The following is a guest post by UWS_DAD43. The views expressed are those of its author and do not reflect the views of “The Guilt of a Liberal” blog or its imaginary advertisers.
The failure to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner has once again exposed the idea of a “post-racial America” for the lie that it is.
While traffic itself does not discriminate on the basis of color or creed, the uncomfortable truth is that the portion of New Yorkers who commute via automobile are predominately Caucasian. And so whenever an unarmed black man is killed with impunity, the weight of protester-induced traffic falls disproportionately on the backs of white and beige Americans.
The fact is, white people have been inconvenienced by the repercussions of violence against black people since the dawn of our nation. If you’re unfamiliar with this troubling aspect of our history, there’s an excellent PBS documentary on the subject called “The Civil War.”
But for me, white inconvenience is not some abstract, academic subject. The experience of being an inconvenienced white man in America is one I live with every day.
I left my law office in Nolita on the night of November 25th with a spring in my step. After a long day of helping expropriators evade taxation, I was fifteen minutes away from my wife’s famous veal picatta, and the last three episodes of Mad Men’s fifth season (a superlative slice of premium cable that dramatizes the terrible inconveniences faced by white men in the advertising world of the 1950s and 60s).
It was not until I had merged onto the West Side Highway that I remembered: It had been less than 24 hours since a Ferguson Grand Jury had declined to indict Darren Wilson.
I would not arrive home that night until after 10 p.m.
The veal picatta had to be reheated, and was thereby rendered noticeably dry. Despite its propulsive narrative momentum, I was so exhausted by the end of a single episode of Mad Men that I quickly retired to my bedroom, made hasty love to my half-asleep wife, and passed out. It would be several days until I found out whether Joan’s big gamble would be enough to land the Jaguar account.
In the weeks since that awful night, some “friends” have said to me, “You should have checked the traffic report. If you had just done what the update advised, this never would have happened.” Such comments do not make me angry so much as sad: It is truly a pity that the propensity to blame victims for their own misfortunes is such a resilient feature of human psychology.
Others have suggested my experience couldn’t have been that bad. After all, was I not eager to catch up on the Serial podcast?
What those who have never been white and inconvenienced don’t understand is that even the battery of an iPhone 6 can sometimes die. It’s true that for the first two hours of my ordeal, I was able to make significant progress in Serial (a superlative podcast about the terrible inconveniences faced by white reporters trying to solve complicated mysteries). But for the last 45 minutes of my traffic jam there were no podcasts to be heard. I had become so reliant on my iPhone for in-car entertainment that I no longer kept a book of CDs in my BMW’s glove compartment.
With no diversion save satellite radio, I was left to stare at the multi-ethnic coterie of young people and their signs. Eventually, the psychedelic virtuosity of Coldplay was not enough to divert my attention, and I was left to contemplate my complicity in an exploitive economic system built on white supremacy.
Which is something that no American should ever have to do, regardless of their skin color.
In the coming weeks, the protests will likely thin. Gradually, we will think less and less of the disturbances of the past month. We will give ourselves over to the mundane rhythms of daily life.
Until it happens again.
And rest assured, it will happen again, so long as we indulge in such forgetting.
As the father of a young white man who will be 18 in January, I do not have the luxury to forget. Last week, I had a painful conversation with my son that few non-white parents will ever have to experience.
I told him never to leave the house with his iPhone uncharged, because the sad reality is that any time my son gets behind the wheel of a car, somewhere in this country, an unarmed black man could be killed for no reason, and my little Tyler could be confronted by an awareness of systemic injustice that I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to protect him from.
I will not be complacent while the oppression of black Americans continues to inconvenience my son, and other young men who look like him.
While I am not normally one to spend my free time on social media, it is critical that inconvenienced white people let their friends and families know that #WhiteDrivesMatter.
The day after my ordeal, I composed a Facebook status articulating many of these grievances. That status has since accrued over 20 likes, and sparked a lively debate in the comment thread beneath it. I will conclude with just a couple of the insightful observations my activism has already generated:
Amen, April, amen.