This Is Your Nation on White Privilege

palin-blackboard.gifFor those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 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 “f*****’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their f*****’ 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 is “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 and the fact that she lives close to Russia–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 suddenly 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 when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose “next door neighbor” qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you’re a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you’re irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

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 go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law, makes you “uppity,” and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.) and that’s OK, and you’re cut out to be president, but if you’re black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can’t be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she’s disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you’re black and married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other are called “terrorist fist bumps.”

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you “dangerously naive and immature.”

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 and an absent father is apparently among the “lesser adversities” faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

wise-speaking-pic.jpgAnd 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.

by Tim Wise

Tim Wise is one of the most respected anti-racist writers and educators in the U.S., having spoken in 48 states and on over 400 college campuses. He has trained teachers, as well as corporate, government, media, and law enforcement officials on methods for dismantling institutional racism, and has contributed essays to 20 books. He is the author of Tim White on : White Privilige, White Like Me, Reflections on Race from a Priviledged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. Tim’s books, essays, special reports, DVDs and bio can be found at

Originally published by Tim Wise, republished with permission.

LA Progressive

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  1. xxing says

    The majority and the normative are supposed to be more privileged, and I’m not even white. I’d want the same in my native country.

    What’s the problem?

  2. Georgia says

    I sure do hope this article is read by a whole lot of Republicans. Otherwise, this is just preaching to the choir. That is my greatest fear. That Republicans only watch O’Reilly and never even question what they are being spoon fed by the GOP.

    Shouldn’t McCain be given a medical exam to make sure he doesn’t already have Alzheimers, or is addicted to pain medication for all of his POW wounds? I think this is judicious, considering his age. If Homeland Security can read any emails, then surely for American security there should be an exam to make sure McCain if “fit” to even run for President?

    For that matter, since we have tests to take to get a driver’s license, would it be too much to ask for Palin to take a written test on current and past GOP events? Intl events? sighhhhh.

  3. annieR says

    I am terribly sad because there’s a chance that McCain will win this election solely because of the case outlined in this article. It comes down to one word: “ignorance.” John McCain has a second-rate intellect, abhorrent morals and family values, has helped to drive this country off a cliff by supporting George Bush (says we should “respect and admire [Bush] for his moral clarity,” and is willing to set fire to the wreck at the bottom of the cliff by choosing a VP who cannot possibly govern and possesses all of Bush and Cheney’s worst traits. After another Bush term, this country will be unrecognizable.

  4. Dixie Dawg says

    I am a white, Conservative, Republican Christian, but I do agree with many of the statements in this article. Even though I disagree with Obama and Biden’s political policies, I can appreciate the fact that this election and everything that surrounds it has turned into a circus of sorts.

    Even though I’m Republican and have stated this before on this site, I do not agree with the choice of Sarah Palin. How anyone can define her as experienced enough to hold the second highest office in the country is an amazement, to say the least. Not only does she not have an adequate amount of foreign policy experience, she cannot answer questions when asked about foreign policy. She circles around the question, offers a line of political rhetoric and then starts another campaign speech that is devoid of any subtance or intelligence.

    Sarah Palin has been used as “window dressing” to rally the Religious Right because McCain was not getting the job done. McCain countered Obama by using her as the first Republican female on a Vice-Presidential ticket. She’s pretty, perky and obviously ambitious, and has the ability to rally a large segment of an uninformed population. She sent a shockwave through this country that guaranteed support for the Republican ticket, even though the same electorate still did not like McCain. However, she made the McCain pill easier to swallow.

    Blind allegiance to any politician without checking their true record is a dangerous precedent to be reckoned with; however, what we are seeing is an electorate who enjoys the latest celebrity who is good at wisecracks. Her career comes before her children and her willingness to place her unwed daughter and teenage mom-to-be in the national spotlight is nothing less than selfish. Palin had to know that her daughter would suffer the tabloid fodder and public scrutiny that would make her life much more difficult than it had to be. I have shared this opinion with several of my friends and have been verbally attacked and treated in a very rude manner, all because I wish to display a shred of common sense.

    Her husband, Todd Palin, was indeed a registered member of the Alaskan Independence Party and this party has wished to secede from the union. Look at for some more information on this subject.

