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This Week in White Privilege

I am not Michael Brown. I am a blonde, middle-aged, middle class white woman. I have committed the very same crimes and transgressions that Michael Brown is alleged to have committed. When I was 18, I smoked pot and shoplifted. Much more recently and on multiple occasions, I have been disrespectful to police. For instance, at a New Year’s memorial for Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station, I walked right up to a cop sitting in his car with the window rolled down. I said, “Happy New Year, Officer!” He smiled. I said, “Try not to kill anybody this year, OK?” Yet Officer Friendly did not grab me by my white throat and shoot me at least six times and leave my white lifeless body uncovered in the street, only to take me away many hours later—not in an ambulance or a hearse but in an unmarked SUV.

I have been mostly unaware of my white privilege for most of my life. When I was in junior high school in the 1970’s, I moved from a rural town in Nevada with no black people at all to a rural Alabama town with more than a few. As the new girl at the public, integrated school, I was picked on mercilessly by the mean white girls. In response, my illogical, racist parents moved me to a private, all-white school. My parents were quite poor but white privilege still afforded them the ability to choose a different school for me – albeit one that did not receive federal funding and whose student body consisted of the most hateful and backward people I had ever been privileged to meet.

When we moved to Texas and there were race riots in my high school, I wore my friendship with black students like a cloak of invincibility. I sat on the hood of a police car in the school parking lot and had an ironic picture taken for the high school annual. Much more recently, during Occupy protests, I provoked police and thereby put people of color at risk. But it wasn’t until I attempted to school a black woman older than me on how to assert your rights when the police are trying to take them away that I realized I had no idea what the fuck I was talking about and that it was time to shut up and educate myself about white privilege. Let me Google that for you.

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This Week in White Privilege

White privilege has been on lurid, technicolor display since, in an “isolated incident,” white police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In addition to the ensuing police riots and the City of Ferguson follies that have been covered extensively on cable news since white reporters started getting teargassed and arrested, these things actually really honestly happened:

Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, a white man, said that the curfew in Ferguson should be reinstated because “We do not do justice in America in the streets . . . . We have legal processes that are set in motion, that are designed after centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence tradition, they’re designed to protect the rights and liberties of everyone involved.”

Ignoring the young black man who was staging a silent protest in which he portrayed the dead body of Michael Brown, assorted smiling white people had their pictures taken at Love Park in Philadelphia. “There was an older white couple that wanted to take a picture in front of the LOVE statue. The older white gentleman said, ‘Why do they have to shove their politics down our throats?’ The woman replied, ‘They’re black kids, honey. They don’t have anything better to do.'” Be sure to scroll down on the link and click through the photos to see more of this novel tourist attraction.

CNN International anchor Rosemary Church, a white woman, wondered if using water cannons on Ferguson protesters might be more appropriate than tear gas or flashbangs. Protesters gathered at CNN headquarters in response in Atlanta on Monday night but, oddly enough, CNN did not cover that event.

White Huffington Post Reporter Ryan Reilly posted a photo on Twitter of what he thought were rubber bullets. Even after he was tweeted into the dustbin of clueless hipster history, Rachel Maddow still featured him on her show and thanked him for his invaluable reporting from Ferguson. Ouch, dude, those bullets must have stung.

The predominately white administration of the City of Ferguson decided that this whole dustup was just a matter of miscommunication and hired an all-white PR firm (with ties to Monsanto, Eli Lilly and United HealthCare) to do damage control.

In an isolated incident not far from the isolated incident in which Michael Brown was killed, two St. Louis police officers (race unknown), shot and killed a 23-year-old, learning disabled black man who had a knife. Well, after all, he did ask.
The horrifying cell phone video of this killing has now been posted; see the link in comment 53 below.

Sigh. Remember Sergeant Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues? In my fantasy world of white denial, I like to imagine someone like him in Ferguson or St. Louis, some crusty old cop who ends the roll call by saying: “Hey, let’s be careful out there. Let’s put the genocide on hold. Let’s see if we can go for a whole week or maybe even two without killing a young black man, no matter how scared we get. Let’s pretend that we’re not pussies, that we can protect and serve without resorting to violence. Just give it a shot.”

In conclusion: White privilege. It’s real. It means that you aren’t likely to find yourself writing a poem like this one by Danez Smith:

not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.


think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing now a days.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.


look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.

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