Why Jordan Edwards Is A Great Example Of White Privilege

I regularly read the words of Shaun King in my Facebook feed. Sometimes, they are his own opinion pieces from The Daily News, but often they are him relaying news of one injustice or another, often the senseless murder of another person of color. Most recently, he has told the story of Jordan Edwards, a young man of 15, who was shot by a police officer while leaving a party. For no good reason.

At least one neighbor called the police because of the noise and the sheer volume of kids who showed up for the party. As police arrived, Jordan, his brother, and their friends got in their car and left. They had not been drinking. They had not been smoking. They did not have knives or guns. They had not been fighting. They simply got in their car and left.

— Shaun King

Many times, the media, and white people all over the country, in conversations private and public, are quick to give excuses for the police. “He should have complied with the officer’s directions.” “They had a criminal record.” “They had a weapon.” “They were using/on drugs.” “They were/acted violent.” “They were coming *toward* the officer.” And so on, ad nauseam/infinitum.

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The social and political climate is changing. I believe that as a whole, we are getting more inclusive and more accepting, and we are moving toward a more enlightened state. Because of that, the vestiges of our “ego” as a society that absolutely do NOT want to die are rising up something fierce. And unfortunately, we are seeing it in the last, loud, crazy throes — the election of 45, the regular police murders of people of color, the resistance against transgender people, and the last few male stalwarts who are blatantly against the rights of women.

But we are also seeing and hearing things that were never really a part of the lexicon before — things like “white privilege.” That is something that was previously reserved for small groups of intellectuals studying sociology on small liberal arts campuses. But it’s out in the world now. There are regular plain ol’ Americans who absolutely HATE the term, but they KNOW it. They hear it in mainstream dialogue — they know it exists.

The next step is getting people to understand it.

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When I read about the murder of Jordan Edwards, I am immediately struck with a deep sense of sorrow. For his unlived life. For his family. For all of the people who have had direct experience with something like this in their own lives. For those who are stuck somewhere between rage and pain and outrage and terror and devastation and “not again.” For everyone who feels absolutely helpless to do anything about this.

But I am also struck by an opportunity to try and reach out to the people I know who are incensed by the idea that they carry “white privilege.” Because “they had it hard growing up,” or “they’ve worked hard, too.” Because they “aren’t privileged,” or “don’t get any favors,” or what have you. I want them to honestly assess their lives and ask themselves these 10 questions:

  • Have I ever truly had to sit my children down and explain how to interact with an officer — BECAUSE I thought if I didn’t, they would not walk away with their lives?
  • Have I ever gotten pulled over for speeding or a tail light being out (or some other very small offense) and feared for my life?
  • Would I ever witness a crime, but not call the police for fear that when they got there, I would be accused of the crime, or worse yet, be in fear for my life?
  • Have I ever had a gun pulled on me by a police officer?
  • Have I ever been in an interaction with a police officer where I truly wondered if I would I would make it out alive?
  • Do I worry that if my children have to talk to a police officer, they will end up dead?
  • Do I know anyone that has been killed by a police officer?
  • Have I ever been minding my own business and been aggressively and/or violently accosted by the police?
  • Have I ever been falsely accused for a crime I didn’t commit?
  • Have I ever been caught doing something wrong/breaking the law/doing something inappropriate/talking back to an officer and BEEN LET GO/WALKED AWAY WITH MY LIFE?

*That’s* white privilege. It doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have. How many hours you work or don’t work. How many mouths you have to feed. How hard you struggle. How good you did in school. How good looking you are. NONE of that matters.

What matters is that your skin color affords you rights, freedoms, and abilities that other people of color do NOT have. And when dealing with the police, it often means that you can go around without thinking about having to die. That’s a pretty big privilege. It’s one Jordan Edwards was not afforded.

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The police chief of Balch Springs has already come out and said that the first report of the incident was falsified (THEY LIED). A young boy was murdered leaving a party — that’s what happened. I don’t care that the man who did it was wearing a badge/uniform. He had no reason or right to kill this boy, so that’s murder. In fact, the badge makes it worse. Fire him and indict him. Put him on trial.

We’ll never know all the things Jordan Edwards could have accomplished. He would have had to work harder than his white counterparts to get the same results, that’s for sure. But a police officer took it upon himself to end his life, and so we’ll never know. But now, we need to keep working to make sure he loses all of his privileges and ends up in prison.

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