Alexis Ohanian Recalls Walking Away From Police Encounter “#BecauseIWasWhite”

Alexis Ohanian shared that he had been involved in an encounter with police back in 2005 after falling asleep drunk in his car: "I became an entrepreneur, not a statistic."

By emily belfiore 16 Jun, 2020 7:00 PMTags
Alexis OhanianNicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Alexis Ohanian is speaking up.

Taking to Instagram, the Reddit co-founder recalled an encounter with police he had in college where he fell asleep drunk in his car. Highlighting the manner in which the officer had interacted with him, Ohanian hoped to use his post as a means to contribute to the larger conversations of race

"2005, just a few months before graduation and starting @reddit, a police officer on campus found me asleep in my car, keys on the seat next to me," he shared, along with a picture of the car he had at the time. "I was drunk with an eighth of weed in my pocket. I'd had some fun with friends that evening and when I got back to my car, I knew there was no way I was driving anywhere, so I reclined the seat and passed out."

"I saw the lights of a police officer wake me up some time later, he asked me to step out of the car, then asked if I was capable of driving home," Ohanian continued. "I was pretty drunk (and high), so I couldn't say anything terribly coherent other than ‘No dRIvE. nO DrIVe.' and I just repeated that to answer every question until he got frustrated and asked me to call some friends to pick me up."

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Remembering his exchange with the officer, he added, "While we were waiting, the cop said how lucky I was that I didn't have the keys in the ignition, even with the car off, because it would have been way worse for me. I thanked him (I think) and got home safe except for a bad hangover the next day."

After referring to the incident as "a stupid college story" and noting that it's become an anecdote that he and his friends "laugh about," Ohanian questioned how the night would have ended had he been of a different race.

"#BecauseIWasWhite. I walked away + entered Y Combinator--not a jail cell...or worse," he concluded. "I became an entrepreneur, not a statistic. I'm grateful for that police officer's tolerance with me + disgusted that it's so obviously not afforded (and never been) to everyone just because of their race."

In the wake of recent events, the tech entrepreneur has been using his platform to call for racial justice. Earlier this month, he resigned from Reddit's Board of Directors and urged his colleagues "to fill my seat with a Black candidate," adding that he will "use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the Black community, chiefly to curb racial hate."

Days later, Reddit announced that Michael Seibel had been selected to replace Ohanian, making him the social platform's first Black board member.