    Today, I am sad, not just about the choice of Palin, but because people are not willing to use the brains that God gave to them and realize that her experience does not qualify her for the office of Vice-President. The meteoric rise of Palin and support for a woman who we truly do not know is nothing less than frightening and reprehensible. Until the American people quit allowing just anyone to spoon-feed them anything, we will continue to have leaders in this country who are not only unqualified but who are corrupt as well.

      • Dixie Dawg says

        Hi Sharon and thank you for your comment. I have received more kind words here than I have on Conservative forums and even with my Conservative friends and family.

        My husband and I both try to use reason, education, research, common sense and Biblical discernment to understand what is going on in the election process and in world events. I have personally had to “take a lot of heat” for my opinions and political views. You cannot imagine some of the rude comments people have made to me over a woman they truly have no clue about. In all honesty, they are so scared of Obama that they are willing to accept anyone on the VP ticket if they think it will win them the election. That’s how they are thinking and they are not thinking clearly. They are afraid that if Obama wins that we will have a Muslim in the White House.

        Once people have found an “Idol” to worship, it is not easy to have an intellectual debate with them. They always attack the person with the different point of view instead of attacking the viewpoint. Irrational thought process does not make sound judgements because today too many people are allowing fear to motivate their decisions. I prefer to let research and common sense motivate my decision as opposed to fear and panic.

        For example, most Republicans will ignore the fact that Gov. Palin and her husband Todd are refusing to cooperate with the Troopergate investigation. If they don’t have anything to hide, then why not cooperate and get this behind them? Most people ignore the fact that she asked whether or not a librarian would be willing to censor books at a library. Consequently, I’m sure most Republicans will ignore what we learned on Bloomberg TV tonight, the popular financial network. It was reported that Cindy McCain had a blind trust with four stocks in it. Several weeks before this fiasco on Wall Street, she liquidated this particular blind trust. Guess what stocks were in this trust…….Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Now, in my humble opinion, that is interesting information, to say the least. In this same report, it was told that Senator John Kerry actually lost money in AIG.

        While other people will ignore this information and say, “On with the show”, I can’t ignore this because it speaks what a lot of us have known for a long time. The problem is – not enough people are willing to vote offenders and corrupt politicians out of office. My husband was a vice-president of a university in Texas for fifteen years, and for five of those years, he lobbied in the Texas State House on behalf of school issues. During his lobbyist years, he would take note of what he saw and heard in the political realm. While President Bush was Governor of Texas, my husband said he was practically invisible. He knew what was going to happen with a Bush presidency even before he went into office in 2001 and tried to warn people. Of course, no one paid him any attention because they were too busy “worshipping their idol”.

        This country is so caught up in the bright lights of celebrity that it has not only blinded them from the truth, it has literally caused people to accept things that they normally would not support. Until people truly crave the truth and try to see a person’s views as opposed to their “celebrity”, not much is going to change in this country.

        • Sharon Kyle says

          Thank you again for your thoughtful commentary on the state of affairs in America today. There are times when I feel completely lost and disconnected from what is possibly a very large swath of the American populace. For anyone to believe, with any degree of certainty, that Obama is a Muslim is beyond me. On what basis does such a belief stand?

          For most of my life I was not partisan. In fact, for many years I was an independent. However, decisions made by the Bush administration over the last 7 years, FOX News, the far Right, radio shock jocks, and a host of other things have caused me to align myself with a party because I don’t think this country is headed in the right direction.

          Please continue to share your opinions because they are so valuable. Especially considering that you are a Republican. I regret that we now have an “us vs they” attitude in Washington and in the country around party politics. In the end, its the people who will lose. We’re really all in this together.


        • says


          While you mock the small population of Sarah’s state that she is Governor of, you fail to mention that Obie’s VP choice (Biden) is from a tiny state of about the same number of people – Delaware!

          Oh, and did you know Alaska’s high school grad rate is higher than Joe Biden’s Delaware? And college grad rate is the same?

          Maybe they aren’t all stupid rednecks in Alaska like you suggest, and maybe they elected a great Governor who stood up to both the Republicans and Democrats in her own state to win against all odds.

          Sarah will make a great VP, supporting a great President, John McCain.

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