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With Open Mind, James Reed Checks His PrivilegeLock Icon

2 min read

James Reed is white and, even though he was the first of his family to attend college, he knows his whiteness played a role in his success.

Reed said he used to think that if he made it from modest beginnings to success in business, then anyone could. A Black friend once told him, though, that he always had hope for the future, something many minorities don’t have.

“I understand the ‘where’s my white privilege?’ but it’s baloney,” Reed said. “I knew if I went to class and did really well and distinguished myself at work then I would have opportunities. What he said was a lot of Blacks don’t have that enduring hope that if they do well, they will be recognized. That’s not their truth. For us, it is.”

Reed, now the 48-year-old CEO of USA Truck Inc., attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. At BYU, he took a class on the history of the South taught by history professor Mary Stovall Richards, and the paper he wrote about historically black colleges and universities has had a profound and lasting influence on his life.

Reed had his eyes opened about the differences in standardized test scores between whites and minorities, even if they had grown up in similar socioeconomic circumstances.

Reed said he found, among other things, that teachers “overteach” and give more time to white students, resulting in better academic results.

“That has never left my mind,” said Reed, who is trying to diversify USA Truck and the industry. “It is not a level playing field. It is harder to be a minority in the U.S. It just is.”

Reed also related an anecdote about his time at USA Truck. A Black employee who had rented a car for company business had been pulled over by a policeman, who after verifying the car was a rental, still repeatedly questioned the driver about the ownership of the car.

“I’ve rented a car thousands of times,” Reed said. “I have never been profiled in a rental car.”

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