White privilege

Tonight, we went to see Ronny Chieng, one of the Daily Show correspondents, perform some test material, and his opening act was Adam Lowitt, who is also a Daily Show contributor (I think his official title is “Senior Jewish Correspondent”). If anyone has any doubt that “white privilege” exists and is real, they should have heard what he had to say tonight.

He talked about how he and his wife were driving with their infant baby in the backseat in Jersey, and he was speeding because that’s just what he does. A police siren goes off, and he realizes it’s for him. So he pulls over, and the police officer approaches and starts speaking in a loud voice. Without even realizing why this would be a bad idea, Adam immediately says “Shhhhhh!! (looks to the back of the car) The baby is sleeping.” And not only does the police officer lower his voice in response, he lets Adam and his wife go simply on a warning.

Adam admitted it. He said he took advantage of his white privilege then by speaking in such an irreverent way to a police officer without even thinking. If he were a person of color, he never would have done that, and if he did, he probably would not have been treated as well as he was.

If that were Chris driving, or if that were a black or another brown person who tried to “shhhhh” a police officer, what do you think would have happened? I don’t think any person of color would even dream of “shhhh”ing a police officer. In fact, Chris and I have gotten pulled over twice, once for speeding and another time because Chris forgot to turn his headlights on at night. The police officer who pulled us over for the lack of headlights was angrier than angry that Chris didn’t immediately pull over (Chris said he got confused and wasn’t sure it was for him), and then got even more mad when Chris answered one of his questions the wrong way. I always look back on those moments and think, would that police officer have responded the same way if Chris were white?

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