Friday, August 29, 2014

Personal Privilege, Protection, and Police

When my sisters and I were growing up, Dad would occasionally take us to a Milwaukee Admirals hockey game. One time we were walking along the concourse and Dad pulled us close to him as we came across a group of skinheads. Three white girls (mostly blond!), not so much in need of protection, Dad.  But he meant well.

Yep, I had a very sheltered upbringing. We grew up in a spacious subdivision five miles from the closest town, with no parental alarm if we played in the fields or were gone all day. At least half the moms were at home, and while no one was especially wealthy, we all had enough for basic needs to be met. 

Our most common interactions with the police were hollering, "Hey, Mr. Policeman*!  You got any baseball cards?"--at which point the squad car would pull over and the officer would give us the free cards. I knew to trust police officers and really, pretty much all authority figures.

In college I drove a friend's car to Louisiana, where we were pulled over for a 'dim' tail light. There was a not especially lawful search of every inch of that car, a threatening lecture, and five miles down the road, the car broke down--some sort of loosened connection according to the mechanic.

I was floored when my friend explained that the rainbow flag sticker on his bumper sometimes led to trouble, even from the police. But...what happened to the baseball cards? Certainly, I had read about harassment and unjust treatment, but it had never actually seemed real.

Privilege? I grew up in it. I am still learning to remember that my core securities are not everyone's, and that the world can be a very different place for others.

*Yes, Policeman. As far as we knew, there were no female police officers in our area.

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