Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yeah I got Privilege

I was at Rachel's on Saturday night calmly talking about the movie we had just finished when next door we heard a gunshot. I leapt from the couch and ran to the window looking out in the direction of the shot to see the shadow of a man running down the alley.

Naturally I freaked. Rachel was at the window with me and as I ran into the kitchen to put on my shoes she started telling me not to go outside.

"Babe, someone might be bleeding to death in the street."

"Josh, this isn't the neighborhood where you go out in the streets late at night. It's dangerous."

She was right. She lives in a bad neighborhood, and I didn't think it was the safest thing for me to go outside. I told her that we were at least calling the police. So I dialed 911.

While I was on the phone with the woman, she asked me to hold for a second. Then I heard her hand cover the phone and she said,

"Do you think she's coming over tonight? I talked to her earlier and she said she didn't know if she was going to come by... Okay. Well, catch me before you leave and we'll set up plans."

I couldn't believe it. The 911 operator had me on hold because she was trying to make plans.

After I made the call, I convinced Rachel to let me go outside, but she made me promise not to leave the yard. So I walked outside. I was outside, quite scared. Every security light on Shuttle Way was awake and staring at me. I sat in the back yard with the dew collecting on the hems of my pajama pants. I sat there worried and scared for a good fifteen minutes while Rachel sent me text messages asking me to come inside.

Finally the Police arrived. This is getting the the whole point of my post. The cop got to the alley and I walked around the corner to talk to him.

"I'm the guy who called it in. We were up in my girlfriend's apartment when we heard the gunshot go off. So I went to the window and saw the shadow of a man running down the alley headed this way."

To which the cop replied, "Was it a black guy?"

Now mind you... I saw the guy's shadow. I cocked my head and looked at the cop. "I don't know if it was a black guy or not... all I saw was the shadow."

"Would you say it looked like the shadow of an African American?"

Let me repeat: "Would you say it looked like the shadow of an African American?" What are you supposed to say to that? Did the shadow look like a black guy's? Um, yeah... it looked like a black guy's shadow because it was black? It couldn't have been a white guy's shadow because it wasn't white? It couldn't have been a white guy because white guy's don't shoot guns? It must have been a black guy sir, because well, black people like to shoot other people. Black people commit crimes, white people don't so yeah... it was a black guy's shadow.

I was pissed. I looked the cop in the eye and said "It is impossible for me to discern the race of the individual based solely on his shadow sir."

"But still, there's a lot of black people in the area, I think it's safe to say it was a black guy don't you?"

No. No it is not safe to immediately assume that the man was black. It is not safe at all. I replied: "It could have been a black guy, it could have been a white guy, it could have been a chinaman. I don't know sir, I saw a shadow. Just a shadow."

"Okay. Well let's go take a look."

Then we took a walk and found that there was no bodies, no dead people, all was safe and sound, and the cop drove off. I don't think I need to say anything about the story... I'm just amazed that the conversation happened at all. You can go ahead and deny that you have your white privilege all you like... but you've got it. You're not responsible for it, but you've got it, and you've got to deal with it.