21 September 2008


This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

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 "f***in'
redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if
anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their f***in' ass," and talk
about how you like to "shoot s**t" 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 if you're black and believe in reading
accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the
Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school,
requires it), you are a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn't fit to
safeguard American institutions.

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 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 when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to
get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be
viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is
unquestionable, and whose "next door neighbor" qualities make her
ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and
you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're
irresponsibly exploiting them.

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

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 when you can develop a pain-killer addiction,
having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on
to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong,
while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and
never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still
get high, and even ask whether or not you ever sold drugs.

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 a
lot of 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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