Gendered sexism and white privilege

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I experienced what I think was a "white privilege" incident the other day. I drove to the TGIF/Pier One strip mall in Oak Park — super crowded, as it was Saturday afternoon. Tons of cars pulling in and out, dropping folks off and cruising around looking for a parking spot. 

I pulled into a parking spot, then suddenly a white guy pulls up behind me, practically bumper to bumper (I'm an African-American female). He pounded angrily on my car window, yelling that I took his parking spot, and that he had his blinker on, blah blah blah. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw another white guy sitting inside his car in the passenger seat. I told him I didn't see him waiting and if he would back away from my car, I would pull out and give him the parking spot.

I really didn't see him — lots of traffic. But I agreed to give him the spot as there was no way I was gonna get out of my car and go into the store. Who knows what he would have done to my car in his raging, angry state! It wasn't that big of a deal, as it's a free parking lot and I wasn't in a hurry anyway.

Here's my question: If I were a white woman and he was a black man, do you think a black man would have blocked a white woman's car in, and then angrily jump out of his car and proceed to bang on the white woman's car window, complaining that she took the parking spot he was waiting for, while his black male friend was also sitting in his car, with the white women's car pinned in?

I'm of the opinion that, even in today's (more "enlightened") racial climate, most black men would have thought twice about blocking a white woman's car in, and then angrily (and self-righteously) jumping out of their car and confronting a white woman by banging on her car window — as she was pinned in by his car, which he had purposefully pulled up right behind her to prevent her from leaving.

Sexism & racism are very insidious and often extremely out of our own awareness. I invite you to play around with this same "parking space" scenario, changing the gender and race/ethnicity of both drivers. 

Let me know your thoughts!

Janice Matthews Rasheed

(Retired) professor, Loyola
University Chicago 

Reader Comments

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John Duffy  

Posted: November 19th, 2018 6:54 PM

Thanks Janice. This was outrageous and racist. I am wounded. I pledged to work in our schools to end racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, and other oppressive social structures that unjustly and inequitably gone on--day after day,

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 8:05 PM

...or more to your point - that he felt he could get away with it b/c he was white.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 7:48 PM

Ms. Rasheed I do owe you an apology, Mr. Cohen is correct none of us were there and don't know the situation. And no-one has the right to bang on someone's window over a parking spot. Doesn't mean they won't do it. Also doesn't mean - that if they do - it's because you're black. I will admit that I am exhausted by the term "white privilege" being sweepingly attributed. Does it exist, absolutely. But people are only getting angrier and angrier in this world. If I had been in that lot and seen you threatened I would have absolutely helped you in any way I could. I just want to go through one day - just one where I can read something about this village that isn't toxic. Ditto the world. And honestly Ms. Peterson, I'm more disturbed that you feel you and your buddies have some right to shut down open channels of communication, b/c you deem them to be offensive, than by any comment I've read.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 6:50 PM

None of us were there so it's a bit tough to determine what anyone was thinking. I would certainly say that people's prejudice can certainly come out in situations like this. If someone in a very expensive car stole my parking spot my immediate reaction would likely be to think it's some privileged person that thinks they can do whatever they want for example. I could see some guy thinking he can intimidate a female into giving up the spot. I can also see an African American male being mad but maybe backing off over concerns that people would more easily call the police on him. It's just impossible to say what happened here. This could have easily just been someone mad they lost the spot and regardless of who opened the door they were going to pitch a fit. Parking in this town has certainly become much more stressful. Even some of the new lots have such small spaces and narrow driving lanes that it makes the whole thing way more annoying than it should be.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 5:18 PM

In all fairness to the commenters here, Ms. Rasheed asked for our thoughts. She invited us to play around with the parking lot scenario. I did just as she asked. In the situation I shared, I had NO IDEA who was driving the car that was waiting ahead of me, nearly blocking the lane entirely. I drove around, pulled into a spot a little ways ahead and went into the store. When the woman came up yelling at me, I had no idea who she was or what she was talking about. She explained (in a fashion) that she was in the car I drove around, and that she was waiting for the space I supposedly stole from her. Which was patently untrue, as the space I pulled into was empty - if that had been the one she was waiting for, she would have pulled ahead to pull into it as soon as its occupant pulled out. As it was, she was quite a ways back. Anyhow, as someone mentioned parking lots (and driving in general) present any number of opportunities for abuse and feeling abused.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 2:43 PM

Mr. Peterson, I NEVER stated the the majority of men in Oak Park are guilty of carjacking. Those are YOUR words, NOT mine. If you were abreast of the rash of carjackings in the past 18 months though, you would know that all the alleged perpetrators were black males. Ms. Rasheed shared an experience she had on a public forum, she should be prepared to receive responses from the public. I believe every word she wrote and I as most on here have seen disputes over parking spots escalate. She took the high road and was the prudent and reasonable one in the scenario she described. Evidently, chivalry is dead with the guy who bullied her out of her spot. Lastly, Ms. Rasheed is the one who brought up the question of race, not me. To quote her "I invite you to play around with this same "parking space" scenario, changing the gender and race/ethnicity of both drivers." Questions like this simply stoke the fire. Ms. Rasheed is asking her audience to make assumptions about people based on their race or genitalia. She is in a position to write for a local newspaper, a retired college professor and therefore in a position to lead and make a difference. Articles like this do nothing but deepen the divide.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 2:38 PM

And Bruce Kline, I (and many many other longtime concerned Oak Park citizens) have been asking Dan Haley to fix or close the racist, trollish comment section on his website, and he continues to ignore it. Meanwhile, reasonable voices have moved on to other platforms and will only pop their heads into this site once in a long while to see if the comment section is still trash, and indeed it still is. Congrats, Bruce Kline, you are continuing to win the trash war.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 2:15 PM

I meant to say "uncharacterstic for Jacek". The rest of you are trolls, and it is very much within your character to tear apart stranger's experiences for no good reason.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 2:13 PM

Jacek, but why do assume that Professor Rasheed is inventing racism in this situation? She was there; you were not. She shared her own her experience that she had, (after a lifetime of experiences as an older, African American woman) and she felt the way she felt. For everyone here to diminish her experience and her interpretation of the experience shows an uncharacteristic lack of empathy.

