"O crap!" went through my head as I ROLLED through a stop sign and saw the police cars pull out and follow me on my way to dropping off the girls this AM.  As I pulled over to drop off Annie, the cop pulled in behind me.  I asked him if I could drop off my daughter first and he said okay.  I then told Abby, who was still in the car to say hello to the police officer and make sure he would be okay while I went up to the house.  Upon my return, the officer asked me if I was in a hurry and if where I was headed next.  I told him I was on the way to drop off my other daughter at pre-school and then off to work. (He didn’t need to know that I was "working" and meeting folks at my favorite cafe, Java on Ocean.)  Then the words we all love to hear from a cop, "I’m gonna give you a break this time."  He then said, "Good-bye Abigail." and he took off.  Whew . . . lady luck strikes again!

As I pondered this experience as I wondered . . .

  • Does being friendly help?
  • Does having the kid say hello and make nice help?
  • Does looking a little frazzled, but not crazy, help?
  • Does my appearance , attitude and general "profile" help?

It is that final question that has been in my craw all day.  I mean come on, exactly why did he let me off?  Was he just cutting me some slack because he was in a good mood?  I was generally cooperative, but still, I can’t help to think that it was because of my "profile" – Apparently "Middle-Class" with a mini-van, good English, Asian-American, father taking his kids to school, dressed nice, all documents, current clean driving record, etc.  What if one or more of these things was different?  What if I was dressed differently?  What if my car was different?  What if I forgot to put in my Insurance card?  What if I had an accent or was a different ethnicity?  If any one or more of the things that made me look "safe" was different?  Would I still deserve this "break?" 

Ultimately the dilemma around just and equal treatment is that I REALLY should not have been let off.  For whatever reason, whether it was my look or my attitude, he felt like I did not deserve to be held accountable.  If I were one who HAS been given a ticket for the exact same offense, I would be ticked off.   My place of privilege and/or perception somehow let me avoid any inconvenience, expense, etc.  when I did not deserve it.   Now, the next time I might even EXPECT to be let off, after all, I was not held accountable before, so why would I the next time?

This is the insidiousness of privilege and entitlement that far too many people not only have, but have to idea they have.  No, I am not going to go find the officer and beg him to write me up, but I am going to chalk this one up to an experience that further illustrates the complexity of power and privilege in society . . . and HOPEFULLY not give in to it myself.

Lastly . . . remember to stop.

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