White Privilege, White Entitlement and the 2008 Election
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Sat, 09/13/2008 - 3:44pm. Guest Contribution
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Tim Wise
Forthose who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who areconstantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhapsthis list will help.
White privilege is when you can getpregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick toinsist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, andthat no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "everyfamily has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar"challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological andarbiters of social decay.
White privilege is when you can callyourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, andtalk 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 beviewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law tobe) rather than a thug.
White privilege is when you can attendfour different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of whichyou basically failed out of, then returned to after making up somecoursework at a community college), and no one questions yourintelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of colorwho did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someonewho only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
Whiteprivilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller thanmost medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about thesame number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan,makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all pisson themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-termstate Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."
Whiteprivilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God"in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for thefounding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediatelydisqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge waswritten in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added untilthe 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals andterrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which youused to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerousand silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
White privilegeis being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediatelyscared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who wasa member of an extremist political party that wants your state tosecede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no onequestions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're blackand your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can behome with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately thinkshe's being disrespectful.
White privilege is being able to makefun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among otherthings, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, orthe 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you'rebeing pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of asmall town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertisebeyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or evensexist.
White privilege is being able to convince white womenwho don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for youand your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence onthe ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and madethem give your party a "second look."
White privilege is beingable to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and notbe accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician whoengages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folksfrom the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must becorrupt.
White privilege is being able to attend churches overthe years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry ormerely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. isan explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bringChristian theological principles into government, and who bring inspeakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment onJews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just agood church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with ablack pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S.Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result ofU.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and itseffect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.
Whiteprivilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by areporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you sucha "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to giveone-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodgingthe question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.
Whiteprivilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anythingat all to do with your fitness for president, while being black andexperiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a "light"burden.
And finally, white privilege is the only thing thatcould possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted withGeorge W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment isskyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, andthe U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just becausewhite voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it'sjust too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of thesame, which is very concrete and certain.
White privilege is, in short, the problem.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
TimWise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised 2008),and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also by SoftSkull.
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