Don’t make 911 tragedy indictment of race, city

Detroit Free Press
Desiree Cooper
April 11, 2006

On February 20th, five-year-old Robert Turner placed a call to 911 seeking medical help for his mother. The dispatcher who answered the call thought the report was a prank and Robert’s mother died before help arrived. Public reaction to this tragedy has been vocal and one reaction in particular may surprise some—for some black Americans, the initial reaction was one hoping that the dispatcher wasn’t black. When an African American individual becomes the subject of a controversy, others tend to carry the shame of it, an occurrence with which white people are unfamiliar. Peggy McIntosh, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women, wrote in her paper entitled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, “I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race. ”