Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This Is Your Nation on White Privilege

Tim Wise nails it, once again.

This Is Your Nation on White Privilege

by Tim Wise


Original is here.

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.


Ken said...

The Divine Sarah.

Got it....

June Butler said...

Excellent, Jane. Thanks for calling my attention to this. Tim Wise is very wise.

Ken said...

I'm gonna be a bit piggy about being a space-hog.

I was on the train yesterday (yes I can get there from here) and some woman was highly upset and talking to her friends. It appears her job was on the block at AIG, which is also about to tank or get real close.

This woman was distraught and ranting. I can't say I blame her, can you? She sounded more off the wall than me. She had just lost her pension, or a considerable portion thereof.

Her judgment on the chairman of AIG: "I hope he's raped in prison." No, she didn't say something worse--I'm not using euphemisms.

The trouble is the chairman won't wind up in "the joint." At worst he'll get one of those big parachute thingies and float softly to earth.

That's quite unlike what's going to happen to the serfs at Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch who are going to find themselves declared redundant and flushed like an overstuff toilet. You know I have been there, and recently enough so I actually pray I never forget the horror of this past summer and the hands that were held out to me. Will everyone have those hands? Probably doubtful.

The job market will be filled with financial low-level serfs who will be fighting for the same three jobs. Been there, done that. My advice to them: don't be over 50 and don't worry about sex unless they ask you to have it.

Watch for broken marriages, suicides, and increased sales for Edgar Bronfman's liquor business.

And today I hear that liberal Democrats are to blame for the debacle. Can you spell "Jew."

Yeah, right Jane...I may not be wearing Obama's scarf on my sleeve but there really is no option, is there? And don't say "Ron Paul":-).

johnieb said...

Tim Wise does a pretty good job for a white boy, doesn't he?

I think I'll look for more from Red Room. You do come up with the most delightful things from these here Innertubes.

pj said...

Can you spell "Jew."

Uh, what?

Yes Jane, Tim Wise is pretty good.

Kitten said...

Well said, Jane. This needs to be read by MANY many people. I am very, very worried for November.

Paul said...

Thanks for sharing this Jane. I linked to you and the original, encouraging people to read it.

White privilege is transparent to white folk because they don't question what they assume (as "normal"). Wise is on target when mentioning that the same behaviors by people of color would bring no end of disapprobation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Jane...Excellent.

I'm scared to death too. Scared. to. death.

Padre Mickey said...

Last week I was listening to some folks on NPR being interviewed about the election, and they were asked "do you think that some blacks over emphasize discrimination?" (I paraphrase). And one woman said, "yes, I don't see so much discrimination." I hollered at the radio "Only a white person would make such a stupid statement!"
I have been the Rector of a Black church for eight years, and I've seen all manner of discrimination here in Panama every friggni' day, and my experience in the U.S. was just as bad.
Just because you see a couple of black folks on an advertisement on television doesn't mean that discrimination has been ended.

Fran said...

Outstanding - thanks for sharing this.

Katie Schwartz said...

Jane, BRILLIANT. Exactly what needed to be said.

Mike Farley said...

Phew! Yes!!!

(And I could probably write a UK version, I'm ashamed to say...)

Thank you, Jane, that needed saying...

Algernon said...

A billionare woman who raised money for Hillary Clinton has now endorsed McCain because, she said, Obama is "elitist."

A white billionare who divides her time between London and the States thinks the black man raised by a single mom is an elitist. And so she will vote (and perhaps raise money) for the ticket that promises a very different legacy for women's rights along with everything else.

Anonymous said...

Jane...I linked here from FranIAm, and I must say that you have encapsulated everything that's wrong with the Republican party. Their hubris and petulance are astounding. As I read this, I imagined one of those white privileged saying "nyah, nyah...my ball...my game" in the face of withering factual criticism. Thanks for sharing Tim Wise's piece. I love it.

Anonymous said...

What a great post and so true.

Freida Bee said...

WOW! Great post. Great points.

Anonymous said...

excellent points all. And I've added you as a link on my friday wrap up. More people should see this. It's totally great.

Connecticut Man1 said...

Sadly, a most excellent post. Sadly because it is true.

Ken said...

"Uh, what," PJ. Okay, let me spell this once because any of us, regardless of right and bright, can get it wrong.

For starts, two words: Goldman. Sachs. That sound like the Archbishop of New York? It's so far the only financial house in New York that is managing to stand independent of takeover. Even my old stomping ground, goyishe Morgan Stanley, is trying to get in bed with a commercial bank.

You don't think people are going to infer something about Jews in the financial business, do you?

New York is not America and Americans are about as accepting of Jews--a profoundly minority culture--as they are of a Black guy becoming President.

Anonymous said...

so you think that lashing out on Palin is the way to explain white privilege? you truly should sort out your issues and be less biased when posting up about privileges, because you yourself are taken advantage of your own privileges and yet you are so blind to it. open your eyes to reality.