances I was given. Conservatives want to think that they believe in tough love but I was there and don't buy it. Not too many were tough on me.

    I think people fight for white privilege because it allows them to be fuck-ups. Just think of how great the white culture would be in this country if it was held to a higher standard than it is...

  •  Great piece, ... (9+ / 0-)

    but I think it's even more endemic and deep-rooted than that. "I" may not be overtly racist but still racist inside and not even realize it. Lack of awareness does not excuse it. We have to do deep rooting out, and keep rooting it out over a lifetime.

    I am a half "white"-half "brown" person whom the world has generally treated as "white." (I put race terms in quotation marks generally, because the actual scientific basis for race categorization is completely bogus.) I grew up with my "white" mother, who was a poor farm kid from Georgia who moved to south Florida in the 40's as a young girl and brought overt race prejudice with her. She married my "brown" father in Miami in the mid-50's, and they raised us kids the best they could, but my mother in various ways taught us to be embarrassed about the part of us that was "brown" and to be outwardly polite to but inwardly deeply fearful of African Americans.

    When it comes to law enforcement, I have many of the same experiences of having been cut a break back in the day that would not be cut for an African American. So I wholeheartedly agree with and appreciate the writer's post and message.

    But when I was just out of high school and in my first year of college in the south, many decades ago, I heard a very young Cornel West speak in a small group setting. He opened my eyes to the fact that I was a racist myself and did not even realize it. I resented this claim when he flatly laid it out to start his talk, but as he responded to the flack I and others threw back at him, I began to see that he was right. Whenever I would go anywhere and encounter an African American, I immediately brought to that encounter a whole host of assumptions about my own superiority and entitlement to privilege and predispositions about that other person, which not only affected my own behavior but also made that person feel my unacknowledged cruel and inaccurate stigma. He suggested that the fact that I didn't even realize I was a racist makes it more subtle but still quite harmful to African Americans.

    I've been trying to learn that lesson a little more each day since then, and when I see Ferguson situations, I know that many "whites" have a long way to go to deal with our racist past and also our racist present.

    To use a religious frame of reference, when we would not want to be treated the way that we treat others, as in the Golden Rule, if "the other" is non-"white," often times there is an unacknowledged racist component. "White" America has never acknowledged and repented of this ongoing mass sinning which is deep in U.S. Anglo-centric culture and allowed the U.S. to justify stealing the land, killing the Native Peoples, capturing and enslaving human beings with another continental heritage.

    By not acknowledging and repenting, both internally, culturally, and with active political efforts, we are denying justice, including not only civil but also economic justice, for all. Which brings my internal prejudice right around to the material world of "40 acres and a mule," which would be part of any true repentance. There is no peace without justice, and no justice without economic justice. Justice cannot be just the superficial passing of civil laws mandating "legal" equality. We have to live out that equality and make it an economic reality, which means we need to change the inequitable system imposed by the 1%, with its incredibly wide disparity in income and wealth, that uses race prejudice as a primary tool to divide and conquer.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 04:17:03 AM PDT

  •  Great diary, thanks. nt (4+ / 0-)

    "Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come." --Rumi

    by karmsy on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 05:30:36 AM PDT

  •  I think it's important to recognize (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, nuclear winter solstice

    that saying:

    I stopped a nearby liquor store and talked an old black guy into buying me a 12 pack of Miller bottles.
    perpetuates racism because you could have said you talked some guy into buying you the beer.  Just a thought.

    People act on the outside how they feel on the inside. If you acknowledge it, you can change it.

    by Raggedy Ann on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 06:55:34 AM PDT

    •  I thought that, then I thought that it was part of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, blueoasis

      a larger point in the sense that an old black man might not have wanted to cause any trouble with a white teen and so was perhaps even more likely to buy for him than an old white man or any woman might have been. Teenagers learning early how to use subtle pressure? Maybe not, maybe the circumstances were simply who was there. But it added a nuance that I thought was worthwhile.
         That's my $.02 in a culture that has lost track of the symbol for cents.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 07:42:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Truth is, there weren't any white guys to ask (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, blueoasis

      And it's also part of the story.  

      This happened in my and Gerald's neighborhood but the truth of the matter is in that neighborhood, I was the minority.  And yet it was I who received the deferential treatment.

      You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb it into peace - michael franti

      by FarmerG on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 08:10:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Our teenage son with his mixed race friends (14+ / 0-)

    has been racially profiled six times in the past two years. Four times driving through small Texas towns with black, anglo and hispanic friends. Car was searched almost every time but not arrests.

    Two times, my son was playing basketball in a neighborhood basketball court with a mixed race group again with anglo, hispanic and black teenage boys. Multiple police cars come streaming up and police says someone called 911 on them. I guess just for playing "aggravated basketball." One of my son's black friends playing basketball was an active duty Marine on holiday leave from his current duty station at the White House. Wow.

    And some RW'ers say racial profiling doesn't exist.

    Fighting Liberal at
    “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” --Gandhi:

    by smokey545 on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 07:13:51 AM PDT

  •  This is a story (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    timewarp, mod2lib

    that every white American could tell if they had the courage and insight to tell them.

