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Driving while white-privileged

By Eddie Whitlock

I was driving through my hometown in early December, when I came to town to visit property that my sister and I still own there. I had brought my dog, Doc, who cannot drive.

​We did well enough on the way there. It’s about a two-hour drive, so I stopped about halfway for a walk and water. Doc was able to exercise some at the property, though I kept him on his leash.

​He really enjoyed the trip, I think, and particularly liked getting to sniff around the big empty area. I think there are more than a few wild critters around. There are probably a few domestic animals that visit as well. For Doc, it was a lot of fun.

​As we had driven through downtown on our way to the property, we had gone past some sort of chaos involving a large utilities truck. I don’t know what was going on, but they had blocked off one of the two lanes of the busiest street in town.

​When we were on our way out of town a couple of hours later, I expected the truck to be gone, but it wasn’t. Whatever was going on was taking a while, and it was making traffic complicated.

​As I edged past the situation, I tried to get over into the right lane. I couldn’t. The cars beside me wouldn’t let me over. I sped up, I slowed down. Some jerk in a big SUV comes flying up behind me.

​I tried to get over. He was riding my bumper.

​Let me emphasize here that I was in the wrong. I did a bad thing. I sped up, got past the block of cars. Before I could get over, the SUV starts around me on the right side. I got over, and he was stuck behind me.

​He was driving aggressively. I was being a dxck. I got over again, keeping him behind me.

​During this, traffic was finally starting to thin. I should have just taken the left lane like I was intending to do before the SUV got behind me.

​I moved back over, blocking this guy again.

​That’s when he turned on his flashing blue lights.

​That’s when I realized I had been fxcking around with the police.

​I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant. The SUV pulled in behind me. The two men who got out of the car were not dressed like policemen. They were dressed like soldiers. They were wearing battle gear.

​Doc is an anxious little fellow. I was scared shxtless that he would bark or snap at them. For what it’s worth, he didn’t. He was curious about the situation, but he didn’t cause a problem.

​The officer who had been driving was livid. He chewed me out for blocking him, saying that he had been in pursuit of someone.

​Do you know what my smart mouth said back to him then?

​Not a damned thing.

I apologized.

I did my best to act like I didn’t know I had done it.

He took my driver’s license and went back to run it. The other officer came to my window and stood there. I asked him about the utility truck, why it was there, and what was going on. He was not interested in small talk. He wanted to know why I – with my Clarke County license plate – was in their city.

​I told him. I tried more with the small talk, but I got no reply.

​Eventually, the first cop came back to the car and gave me my license. He chewed me out again for having kept him from pursuing another vehicle. I apologized again. I was expecting a ticket or at least a written warning. I didn’t get either.

​I drove my axx – and Doc’s – slowly and carefully back to the good old People’s Republic of Clarke County.

​I have not shared this story with anyone, not even my wife or my therapist. (I had planned on writing this column about the value of therapy. That will be a future topic.)

​I should have gotten a written warning or a ticket. I am very glad that I didn’t. I am very surprised that I didn’t.

​I am a little old white man. I drive a little white Prius. I have a little red dog who – thankfully – didn’t show his axxduring this traffic stop.

​The two men who stopped me scared me. They were not dressed like “peace officers,” in my humble opinion. They were definitely enforcers of the law.

​I can say that the vehicle they were in did not look like a police car. It looked like an SUV. Even if I didn’t know it was a police car, I should not have blocked them. I should have done what I was supposed to do and gotten out of the way.

​Here’s something else I can say: I was afraid that I might be arrested. I had pixxed off a policeman. I had broken the law, probably.

​I was certain I was getting a ticket. I was not happy about that, but I wasn’t afraid. I was kicking myself for what I had done.

​Here’s something else I can say: I never worried that I would be beaten. I never worried that the situation would escalate. I never worried that my mother was going to get a really horrible phone call that evening.

​When I saw the Tyre Nichols story, my first thought was about a friend whose two sons could easily wind up in that situation. She agreed, and said it was a topic she talks with them about regularly. I am glad she does, but I hate that she has to.

​The day that I got stopped, I didn’t have any outstanding charges or other legal problems that showed up when that policeman ran my license. I was just a little old white man driving a little white Prius with his little red dog.

​I hope that the latitude those angry officers gave me is extended to every person who does something stupid. I hope it does.

​In the meantime, though, I know that white privilege once again made my life easier.

​And that’s wrong.

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