Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

Obviously I did not write this piece as it was clearly written by Tim Wise. However, I completely agree with what it has to say and think it give some great food for thought.

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 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.


Monica said...

e are some plagiarizing mother fuckers. i love it.

Natalie said...

we are not, we acknowledge that the awesome shit we post is not ours

kim said...

I'm kinda embarrassed to be white right now.

Sheesh. Especially the redneck thing, I hate that crap.

waylon solos said...

fuckin' awesome shit dude. i'm copying and pasting and forwarding this around.

Natalie said...

Kim- Nothing to be embarrassed about as long as you don't contribute to the problem

Waylon- Continue the stealing and posting my fiend

Mom said...

Natalie, Dad sent me Tim Wise's piece after he read it elsewhere. The following is an adaptation of what I wrote to him in response:
This is a great piece. Thanks for sending it. And... white privilege is also being able to write this great piece and have some people take it seriously, as opposed to all the people of color who know and see these same things and can discourse at length, in a similar way, about how white power and privilege play into these issues but are not taken seriously or even acknowledged by the majority of people because they do not possess white privilege. Catch-22. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad he wrote it. And I'm always glad to encounter other white people who know what's up. (And I've heard good things about, and from, Tim Wise before.) But I also hear voices of some people I know saying, "and why won't they listen when we tell them the same thing?"
Let me also note that I think it's important for white people to do the work of educating one another about racism. So I'm glad Tim Wise wrote it and I think it's awesome for people to pass it around.

And if I write anything more about this right now, my head will probably explode.

(wry smile)

And... you didn't really mean to call Waylon your "fiend", did you?

waylon solos said...

we've been rick rolled! tim wise is a white dude. still pretty nice read. really angers up the blood. "fiend" for the almost interesting musings on life i think she means.

Natalie said...

You are totally right
Tim Wise is a white dude. However, he is a respected scholar/commenter on race relations and I have been a huge fan of his for years. Mom is right though, he gets a pass to say a lot of what he does because he is white, and he knows it. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be said.

Mom said...

Hey, I just got Tim Wise's essay sent to me by my aunt! She also sent it to my dad.


Janna said...

Wow! I had no idea Sarah Palin called racism a "light" burden.
Wow. That's amazingly bad.
I like her less and less with each passing day.
And that's an accomplishment, since I wasn't overly fond of her to begin with.

Woozie said...

Summing up Barack Obama's difficulties with his election to white privilege is a gross oversimplification of the infinitely complicated (and nonsensical) Presidential campaign cycle.

Although that first paragraph is so true.

Robyn said...

Love the blog! And what a great post. Props to Tim Wise and to you for distributing the piece.

But I saw your comment on Collen's blog and wanted to say that I am the Gilmore Girls addict! Me! Almost finished with season six and so sad that I only have one more...

What does it say about the state of the world that I'd rather curl up on my couch and visit Stars Hollow every night?

Johnny Yen said...

Someone emailed me that article a few days ago. I agree with it 100%. There's a double standard a mile wide in our society.