[News] This is Your Nation on White Privilege

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Mon Sep 15 12:21:30 EDT 2008



This is Your Nation on White Privilege


September, 14 2008

By Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or 
who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of 
it, perhaps this list will help.
    * White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like 
Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that 
of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to 
judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," 
even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are 
regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of 
social decay.
    * White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' 
redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if 
anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk 
about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a 
responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather 
than a thug.
    * White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges 
in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed 
out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a 
community college), and no one questions your intelligence or 
commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this 
would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only 
got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
    * White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a 
town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a 
state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the 
island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and 
people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a 
black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law 
scholar, means you're "untested."
    * White privilege is being able to say that you support the words 
"under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good 
enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be 
immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the 
pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't 
added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals 
and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, 
which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is 
a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
    * White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not 
make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able 
to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party 
that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was 
"Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your 
family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to 
a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of 
school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.
    * White privilege is being able to make fun of community 
organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for 
the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour 
workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being 
pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small 
town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise 
beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.
    * White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't 
even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your 
running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the 
ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made 
them give your party a "second look."
    * White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support 
your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or 
being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being 
black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political 
machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.
    * White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years 
whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely 
criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an 
explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring 
Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in 
speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment 
on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just 
a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a 
black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. 
Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of 
U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its 
effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.
    * White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when 
asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for 
asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely 
refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly 
means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly 
intellectual and nuanced.
    * White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW 
has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while 
being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred 
to it a "light" burden.
    * And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could 
possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with 
George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is 
skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and 
the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because 
white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, 
it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of 
the same, which is very concrete and certain.


White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised 
2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also 
by Soft Skull. For review copies or interview requests, please reply 
to <mailto:publicity at softskull.com>publicity at softskull.com




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