If there's one thing straight white males dislike, it's discussing the existence of straight, white, male privilege. I've posted about it before, noting that for most of us, straight white male privilege is invisible, therefore most of us pretend it doesn't exist. Hell, even though I acknowledge it, it's been a while since I've posted about it.
A couple of nights ago, though, I had a moment of white male privilege, a sort of Total White Guy Moment, if you will. It occurred on the job... At approximately 11:30PM, I was walking across the property to give my coworker Ginger her requisite half can of catfood, when I spied a police cruiser crawling along the site perimeter, spotlight shining over the fence. Having a need to know if there was something afoot that I needed to be aware of, I decided to approach the cruiser. Every once in a while, there is an occurrence in the town, say a stabbing or other assault, which leads to a manhunt, and our site, with its wooded areas, would seem to be a logical place to lay low. It doesn't happen often, but I have had conversations with local gendarmes across the fence concerning such incidents. I like to think of myself as the most dangerous animal onsite, so the idea that someone with stabby tendencies is hiding in the shrubbery is offensive to me.
I approached the perimeter fence in the vicinity of the police cruiser, waving my flashlight to get the officer's attention. Of course, I kept both of my hands in view. I hailed the officer with my typical opener: "How can I help you, officer?" As a white guy, and one of a particular demeanor (I'm not an authoritarian, but I can convincingly play one), I find that this conversational gambit to be useful, it pretty much deputizes myself. I asked him if there were any incidents that I needed to be aware of, any potentially threatening individuals to be on the lookout for.
There weren't... while cruising the perimeter, the police officer heard an unidentifiable racket coming from our property. Having listened to it all night, I knew it was a combined chorus of the green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) and bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus). I told him the cacaphony was the local frog population, and asked him if he wanted to come onsite to get a closer look, an invitation he declined. We then chatted for a while, and he told me about a trip he had taken as a thirteen year old with his parents to South America- while on a boat ride down the Amazon, he had heard some unforgettable animal noises. I joked about the job being a Scooby Doo episode every night, and the need, well MY need, to investigate weird noises on a regular basis. After this pleasant conversation, we bid each other goodnight.
Immediately afterward, I realized that this entire incident was possible because I was a white guy, and one of a certain age and demeanor. The police officer never questioned my right to be where I was, and never was I the subject of suspicion or uneasiness. Similarly, never once did I feel any trepidation, even though I made damn sure to keep my hands in sight at all times, hanging my arms over the fence to show that I wasn't holding anything. If I were a person of color, I don't know if I would have received the same treatment, I kinda doubt it, though I don't want to cast aspersions on this particular officer.
Racism ruins everything. Hell, I am a passive beneficiary of racism, even if I protest that I don't endorse it. Even after a pleasant conversation, combined with the relief that I wouldn't have to be on the lookout for a lurker, I had a touch of melancholy that not everyone would have received the same treatment. Yeah, racism ruins everything, except frogs. Frogs are 100% awesome. Well, cartoon frogs excepted.