On laughter and white privilege

April 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 3, 2015

Author’s note: Alas, my laptop is malfunctioning again, so I’m going to have to change up my blogging for the next several days until I get things in order. (Unfortunately, that may require the purchase of a new computer.) Here’s a short post based on some tweets I sent recently. MEM 

True, and kind of sad, story from Wednesday night about Chris Rock. 

It was trivia night at a downtown Durham, N.C., restaurant/bar. The crowd was largely Caucasian (as I am) and Asian. 

One trivia question was basically, “Which comedian posted pictures of himself being repeatedly pulled over by the police?”

Several minutes later, the M.C. gave the answers to that round of questions, including the above-mentioned one about Chris Rock.

The M.C. mentioned that some people incorrectly answered the question with “Will Ferrell” — who, of course, is white.

I laughed heartily at the thought of Will Ferrell being pulled over repeatedly. It just seemed totally ludicrous.

Almost immediately, I felt bad about laughing. This was the essence of white privilege — that I, a white man, could laugh off a reality, a commonplace situation, that many black people have to suffer through daily.

Other than at checkpoints, where everyone is stopped, it’s been years since I’ve been pulled over by a law-enforcement officer. I know that it’s an experience that I dislike and, yes, fear — even though mild-mannered, unarmed white men such as myself tend not to get shot and killed.

Now imagine being Chris Rock, who’s been pulled over multiple times in the past two years. He tweets “Wish me luck” each time — and I believe that for him, that’s no joke.

Yes, America is a much more egalitarian place that it was 100, 50 or 15 years ago. But a postracial utopia this ain’t.

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