    Thank you, FarmerG, for knowing right from wrong and standing up for it!

    A lot more of us need to do the same.

    What fresh hell is this? D. Parker

    by BetteNoir on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 07:48:34 AM PDT

  •  Not white privilege - freaking timing and luck. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, blueoasis
    Did he bust us and treat us as criminals. No....he called the theater, had my parents paged and waited for them to come get me in the rain standing on the side of the Interstate. White privilege.
    How many years ago was this?   You ought to try being young in white affluent suburbia today.   They have cops in the schools turning everything into crimes, and white thug cops cruising parks looking for joint smoking white kids to beat and arrest.   The abuse is greater against blacks no doubt, but like our politicians, the abuse of power is worse than ever and more transparent.

    I will not vote for Hillary..... #38067

    by dkmich on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 08:04:14 AM PDT

    •  1977 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob, blueoasis

      Before the war on drugs started.

      You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb it into peace - michael franti

      by FarmerG on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 08:21:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're experience is history (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        1977 was a totally different generation and time.   Hell, a few years earlier, we were lighting up joints in concerts with no repercussions.     End of 60s, early 70s, weed was as good as legal, and cops helped people including kids. Weed cost maybe $200 lb.   Now weed is $200 oz if you're lucky, and kids are punks, trouble makers, and just begging to get their asses kicked by the holier than thou cops.   Cops are out of control thugs.  Millage comes up to hire more cops, I vote NO.  Fuck em.

        I will not vote for Hillary..... #38067

        by dkmich on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 09:35:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, but that is more a matter of totalitarian (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dkmich, awesumtenor, blueoasis

      objectives, which certainly would include racism as you say, but only because that racial prejudice already exists and has always existed. The view from a white cop that a white kid is a punk, deviant, malcontent, more patriarchal and narcissistic. The desire being to instruct and to discipline the wayward child.  

      That same cop would have a completely different and much more fatal view of a non-white. More of a need to eradicate rather than control.

      “...I'm glad I'm not afraid to be lazy!” ― Augustus Mc Crea, "Lonesome Dove"

      by nutherhumanbeing on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 09:04:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a hundred like stories. In my naive years (5+ / 0-)

    as a child in Dallas, I thought it was just dumb luck, God's protection, incredible coincidence. Whatever. The irony is, I was lucky that I wasn't engaged by good cops who would have punished me in accordance with the law and good judgement.

    The only thing that really changed that was money. It's somewhere near, what, 15,000.00 for driving under the influence? Money is the only thing that really trumps racism.

    I passed out at the wheel and veered into a large medium taking out about 200 yards of cable, veered back on the road, took an exit that was clearly closed off because the road had been excavated 3 feet down. Broke the radiator. Popped all four tires and drove better than 5 miles down to the rims. I was pulled over 3 blocks from home driving on rims at 5 mph with steam and sparks flying. Female cop laughed at me and sent me on my way.

    I'm not trying to turn this excellent diary into a story telling contest, but the authors point is profound. With any of the reckless crap I pulled, had I been black, I would have a rap sheet an inch thick and I would probably be pulled over and vetted every time I leave the driveway.

    Good Diary.    

    “...I'm glad I'm not afraid to be lazy!” ― Augustus Mc Crea, "Lonesome Dove"

    by nutherhumanbeing on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 08:25:22 AM PDT

    •  What's wrong with a storytelling contest? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, blueoasis

      Maybe not a contest per se, but it's telling that we all have our stories.

      When I was in high school in the mid-to-late ‘80s, my friends and I had multiple encounters with police while we were drinking: at house parties, in the park after dark, in the park when we should have been in school – so sometimes we were both drinking and truant. Never once were any one of us detained, searched, cited or arrested. No one even called our parents.

      The worst thing that ever happened to us was having our beer taken and poured out in front of us. Or, if it was decent beer sometimes it would be ‘confiscated’. Then we would be sent on our merry way.

      Yes, I had the privilege of being white not to mention being perceived as a ‘good’ kid. That said, I think it was also a question of local culture and a different time and place. I grew up in the South where I think a lot of bad behavior was written off under boys will be boys. When I went to college in a different part of the country many people there had tales of “MIP” – minor in possession citations they got when caught drinking. They actually had to appear in court. I didn't even know such a thing was possible.

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

      by Joe Bob on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 09:45:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah...even non-white kids could be boys and girls (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joe Bob, blueoasis

        to an extent. They weren't automatically gang bangers to the degree it is today. I remember my old man going off on a cop for calling some kids punks outside of a waffle house one night. He said he should be ashamed of himself and that they were just kids. I was so proud of him.

        ...he then diffused the situation by being apologetic in saying that he taught his son to recognize the cops as the real batman and superman. The cop's partner asked "what about robin?" which my father replied, "that son of bitch is out writing parking tickets on commerce street."

        Good stuff.

        “...I'm glad I'm not afraid to be lazy!” ― Augustus Mc Crea, "Lonesome Dove"

        by nutherhumanbeing on Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 10:22:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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