I went to public schools until high school and had a mixed group of friends. How mixed, you ask? The one other jewish guy was an adopted native American. My parents said that our core group looked like a Bennetton ad.
Naturally we got up to all the things that kids are too busy to do these days with their xboxstations and faceville and chatbook and why isn’t anyone on my damn lawn. A preferred pastime was snowballing cars. We had this ideal spot picked out on a hill with a clear shot down to the road, with woods behind us where we could disappear in a hurry. The only easy way to us was up that snowy hill. That gave us plenty of time to skedaddle when the heat showed up. Traffic moved slow and sparse enough that nobody was in any danger when someone stopped to yell (around one in five, always dudes).
At some point the local PD must have dedicated a task force to us because one day a cop car pulled up at the bottom of the hill and everyone ran for the woods, where we met a line of wet, cold and pissed off cops who had hiked up behind us. They gave a lecture about what happens to delinquent thirteen-year olds and then arrested the black kid. They also took in the jewish native American, I guess because he looked hispanic. Both got their records checked, spent some time in holding and then moms picked them up. The black guy was and is one of the most polite people I have ever met, aside from the snowballs, and certainly knew the important points from The Talk better than us snotty white kids. Even in the progressive north that gets you only so far.
Another occasion comes to mind. One night few winters later a paddy wagon screeches to a halt in front of me and two friends, perhaps to do with the fireworks going off in people’s yards (under three feet of snow at night they make a very satisfying thud-poof with lights and yes, I know I will go to hell). The driver demands to know whether we saw any black kids throwing fireworks in people’s yards. I, hiding a Roman candle with a huge square base under my parka, tell him nope. In defense of my conscience (again, setting aside the fireworks thing) this was a fairly chichi part of Pittsburgh and the guy would have had to drive miles to find a group of black kids walking around at night.
So two cheers for white privilege. This sounds like pretty minor stuff, but how many times have I not been pulled over and arrested by an angry hornet’s nest of cops for no good reason? Probably a lot. It is a small miracle that I have a clean juvenile record, and I once had to take that license test again after a couple of speeding tickets. My personal experience is not exactly a James Baldwin novel but it is enough to make me laugh whenever some rightwing blowhard declares that we are done and over with racism in America.