White Privilege

at 10:43 PM

As a freshman in high school, my son was required to make a short movie for English class. He and a friend wrote a script involving their favorite things: the "Call of Duty" video game and "Monty Python." The plot had two soldiers travel back in time to protect a kingdom from a vicious beaver. Pretty typical 14-year-old stuff.

I was enlisted to help out. We set out to film at a hilly, wooded park near home. The boys, dressed in camo and carrying toy airsoft guns, tramped about the park to simulate a Ranger patrol while I filmed.

Most park visitors we encountered were amused by this decidedly amateur production, but not, apparently, everyone. We wrapped up our filming, placed the airsoft guns in a duffle bag, and started back to our car. A park ranger and sheriff were waiting for us.

"Gentlemen," the park ranger called to us. "What's in the bag?" He was leaning back against his car, his body language suggesting a distinct lack of concern.

I told him about our film and the replica guns in the bag. I started to open the duffel for him to see. "Not necessary," he replied, and the conversation moved on to the film permit that fortunately we didn't need.

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After a couple of minutes and a brief warning about bringing guns into the park, our encounter with law enforcement ended.

I've thought a lot about that interaction over the last several weeks. It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that I'm white, as are the two boys. Our interaction with the authorities was banal, boring even.

But what if our skin was darker? What would the officer's reaction have been to three camo-wearing African-American men with a bag reportedly full of guns? From Santa Rosa to Cleveland and points between, young men of color carrying toy guns have been shot and killed by police who didn't first ask polite questions while leaning casually against their vehicles.

The term "white privilege" has been thrown around a lot recently, including some debate as to whether it even exists. I'm confident it was present that day in the park. I'm hopeful it will one day extend to young men of color.  

With a Perspective, I'm Dave Almy.

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Dave Almy is a sports marketer, app developer and coach. He lives in Petaluma.

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