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White Privilege / Prophetic & Poetic

White Privilege

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 was only accepted in the first place because of affirmative

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 churchgoing 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

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.


Telling Thoughts Comment: I stumbled on this very insightful and moving article on the (Educators for Obama group) with a request to pass it on. I felt obligated to do so because of the truth ( including the language) and importance of its message. It is Tim Wise’s marvelous, controversial analysis of real life in America today. Love it or hate it. Then know thyself.

Go Obama Yes we can

—– Original Message —-
From: dayna navaro <daynan@earthlink.net>
To: Educators for Obama <EducatorsforObama@groups.barackobama.com>
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008 10:58:11 AM
Subject: [EducatorsforObama] White Privilege
Please pass this along!


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  1. From the bottom of my heart, thank you John and this astute author Tim Wise. Indeed, the Hand of God works in mysterious ways!!!!!

    An absolute stunning piece which has brought to the surface the too often obscured festering wound in the American psyche and way of life. Now that it faces the clear light of day, the healing can begin and, finally, towards ‘a more perfect union.’


    Best wishes / John Hay

    Posted by Missy Rona | September 15, 2008, 7:06 pm
  2. White privilege is boring and dying…Inch’allah…

    Posted by didier noblia | September 17, 2008, 11:33 am
  3. Unfortunately, this is too true!

    Posted by Doris E. Coppock | September 30, 2008, 6:37 am
  4. Thanks Tim and John. Had Bush, Cheney, Rove and Company spent as much time trying to solve America’s problems as it did trying to confuse the voters, we’d all be in much better shape today. McCain has voted with Bush well over 90%, and frankly, we still don’t know what Palin really thinks … whatever sounds good to the masses at the time. And now McCain is starting to close the gap on Obama. We must not stop working until the election has taken place.

    Posted by Tony Ettwein, Kalamazoo, MI | October 13, 2008, 11:07 am