This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise9/13/08

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are 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 if you’re black and believe in reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), you are a dangerous and mushy liberal who isn’t fit to safeguard American institutions.

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 is “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 and the fact that she lives close to Russia–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 suddenly 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 when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose “next door neighbor” qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you’re a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you’re irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

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 go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law, makes you “uppity,” and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.) and that’s OK, and you’re cut out to be president, but if you’re black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can’t be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she’s disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you’re black and married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other are called “terrorist fist bumps.”

White privilege is when you can develop a pain-killer addiction, having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong, while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still get high, and even ask whether or not you ever sold drugs.

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you “dangerously naive and immature.”

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 and an absent father is apparently among the “lesser adversities” faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

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 a lot of 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.

20 Comments

Filed under african american, culture, government, injustice, law, news, obama, opinion, politics, society, white folks, women

20 Responses to This is Your Nation on White Privilege

  1. landoftrolls

    This, in my humble opinion, is your best post so far. Wow.

  2. R

    Very, very interesting. Good job.

  3. You said it all and then some. American politics has slowly becoming an ill-advised reality television series. Where believe it or not, everyone is type cast into this horrific roles, except thankfully the ignorant – bitch asses aren’t black, but white and republican.

  4. Mr. McCoy

    Black people as a whole are far too forgiving, and feel so defeated. Why fight to move ahead? Because of this right here. I wanted to quit and give up and came to the conclusion that no one who made it possible for me to be here did. I can’t quit on me and what they made possible for me. This privilege is not a privilege. Those people are no better than me and I shall not be looked at in such a light. So, out of respect for those who made it possible, I did not demand respect, I took it, and their “privilege” too.

  5. Po'Sha

    Welcome to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

    …But seriously very captivating. I mean, we all know this stuff (to a certain degree) but when played back for you the way the article did, it becomes very eye-opening.

  6. Thanks landoftrolls. Wish I wrote it. Tim Wise just puts racism in terms you just have to understand.

  7. Pingback: White Privilege for Dummies | urban bohemian

  8. Keebee

    This is a great post! I wish more people could read it. It is so true in many ways. Thank you.

  9. Rosalind Aromin

    Funny I have the same conclusion. If white people did not exist on planet earth what a wonderful paradise this would be. Why I would not be SEEN as a POOR BLACK PERSON WHO DESPITE MASSIVE EFFORT TO STAND ON MY OWN TWO FEET ( EXAMPLE 10.00 PER HOUR AT 51 YEARS OLD WHILE ASIANS HAVE 5,000.00 DOLLAR CHECKS TO CASH AT THE BANK) HAS BEEN THWARTED TIME AND TIME AGAIN! I am TIRED OF WHITE RACISTS STARTING FIGHTS AND CONFLICTS ALL OVER THE PLANET THEN RUNNING TO THE GHETTO TO MY LION’S TO FIGHT FOR THEM SO THAT THEY CAN CONTINUE TO HAVE A PRIVILEDGED LIFE, WHILE WE STARVE!
    I HATE WHITE!
    I HATE WHITE!
    I HATE WHITE PRIVILEDGE!

  10. irene

    points out some of the same thoughts i have. Who are the ellitist in this election? You have got the answer

  11. Wow @ Rosalind Aromin!!

    Wonderful piece sista. I enjoyed the read. An eye opener, to say the least!

  12. donjphd

    This was awesome and very eloquent…and true!

  13. chris

    I’d seen an excerpt of this article somewhere and am pleased to see the entire article here. I have learned a lot from this piece and I thought, from my experiences of living in a very hostile country (towards Americans) that I knew more than most white people about racism and bigotry but I realize now how shallow and limited my understanding of all this has been. It hurts sometimes to have these revelations but thanks. This one’s a gem.

  14. Tanya

    I lived this—strong thoughprovoking and definitely on point

  15. Bob Struwe

    44 year old white male here.

    That was one of the most awesome things I have ever read. The biggest collection of Truth in one place ever. I imagine giving this article to some of my white privileged colleagues and their reactions would be the equivalent of the Native Americans who couldn’t see Columbus’ ships as they approached. They just cannot see what they are not prepared to cope with.

    We all just need to hang on, the generation just ahead of me is dying off. Keep fighting, keep voting progressive. If we can get some education to the poor, black & white, we can make real change. The class war is very real, and white privilege fights to win.

    Peace

  16. KKK supporter

    This is the biggest bunch of crap spewed on a web page.

  17. Shenia

    WOW!!!! That’s INCREDIBLE!! All that and a huge bag of chips (jaws are full). This article is the truth and I’m spreading this nationwide. Thanks!

  18. bruce

    stop whinning,get off your dead ass and go to work.i am sorry did i say a bad word”work”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>