This is Your Nation on White Privilege

September, 14 2008
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.

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Palin On Diversity And Civil Rights: Nada, Nothing, No

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Palin Has No Record on Diversity or Civil Rights
Posted September 4, 2008
New America Media
Commentary by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There’s no record that Alaska Governor and Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin uttered anything more than the obligatory complimentary congratulations to the woman that beat her out for the Miss Alaska title in 1984. The winner was Maryline Blackburn, an African-American. A ritual congratulatory wish from Palin would have been about the only public acknowledgement to date from her in an instance, in this case a beauty contest, where Palin was confronted with the issue of diversity in the person of a competitor.

Since then, Palin’s record on race and diversity has been the blankest of blank sheets. The probes into Palin’s record on diversity and civil rights have almost exclusively focused on her views on gay rights, gay marriage and equal pay. These are crucial civil rights issues. But so are racial diversity and civil rights. The Web site OntheIssues.org gives a comprehensive look at the positions of elected officials on the major issues based on their statements, speeches, campaign materials and policy position papers. Palin has taken no position on immigration, affirmative action, job and housing discrimination, school re-segregation, police-minority community relations, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The site did list two terse positions Palin took on hate crimes legislation and cultural diversity. Both give a tiny window into the would-be vice president’s thinking on diversity and civil rights. During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, she told the Eagle Forum that she opposed expanded hate crime legislation. She branded all heinous crimes as hate crimes. This view of what constitutes a hate crime goes squarely against the wide body of law and public policy that defines a hate crime as a willful act or threat based solely on racial, gender or religious animus. By lumping common crimes, no matter how repulsive, into the hate crime category, Palin would effectively gut enforcement of federal hate crime laws.

In her gubernatorial campaign booklet in 2006, Palin gave her equally terse view of discrimination. She simply said that she and her gubernatorial running mate value cultural diversity and would provide opportunities for all Alaskans. She made no mention of affirmative action, job discrimination, and the enforcement of civil rights laws.

Palin made no mention of Alaska’s affirmative action plan. It’s been in place since 1998 and mandates that the state make special efforts to ensure that veterans, especially disabled veterans, have equal access to state jobs. Presumably, Palin backs the plan. Yet, she makes no mention on her Web site or any other place what her office has done to enforce the state’s tightly constricted affirmative action plan.

Knowing Palin’s views on race and civil rights, whatever they are, is more than just a matter political one-upmanship. If elected, her views will carry much weight when it comes to making and enforcing legal and public policies that affect minorities and women.

That’s certainly been true in her home state. Alaska’s Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts make up more than 15 percent of the state’s population. Indian activist groups there have protested discrimination and disparities in health and education, and also over their hunting and fishing rights. There is no record that Palin has spoken out on their plight.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, his VP running mate Joe Biden, and Palin’s Republican running mate John McCain come from states that have diverse populations. In the Senate they have spoken out on, taken positions on, and haggled over legislation on immigration, hate crimes, affirmative action, job discrimination and education disparities. They are keenly sensitive to the importance of civil rights and diversity issues.

The same has been true even with Bush. Before his election in 2000, he promised to make cultural diversity the watchword in the GOP. That year, and in his reelection bid in 2004, he courted black conservatives and independents. He promised to boost minority business, HIV/AIDS funding, and programs for failing inner city public schools; praised the Voting Rights Act; and on occasion spoke out against racially motivated violence.

McCain and Palin, if elected, will likely have to do the same. They will also face sharp challenges on affirmative action, police misconduct, job discrimination, racial disparities in drug laws, and school funding. They will also be called on to make administrative and court appointments that reflect diversity.

Democrats, much of the media, and a big segment of the public have pounded Palin for her non-existent experience and public pronouncements on foreign policy and national security matters. But she has been absolutely expansive on these issues in comparison to her past and present mute silence about diversity and civil rights.

During her tenure as Alaska governor, Palin didn’t have to say or do much about civil rights. She does now. And we shouldn’t have to wait for her to get to the White House before she does. That’s too great a risk for the country.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back (Middle Passage Press, August 2008).