On white privilege: 'For me, a traffic stop is not life or death'

Douglas Turner of Toronto called in to Cross Country Checkup to share his realization of his own white privilege. He said, "It’s up [to] me to figure out [how to deal with a person of colour], and it’s up [to] me to stand up to other people of privilege."
An OPP officer speaks to the driver of a car.

Douglas Turner of Toronto called us on Sunday to share his thoughts on the future of race relations in North America.

He started by responding to an email we received from Evelyn Ward that said, "I am a 60-plus-years-old woman. When I was driving on a quiet street in Toronto, police pulled me over for absolutely no reason. I was driving my son's expensive car at the time. We are pulled over more often than others. All we need is fairness and justice.We are a peaceful and fair people on the whole,but we are only asking for justice."

Hear his response in his interview with Checkup guest host Asha Tomlinson:

Caller from July 10 Cross Country Checkup. 4:01

Asha Tomlinson: Douglas, what did you think of that email from Evelyn Ward?

Douglas Turner: Well it really ties into something that I have experienced. I don't have to think about what's going to happen if I'm pulled over by the police. For me, a traffic stop is not life or death—for the officer or for the citizen—because I'm not a black person, I'm not a person of colour. So that's my privilege.

AT: When you hear the experiences from black Canadians about being stopped, what do you make of it?

DT: It reinforces my belief that so much of the culture that we live in doesn't accept the reality of a huge number of people that live here. I think that white privilege is very predominant.

AT: Why do you think more white Canadians don't recognize this issue, these race issues?

DT: I think quite simply because we don't have to deal with them. You know, we're blind to it.

AT: And if it doesn't happen in your backyard …

DT: Exactly. For myself I'm 52-years-old, I didn't grow up thinking this. I grew up saying and doing horrible things to people who were different than me, the classic "Other." … That was what I was raised to be. I learned that from my father, and from the people around me. Over the years, I learned that that was wrong. Not everyone has the opportunity I guess to make that realization.

And speaking to that, what I would love to say is that so often people of privilege look to the people who don't have that privilege to solve the problem for them. And it's not up to someone as a person of colour to tell me how to deal with a person of colour. It's up [to] me to figure that out, and it's up [to] me to stand up to other people of privilege. I need to stand up to the white people who come up to me and under their breath will say racist or homophobic or sexist things because I look like one of them.

AT: Do you take a stand in those situations?

DT: I do take a stand, and I have to tell you it's very uncomfortable; it can become very unpleasant, and it can become very isolating. But I would rather be isolated than contribute to that problem by not saying 'hey, that's not acceptable.'

Until more people admit that there's a problem, and not actively taking a stand, they're perpetuating the problem, it breaks my heart but I don't think it's going to get better.

Douglas Turner's and Asha Tomlinson's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Paula Last.


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