Checking My Personal White Privilege

For years, I have heard people tell others to “check your privilege.” It has been long enough that I have decided to check my own “white privilege.” Do I have it? Does it exist? Let’s find out.

I first learned about how others viewed my skin tone when I moved to LA and lived on the streets for a while. I encountered a black homeless man outside of a Jack in the Box restaurant. We started talking and I decided to split my last five bucks with him on food.

As we sat at a booth talking, he said, “You should be an actor, because you have a multi-ethnic look. You could be pretty much anything.”

I wrote it off as him being complementary because I had given him some food. All the same, this experience I had in 1986 would stick with me forever.

I’m 6′ tall and just over 240 pounds [my ideal weight would be in the low 180s]. I have a shaved head, which gives me an intimidating look, as well as an ethnic look, depending on the beholder.

When I get enough sun exposure, my skin gets really dark. As it is, my skin tone is slightly darker than average. More on that later.

My own mother said that if she didn’t know me and saw me walking down the sidewalk, that she would cross the street to avoid me. [People who actually know me DO NOT think this.]

I basically scare my own mother with my appearances. But there is more at work than appearances.

A report showed that 20% of Autistic people will have an encounter with the police before the age of 21. Also, Autistic people are 7 times more likely to have a negative encounter with the police.

Already, I can feel my white privilege melting away.

There is record of Benjamin Franklin having a problem with Germans moving to the colonies. He said that there were too many of them, that they won’t learn English, and that they won’t integrate, effectively “Germanizing everything.”

Photo from high school, when I got more sun. I have a dark skin tone. On a side note, the t-shirt that I am wearing here was to promote a radio station called WTLC, the may have been the first all-Black radio station in Indianapolis.

He declared that the colonies “MUST be kept white AND English.”

But he had more to say about German people like me.

He said that the “swarthy tone” of German skin was a clear indicator of lower intelligence.

Welcome to America.

Okay, my white privilege is in a state of peril.

But not just now. It always has been.

I had an encounter one night at 2am, driving home from San Diego to LA. About 30 miles inland, there is a border patrol. They waved me over. I had my shaved head, and was also wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. I was relying heavily on the car to stay warm.

They told me to get out of the car. The officer, dressed in a wool-lined hat with thick gloves and a coat asked, “Why are you shaking so much, boy? What kind of drugs are you on?”

When cops talk to me like that, and it happens more often than not, I know that they DO NOT view me as being white.

I replied by asking him why he was dressed for an Arctic storm. He didn’t like that and told me to sit down. I first had to wait for over an hour, when they brought in dogs to check the car for drugs, which was when I realized that I’d recently bought this car USED, and did not go through it myself in that manner.

They could find ANYTHING, and it would get pinned on ME.

TWO HOURS after the car search, one cop told me that I could leave. I asked if he meant it, and he said, “Go on, leave!”

I stood up and was half-way to my car, when another cop pulled a gun on me, screaming, “FREEZE! WE GOT A RUNNER HERE!!!! GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN!!!!!!”

So I have to drop to the ground. Someone picks me up and takes me back to the bench, where I would sit for another hour while they decided what they were going to do with me, or to me.

I spent FOUR hours at border patrol, and every hour of it was freezing cold and hyper-terror. I really believed that I was going to die that night.

There are many other examples of this, and on many occasions I feared that I would be facing the end of my life at the brutal end of corrupt police aggression.

Around 2010 or 2011, a guy wrote to me and asked me to join his organization, The Armenian Aryans. He said that I was a ” perfect specimen of genetic superiority.”

I told him that I was NOT Armenian, and even if I were, I’d NOT be joining ANY racial supremacy groups, EVER.

He got really angry, told me that I was LYING about not being Armenian, and said that he would KILL ME if I didn’t join his group.

Where did my white privilege go?

Yes, there are times when the police view me as white. On the occasions when that happens, I might get a warning, or I’ll be asked a few questions and be let go. Other times, I am ordered out of the car via the end of a shotgun, thrown to the ground, and brutalized.

The times where the cops were inappropriate and brutal with me would have ended in a lawsuit and a judgment. The WOULD have, but they never went that far. Lawyers would tell me, “You’re white, so we can’t accuse them of racism.” I would protest that the way they treated me proved they THOUGHT I was not white. Then I’d be told that we can’t read minds, or whatever bullshit excuse there was.

So I could get no traction in the form of a trial or compensation whenever this happened. It’s a case of the cops “screwing up,” so I would be told.

My son is half-Mexican. My nephew is half-Black. I have a motive for wanting to make the world a better place for them, and that includes how non-white people are treated by law enforcement and society in general.

My analysis is that, while I do have SOME white privilege, I don’t have enough to the point where I would ever feel comfortable doing things like driving to the store.

Between my “swarthy” skin tone, my Autism, and police department policies of ESCALATION of situations, I fear that I would have an Autistic meltdown and end up getting shot by an officer.

Effectively, I live in a type of No Man’s Land, where seemingly few can relate, and most don’t really care to even try. So I’d prefer that you NOT ask me to “check my privilege,” because I am horrifically aware already. Thanks.

If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading!

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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