What a Utah Nurse’s Arrest Reveals About White Privilege

What a Utah Nurse’s Arrest Reveals About White Privilege September 3, 2017


This post will be short and bittersweet. I’m just dropping by to point at the rather large elephant in our national room that has once again been brought to my attention through social media.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, your social media feed, like mine, has likely been flooded with the video of the Utah nurse who was arrested for refusing to allow a police officer to take a blood sample from a patient in her hospital with no warrant. She was arrested under the charge of interfering with a criminal investigation. The officer who arrested her refused to listen to her, her supervisors, and common sense. He failed to comprehend that the nurse was on the right side of the law and just doing her job.

This piece is not about the specifics of that incident. It’s not about who was right or wrong–or whether the officer should lose his job–it’s not about other controversial cases of police overstepping their authority–it’s not about any of that.

This piece is about what I have noticed about the reaction to this case by my friends on social media.

As a left-leaning political centrist, I have friends pretty far to the left of me and quite far to the right of me. As a result, I get to see both sides of the political drama unfold before my eyes whenever I venture onto Facebook or Twitter. It’s not uncommon for me to see my friends on the left post articles about cases of police brutality, often involving white cops and black suspects. Whenever I dare to read the comments–something I have tried to swear off of but just can’t seem to quit–I always see tremendous push back from folks on the right. You’ve seen it too, I’m sure–if they’d just complied with the officer’s request, none of that would have happened.

I’m not even going there at this time. I’m someone who would always comply with an officer’s request–my station in life and the circumstances of where and how I live have created no fear of the police in my soul…but that’s another column.

Here is the bottom line–here is what that Utah nurse’s arrest has revealed about white privilege to anyone with a mind open enough to see it:

What is different about this case is the sort of people that are outraged by it.

I’ve watched social media with interest as many of my most right wing friends have been posting this viral video and calling for stern and swift punishment of the arresting officer. I’ve seen no clamoring about how if the nurse would have just complied with the officer there would have been no problem.

I submit that the reason for this is that white America is uncomfortable seeing a blonde haired, blue eyed female being roughed up and unfairly treated by the police.

If that nurse had been a black man, I may have seen that video posted on my social media feed, but it sure wouldn’t have been coming from my friends on the right–I’d bet the farm on it.

Why else are my friends on the right–those friends who normally post “Blue Lives Matter” memes–suddenly calling for justice in this case? Where are the claims that the nurse brought it on herself by refusing to comply? What other explanation could there be?

White privilege blinds us. It keeps us from truly empathizing with people who have a totally different experience than us.

When the shoe is on the other foot–like it was in Utah–this becomes exposed and we lash out in ways that betray our privilege.

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