White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin
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
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
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
childlabor–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
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 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
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.
Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised 2008),
and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also by Soft Skull.
For review copies or interview requests, please reply to publicity@softskull