I experienced what I think was a “white privilege” incident the other day. I drove to the TGIF/Pier One strip mall in Oak Park — super crowded, as it was Saturday afternoon. Tons of cars pulling in and out, dropping folks off and cruising around looking for a parking spot. 

I pulled into a parking spot, then suddenly a white guy pulls up behind me, practically bumper to bumper (I’m an African-American female). He pounded angrily on my car window, yelling that I took his parking spot, and that he had his blinker on, blah blah blah. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw another white guy sitting inside his car in the passenger seat. I told him I didn’t see him waiting and if he would back away from my car, I would pull out and give him the parking spot.

I really didn’t see him — lots of traffic. But I agreed to give him the spot as there was no way I was gonna get out of my car and go into the store. Who knows what he would have done to my car in his raging, angry state! It wasn’t that big of a deal, as it’s a free parking lot and I wasn’t in a hurry anyway.

Here’s my question: If I were a white woman and he was a black man, do you think a black man would have blocked a white woman’s car in, and then angrily jump out of his car and proceed to bang on the white woman’s car window, complaining that she took the parking spot he was waiting for, while his black male friend was also sitting in his car, with the white women’s car pinned in?

I’m of the opinion that, even in today’s (more “enlightened”) racial climate, most black men would have thought twice about blocking a white woman’s car in, and then angrily (and self-righteously) jumping out of their car and confronting a white woman by banging on her car window — as she was pinned in by his car, which he had purposefully pulled up right behind her to prevent her from leaving.

Sexism & racism are very insidious and often extremely out of our own awareness. I invite you to play around with this same “parking space” scenario, changing the gender and race/ethnicity of both drivers. 

Let me know your thoughts!

Janice Matthews Rasheed

(Retired) professor, Loyola
University Chicago 

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