“You know this is private property, right?”  The white man approaching our family was not too angry, yet.  As we drove into his rich beachfront community, my husband and I knew the GPS had led us into the private driveway of his neighbor’s empty-and-for-sale-home instead of the public path to the beach.  We decided, a little uneasily, to get out quickly and look over the dunes to see where that public path might be. When I hastily explained what we were doing to the man approaching us, and assured him we were leaving, all was well;  but as I told my kids, if we were black, I wouldn’t have gotten out of the car.  I’d be afraid they’d call the police instead of just speaking to us–and once the police were involved, all sorts of bad things could happen.  After all, we were trespassing, weren’t we?   The response to my search for beach access was another example of the leniency bias I’ve written about before, which lets white people get away with transgressions for which brown and black people are heavily penalized.  A white girlfriend in New Hampshire had the same thoughts recently, when she pulled over to nap in a residential area after getting dangerously tired on a long nighttime drive.  A police officer woke her and questioned her at length, finding her behavior strange enough;  but as she said, “if I were black, I could be dead.”  There are so many terrible, potentially world-ending things going on that these long-standing, structural cruelties of our society tend to escape remark; but somehow I think we need to keep cataloging them, and to keep in the forefront of our minds how strange the American obsession with color is.  I identify as “white” only because the world calls me so.  I know that’s a faux category created by the powers that be in the nineteenth century, in order to unite disparate groups of European origin in opposition to the African Americans with whom they shared economic class interests.  But the power of that false consciousness remains powerfully real.  I once wrote a prose poem about this prompted by the murder of Eric Garner, who is pictured here with his daughter Erica.  (She was an activist against police brutality, and died of asthma-related causes.)