I Got Your White Privilege Right Here

Good on this woman:

If the police were on your front lawn, questioning someone you know about a call they received, what would you do? If you’re Jody Westby, you defend your people. And you do it sternly, with an air of authority only reserved for people who perceive themselves as having as much power as the police.

It’s all on display in the above video, in which Westby comes to the aid of an elderly black man who has been stopped by a pair of police officers. The level of comfort with which she communicates with the officers due to her knowledge of the law and lack of fear of retribution offers a lesson about how the intersection of race, class and privilege can impact the interactions between police officers and some residents.

To begin, this is all taking place on Foxhall Crescent. If you’re not familiar, that’s an area of tony cul-de-sacs, tucked between the Palisades and Wesley Heights. To call it upscale would be an understatement.

This reminds me of the piece a month or so back by Emily Bazelon, in which she described why she is hesitant to call the police on black people, because a lot of the time (see John Crawford) it could be a death sentence for something innocuous. And having a command of the law is definitely an added plus, notwithstanding the fact that she has the right skin tone.

BTW- the “Now get out of our neighborhood and find the 4600 block” at the end was, I am 100% sure, accompanied by a mental “BEEOOCH!” She’s dealt with these types before. More of this, please.






38 replies
  1. 1
    Mike J says:

    The level of comfort with which she communicates with the officers due to her knowledge of the law and lack of fear of retribution offers a lesson about how the intersection of race, class and privilege can impact the interactions between police officers and some residents

    Sounds pretty uppity.

  2. 2
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    That lady used her white privilege for good not evil

  3. 3
    KS in MA says:

    I think it’s time I went to law school.

  4. 4
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KS in MA: Don’t do it.

  5. 5
    burnspbesq says:

    @KS in MA:

    If you want to spend three years and go $200K in debt to get a degree that at this point in time barely enhances your career prospects (if at all), knock yourself out.

  6. 6
    burnspbesq says:

    Butbutbut … it’s a gateway drug that must be eradicated before it leads people to the harder stuff.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ra-plants/

    Yeah. You mean collard greens are the harder stuff?

  7. 7
    kc says:

    Let’s recast that with two white male cops.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kc: With the white woman intervening, it ends up the same way.

    ETA: As obnoxious as it can sound, the announcement that she is a lawyer effectively ends the situation whether the cops are white or black.

  9. 9
    🚸 Martin says:

    @KS in MA: Yeah, don’t. I have an entry-level administrative position open and have had 4 attorneys apply for it (hopefully Burnsey isn’t one of them). I don’t even require a college degree for this position.

  10. 10
    kc says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    @kc: With the white woman intervening, it ends up the same way

    No. Sir. Not every time.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kc: The particular situation as shown on the tape, yeah, the cops go away, white or black. If she isn’t there, it could end very badly. However, from the time that we see the video the white female attorney is there.

  12. 12
    burnspbesq says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The key was when she said “I know this man. He belongs here.”

    I wonder if it was true.

  13. 13
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @burnspbesq: She lived there and she accepted him. The knowing part? Actual knowledge or theoretical knowledge? She knew him and she knew what was happening. I don’t care to probe further. I also hope that she and the disabled man both file complaints.

  14. 14
    kc says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Why don’t we just stipulate that you oppose everything I say going forward. Save some time.

  15. 15
    mai naem says:

    The woman is awesome. Most people I know wouldn’t have done that with cops.

  16. 16
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kc: Jebus, what is your problem? I think that the presence of the white attorney makes a difference whether the cops are white or black and you see it as an automatic gainsaying of anything you say? If you want to suggest that if it was two white cops, the guy would have been dead before the woman hit the scene, just say so. In that case you might well be right. But, like I said above, from what we can see from the video, once the white, female lawyer is there, violence is off the table.

    You can disagree and try to make it some kind of personal thing between you and me, but that seems silly and i really don’t feel like engaging in it.

