I remember it happened twice. I was pulled over by the same Idaho State Patrol officer for speeding on the same quiet country road. I was 17/18 at the time; this was 1998/1999—I was easily doing twenty over the posted speed limit in both instances. My front bumper was sagging and broken in one car. (I later wrecked it.) The other was a rust bucket with a sour interior smell and only had one headlight. (I later sold it.) Both cars were a mess at the best of times. The first instance happened in the morning on the way to school. The latter late on a foggy night after a breakup. Same officer. Same infraction. Same road.
He let me go both times.
Why? Well, I could make a pretty solid guess. I’m white, and I’m male, and he was an occasional parishioner in my dad’s church. That’s privilege. I recognize this. Maybe not at the time but assuredly now as an adult. I never had a conversation with my parents like those in the video above. Sure I got the standard “respect cops” speech every kid receives, but nothing that compares. I never had the worry. I never had the fear. Never had the tears. I never faced that prejudice. That didn’t—it couldn’t—happen to me.
My skin color protects me. My gender protects me. My sexual orientation protects me. My status as a pastor’s kid protected me in both moments. That’s privilege. I didn’t have to worry about a broken headlight, reckless speeding, or a frumpy bumper being the sort of issue that could lead to my murder by the hands of police. I never worried about abuse. I never worried about spending the night in jail for doing next to nothing. Even now, the idea remains an alien concept. I’ve never had to fear police. I still don’t.
Growing up, it wasn’t a conversation topic in my home.
It shouldn’t be a conversation in anyone’s.
The fact it needs to is a travesty. If America is going to ever be great, it needs to start by being great for everyone.
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