Wednesday, 29 October 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise
Tim Wise's MySpace

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white
privilege, or who are 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 is "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 and the fact that she lives close to Russia,
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 suddenly your
presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same
white women, and made them give your party a "second

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 give a 36 minute speech in
which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent,
while laying out no substantive policy positions on any
issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate
candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the
week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals
on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague
about what he would do if elected.

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 go to a prestigious prep
school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and
yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush)
while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then
Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law,
makes you "uppity," and a snob who probably looks
down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom
of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average
from Yale (W.) and that's OK, and you're cut out to
be president, but if you're black and you graduate near
the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can't be
trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after
she's disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with
a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the
c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong
family values, while if you're black and married for
nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed
as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other
are called "terrorist fist bumps."

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing
Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman,
with the maturity to be president, while being black and
suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations,
even when we have disagreements with them, makes you
"dangerously naive and immature."

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 and an
absent father is apparently among the "lesser
adversities" faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin
explained in her convention speech.

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.

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