Saturday, September 13, 2008

good morning, america

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 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

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”

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

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

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