Pizza Delivery, iPhone Recovery; or, Race & Privilege in America

Yesterday was a personal object lesson in racism and white privilege in America. In the early afternoon, I ordered a pizza for delivery; I would be tutoring a student that evening and my wife would be getting home late from a conference in DC, so I thought we would both appreciate the leftovers. Upon his arrival, the deliveryman called up, asking if I could meet him outside of our high-rise. By itself, this is unremarkable: our building has a concierge desk, and a call from a deliveryman usually means that the desk is unstaffed for a moment. So, I went downstairs.

I wasn’t startled to see the concierge desk unstaffed. But something else did take me by surprise. In the lobby were several police officers, wearing their flak vests and talking with the front office staff. The pizza guy’s car was idling outside. I walked—unnoticed—around the police and outside to the car turnaround in front of our building.

The deliveryman was a Black man. He thanked me, repeatedly (and unnecessarily), for meeting him outside. He said he had looked inside and felt uncomfortable going in. If you don’t immediately understand why he was afraid, I can only assume that you’ve been held hostage for decades in Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride.

Later that evening, my wife got home from her conference, and she realized that she had lost her cell phone at the hotel. I booked a Zipcar and drove into DC—it was only a twenty minute drive from where we live in Virginia. I recovered the phone from hotel security, and then went through the steps to unlock her iPhone. On the corner of E Street, a plainclothes officer flashed his badge and asked why I was in possession of two iPhones (with the implication that I could be selling stolen goods). I told my story, and in a few minutes was on my way.

And here’s the moral of this story. As a white man, I was given the luxury to explain. To tell a story. (I’ve been told I’m a decent hand at the storytelling gig.) By dint of skin color alone, I have little to fear. That is not true for people of color, who have every reason to be distrustful of people who pin their badges and holster their firearms with prejudice. The Black pizza deliveryman who sees a few cops, their agenda unknown, in an apartment building’s lobby—American law enforcement does not afford him the right of an explanation, however peacefully he’s willing to provide it.

I hope that these anecdotes speak for themselves.

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15 thoughts on “Pizza Delivery, iPhone Recovery; or, Race & Privilege in America

  1. But what must blacks do stay in fear or release the pain and anger? But we are told to peacefully March be kind to cops aka master this has been going on to black Africans in the USA for centuries so I ask what should we do as black Africans in the USA be good to master at all times are let out the anger

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  2. Huh? How is this “privilege” or “racism?” The Black wasn’t accosted from you said; he merely saw a lobby with police in it and wouldn’t enter. If anything, the only racism was his and yours for assuming the officers would harm him. On the other hand, you were accosted by the police for the mere “probable cause” of having two iPhones in your possession.

    Ironic in the extreme since you’d likely claim I was racist for avoiding a group of Black males,

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    • It’s evidence of the effects of racism. Racism is the institutionalization of prejudice, and it vouches for the execution of power and props of the egos and actions of figures like the police. It isn’t “racist” to be afraid of police officers, who can—and do—abuse their power by physically assaulting people of color without affording them a presumption of innocence. So when a Black deliveryman won’t go into a lobby full of police, he’s afraid of what racism could let them do.

      And this is my white privilege. Because of my skin color, I have a presumption of innocence. The policeman asked me for my story and accepted it. The same wouldn’t be true if the suspect were Black, Latino, Muslim, etc.

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      • And yet you cannot see that the Black’s behavior is, itself indicative of an institutionalized prejudice against Whites and police.

        And no, there is no indication based upon the facts of generalized trends that a Black, Latino, Muslim, etc. would have been treated differently than you in the same context and locality.

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      • There’s no such thing as an “institutionalized prejudice against whites and police.” Grand juries frequently fail to indict white police officers (and police, generally) in cases of unnecessary violence. For something to be “institutionalized,” it has to be formed, protected, and perpetuated by the government, state agencies, and the courts. So no, I will not cede that point to you, because your entire position is founded on a logical fallacy, one that—no less—fearmongers by (falsely) presuming that whites’ liberties are at stake.

        And yes, there is ample evidence that minorities are treated differently—more violently, and with an immediate assumption of guilt—than white suspects. You should watch the Frontline documentary about police brutality in Newark, NJ.

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  3. There alternative explanations that make a fair amount sense to me. Put away your privilege. It is an illusion to excuse people who don’t try.

    For over a quarter century blacks have committed over 50% of all homicides in the U.S. where the race of the offender was known (FBI). Over 40% of cop killers are black. Blacks are way over represented in violent crime statistics of all kinds.

