Calling It What It Is: Naming the Monster of White Privilege

This is prolly going to be a long post.

Well, only because of the insert I’m adding, in full, so just letting you know.

I had to really be careful that this blog didn’t turn into an all out hate site against Sarah “I’m going to ride this till the wheels fall off” Palin because I realised that people in my community and people that I talk to really don’t like her.  Her lack of knowledge is overcompensated by her unwaivering confidence–kinda like Elisabeth “Miz Liz” Hasselbeck.

So this morning, I was talking with my friend about how much Tim “I’m channeling my inner Michael Pfleger” Wise snapped in his latest article (he always does, nothing new) and my friend also added it’s a Republican privilege as well.  I’m not totally ready to make that jump, but I definitely could see how one could intepret this because Republicans historically across regional barriers are always the one’s to bust out the dirty politricks before the Democrats do and they do so with such evilness.  Just ask current Senator Bob Corker  and former senator Jesse “I found out hell isn’t segregated” Helms.

and here’s the Jesse Helm’s ad.

Every once in a while someone makes a comment either here, or perhaps another blog and it really prompts me to do a whole post based around it.  But, there was a comment and this person,  who has commented on this blog before, said that Tim Wise was more or less a “retard” and that “we already know the problems” and I contend that this is a problem that we don’t talk about that much about.

I further added that usually we name this problem as flat out racism or some deviant form of racial prejudice.  But in fact we really don’t deal with white privilege because as we all know, the privilege is only seen as a privilege from the one who doesn’t benefit from the privilege.  As I said coming from Philadelphia this summer to some of the teens I was working with as they were telling their cop stories, I told them that while what they did to get out of tickets worked for them, had I done that, I woulda been face down eating concrete on the Beltway.

Usually white privilege is masked in white ignorance.  Real talk, the white folk out in the suburbs who are die hard liberals and are voting for Obama without any equivocations are the ones who don’t know about white privilege and don’t understand the nuances of black culture.  For those of you who need some more examples I will be placing my blogs that I wrote about my internship out in Montgomery County, Maryland this summer to give you some basis of what I mean.

But below is the Tim Wise article in it’s entirety.  For whatever reason I was remiss to put him on my blogroll, but since he did such a major snap with this one, in my opinion he will now be added.

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.

 I had been trying to put my finger on what it was, but yup, it goes back to white privilege.

What I think we, as intelligent individuals need to do is to realise that’s facts and reality are two different things. Those are straight up facts for what Obama and Palin have done, but clearly their actions are interpreted through different realities.

Facts are indisputable universally agreeable understandings. Realities are much more personal, LIVED experiences.

What incenses me is that when white folk deny white privilege is that really they are denying the African American reality of life or the Black experience and in turn suggesting that I, or we, understand the facts through a white reality–and I ask why?

Now, because that leads to a hierarchal understanding of realities, placing white reality over that of black realities–is that not the basic definition of racism where the mindset of one race is superior to another and having the ability to institute a culture that purports this idea?

Here are the links to my other posts from this summer:

Let the comments come.  I know how black folk feel about this one, but I’m more interested for my white readers to sound off on this one.  Why is this issue so prickly for white folk to talk about, much less admit that it exists?  Moreover, to echo my own post again, why is it that some whites feel as though blacks must submit to a white lived reality?  This doesn’t mean I don’t want any blacks, or Latino’s or Asians or any other ethinic or cultural group that has not been lumped into the aforementioned categories to not comment–I welcome ALL comments.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

P.S.  Thanks for those of you that brought me to my all time one day high of over 1,000 visitors–and it was only because I’m an uppity Negro. 🙂


24 thoughts on “Calling It What It Is: Naming the Monster of White Privilege

  1. I wouldn’t call you “uppity” or use the word “Negro”. My mother marched with MLK so you could right a blog like this. Would he be proud of you? I will remember my white privilege when I can’t afford to eat, or put gas in my car. It chases away the hunger of being broke.

  2. There is only one reality. Until you can accept that there’s no point in discussion so I don’t think you’re going to have much useful discourse on this post.

  3. @gotea

    Seriously, there are some people out there who feel that even though they don’t have money to put in their gas tank (neither do I, I just put in five dollars the other day just so I have enough to run to buy food), they still reside in the fact that they aint black.

    Or they use that other infamous word.


    And which reality is that?

  4. Which reality? That would be reality, not White, not Black, not anything but what is. Much like there is only America, not White America and Black America.

    As long as people insist on preaching and believing in multiple realities, nations, and “Experiences” – capitalized and quoted to show differentiation – we’re not going to get past anything.

