> September 16, 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 “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 five 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
> 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 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 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 say that you hate “gooks” and “will
> always hate them,” and yet, you aren’t a racist because, ya know, you
> were a POW so you’re entitled to your hatred, while being black and
> insisting that black anger about racism is understandable, given the
> history of your country, makes you a dangerous bigot.
> 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.
> September 16, 2008