11/25/2014 08:53 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

As a White, Teenage Girl I Experienced a Kind of Privilege Michael Brown Could Never Imagine


When I was 16 I was picked up for shoplifting, among other things, some makeup from my neighborhood grocery store.

It was about 8 p.m. at night when the police were called and I was led out of the store to a squad car. I wasn't arrested, exactly, and there were no handcuffs. Instead the police officer lectured me on just how badly I had surely let down my mother. On just how foolish my choices were.

The police drove to the hospital where my mother worked the swing shift as a nurse and then walked me up the floor where she worked and left me there in her care, safe. Unharmed.

Later, I had to attend therapy and pay restitution and, essentially, I was on a probation of sorts until I turned 18.

I didn't realize then just how lucky I was to be white, to be female, to be suburban, to be middle-class, to be privileged in so many ways.

I'm not, in a million years, trying to make this about me or compare myself to Michael Brown but I couldn't help but think of that night as I watched as St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announce that a St. Louis grand jury had declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting that left the 18-year-old dead.

As a white suburban teenage girl, I was upset and embarrassed but not once did I fear for my safety, for my life.

Please don't tell me this isn't about race. Of course it's not just about race -- it's also about socioeconomic status, it's about the unchecked abuse of power -- but it is, definitely and without question, also about race. It is about deeply inherent, institutional racism. It is about a fear of young black men. It is, arguably, about just how dark Michael Brown's skin happened to be.

Tonight, my feelings have alternated between anger and resignation, shock and disbelief. Some of that disbelief, by the way, is directed at those in my Facebook and Twitter feed who feel the need to announce to everyone else that they "don't care" about the announcement. That people should just "go inside" in Ferguson. That, "obviously," there was no evidence to indict Wilson (despite McCulloch's own bumbling explanation that there was many "conflicting witness reports.")

They point to that razor burn of an "injury" on Wilson's face as proof that Brown, who was unarmed, got what he deserved: Twelve shots fired. Twelve shots in "self-defense."

Twelve shots. For allegedly shoplifting from a convenience store. For allegedly assaulting a police officer. This is the version of the truth that we're being told to accept, despite many, many eyewitness accounts to the contrary.

Twelve shots, apparently, for being a young black man in America.