  5. @jonolan

    I hear what you’re saying, but I think to make this jump to a post-racial society at this point in the game would lead to certain cultures inherently being marginalized at the expense of larger culture.

    Larger culture is in fact culture that is seen through the lens of western thought and ultimately American eyes.

  6. Hey there!

    Congratulations on reaching 1,000 visitors per day!!

    Thank you for mentioning Tim Wise because I read his blog and I check his web site periodically to read his articles. I plan to read the one you mentioned!

    My blog will be open to the public within a week! I sent you an invite in the meantime so you wouldn’t be left out! (smiles)

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

  7. Jonolan & Uppity about “reality.” There is only one reality, but only God sees it. Us humans see pieces of reality and know more about our own experiences than others’. One piece of the reality is that there is discrimination against Blacks & other racial minorities in America, and another piece of the reality is that Whites are often unaware of this; this is what we mean by White privilege. One piece of the reality is that the same exact action is defined by the majority of Whites as good if it is done by White people and bad if it is done by Black people. Another piece of the reality is that the mass media are White dominated and much of the reality Black people experience is never presented in mainstream news or entertainment, so the media present a distorted view of what Black people generally think and do. (It should be noted that there are some groups of Whites whose reality is not represented in mainstream media, either.) Another part of the reality is that subordinate groups typically know more about dominant groups than dominant groups know about subordinate groups. This is partly a function of who dominates the media (so affluent Whites are the big winners here, and working class people as well as minorities are underrepresented) but also because the subordinate people have to understand and get along with the dominant people to survive, while the dominants can afford to be ignorant of subordinate people’s lives and experiences.

  8. olderwoman,

    Well at least you accurately lump middle (and lower) class Whites along with Blacks.

    As for “White Privilege.” I pretty think that is just race baiting victimology. I’ve lived and worked all over the US (well, actually all over the world) and have seen for myself that “same exact action is defined by the majority of” at least reasonably urban / suburban and reasonably affluent people “as good if it is done by” at least reasonably urban / suburban and reasonably affluent people “and bad if it is done by” very rural or very urban poor people.

    The US is far more classist than it is racist. Now I admit that this is a relatively recent phenomenon.

  9. jonolan: you are forgetting or perhaps do not know that there is race prejudice and race discrimination on top of class prejudice and class discrimination, so working class and poor blacks get it twice and are, in fact, treated much worse than working class and poor whites. And affluent blacks are a) on average much less affluent than affluent whites for a lot reasons that have to do with the history of racism and b) still subject to racial discrimination that, in fact, limits their life chances. If you don’t know this, that is precisely what the “white privilege” point is.

  10. If I can jump in…

    I think this country would go a lot further if poor whites and poor blacks would come to the realisation that the government is screwing both segments of the population with no lube.

    But, it gets hard because there is a small, but viable segment of this country who beyond the shadow of a doubt will NOT vote for Obama, simply because he’s identified as black.


    If for a few moments could you suppose that white privilege exists–then what?

  11. Posted this on facebook this a.m. Uppity, glad you posted it too.

    @jonalon and gonea:

    Seriously, do you think Obama would even be a contender had he dropped out of college 6 times and run a two-bit town and a tiny little state? Do you think, if Sasha were a pregnant teen, or if her baby daddy were a hip-hop “thug,” he’d have a hope of a chance?

    Sarah Palin IS working class white in experience, even though she now has money. And she is already cut a better deal even than a Harvard Law educated constitutional lawyer and Senator from Illinois.

    No one is questioning the realities for poor whites. But the realities for middle-class blacks never go away, not even with an infusion of money.

  12. @ Margaret Aymer:

    Do you really think that Obama would even have been a contender if he was White? Or that he would have been able to make a mint off of The Audacity of Hope?

    A White man winning a seat in the US Senate wouldn’t have sparked any media attention or had them instantly asking him about a national campaign…

    A White man running for the Democratic nomination on the same platform as Obama used would have lost to Hillary. Obama’s race effectively countered Hilary’s gender.

    Shall we call it Black Privilege? I know that’s both trite and a loaded phrase, but it seemed to the point in this singular case.

    I do think that Obama would have been a contender if dropped out of college 6 times and run a two-bit town and a tiny little state. That is off course assuming that he could still speak as well without the Harvard education…

    Now, if Sasha were a pregnant teen things would be interesting. It would play into racial stereotypes at that point. On the other hand Obama has made some “inflammatory” statements about “Baby Daddies” and about not wanting Sasha or her sister “punished with a baby” so some of the flack he would receive would have no racial basis.

