I’m not sure if I’m on high alert what with all the bad juju in the air, or if the stupid really is going around like a bad case of the clap, but today — TODAY ALONE — I bore firsthand witness to some serious stupidness on display from white people, particularly given the climate (can you call it the climate when it’s the past week we’re talking about?), or maybe just the weather, of the past week.
I’m talking specifically about the culture of rediscovered racial tension and unrest between civilians and police.
Look, it’s hard on white people. I don’t mean it’s hard on white people like it is on people who aren’t white. I mean we face our own series of challenges. Specifically, there are things we can’t understand and will have a hard time grasping just by dint of the fact that we’re white. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try, and it doesn’t mean we can’t stop and think about a thing before we slap our balls on the table and do the thing.
But the problem with people? Too many of us don’t think.
So, here are two balls-on-table moments that I witnessed TODAY.
Wife and I are out shopping at the Kroger. Early, no less — about 8 am. (This is the best time to shop, by the way. The aisles are largely empty, the employees are just beginning their shifts so they haven’t been filled to the brim with customers’ bullsharknado … it’s the best.) As we’re checking out, I look up.
And here comes this guy.
He’s older. Upper fifties, maybe early sixties. Overweight, but moving spryly, like an ex-NFL player or something. Cargo shorts. Hawaiian shirt. And a motherfargoing gun belt with a gun on each hip. One looks, I dunno, standard? I’m not a gun guy, but it looks like you expect a gun to look. The other gun is a straight-out-of-a-John-Wayne-cowboy-flick six-shooter pistol. He grabs a cart and scoots over toward the tomatoes. Guns just hanging off his hip.
I double take. Then triple take. I nudge my wife. Duck my head in the suburban cowboy’s direction. I ask the cashier: do you know that guy?
Oh yeah, she says, he comes in here all the time.
I blink. “Strapped up like that, though?”
She looks. Double takes. “No, can’t say I’ve ever seen him carrying any weapons.”
My wife and I share a look and beat it out of the store.
Look, I am sure this dude has all his permits in order. Maybe he’s retired military or police; I dunno. But here’s the thing: sure, you can have your guns. And I guess if you’ve got your open-carry business in order, that’s fine and swell. But you’re not flying TWO weapons — one of which is a bonafide antique — for self-defense. You’re flying two weapons, including the Wyatt Earp boomstick, to show out. Fly your 2nd Amendment flag. Let everybody know that you’re the dude who carries his guns to the grocery store.
And I couldn’t help but wonder two things:
Why do you need all that firepower on Sunday morning in the produce section? Are you planning on overthrowing a terrorist plot in the deli?
And what would have happened if he were NOT a white dude?
I mean, I blinked and stared a bit, but nobody else did, really. Just a white dude with his guns, NBD. But what if he were a black guy, or a Muslim wearing a head scarf? The cops would have have been on scene before he could squeeze an avocado.
Just a little bit of white privilege cruising toward the Frosted Flakes.
I was browsing facebook again (yeah, I know. What can I say, it’s summer) and I saw a post from a girl I went to high school with.
Turns out, she was out driving and went through a DUI checkpoint. Sped through it, actually. Got flagged over and screened for DUI. Which, okay, that happens, I guess. She gets put through the paces, but she’s one hundred percent sober, so of course she gets sent on her way with just a warning, despite the speeding.
Fine and dandy.
Here’s the tone-deaf part: she said that her nerves had her shaking, even though she was sober, and wrapped up with this: “He let me go without a ticket and thanked me for not driving drunk. Still processing the whole thing. I wonder what my rights were if I denied the test?”
She, a liberal. She, who, this very week, has posted her disgust over the needless killings that have spawned protests and outrage.
And all I could think was, you’ve got to be kidding. You entitled b-word.
How about THANKS FOR KEEPING MY STREETS SAFE, OFFICER.
How about THANKS FOR NOT SHOOTING ME DURING AN OTHERWISE ROUTINE TRAFFIC STOP.
How about THANK GOD I’M A WHITE FEMALE, HE LET ME OFF WITH JUST A WARNING.
How about maybe not posting something so horrifically tone-deaf complaining about a minor inconvenience in a week where, yet again, two black men were killed by police ON CAMERA. To say nothing of what may have happened off-camera.
You were inconvenienced for about ten minutes — because you were SPEEDING, by the way — and you are pondering your legal standing with the officer who had the audacity to delay you.
And even worse! The comments section was filled up with friends saying “glad you’re okay!” and “that sounds very scary!” …WHAT? Glad you’re okay, as if she faced some harrowing experience that will haunt her for the rest of her days. That sounds scary, because anybody reading her story will think for any amount of time that she was in any amount of danger.
There were about a hundred things I wanted to say, that I didn’t, mostly due to not wanting to start a fight with somebody who’s been out of my life for almost twenty years now (and thank goodness, by the way, given this idiocy).
And also, my wife convinced me not to.
So I’ll just say it here.
Be glad you’re not black, or else you might have had real reason to be nervous at that traffic stop. Be glad you’re white, and can worry about your rights as you drive away from the encounter instead of being thankful you weren’t arrested or shot.
And more, along the same line, in all sorts of permutations and combinations.
We have to wake up.
Part of the reason race continues to be an issue in this country is because stupid white people don’t pause for a SECOND to think.
Think about the privilege we have.
Think about what life might be like for somebody who doesn’t share that privilege.
Think about what somebody without that privilege might think, seeing you doing the things that you do.
In short, start thinking about the bigger world, start thinking about more than what’s right in front of you, start thinking about what it might be to be somebody who isn’t you.
Just start thinking.