"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.