So, like most Americans, I watched the videos flying around social media that show the arrest of two African-American men in a Philadelphia Starbucks for waiting on a third friend to show up before ordering. And I was pissed for them and for their family and friends. I was pissed that they had to force themselves to be calm and submissive to the police officers who should not have even been called in the first place, because I would have been loud as hell. I was pissed that they were taken down to the precinct and arrested and fingerprinted and held in a cell until 12:30 the following morning, when they were released as though nothing had happened and they should just be okay with it. And I was pissed that EVERY OTHER CUSTOMER IN THE STORE stood up and told these arresting officers that they had not done anything wrong (these were witnesses!) and still they were taken away and humiliated and had their fingerprints put into the automated fingerprint identification system. Due to some itchy and probably subconscious bigotry of a random Starbucks manager and his inability to say, “Order or get out,” or even more humanly, to be patient and give these two men the same patience he would have given any other white customer, these two men will now have difficulty getting a security clearance, a job that requires a background check, work with or volunteer with children or elderly. And all for the simple fact that their fingerprints will pop up in the database. I thought that I was as pissed as I could be. I was wrong. Because this morning, I saw this tweet:
I was sort of pissed because I thought, “Well, if no one had said anything, then they would be complicit in their silence. And when we do stand up and say something, we’re still getting labeled with the word ‘privileged’ and damn. What do you want us to do?”
And then I realized Chris Evans’ point: HE’S RIGHT.
It’s not about me. He’s pointing out that this IS the privilege and, while I’ve always realized that I have it, I never asked for it. I never asked to be born white. He is condemning that one group of people has a privilege that the rest of the world doesn’t. Why should any of us have that privilege? It is less a criticism of my whiteness, than it is stating the obvious: The white customers in the same Starbucks were ignored by the cops. Had they been black and argued with the cops, they would have been arrested, too.
And that isn’t just an assumption on Chris Evans’ part. This is something that we have all witnessed, either in real life or in video in the past. In 2016, an African-American woman called the police in Fort Worth, Texas to report a white man for choking her son because he allegedly threw a piece of trash on the ground. The officer shows up, agrees that the boy shouldn’t have littered and did not even address the assault on the child. The mother argued with the cop and was clearly angry but not aggressive and he used the taser on her and her daughter who started to scream at the officer out of fear for her mother. The woman and her two daughters were arrested.
I thought about all of this and other filmed injustices that I have seen over the years. I have come to the conclusion that I am not pissed at what Chris Evans tweeted out. I am pissed that it is true.
But I will continue to use my white privilege to stand up for the injustices of others. It and my voter registration card and my voice are really the only tools in my toolbox that I can use to help the situation. I will continue to speak out. I will continue to write letters. I will continue to teach my kids that bigotry and ignorance and hate will only continue to hold them and everyone else back; that our differences are beautiful and something to be admired and cherished rather than hated or feared. I will continue to be pissed about my fellow countrymen being treated unjustly, because the minute that I don’t, I will have become the oppressor via complacency.