A BUZZFLASH GUEST
By Tim Wise
For those who still
cant grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are
constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of
it, perhaps this list will help.
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.
is when you can call yourself a "fuckin redneck,"
like Bristol Palins 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.
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
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 dont all piss on themselves with laughter,
while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator,
and constitutional law scholar, means youre "untested."
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, its 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 wasnt 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
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
shes being disrespectful.
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 youre 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--youre
somehow being mean, or even sexist.
is being able to convince white women who dont 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."
is being able to fire people who didnt 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.
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 Gods punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and
everyone can still think youre just a good church-going
Christian, but if youre 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, youre an extremist who
probably hates America.
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 OReilly
means youre dodging the question, or trying to seem
overly intellectual and nuanced.
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 arent sure about that whole "change"
thing. Ya know, its just too vague and ill-defined,
unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete
is, in short, the problem.
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