The Racial Double Standard

 Posted by on 22 August 2014 at 11:00 am  Justice, Law, Police, Racism, Rights
Aug 222014

When I was an undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis, I worked as a server in a restaurant in Clayton. (Clayton is a very upscale business part of town.)

The head cook was a very good (black) man, albeit with a very checkered past. He’d served time for attempted murder: fellow drug dealers went after his pregnant wife, and he fully intended to kill them in retaliation. However, in prison, he’d gone straight. When I knew him, he was a great kitchen manager, he worked crazy-long hours, and he was a devoted father. He also worked hard to keep the younger (black) kitchen staff on the straight and narrow and out of trouble with the law. He was the kind of guy that I’d trust with my life, without hesitation.

One night, he told me that if he was driving home alone — or with another black person in the car — he’d get home without incident. However, if he was giving a ride to one of the (white, female) servers, he’d be sure to be pulled over by the cops and questioned.

Can you imagine living with that?

I’m used to going about my business without interference from the police — unless I’m speeding or whatnot. If I’m pulled over, I can expect to be on my way in a few minutes — perhaps with a ticket but without being questioned about my private business, let alone searched. That’s not the case for too many people, I think.

  • No More Mythology

    That’s the difference between “white privilege” and not having it. Your experience, Diana, is what many would call “white privilege”. As the recent events in Ferguson, St. Louis, and elsewhere around the country show, white privilege is very much alive and well. I dread the backlash white people (myself included) will face when we’re the true minority, and it’s coming very quickly.

  • James

    I disagree.

    I’m about as white as you get–German-Irish. However, my family still endured abuse of power by the police. My father–the local fire chief at the time–was told explicitely and in a town council meeting “We are going after your children”. Note that this was AFTER he had had guns pulled on him by police multiple times for refusing to violate the law. Fortunately my family is smart–most of us never gave them an excuse (as in, even driving the speed limit was considered too great a risk). One sister was fined for hitting a car while backing up–never mind that 1) the car was too close anyway, and 2) if she hadn’t backed up, she’d have been killed by the bus coming straight for her. I was once interogated for a good twenty minutes because I had the audacity to be a designated driver and drive a crowd of drunk relatives and friends home at 1 am after a local town festival; fortunately he couldn’t pin anything more serious on me than “Turn your brights off when someone passes you”. There were multiple times when spot-lights were shined into our windows (shown into our windows?) late at night/early in the morning–and I’m talking the million candle-power ones, ones that turn night into day. People have always been curious as to why one of my greatest goals was to move somewhere where no one knew my family’s name, but in my opinion it makes perfect sense.

    What I learned was that the issue really isn’t race. In an area where the dominat “races” are seventh-generation Germans and fourth-generation Irish, race really isn’t that big a deal. The real issue is that far too many cops are wanna-be soldiers who don’t understand the difference between law enforcement and military action. They’re little kids playing Cowboys and Indians, only with real fire arms and real authority. Most of them don’t even understand the laws they are attempting to enforce. And since investigating real crimes is hard, they look for convenient scape goats. In many cases, the scape goats are minorities, but that’s not the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is that police simply do not know how to do their jobs properly. And since they are scared mediocraties (not all of them, but far too many of them) in positions of presumed authority, they lash out at whoever they believe is convenient.

    Perhaps it’s different in big cities, but I don’t believe so. If cops actually were what they pretend to be we wouldn’t have half these problems. But since far too many of them are scared little children hiding behind a badge (again, not all, but far too many) lashing out is inevitable. If it wasn’t race, it’d be some other petty distinction.

  • c_andrew

    I agree with James.

    To call a situation where interference without cause by the police is the norm “white privilege” is to argue that to suffer the unfounded harassment by the police is the norm and should be the norm. Privilege implies something achieved by legalistic means and in a society where equality under the law is the standard, those enjoying such a “privilege” should be stripped of it. But in fact, such immunity from unjustified police intrusion is not a privilege, it is a right. Those still retaining the remainders of that right shouldn’t be further violated under the guise of ‘equality’; what should happen is that those not allowed that right in practice should be, under the principle of equality before the law.

    The current norm is that rights are routinely denied and violated by those in authority and that circle of violation continues to grow. Not all cops are bullies, but sufficient numbers of them are, and they target the weakest in the community, whether that be minorities or those who obviously don’t have the means to fight back, legally. I know for a fact that our own police here in a mid-sized town in the Rocky Mountain West made it a point to do exactly that. It got to be enough of a problem that conservative business owners, whose minimum wage employees were being unjustly harassed, were broaching the topic at an ACLU gathering and pushing for some outside review for police misconduct because the cops were always found to be ‘following departmental procedure’ and exonerated for acts up to and including murder.

    My objection to the term “white privilege” is fourfold;

    1. It miscasts the problem as preferential treatment of a few when the real problem is rights’ violating treatment of the many.

    2. It suffers from the envious outlook of Left-Egalitarianism which is why I think that non-ideological leftists make the mistake laid out in point #1 . 3. It is frequently used by ideological leftists as a variant of the rhetorical device, “Shut up, he explained.”

    4. It represents a form of polylogism that argues one cannot conceptually grasp the injustices inflicted on any particular group unless you are a member of that particular group.

    I think that the principled approach is to recognize that the violation of individual rights is rampant and look to curtail those violations across the entire citizenry by striking at the roots of that evil. And from where I sit, the War On Drugs, subsequent police militarization, and the undermining of the Bill of Rights that proceeds from that (and our feckless War on Terror) are where we should be applying the axe.

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