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On Being White and Thus Invisible to the Enforcers

I’m in Greater N__ H____ today and it’s 87F. I had to dress up because I’m going to an event in the federal courthouse this afternoon, but it’s hotter than hell out there. On a day like today I would normally be wearing a T-shirt, shorts (yes, cargo shorts), and sandals if I didn’t have to go to court. But today...well, at least I could leave my jacket in the car until later.

Anyway, I needed to meet a marshal to drop off a subpoena, and the marshal’s office happened to be in a rather nice office building. I strolled in, walked through the lobby, saw the sign that said “All Visitors Must Sign In” just as I was reaching the elevator, and went “awe, fuck it” and went up. No questions asked then, or when I walked past the guard in the elevator lobby on my way out a few minutes later.


That’s when I realized that being white and wearing a suit made me invisible. The guard was looking for people to talk to, but not for people like me. Had I been wearing flip flops, or had my skin not been white, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts I would have been stopped.

It’s an interesting aspect of white privilege that allows some of us, if we dress in magical clothing, to vanish from the radar of those charged with enforcing the rules.

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