Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lives of crime

At lunch with a friend the other day conversation turned to a common friend from high school, an African-American guy, who my friend said had been in trouble with the law sometime back. I said well, so have I a little, and imagine how many times I could have been arrested for possession of marijuana.  Lets just say several.

Then at lunch on Friday with another couple of guys, we were discussing crazy things from our youths and Chapel Hill in the 70s, when you could buy beer at the age of 15, just because of how lax things were, and I was reminded of how, sometime in there, after the drinking age had gone up to 21, I had taken someone else's birth certificate to DMV and gotten a driver's license with his name on it. I had borrowed the birth certificate (and gave it back of course).

Looking back on it, it's incredible to think I did that, the combination of  1. cajones and 2. lack of judgment that it took to do so.  One of the guys I was with was like, "that's pretty serious, you could have gotten jail time for that" and I thought, of course he was right, but the assumption we made was always that, because we were educated white kids, we would never really have the book thrown at us, no matter what we did, so long as it was never violent crime. And it was probably a reasonable assumption.

And it probably went down with the tacit complicity of the people at DMV.  They probably looked at me, I was probably 19 at the time and thought "what's the use of hassling this white kid? Nothing's going to happen to him."

This, in short, is white privilege, manifested in my life. Or one instance thereof.

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