I Slept Well Last Night: Reflections on My White Privilege

I slept well last night after having a peaceful, productive, day:

  • I puttered about in my vegetable and flower gardens.
  • I recorded a sermon for this coming Sunday’s Pentecost service, and conferred with our Church’s Senior Minister on some aspects of the process.
  • I did some research into what needs to be done for our church to re-open, and when that should happen.
  • I visited with my Mother, who lives nearby.
  • I went grocery shopping (a little frustrated because I can’t find my favorite Organic Fair Trade Instant Coffee anywhere).
  • Paid some bills.
  • I took delivery on a new lawn mower (to replace an ancient one that recently died).
  • I played with my son.
  • I made plans with my wife for tasks that need to be done in the next few days.
  • I did a fair amount of Facebooking.
  • And, at the end of the day, I spent some time watching Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” on streaming video.

In other words, I did nothing really unusual – at least not unusual for me in this time of the COVID-19 Shutdown.

Life continues – albeit at a slightly slower pace.

But consider the way the days and nights have gone recently for many of my friends, particularly Ministers, who are both Male and Black…

(I’ve gathered these quotes from their Sermons, recent Blogs, and public Facebook postings: the links provide references to related material, but not to their own writings.)

  • “I can’t sleep at night.” (Nearly all of them have said this in recent days.)
  • “I keep seeing myself there on the ground: suffocating under a police officer’s knee, crying, calling for my Mama, having done nothing wrong.”
  • I am constantly worried about my kids. There is nothing they can do to avoid stuff like this. How can I possibly keep them safe?”
  • “I can’t tell you how often I’ve been stopped for ‘Driving while Black.'”
  • “Until then I was never stopped while driving my car. But within a week after I first transitioned, I was stopped. I was even stopped while sitting in my car, parked across from my own driveway. Why? Because I am a black man now, no longer a woman. It’s happened many times since.”
  • “I’m afraid to go anywhere, but that doesn’t help either. Look what happened to Breonna Taylor in her own home.”
  • “In this country, Black People like me are seen only for their skin. I am so much more than just a man with dark skin.”

I never worry about any of these things.

I have never been pulled over because I “fit the profile.” I never worry about my children possibly being arrested or killed while playing at the local park, or walking back from buying candy down the street. I don’t have to look over my shoulder when going anywhere, worried that some [white] person has called the cops on me.

I slept well last night.

I have close male relatives who are black, and who live in a notoriously racist part of the country near a Major City in the Midwest. I’m sure they worry. I wonder how well they slept well last night. (I know at least one of them didn’t.)

White privilege means I don’t have to worry about being arrested, or pulled over, or killed, just because of my skin color.

Now, it is absolutely true that many white people have huge challenges in their own lives – including many of my own friends and relatives. And certainly the injustices and challenges they face also need to be addressed. But, at least their troubles are not compounded by their skin color. They won’t die or lose a job or see their child thrown into prison for years just because they are black.

Every Police Officer I currently know is an upright, considerate, well trained professional.

In the past, I’ve encountered a few who weren’t. They often relished harassing Blacks and Hispanics – or anyone who was “Other” – whenever they got the chance. I can imagine one or two of them not shedding a tear if they killed a person of color, and I am also fairly sure that the Police Department they were in would have let them get away with it. And that’s a big part of the problem.

The vast majority of Law Enforcement personnel are upright, trustworthy, well trained professionals. There are some who are not, and many of those who are not work in organizations that allow them to get away with racist and even criminal behavior. Right now we’re seeing the results of years of a lack of accountability in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

For the good – and safety – of all Police Officers, we must hold the few who are “bad apples” accountable for their behavior. We must ensure that our Law Enforcement personnel are well trained in how to deal respectfully and effectively with all people and communities, especially those unlike their own. For, if we don’t, their mistakes and their behavior reflects on all Law Enforcement, whether deserved or not. A Law Enforcement Officer cannot be effective if they are seen as a threat by the community they serve.

When a Police Officer does cause harm to another – whether intentional or not, they should NOT sleep well that night. Too many do.

And frankly, neither should we.

-Pastor Allen

Copyright (c) 2020, Allen Vander Meulen III.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Author: Allen

A would-be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is the proud father of a daughter and son, and enjoys life with his wife near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PastorAllenV/.

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