"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: White Privilege

Saturday, September 20, 2008

White Privilege

by Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for an easy-to-understand example of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 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 "f*ckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, who likes to "kick ass" if people mess with you, and who likes to "shoot sh*t," 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 or 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 wanted 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 possible allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90% 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 ... the problem.


  1. It does not help to inject race into this election. Martin Luther King said he looked forward to the day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I will add - To be judged equally, with people of equal skill, talent, and ability. To be judged by their worldview, how they go about solving problems, who they associate with, what their vision is. The whole person.

    This is not racism, and Barack Obama's supporters do not help him by using race in this way. Let him stand up for himself, let him speak for himself, let him fight for himself. It's time he and others had the chance to fight, just as women have had to fight stereotypes. If he is of strong character, he'll be able to overcome and to win the election. There are many, many people of color who succeed, and it's time our country chose a president who represents the diversity of our country. I WANT him to succeed, but if Obama is the right man is another story. If he cannot persuade people in this country that he is the right man for the job, how will he deal and negotiate with other countries. Let's see some backbone. Let him prove himself to us all. And let his supporters stop using 'white privilege' to protest his treatment in the rough and tumble world of politics.

    This is the problem I see with the left - immaturity!

  2. How does anyone overcome barriers, prejudice, or victimization? Where does empowerment come from? Does it come from someone else giving it to you, or does it come from within you? Maybe it's a combination of both:

    A few definitions of empowerment:

    -An individual's assertion of personal power, energy, force, and strength in all fields.

    -Choices, freedoms, participation in decisions, dignity, respect, cooperation, and the sense of belonging to a wider community.

    -Having the right to make one's own choices and of having the ability to act on them.

    -The process of transferring decision-making power from influential sectors to poor communities and ndividuals who have traditionally been excluded

    -Increasing the capacity of individuals, communities or institutions to become more self-reliant.

    As a community organizer, I'm sure Obama knows very well how to empower people, and his own sense and understanding of empowerment has gotten him this far. He has overcome the odds and achieved a victory already, in the sense that he has come from nowhere and is now a nominee for President. Whether he can win depends on many things, but the ability to transmit his vision to a majority of voters will win him the position, if in fact a majority shares his vision and values.

    The country deserves some credit, in that a well known politician is tied with someone who was virtually unknown just a short time ago. Don't forget - Obama is at the top of the ticket, not the VP nominee.

  3. While I certainly believe that there is still white privilege in this country, I thought some of the examples in the article were a bit over the top. A few seemed spot on. Others left me ambivalent. I think the author has a valid point, but by over-reaching on some of the examples the overall argument is weakened.

    Most importantly, nobody ever became president by playing, or being, a victim

    This article reminded me of Jesse Jackson style politics. There is a very good reason why Jesse Jackson never stood a chance of being president.

    Barack Obama doesn't play the victim, however. He's a much stronger candidate who is a departure from the old-style racial politics. He's not looking back at past injustices, but is looking forward to the future.

  4. Nice argument Norah...

    Leftists never lose an election, the electorate is simply not up to snuff by not voting for them, or the election was stolen, or ignorant conservatives haven't yet learned how to vote their interests or some such argument.
    We have been regaled lately with what seems to me to be ground laying for excuses should Obama lose. Truth be told... The Dems are afraid of a powerful woman... Rejected Hillary and now bashing Palin.

    Let's consider the past weeks in this dialogue...

    The Reverend Wright is opposed by those who do not give the black man a break.

    Those opposing Obama are racist whites accustomed to privilige and with blinders on their eyes pull the lever based on race and race alone.

    Reps who insist on not voting for Obama are hopelessly mentally deficient and won't do so because their genetics get in the way. Poor plebs with no hope for rehab.

    Regards extremist views... Obama failed to support legislation protecting an alive baby in cases of an abortion gone wrong. This is far out of the mainstream of thought in this country... No need for the leftists to respond as Obamas record speaks for itself.

  5. I think it's cute the way Republicans are all extolling Hillary as the strong woman the Democrats were afraid of.

    Truth is, the Republicans would have much rather ran against Hillary. Then they could not only rekindle all the Hillary hatred that has laid dormant since the '90s, but also bring back to the forefront all the valid criticisms and scandals of Bill Clinton's administration.

    Whitewater, anyone? Cattle futures?

    I think Obama's a much stronger candidate than Hillary would have been. This time around I think the strongest candidates on both sides got the nomination. I'm very happy about that. That way even if I lose, I still win a little.

    I just hope Obama can seal the deal, so we don't have to put up with a Hillary campaign in 2012!

  6. Oh, by the way, if the people who sponsored the so called "Baby Alive" bill had really cared about saving babies, they would have included some provisions about the health and safety of the mother in the bill, making it harder for opponents to vote against it.

    They didn't, because they would rather string along the religious right, ensuring their votes to further an economic agenda that favors the wealthy. You are being used!

    Think about it for a minute. Has the anti-abortion cause really gotten anywhere in the last 20 years? Meanwhile, have tax breaks for the wealthiest been passed? Have jobs been shipped overseas? Have banks posted huge losses and been bailed out by the government? Is the sky blue?

    It's clear to me where the real Republican agenda lays based on what has actually gotten passed through the Congress. Meanwhile social conservatives vote against their economic interests, ensuring their long-term dependence on a Republican party that doesn't pay more than lip service to their issues.

  7. The fact remains - babies who are born alive can be left to die. Think about that, Tomte. Think about standing in that operating room and watching this happen. Could you do it? I couldn't!

    I think people who perform abortions have to be psychotic. This is truly bizarre behaviour which has been 'normalized'. voi voi.