  17. 17
    🚸 Martin says:

    Someone should embed that video on the Wikipedia page for ‘white privilege’.

  18. 18
    AxelFoley says:

    @kc:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Why don’t we just stipulate that you oppose everything I say going forward. Save some time.

    Sounds good to me. You usually say stupid shit.

  19. 19
    Mart says:

    Exiting a Chicago Cop and Fireman bar I tossed an empty Old Style beer bottle at a garbage can on the sidewalk. Missed drunkenly and the bottle exploded. Two cops come flying out of a car threatening to arrest a coworker for busting the bottle. After the cops attack the coworker I said nonsense – I tossed the bottle at the can and missed. They said this POS in their arms was hitting on their women. Getting pretty ugly when another of our group’s wife appeared. She said she is the designated driver for some, and the rest are on the train; she is a lawyer, and this is BS. It was over. Free to go.

    Also too, very glad we were allright, I mean all white.

  20. 20
    Gvg says:

    I have no intention of giving up my white privilege but it really is citizen privilege and the problem is that other minorities have had their right stolen from them. Police and others should be treating them with respect too. How to get there is the problem. I am thinking police reform looks like the next big civil rights fight.

  21. 21
    Botsplainer says:

    @Mart:

    I think self assured white women get a different play from white male cops than would a self assured white professional male.

    They’d immediately escalate to “back away and lower your voice, sir” before tasing me and telling me to “stop resisting, sir” as I writhed on the ground.

  22. 22
    aimai says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think kc’s point is that 1) she might not have intervened if it had been two white cops or 2) that she intervened as agressively as she did, and with as much contemptuous body language as she did, becauase the cops were black and female. In other words she had class and race privilege in the context of the interaction because she was white vis a vis the cops.

    However it was still a good thing to do. In the future most police (especially white ones) are just going to be more agressive with all bystanders to prevent them from acting as street lawyers.

  23. 23
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @burnspbesq: She calls him by name [Dennis] and helps him up and refers to him working for her for thirty years. So, yeah I do think that she knows him.

    This whole exchange is fascinating to see, but I think some credit needs to be given to the two officers who realize pretty quickly [after the intervention of the female lawyer] that the situation is not dangerous or illegal and does not require their intervention.
    They disengage and leave. I could see some cops responding in the opposite direction and doubling down, making this situation pretty ugly.

  24. 24
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Mike J: Someone who is black would probably never talk to the police like this by themselves, no matter how rich they are.

    That being said, I once read a book about the police in NYC, and one of the officers summed up the difference between the rich and poor very succinctly: the rich truly believe that the police exist to serve them, while the poor truly believe that the police exist to harass them.

  25. 25
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: As all of us white folk should do.

  26. 26
    C.V. Danes says:

    @kc: I think you just need to predicate “white woman” with the word “rich.”

  27. 27
    Applejinx says:

    Woo!

    This honestly cheers me, this morning. Privilege and social rank have ALWAYS existed, but it’s so easy to forget that they are not automatically associated with evilness. (trust a woman to be able to illustrate that! She was RANKING mother hen, right there)

    She knew exactly what she was looking at, she probably knew her danger and sure as hell knew his, and her every move and remark was perfect for getting herself and Dennis out of there safely.

    It’s not just a picture of ‘noblesse oblige’ (if even that?), it’s a picture of a healthy society at widely varying levels of privilege and influence. I am more or less okay with some people radically out-succeeding others, as there seems no reasonable way to stop that. I had almost forgotten it was possible to do this and not be a damn sociopath.

  28. 28
    Ken says:

    So yeah, there was a bunch of upper class white privilege there, but the real priviliege – the real power, was the phrase “I’m a lawyer”

    Because cops almost never shoot or beat the shit out of “suspects” while their lawyer is present (and yes, I know she didn’t say “I’m his lawyer”, but the effect here is pretty much the same

  29. 29
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Butbutbut … it’s a gateway drug that must be eradicated before it leads people to the harder stuff.

    Are you still talking about law school?

