When I asked white friends to attend Not in Our Town’s workshop, presented and co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library in April, on “Exploring White Privilege”, the answer was sometimes “I’m not privileged, I came up from nothing, I don’t believe in that concept.” Some replied, and it was a good answer, that the white privilege concept wrongly implies that all white people are alike (they aren’t) and that it visited the sins of the fathers on the sons.
I didn’t have a good answer then, I do now. Donald Roscoe Brown, a lawyer who lives in Ewing, wrote an oped published in today’s Times of Trenton (Thursday, June 18, page A-15). Brown’s words were kind to the Lawrence police officer who stopped him “after seeing me for all of five seconds” because he “might not have been wearing his seat belt.” Brown said he was “perhaps poorly trained.”
I too have been stopped for suspicion of not wearing my seat belt, but under much more controlled circumstances, i.e. a seat belt checking station. Brown was simply driving through Brunswick Circle, enroute from Trenton Municipal Court, where he was working on a case involving an unconstitutional stop and search.
To my white friends who don’t acknowledge their white privilege – you will never have to go through the jeopardizing experience of “Driving While Black.”
As a member of Princeton United Methodist Church, I belong to Not in Our Town, a faith congregation-based social action group. It offers continuing opportunities to combat racism and bias in Princeton. For information, comment here or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.