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Driving While Black

Monday, July 9, 2007

I had a great conversation late last week with a new co-worker of mine who is being trained to load packages into the Washington State trailers at my work (UPS, or Under Paid Slaves). He is the third person to be trained on our belt since I’ve starting working here in late February (but, I digress). His name is Casanova and he’s a young Black man of 21 years and dresses in the style of Bay Area hyphy.

As we were loading into Washington him and his trainer, a young Latino man named Mike, we all started talking about Dave Chappell and on his commentary on race, especially the difference of how cops treat whites and Blacks when they pull them over. Casanova started talking about how whenever he sees a cop he gets a little nervous, and if a cop is on the other side of the ride driving in the opposite direction as him and sees the cop pull a U-turn Casanova automatically knows that the cop is going to pull him over and question him. No if ands or buts about it. If he sees a cop pull a “Uey” in his rearview mirror he knows he’s in for a whole lot of shit. Even when he did nothing wrong.

I can just picture the cop taping on his window and asking. “Excuse me sir. Did you know you were DWB? [driving while Black]”

“Uh, yeah, kinda did know that officer.”

Anyways. This got Mike talking about his old neighborhood in the Mission district in San Francisco and how the cops harass him too due to his dark complexion and his “affiliation” with gang members (there is a knew “anti-gang” injunction being imposed on people in the Mission). Talking about having cops pull up in his driveway and asking to search his car even though he’s only working on the engine or how he gets harrassed by cops who want to use an anti-gang injunction order on him because he has family members in gangs (so he’s not supposed to speak to his family huh? Guess that’s the new “family values” that Bush wants) and how his mother works with an anti-violence and anti-gang org in the Mission and how he knows many gang members because of this, so he’s essentially being harrassed for trying to get kids out of gangs.

But what got me really thinking was this. Do whites really know what it’s like to live life as a person of color? I mean, sure we all see the movies and read about it, but do we actually experience it? No, we don’t. Yet whites are the first to come out and accuse people of color as being “reactionary,” “over sensitive,” and (my favorite!) playing the “race card.” Also, with America so segregated by class and race how could whites know about what goes on on the other side of th fence? Unless a white person actively seeks these things out and questions the statues quo a white person won’t know this (this brings us to the point of the recent Supreme Court ruling on desegregating the schools, but I’ll blog on that latter). I have the “advantage(??)” of working in a blue collar working class union job with many people of color (mostly men though) around me and I’m able to actually hear their experiences every single day I go to work.

Yet most whites (I’m assuming) don’t here these things every single day they go to work. Most whites will question the experiences of racism that people of color face today and claim that racism was left behind many decades ago. Yet how to whites know this? And why do they assume this? Again, have they experienced racism? Of course not, their white! By definition whiteness is privilege, privilege to not experience racism and many other isms out there.

This is something whites should think (all though they won’t) about the next time they accuse someone of being sensitive and playing the race card. And it’s something they should think about long and hard.

Image From:
Over the Rhine

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One Comment
  1. Pat Logan permalink
    Thursday, July 12, 2007 3:55 pm

    No, I never thought of this. Thank you for writing about it.

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