  30. 30
    pagodat says:

    That’s MPD, the regular city cops for DC there. (There’s a staggering number of police forces here in DC — did you know the Washington National Cathedral has its own police force for some reason? — but for the vast majority of the city “the cops” means MPD.) It has been much commented on locally that the fact that about 60% of MPD cops are black (for a city that’s about 50% black) has unfortunately not made life sunshine and roses for black residents.

  31. 31
    Chet says:

    @mai naem: That’s because most people know damn well they could never get away with doing that.

    I mean, good on her, but this is absolutely a textbook illustration of privilege (and not just “white privilege”, but upper-middle-class white privilege) at work if ever there was one.

  32. 32

    @Ken:

    So yeah, there was a bunch of upper class white privilege there, but the real priviliege – the real power, was the phrase “I’m a lawyer”

    There’s a of white privilege even embedded in that:

    1) How many lawyers aren’t white (not many). The road to becoming a lawyer is paved with economic benefits that flow primarily to whites.
    2) If you were black and said ‘I’m a lawyer’ how likely is it they’d even believe you? I’m almost positive I could pull off the ‘I’m a lawyer’ line even though I’m not a lawyer. I bet a lot of black lawyers would be asked to sit on the curb with their hands visible.

  33. 33
    JT says:

    @🚸 Martin: Holder talked about getting stopped while he was a federal prosecutor while going to a movie. I wonder if he had to prove his identity before he was allowed to go on his way.

  34. 34
    Fred says:

    @JT: If a cop pulls you over for a traffic stop you (everybody) has to prove their identity by showing your drivers licence. The question is, what happens after you prove your identity? Do you get a citation or do you get your car tossed because you look “suspicious”?
    And let’s be honest. It is not just racial minorities that get this kind of crap from cops. Young white people get harassed too. My stepson used to put band stickers on his car and he got pulled over a lot. He and his friends were the nicest bunch of kids you could ever know but small town cops got to f’**k with anybody they think is lower on the food chain. It’s that Barney Fife syndrome. Especially when there is no Andy around to make ’em keep that bullet in their pocket.

    I liked the way this lady kept it simple and direct. She established that there was no reason to detain the gentleman, asked if he was free to go and helped him to his feet and lead him to her home. Bravo!

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Fred:

    If a cop pulls you over for a traffic stop you (everybody) has to prove their identity by showing your drivers licence.

    IIRC, it depends on the state. Some states require proof of identity from everyone in the car, and others don’t. It was a slightly different situation, but that was one of the reasons the situation with the guy in Minnesota who got Tasered while waiting for his kids was a big deal — Minnesota does not require citizens to show ID upon demand, only if they’re suspected of a crime. Since the cops couldn’t tell him what law he was accused of breaking, he was under no legal obligation to show them ID.

  36. 36
    brantl says:

    She got in their faces because she’s a resident, the man’s employer, and a lawyer. I would have, too.

  37. 37
    celticdragonchick says:

    @aimai:

    However it was still a good thing to do. In the future most police (especially white ones) are just going to be more agressive with all bystanders to prevent them from acting as street lawyers.

    This. Also, as I recall, NYPD cops in July assaulted and arrested a female civil rights lawyer who was waiting outside a Ruby Tuesday restaurant for her kids to finish in the restroom after the cps demanded she leave the area immediately.

    Some male cops really do like assaulting women…especially lawyers.

  38. 38
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    When I was young, sticking up for someone who couldn’t do it for themselves was called courage. I did it a lot to bullies, and it was hard but the right thing to do.

    As an adult, defending someone when you have a strength or a resource they don’t has always come natural to me. I was an advocate for domestic violence victims for 12 years, loved every minute of it. I’ve almost gotten myself arrested a couple of times, to boot. But when something is wrong, a person has to take a stand.

    Sorry if my being white or being able to talk intelligent circles around dumbasses has anything to do with it, but I guess I’ll use whatever weapons I have. ;-)

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