Yes, black lives matter

I am a fat old white guy, steeped in privilege, including the privilege of not responding to an officer of the law and “getting away with it.”

By Will Newman of Canby, Oregon. Will is a retired organic farmer & small business consultant, and a non-retired advocate for justice and equality.

There I was, sitting in my parked car at 3:45 am, waiting for 4:00 am to begin my job: 3 days a week I drove a 3-hour route through Portland and Gresham, recording and reporting gasoline prices. I had been doing just that for 3 years.

There was a knock on my window, and a flashlight shining in my eyes.

I rolled down my window and heard, “I’m Deputy (something). Show me your license and registration.”

“May I see some ID please?”

A tap of the flashlight on what may have been a badge, and “This is all the identification you need to see.”

Since I could see little in the dark, particularly with a flashlight in my face, and had no particular reason, nor any obligation, to deal with a security guard or the like, I rolled up the window.

He went away.

At 4:00 am I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. At the first corner flashing red and blue lights appeared in my rear view mirror. I pulled over and a person appeared at my window. I rolled it down. “I’m Deputy Sheriff (something). May I see your license and registration, please?” “May I see some ID, Please?” He showed me his ID. I showed him my license, registration and insurance papers.

He said, “I don’t know what has happened with you in the past, but why didn’t you give these to my partner?” “Because he refused to show me his ID.” After a short conversation I was free to go.

So, what’s the point? You probably found that incident boring, or maybe figured I was kind of snotty, or the first deputy was an arrogant bully. But if you are white you may have missed the core or the story: I ignored a deputy sheriff and “got away with it.”

I am a white male born into middle-class America in the mid-twentieth century. I am a fat old white guy, steeped in privilege, including the privilege of not responding to an officer of the law and “getting away with it.” Simply because we don’t recognize our privilege does not mean it is not there.

How do you think that conversation would have gone if I was black (and male)? Worse yet, black and male and young?

And that is why we need to be reminded that black lives matter: Not because they matter more than others’, but because they are more at risk.

As Karol Collymore said in this space some years ago, “I'm here to tell you, no one should wait their turn for equality.” My vision is clouded by privilege, but I am learning.

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