After reading the Tim Wise essay regarding the privileges of driving white in America, I remembered a recent similar incident. I drive a university vehicle about 2,500 miles most months to schools throughout Oklahoma. In the spring I was driving through Tulsa on my way back to Norman, when I hit a ‘speed trap’. Earlier that day, I had noticed that my driver’s license was not in my wallet and remembered that I had removed it during a visit to the bank and then placed it in a coat pocket. I was concerned for a moment about the consequences of driving without my license but like Tim Wise, thought: “I will be careful”. When I realized that two motorcycle officers were set up along the turnpike around the point of a speed limit change and that I was travelling at least 15 mph over the posted speed, I realized I would be pulled over. The flashing lights in my rear view mirror caused mild panic as I wondered what kind of “trouble” I would get into for not have my license.
When the officer came to the window and asked for license and registration, I explained that I was driving without a license and travelling back to Norman in the university’s car. He asked if I had any picture ID. I showed him my student ID and voter’s registration card, he jotted down my address and returned to his car. During the next 5 minutes I imagined calling my husband and asking him to come to Tulsa to pick me up from the police station and calling my boss to tell her that I had to leave the university’s car on the side of the turnpike. However, when the officer returned he said he was able to look me up in his system, presented me with a warning and reminded me to drive safely.
If I had been driving in Arizona today in the same situation would I have a similar experience? I think it is likely. Because I am a white woman, I will not be targeted as a “reasonable suspect” and expected to prove that I belong in this country even though I do not have required proof in my position. Because I am a white woman I do not have to observe the traffic laws. Because I am a white woman my job was not impacted by my mistake, driving without a license. Because I am a white woman, living in Oklahoma I do not risk removal from my life when I cannot prove my membership as a citizen. Because I am a white woman, I will not need to worry if the “take back America” crusade reaches Oklahoma and we pass legislation similar to Arizona SB 1070, I will need to worry if I find myself in similar circumstances in the future (Rich, 2010).
Rich, F. (May 2, 2010) OP-ED Columnist:If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem. The New York Times. Http://nytimes.com.
Because I am a white woman, no one suspects me of transporting WMD in my Prius.