Tim Wise's This is Your Nation on White Privilege

Seems that a lot of people don’t really understand what it is to be anti-racist.  That’s okay – because several months ago, I didn’t know either.  And I’ve been working hard at reading, listening, asking questions, engaging when others will allow me to and trying to actively be anti-racist.  I’ve had a few tangible successes and I’m very proud of them, but it’s a lifelong effort, especially for a class-privileged white woman like myself.  I may take that for granted and I may need reminding, but I’m getting there.

However, it seems that not everyone gets what white privilege is about – like the Ohio ORP’s Kevin DeWine who thinks that there are no racists in Ohio. I am sorry too, Kevin, that there are in fact racists in Ohio but here’s something we can both do: spread Tim Wise’s article, This Is Your Nation on White Privilege, far and wide. You reach a lot more people than I do, but if posting it here makes even one reader think twice and realize, yes, Ohio, there are white people in this state who will not vote for Barack Obama because he’s black, I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded, again.

Now, to be fair, I vote for Clinton over Obama in the primary because I preferred her experience and entrenchment to his lack of it, in comparison.  So, I understand that there are people who prefer McCain for whatever it is they believe McCain stands for and is, or isn’t.  But we also know that there are people who aren’t so into McCain who simply will not vote for Obama. I know – I’ve listened to them and I’ve read e-mails and comments and blog posts written by them.  However, regardless, white privilege is a problem that goes far beyond this election, but it’s impact on this choice we’re making for our country is truly profound and maybe unprecedented.  Thank you to Tim Wise for writing about it so clearly.

This is Your Nation on 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 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.

19 thoughts on “Tim Wise's This is Your Nation on White Privilege

  1. Pingback: BizzyBlog

  2. Pingback: Have Coffee Will Write » Blog Archive » MY COMMENTS…

  3. Shalom Toby,

    Here’s the thing, why is that the only people upset about the concept of White Privilege or its even more exclusive manifestation, White Male Privilege, are White (very often Male) or wannabes?



  4. I see that this idea of “white privilege is infecting our colleges and universities and Tim must be one of its vectors. In fact those who were smitten with the Black Plague and those who spread this poison of white privilege have some of the same symptoms: vomiting, delusions, choking on ones own fluids and death. With the wp people it’s brain death.
    Of course there is no such thing as white privilege. Privilege has no color nor is privilege illegal, immoral or something that one can give up or give away. Find me one ethnic group or society and prove to me that certain members of that group have more privileges than another.
    I would love for timmy wise, peggy mcintosh and the other junior marxists to visit Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen and start complaining about brown, male, muslim privilege!

  5. Reignman – not sure where you’re getting those stats about my community but you might want to check out the Orange schools annual report from 06-07 (most recent available online): 68% white – here, page 9.

    You might want to see what Chagrin and Solon and Rocky River and Westlake are before you malign mine for something that’s not true.

    If you have a problem with what Tim Wise has done to illuminate the problem of white privilege, I provided the links – I’d urge you to contact him. Hundreds of other blogs and bloggers have linked to him – be sure to visit them to and let them know how you feel.

  6. “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.”

    Any source where someone actually said he is an all-American boy? Was it more than one?

    Let’s see — profanity, hunting, and tough guy bravado not atypical of millions of young men his age (black and white) = thug?
    Pernicious stereotyping is not restricted to race, apparently.

    Yes, Jill, it’s all about skin color — which is why you and many other white liberals live in almost entirely white neighborhoods where day-to-day interaction with minorities is mostly limited to the ones who sit their kids, wash their underwear and clean their toilets.

    You keep it real, girl!

  7. Pingback: Update on and by Tim Wise: Explaining White Privilege (Or, Your Defense Mechanism Is Showing) | Writes Like She Talks

  8. So, you’re basically saying that because Obama has no qualities that he can win on, you need to attack Palin’s innocent kids with white-hatred.

    And the KKK was wrong because???

  9. Hi, Jill. This is the second or third reference to Tim Wise’s article I’ve seen in the last day. Makes me super happy that folks are reading it and talking about it.
    I’m adding it to my blog, too!

  10. Pingback: Have Coffee Will Write » Blog Archive » MY COMMENTS…

  11. Shalom Jill,

    I know that Wise was playing off the very tired and hackneyed ’80s anti-drug message (and I do wish writers would stop doing that; as well as using gate as a suffix), but his message would have been clearer if he had at least written: This Is Our Nation…

    Regardless, his message may sink through a few thick skulls.



  12. Pingback: Have Coffee Will Write » Blog Archive » THIS IS OUR NATION ON WHITE PRIVILEGE…

  13. Pingback: Tim Wise: This is Your Nation White Privilege « SchizoFrenetic

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