Letters to the EditorNews

White Privilege Means Never Getting Arrested

I’m a middle-aged white woman who has used illegal drugs on an almost daily basis for the majority of my adult life, and I want to share the stories of all my interactions with cops, which have resulted in me being a person with absolutely no criminal record.

I’ll start with the basics. As a younger person, I was a habitual speeder. I got an average of one or two speeding tickets per year every year for about 15 years. There were also two occasions I was involved in a car accident, although not at fault. During this time I used pot almost daily and always kept it with me. Every single time I was pulled over, I was either under the influence or in possession or both. I was never given a sobriety test. My car was never searched. I never felt that my safety or life was in danger. I was always just given a speeding ticket and allowed to pay it and go on with my life. I estimate that this happened around 20 times.

In my early 20s, I was driving drunk home from a friend’s house in the middle of the night. I got lost way out in the country in Auburn, GA. This was before cell phones and GPS, and I was legitimately scared. I pulled over and flagged down the first car that passed, which happened to be a cop. I was so drunk that I was having trouble staying steady on my feet. He gave me directions and let me stagger back to my car and drive away.

In my late 20s, I was driving drunk home from an office Christmas party on I-85 in Atlanta. The cop who pulled me over asked if I had been drinking. At first I reflexively denied it. But then I realized he must be able to smell it on my breath, so I admitted to one glass of wine with dinner. The truth was four or five glasses of wine, and I was extremely drunk. But he did not give me a sobriety test, and my car was not searched. I was given three legitimate tickets for super speeding, improper lane change and using the carpool lane, and the fines were over $1,000. But no DUI, and I was allowed to drive away.

In my early 30s, I was in the apartment of my friend and drug dealer, a white man. I had just purchased and injected opiates. Cops came to the door in search of a wanted person. They came inside, where pills, methamphetamine and syringes were in plain view on the table. When they saw that the person they wanted was not there, they thanked us for cooperating and left.

Never pulled over without cause. Never given a sobriety test. Never searched. Never arrested. Never incarcerated. Until recently, I thought that I had been ridiculously lucky. I now understand that I was protected by my white privilege. White privilege is real.

White privilege does not mean we should feel guilty for the sins of our ancestors. That makes no sense and would accomplish nothing. White privilege means that our skin color has given us an advantage that we did nothing to deserve.

Once we realize that we have received this extra blessing, we might be moved to do what we can, with what we have, to level the playing field for everyone. I am publicly confessing my shameful criminal history here to make the case that white privilege is real.

The system is rigged, so let’s fix it. I don’t want an unfair advantage. I want the country we are promised in the Constitution, where all citizens are treated equally under law.