    Police have valid reasons to be more wary blacks. As a matter of fact a recent study in Philadelphia found that a black police officer was more likely to shoot at a black suspect than a white police officer (the black officer is probably less afraid of being accused of racism is the likely explanation).

    Some American inner cities have homicide rates comparable to some of the most violent third world countries in the world. Same for violent crime. It is not white police officers that are killing the vast majority of young black men. It is other young black men doing the killing.

    But TV and the media focus on just about every time a black is killed by police (and largely ignore the much larger number of white men killed by police). So since we are bombarded with every single incident people naturally come to the belief there is some kind of war on blacks by police. But it is largely an illusion created by hysteria and the media, not real world statistics.

    A black kid in an inner city tries to do good in school and he is attacked by other black kids as acting “white.” He gives up and joins the gang. It wasn’t white privilege that kept him down. It was black racism.

    50 years or more ago white racism was the problem. Today the largest problem is black racism. Not sure why I bothered writing this? You probably don’t have the guts to approve it.

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    • I’m not a coward, and I’m certainly not afraid of people who attack the so-called “hysteria” of the media and then parrot its nebulous rhetoric of “recent studies,” without providing citations for their evidence. What is this “recent study” in Philadelphia, and did it include any type of research questions or methods that would investigate the mindsets of Black officers against white ones?

      And no, awareness of our privilege and of the benefits we receive—this is a necessary precursor to taking action. I could not be a good teacher, a good essayist, a good activist, and a good mentor if I wasn’t aware of that, and if I didn’t act to correct, in my own way, the microaggressions that I commit.

      In my own reading, I’ve seen statistics like the ones you’ve cited debunked. From the stories of my students, my friends, and colleagues, I’ve seen your quantitative claims invalidated. Statistics are not neutral, and those with power craft statistics to suit their own purposes, their own narratives.

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      • “… nebulous rhetoric of “recent studies,” …”

        “Black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to fire a gun at blacks than white officers. This is according to a Department of Justice report in 2015 about the Philadelphia Police Department, and is further confirmed that by a study conducted University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway in 2015 that determined black cops were 3.3 times more likely to fire a gun than other cops at a crime scene.”

        5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks
        http://www.dailywire.com/news/7264/5-statistics-you-need-know-about-cops-killing-aaron-bandler

        The above article has a link to a PDF which is the study cited.

        http://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-w0753-pub.pdf

        “And no, awareness of our privilege and of the benefits we receive—this is a necessary precursor to taking action.”

        Obeying the law, getting an education, working and providing for your family are not privileges. It is not white privilege or benefits mandated by law that keeps blacks from doing the same thing. It is a highly toxic and dysfunctional black culture. Your fallacious focus on “privilege,” and many like you mean you are the problem, and not the solution.

        No truth,no justice.

        “In my own reading, I’ve seen statistics like the ones you’ve cited debunked.”

        I point to your use of the phrase “… nebulous rhetoric of “recent studies,” …”.

        More and more I am beginning to see a lot of the problem today as being similar to the frenzy centuries ago when people thought witches and black magic were causing all their problems in life. We are living through a similar time of mass illusion, both by blacks and many whites who’s brains have been addled with what some have called the “Race Grievance Industry.”

        It is clearly a very profitable industry for some.

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      • I believe you mean “whites whose.” “Whites who’s” grammatically means “whites who is.”

        And yes, I see that you’re providing statistics and experts, some of which I’m familiar with. None of these account for a systemic, multigenerational system of oppression. You choose to claim that events of American history are “ancient history” to Blacks. The after effects have lingered. The answer is not—especially if you read education scholars and experts like Diane Ravitch—simply throwing money and new buildings at problems. We need an approach that improves quality of life for minority parents and provides them with the ability to spend more time with their children, contribute to their educations. We need across-the-board solutions.

        It’s clear that we’ll never agree. It’s clear that you will continue to abide by whatever corroborates your own racism, whatever eases your conscience and convinces you that your privileges—an assumption of guilt before innocence before the police and courts of law, an economic system that provides you with disposable income and access to luxuries, and many others aside—are not privileges.

        The hysteria currently gripping America is not the desire to see equality achieved. The illusion is Trumpism and its rhetoric of hate. So call me a liberal, call me illusioned: I would rather be that, than follow your ideas and deny freedom and quality of living to others.

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      • “It’s clear that we’ll never agree.”

        Probably not.

        “It’s clear that you will continue to abide by whatever corroborates your own racism, …”

        Which is what always happens. Kind of like Godwin’s law – except instead the tactic is call someone who disagrees with you a racist.