    You’re also assuming – erroneously – that the bulk of America respects either a Harvard education or an attorney of any stripe. The majority of Americans neither respect nor trust either. That’s not a pleasant thing to say about America, but I believe it’s true.

    Think about it, we say “for Mom, for Apple Pie.” We don’t say “for Ivy League education, for lawyers.”

    @ uppity:

    I’ll get back with you; I’m thinking about it.

  13. What a great post and comments. While I can agree with some of jololan’s comments I believe that Obama might have beat Hillary if he was passing as white. There is that % of voters that once in the booth just won’t be able to pull the tab for a black man. Some will do it out of their value system but some will do it out of ingrained, sublimial, stupidty. So it just might have been a larger win if obama was percived as a JFK type…change and hope is the message, take away the color, which noone can, and he puts out a strong message and solutions well thought out.

    So white privlige, which I was born with and have seen in action, is a strong factor in this election.

    We are not voting for a well known black leader, at least he wasn’t well know, so the votes he has gathered has come from what see says and we believe he will give us. Not color but color will play a big part sorry to say.

  14. chefchick48,

    Let me clarify my point a bit:

    1) Obama wouldn’t have even been a candidate if he’d been White; nobody- especially the media – would have interested enough in the 1st term Senator from Illinois to give him a chance at it.

    2) Obama, running on a platform with only minor differences from Hilary’s garnered over 85% of the Black vote in the Primaries.

    Yeah, race has had a lot of impact on this election cycle. It just hasn’t done so solely in the way that many people want to claim it has.

    Oh the Bradley Effect will definitely come into play, but then so will the fact that Republicans due better in the voting booth than the media polls.

  15. I read an article that interviewed a bunch of poor whites across the country. It came to the conclusion that most of those people aren’t going to vote for Obama not because he’s black but because he’s educated and intelligent and not a good ole boy.

  16. @makani08

    Let me help you out: many of them lied!

    Most people aren’t going to admit face to face in an interview that they wouldn’t vote for Obama. If you do a youtube search and look up West Virginia Democratic Primaries there was someone interviewing and they all said “we don’t know him” and said “he was too educated” and when pressed on the issue most of the inerviewers just let it trail off–we all knew what that meant. It was only one woman, who was a bit older who was quite clear that she didn’t want no black man as president.

    Also, make sure you read the blog i’m posting later on today.

  17. @jonalan

    White men with Harvard Law School degrees write books every day. In fact almost every white man who has run for office in the last 2 decades has an autobiography. GWB’s book made a mint too, so yes, it is possible that he could have made a mint off of his book.

    I do not only think Obama would have been a contender, I’m sure of it. As a white man, he would have resembled Kennedy even more, which fits a certain type of US nostalgia.

    I don’t agree that Obama’s race countered Hillary’s gender. Certainly that was not the case in Iowa, or Oregon, or other places in which he trounced her that were majority white. Rather, I think Obama’s organizational machine and his 50-state strategy countered Hillary’s Big States for Hillary strategy. He won the only way anyone could have won against her–on delegates

    So no, we shouldn’t call it “Black privilege” any more than Hillary had “woman privilege.”

    By definition, a person with Palin’s background has Palin’s experience–rarely traveled out of the country; doesn’t know the major doctrines of her party; etc. So no, Obama, had he her experience, would not have had a shot at a VP nod, not even by Hillary Clinton.

    The reality is that the bulk of the US does not respect a Harvard education–this I know. But the other reality is, for Obama to be considered even nearly as good as Palin, he needed one.

    And that, my friend, is white privilege in a nutshell.

  18. “So no, we shouldn’t call it “Black privilege” any more than Hillary had “woman privilege.”

    You mistake me. I firmly believe that Hillary had “Woman Privilege” as it were. She had the Feminist vote sown up tight.

    I just believe that a White man would have lost to her because he couldn’t counter that advantage in a Democratic Party primary.

    Of course if Obama had been White, I don’t think he could have run at all. That is solely because he is too young and too inexperienced. It took the “novelty” – which is sad – of his being Black to get the media’s attention and get them asking him about a national campaign immediately after he’d been elected to the US Senate.

  19. @jonolan

    Well, is a white person who says they’re not voting either way because of his race lying?

    I’m not sure, only you know if you’re lying to yourself to sleep at night.


    As far as poll is concerned people lie, not just white folk. But in a face to face interview, it’s hard to purposely not come off as PC. It’s not PC to say, particularly for city folk, that I don’t think black folk are all that great.

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