Sometimes the dirty truth of privilege comes in gut-punches.
You don’t know me, many people don’t, but most just see that guy who wears the cowboy hat in downtown Burlington, Vermont, hence my nickname “Cowboy”… which I love. Because of the hat, I have been called a litany of things of which I am not guilty, from racist to redneck (not that there’s anything wrong with the second one). That background aside, I have a “brother from another mother” who I revere and hold dear; however, recently I ran into something that took me a few days to understand and process.
Business As Usual
I was, admittedly, speeding while on a three-hour trip heading to visit with my parents. Traveling at that speed, I saw the not-so-unexpected police lights in the rearview mirror. Pulling over, I gave the officer my information as requested — nothing more.
The officer inquired about the two stickers on the back of my truck. Proudly, I display the Airborne Parachutist Badge and a Combat Infantry Badge. I informed him I was in the 2nd Infantry Brigade. He immediately recognized the unit as the STRYKER Battalion; furthermore, he told me he had heard stories of what our unit (including Mark – Veriily’s Founder and CEO) had done.
He pulled out his phone. At this point, I thought he shouldn’t be giving me a hard time, but in reality, I now believe he was calling ahead to the next unit; probably telling them that our unit had helped his unit in Iraq and, therefore, was helping me out because I might be coming their way in a hurry. The officer then returned all of my information and asked that I don’t drive as fast as I had been traveling.
A Surprising Pass
Pulling out and hitting the road again, I didn’t listen. Consequently, I saw police lights in my rearview less than an hour later. Again, I complied documents, put my flashers on, pulled over, and waited for the officer. After what seemed like an eternity, the officer came to my window and, strangely, did not ask for my paperwork! He only asked me, “are you the Stryker guy?” I replied, “Yessir, I assume that would be me.” Furthermore, he let me go without checking any of my paperwork; he just told me to keep it under 80 mph so the locals wouldn’t complain.
I continued my journey and enjoyed the lake life with my family. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized my privilege. Had I been a person of a different skin color than mine, including my brother from another mother, there was a very real chance the story would have been different. A simple traffic stop suddenly became a gut-punch of privilege.