        “… whatever eases your conscience …”

        I have no conscience to ease in regards to blacks. I am not responsible morally or otherwise for their plight. I am not a Democrat, but I repeat myself.

        “and convinces you that your privileges—an assumption of guilt before innocence before the police…”

        Except there is considerable evidence that a white police officer is more likely to fire on a white person who is attacking him, or resisting arrest, or refusing to obey lawful orders. Have you heard of the “Ferguson effect”?

        “… an economic system that provides you with disposable income and access to luxuries, and many others aside—are not privileges.”

        They didn’t provide them to me. I took advantage of the opportunity which is why I am setting here typing on my Mac Powerbook and getting ready to go to Costco in my new car I just bought yesterday. I see some blacks who have taken similar advantage and have similar rewards.

        The only thing really keeping a lot of blacks from taking the same road is their bitter racism where a young black kid in an inner city gets attacked for trying to study and get good grades and not misbehave. He will be accused of trying to be “white” or whatever they current term is in Ebonics.

        As to Trump I am not looking forward to calling him Mr. President, but that is better I suppose than someone who belongs in jail being President.

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      • Perhaps you should read the following, and then watch the next link I post. Because you are free to take advantage of these opportunities (with, I might add, a callousness toward your fellow mortal that Charles Dickens often pilloried). Because what you’re reveling in is the manifestations of privilege.

        https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/lewisjulie/White%20Priviledge%20Unpacking%20the%20Invisible%20Knapsack.pdf

        http://www.cc.com/video-clips/9yc4ry/the-colbert-report-toni-morrison

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    • I’ll also add this: have you considered that the legacies of slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow laws fostered economic inequality, poorer education, worse access to healthcare, and worse quality of life for African Americans? Have you considered that perhaps the answer is social justice—providing economic care to Blacks’ and improving their access to education and healthcare? Yes, you cite the FBI, but that statistic doesn’t explore the social conditions that have been created by our political institutions, and it also doesn’t account for what has happened on account of urban transformations and gentrification—which allow predominately white, wealthy populations to improve their quality of life while minorities remain in low-income neighborhoods with little access to jobs or resources that could improve their conditions. Check your census data for ethnicity and income across neighborhoods.

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      • “have you considered that the legacies of slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow laws fostered economic inequality, poorer education, worse access to healthcare, and worse quality of life for African Americans?”

        First off slavery, Reconstruction, and even Jim Crow are ancient history to the vast majority of blacks alive today.

        As to poorer education I have some insight into it. Some years ago my white wife worked in a predominantly black school in Kansas City, Mo. It was entirely run by black administrators and most of the teachers were black. Millions and millions of dollars were invested in K.C. schools with a huge property tax increase.

        They had schools that were veritable physical paradises, for a while. Things did not get better. They got worse. Putting blacks in charge and pouring an ocean of money did not help one iota.

        We have a lot of large cities in America with very large black populations in the inner city where just about the entire administration from the mayor to the police chief are black. Yet many of these have crime and homicide rates equal some of the most violent third world countries.

        The picture is fairly clear. It is not white racism destroying these cities. Blacks largely run them. These cities are also completely run by Democrats.

        Anyone who removes the blinders from their eyes have to see that it is blacks murdering and victimizing other blacks that is the problem while the Congressional Black Caucus largely ignores the black on black violence while focusing on the relatively small number of black thugs killed by white police.

        The purpose it seems of the Race Grievance Industry to ignore black on black crime while blaming all the problems on white racism. Like I said earlier, we are in a period of mass hysteria and illusion.

        “Have you considered that perhaps the answer is social justice—providing economic care to Blacks’ and improving their access to education and healthcare?”

        Democrats are very much in favor of paying blacks to keep voting for them. You can however see, if you look, how well that has worked.

        You should read Thomas Sowell’s book “Black Rednecks And White Liberals.” He is a black man, and a very intelligent and perceptive one, that puts the lie to the idea that it is white racism or lack or access to education and healthcare that is the problem.

        “… low-income neighborhoods with little access to jobs or resources that could improve their conditions”

        And it seems Democrats and Leftists are doing everything possible to make sure they have little access to jobs by trying to raise the minimum wage (a proven job destroyer) and importing as many people legally, and illegally from the Third World as they can to take the few jobs blacks in the inner city might otherwise have.

        Thomas Sowell is right. Democratic politics and people who vote for them, including most blacks, are responsible for the situation today.

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