Jacek Lazarczyk  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 1:51 PM

There really is no need to invent racism; there is plenty of it already. The parking incident does look to me like a typical, equal opportunity, color blind, boorish behavior. Neither race can claim monopoly on it.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 1:39 PM

Hear ye hear ye: The great all knowing Manning Peterson has spoken. You, Mr. Haley, have been ordered to either "fix" or shut down your (privately owned) site. Those are your orders.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 12:59 PM

So a retired professor shares her personal story in a attempt to show people the slights and hostilities women and especially women of color endure daily, and the commentators jump all over her, assuming she "stole" the parking spot. What is your evidence? Where you there? Public parking spots are public. White men (and men, or white women) don't own them, nor do they have any right to them over another public citizen. Rather than assert her right to a public space, Professor Rasheed had to back down out of fear. This is literally how white supremacy works. And to Ramona Lopez, it may shock you do learn that the vast majority of black men (in Oak Park, and elsewhere) DO NOT go around carjacking white women's cars, and WOULD have a problem with this crime. The comments on this website continue to be unthinking racist garbage that hurts our community. Fix it, or shut it down, Dan Haley.

Jacek Lazarczyk  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 11:38 AM

Couple summers ago, while vacationing in Maine, a protestant driver swiftly took a parking spot for which I, a catholic, was waiting.

Paul Clark  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 9:15 AM

There's something about crowded parking lots that brings out the worst in people. There are two kinds of parking lot people -- -- those that want the closest spot to a store entrance, and they will sit idling in their cars waiting for the perfect spot even if there are other spots elsewhere in the lot; -- and those who just want to park and get inside, regardless of how far away from the store entrance they park. I'm one of the second, and will try to drive around an idling car (because I'm also impatient in parking lots). Our latent biases toward people because of their age, gender, skin color or bumper stickers likely will become blatant in a parking lot. Signed .... white middle-aged male.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 8:19 AM

bottom line, we really need MORE surface parking that is convenient for folks who just want to do quick errands. Parking garages may have plentiful spots, but they are not convenient for quick run-in/run-out errands. But I too have a story about parking harassment - I am white, female and my harasser was a black female, about my age (50++) - it was at the RF Jewel. The lot was fairly full but still plenty of spots available. I drove down one aisle where there happened to be a car waiting for someone to pull out of a space. I waited behind that car for a few seconds, but as the current occupant of the space was still loading her groceries and then had a child to get into the car, I drove around the car waiting in front of me. I was figuring I'd go up the next aisle but it just so happened there was an open spot right near the front, so I took it. I got out of my car and was just entering the store when a Black woman runs up to me, yelling how I stole her space. She continues for a few minutes following me around the store harassing me about it. I guess what I experienced was "black privilege" or maybe "white humiliation" would be a better name. Personally I find it sad that we even are thinking in these terms.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 15th, 2018 9:52 PM

and on top of it...I'm irritated by my multitude of grammatical errors - but even more so that you are using this as some field study for social justice. We have real topics of racial and sexual inequity that we're dealing with in this community. You were a jerk who stole someone's parking spot...own it and move on.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 15th, 2018 9:43 PM

I would have come up and yelled at you if you blatantly taken my parking spot. As a matter of fact last time someone did the exact same thing to me and said "I didn't see you" it was so apparent they were in their world, on their phone, not paying attention and not giving a rat's rear about anything about their own need. I was pissed on many levels...probably more so than I should have been. It's not a race thing. It's a being an a^%hole thing.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 15th, 2018 6:03 PM

You seem to think black men would have a problem blocking a white woman's car over a parking spot, but based on the number of carjackings in Oak Park, they don't seem to have a problem STEALING white women's cars at gunpoint. The victims are typically white woman who seem to be easy targets because they are perceived as "weak". Evidently, white privilege didn't do any of those victims any good now did it? You are asking a loaded question Ms. Rasheed that is 100% speculative. Based on my personal experience working in Englewood, I can tell you black men have ZERO problem confronting a Latina woman about a parking spot!!!!

Ray Simpson  

Posted: November 15th, 2018 4:58 PM

If you find racism and sexism to be reasons for all of the disappointments in your life, you will experience very few joys.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 1:47 PM

My thoughts: You stole someone's parking spot.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 12:45 PM

Selfish stupidity know no limits. The guy wanted that space and your color had nothing to do with it. Several years ago I experienced a similar incident with two white guys at our local Jewel store. I moved down the aisle to an uncontested spot , parked and as I was entering the store I see guy 2 pounding on guy 1's windshield with a baseball bat. At the service desk I reported what was going on outside and they contacted the police. After shopping I went to my car and saw the police still taking statements. I approached the female cop and told her I saw the beginning of the incident and she asked " Did you see the knife and the gun?" I answered that I had not. The point is selfish stupid people do not select who to be angry with, they are pissed off at the world and more than likely he didn't care what color you were - - he just wanted that parking space..

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