White Male Privilege: Flying Beneath the Radar


At his eponymous blog, anti-racist and educator Tim Wise relates a poignant story of being tracked by police while driving a rented, hulking SUV on I-95 to Delaware. He believes they lost interest once they pulled alongside him, peered through his window and discovered that he was white, not black.


… This time, as I looked in the mirror I saw — as is usually the case — the officer remain put, apparently having not clocked me going at a pace that would have necessitated a pullover. Relieved I averted my gaze from the mirror and returned my focus to the road ahead. Then, as if out of nowhere, I glanced back up and noticed a car advancing on me from a distance at a high rate of speed. At first I couldn’t tell that the approaching vehicle was a police cruiser, let alone the very cruiser I had eclipsed just a few moments earlier. Thinking it was someone wanting to pass, I moved over to the middle lane, leaving the lefthand lane open for whomever was in such a hurry.

But then, rather than pass, the car — the official provenance and inhabitants of which I now recognized — slowed to match my speed and pulled up parallel to the Yukon. Puzzled by this behavior, especially since the officers had not put on their lights, and thus, had done nothing to suggest that I had violated any rule of the road, I turned and looked at them. Perhaps they wanted to tell me that I had something hanging out of the rear of the SUV, or that I had a tire going flat, or something else, ya know, helpful like that.

But no. As I looked into the passenger side window of the cruiser, the reason for which it had pulled alongside me became obvious. The officer riding shotgun peered into my window, his hand just above his eyes so as to block the glare of the bright January sun. It took all of three seconds for him to get a good look at me, aided in that process by my own decision to turn towards him to see what all the fuss was about. A look of recognition — and, frankly, disappointment — washed over his face, right before he turned to his partner behind the wheel, shook his head in an easily readable “no” motion, and pointed to the quickly approaching turn-around spot in the median, as if to suggest that they should turn back around. Nothing to see here. Not having found what (or more to the point, whom) they were searching for, they did just that, and headed back south, presumably to join the stake-out spot where they had been perched previously …

Read Tim Wise's complete blog entry at Tim Wise.