Election '08: White Privilege

Thanks, Tim Wise, whoever you are.

White Privilege, White Entitlement and the 2008 Election

By Tim Wise /

BuzzFlash / 13 September 2008

[Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised

2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, published this month, also by

Soft Skull.]

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or those 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 t

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 die 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 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. You know, it's just too

vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which

is very concrete and certain.

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