White Privilege…Sarah Palin…


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 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 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 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.

About the Author

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.


5 Responses

  1. Obama is obviously using the race card because he has a lot to gain and nothing to lose.

    Think about it, black people want racism to exist because they can use it as an excuse for everything, and because blacks are the biggest beneficiaries if racism exists.

    How exactly would white people benefit from racism?

    … just imagine if there was a White History Month. I believe that Black History Month just causes more segregation and racism. it should be changed into American History Month.

    Blacks tend to be more racist because they can get away with it easier. They like to preach their 200 year old slave propaganda to take advantage of people.

    And remember it was Obama’s church and racist pastor for over 20 years who claimed “God DAMN America!!!”.

    Are you automatically racist if you disagree with a black person??

  2. Fantastic Piece! Really. You should submit it as an Op-Ed piece to a major paper.

    Aside from that, I can assure you that while you are very correct in saying that there exists this “White Privelege”, Many many many white people call a spade a spade, no matter the shade. We see her for what she is and are not giving her or her family a free pass for it.

    If you get the chance, check out my own thoughts at http://notopalin.wordpress.com/

  3. James. Are you serious? Please explain how/when Barack used the “Race Card”. Black people benefit from racism – how exactly??? Whatever…


  4. James. Seriously?

  5. While overall interesting, I think this post really doesn’t speak of white privilege, which I do believe exists. There are issues here, but they aren’t all about race. I think you need to sharpen and refine your points. I’ve made some observations below.

    “White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen…”

    This is about privilege not white privilege. A poor white family would be dealt with exactly the same way as is described above.

    The real issue here is not about privilege at all, it’s about hypocrisy. The problem is that the people who normally criticize about this issue (O’Reilly, Hannity, “Values” Republicans) are all on her side. They’ve never had a problem lying for one of their own and they aren’t about to start now.

    We need to wake up and realize that these people never cared about these issues. They were issues that they could use to get the people to vote a certain way or watch a certain television program or station.

    “White privilege is when you can call yourself a ‘fuckin’ redneck,’…”

    A quick Google search of “Levi Johnston thug” gives you 64,000 results, but I think I take your point. I think you mean that were he black, the media would be painting him as a thug. I think that the media has painted him as a clueless idiot, and you can take your pick on which one is better. If your point is that the media characterizes him differently because of his race, sadly I think you are right.

    However, I think the only ones who are trying to say that he is a “responsible, all-American boy” are in the McCain camp. I don’t agree but I don’t fault them too much for a necessary PR spin. We can all see through it. I don’t think you can say that the media or average Americans say he’s responsible. What you hear them saying is that he’s “doing the right thing.” That’s an opinion, an you can’t really argue one way or the other on it.

    “White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges…”

    This is pretty loose. The problem is that, if you were applying for a real job you would be scrutinized for this record either way. Depending on the job, it might matter, it might not.

    What you have to ask yourself is, if John McCain’s VP were black, would people be making this charge? Again, I think your problem is that the people who would make the Affirmative Action charge are on her side. The bottom line is that they know that Sarah Palin is the GOP’s last, best chance to energize the base. As such, they just aren’t going to attack her, and they wouldn’t be attacking her for this regardless of her race.

    “White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town…”

    The argument is one of executive experience. While you might argue that tiny town mayor and low population state governor isn’t very good or very much executive experience, you can’t argue that it’s NO execute experience. You either have to argue this point on the fact that Obama’s status as a community organizer, campaign leader, etc, IS real executive experience, OR you have to go after Palin’s record of bad executive leadership.

    “White privilege is being able to say that you support the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance”

    Again, this is not white vs. black. This is just stupid. She said something stupid. Is it one of many things that helps to show that she is WOEfully under qualified to be VP? Absolutely. But does it clearly point to a race bias? No.

    Biden said something the other day about how when the stock market crashed FDR got on the TV to communicate with the people and calm everyone down. There’s two things wrong with that. But, the idea that saying something stupid should disqualify you from holding elected office is… let’s just say quaint.

    By the way, Palin said something about reading terrorists their rights. Again, it was stupid. But the above makes it sound like the Palin doesn’t want to the average Joe Citizen who gets arrested to be read their rights. Misleading arguments only hurt your case.

    “White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast…”

    On the gun thing, I would again say that is a privilege issue, not a white privilege issue.

    On the Alaska first thing, ok, that’s just hilarious. I just Googled that and at the very least it looks like she WAS at one time part of such a party (though she has always been a registered Republican). It also looks like part of the point of the party IS to, at the very least, open a discussion of around the change of status of Alaska’s statehood.

    I say again though, this has just gone unreported. I’ve never heard of it before this post. Again, this is a case where the people who would make this accusation are on her side. The liberals just don’t care about this kind of issue.

    I also heard no criticism of Michelle Obama for not coming to the 9/11 memorial. I think this post makes the mistake of confusing what any random idiot might say or post as a comment to a blog with what actually gets reported or what people are actually thinking.

    By the way, (speaking of the thoughts of a random idiot) I say let Alaska go. I’m not sure we need a state that takes hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government, but seems to have enough money floating around to have NO state income tax, NO state sales tax and can still hand out around $2,200 to every man woman and child in the state. Thanks Sarah! That sure sounds fiscally responsible to me. We’ll see just how close they are to Russia when they aren’t part of the U.S. any more.

    But I digress.

    “White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers…”

    Community organizers, both white and black, were pissed off in the days after Palin made that remark. This fact was well reported. I can’t see how her making fun of them is an example of white privilege.

    “White privilege is being able to convince white women…”

    That’s not white privilege, that’s identity politics. That’s learning that many (not all, or even most) Clinton voters were never Democrats to begin with (I call them Clintoncrats). I think what gets missed here is that many of these women were voting for Clinton just because she is a woman. They are just as happy to do the same for Palin.

    “White privilege is being able to fire people…”

    Actually, she is being accused of abuse of power. There is an ongoing investigation and subpoenas have been issued.

    “White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years…”

    Yeah… I can’t disagree with you here. This is about a tolerance of crazy in white churches because whites are familiar that specific type of crazy.

    “White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is…”

    Again, I think you are getting caught it in Democrat vs. Republican, not black vs. white. The arguments around this are stuck in partisanship, not racism.

    You have to go pretty far to find people who think that the Bush Doctrine question was a trick. Where I find it, is in comments on web articles about the interview. These are comments by people who are clearly partisan. They don’t even care if she’s right or wrong, let alone if she is black or white. These people would be saying that such a question was a trick (true or not) regardless of the color of Palin’s skin.

    The same thing goes for the O’Reilly interview. Even O’Reilly had positive things to say about Obama after that interview. You can find people of all colors arguing all directions about this.

    “White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW…”

    These two things don’t track together.

    How does McCain using his POW experience to show fitness as president relate to Palin’s belief that experiencing racism is a “light” burden?

    I guess your argument is that the POW experience was a heavy burden and so, since McCain says it’s relates to fitness as President, that means that, by his logic, heavy burdens relate to fitness as President. Let’s forget that I don’t think McCain makes that claim. So, to attempt to connect these things, I guess you are saying that racism is a heavy burden for Obama and that in downplaying it, Palin is saying that it doesn’t count as much for fitness as president? And that is an example of white privilege that she is able to do so? That’s my best attempt, but I simply can’t see your logical connection between these two items.

    Now, of course, if she said that she sure is stupid. I’d love to see a citation on this.

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