Monday, September 15, 2008

SNCC: White Privilege and the Election (Corrected)

Subject: FW: white privilege and the election
Date: Sunday, September 14, 2008, 12:49 PM

Essay 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 only got
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 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 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 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.

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