This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise
September 13, 2008
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for an easy-to-understand example 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.
15 thoughts on “Tim Wise on White Privilege”
Thanks for sharing this. Tim Wise has a way of perfectly describing exactly what I’ve been thinking. btw, found your blog via macon d at stuffwhitepeopledo, and it looks great; can’t wait to read through your archives.
This article is so true that it is scary and will offend a slew of whites. For the record, Wise
is probably the best writer on race and privaledge today
Thank you for posting this and thanks to Tim Wise for writing it. I am sending it, complete with links, to everyone I know. I’m a middle-aged white woman. No job after seven months of searching. Will lose my home if I don’t find on in three months…after twenty YEARS of never missing a payment. Pay $10k for medical insurance and co pays in a HEALTHY year. Supported Hillary but moved with NO TROUBLE to Obama. Was I angry? Yup. So what? Palin simply solidified my anger in the proper direction, and solidified my passion FOR Obama and Biden. Two men whom I can respect, agree with and be thankful are briilliant. The arrogance and the WHITENESS of that arrogance in the Republican party has galled me for years. I never could quite articulate it. Tim White did it flawlessly and brilliantly. Let’s not forget White Privilege when it comes to that outrageously offensive “sex education” ad, too. that’s all. It was just so good to be sent such a fine piece of writing. We have two brilliant, knowledgeable and, yes, liberal candidates. Let’s put liberal forward as a BADGE.
I had to send this one out to my Sorority sisters… in fact, Eric, I thought of you when I saw an episode of Dr. Phil last Friday which purported to demystify the use of “the ‘n’ word” ….and only ended with piss poor editing and a bunch of white women discussing how they’re “tired of walking on eggshells around African Americans” and how they “clutch their keys and purse when Blacks walk by because they’re afraid of being robbed.”
Really, you should give it a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Thank you so much for sharing this! Tim Wise has very clearly articulated this very real issue. The examples he gives are wonderful.
My story is very similar to JettyLS who has commented above. Since my IT job was outsourced in 2005, I’ve been self-employed as a consultant. But I have been unable to find work since last February!
I am ashamed of white privilege. Unfortunately, this problem is a long way from a solution as (most of) the privileged ones refuse to acknowledge that it exists!
I’m going to send this post out to everyone I know.
Well the othere thing I think you forgot to say, is that White Privilege is realizing there is a problem as most of America has, but being so afraid of something as different as a qualified African American President, that a totally unqualified white woman in the second most powerful position in the world seems like a good idea! What paralell universe are we living in? And yes I did call Governor Palin unqualified, didn’t people watch the same Charles Gibson interview as me?
Thank you for this brialliant commentary, Tom!
I am familiar with Tim Wise’s work, and as an African-American female, I am always relieved when white privilege is discussed, particularly amongst whites. People of color are well aware of white privilege, but don’t always discuss it in “mixed company.” There is the lingering fear that to mention anything having to do with race or racism will engender defensiveness, guilt or anger. This often takes the form of labeling the person of color as racist or divisive. This silencing serves many purposes, not the least of which is providing a distraction to never deal with the crippling powers of racism and privilege. Thank you Tim and everyone else who is working toward unraveling and bringing liight to these issues. We have a long way to go.
As a white woman, it is shockingly refreshing to hear a white male actually attest to the existence of white privilige. It is also unfortunately sad that in our “intelligent” & “enlightened” world that the need for this type of forum exists. When I bring up the inequities between the races & the issue of white privilege with my white counter parts, the tension in the room is tangible, it’s as if I were making a negative statement about them as individuals. I am then greeted with the all too familiar condescending thought process of “well, you know she has multiracial children”. Be that as it may, I held those thoughts & ideals long before I had children. It has always been crystal clear to me & I have never been able to understand why so many otherwise intelligent people have very real blinders in place. Very frustrating & you’re right DeVeraJG, we do, sadly, have a very long way to go. Thank you Mr. Wise for being wise & brave enough to voice your thoughts as you clearly do.
This is very very true!
Everything is two sided, but never fair in the U.S.
I’m going to try to show this to some of my White church brothers and sisters and see can they possibly get the picture that I’ve been raised up in all my life.
This is about attempting to insulate a candidate from criticism, a candidate with a questionable background and questionable policies regardless of his race, all by implying that questioning that candidate is tantamount to racism. Right out of the left wing playbook for the 2008 campaign.
I could have stopped reading this article after the fourth paragraph when Wise shows that he is either completely out of touch with current events or he cannot call a spade a spade.
“no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement”
Did you not catch Tina Fey’s SNL skit that very clearly implied that Palin was an intellectual lightweight? What about this article (http://www.slate.com/id/2200297/) today in which Ms. Solomon makes a very clear implication that Palin is not smart or intelligent?
I am glad I did not stop reading or I would have missed Wise political speech protected in the specter of “white privilege.” It is a speech filled with hypocrisy.
He then goes on to show his complete bias in comparing Palin’s experience to that of Barack Obama. Is he so out of touch or, again, does he not care when reality does not support his position? Being President is an executive position. Being a state senator and a U.S. Senator does not carry any executive experience. However, being a mayor does and being a governor of a state of any size provides experience over a multimillion (if not billion) dollar organization that any of the other members of the two tickets have, including Barack Obama. Obama cannot even complain an edge in duration of his government experience because Palin’s governmental experience is at least as long as his. What is infuriating about this comparison is it sets up the defense that I knew was coming during the primary. If you question Obama’s qualifications or positions, you must be a racist. Once you apply that brand, it makes it much easier to dodge any real defense of one resume or positions. This hypocrisy is clearly shown in his claim that criticizing Obama’s experience as a community organizer is out of bounds.
Furthermore, is dangling “white privilege” enough of a defense to allow a presidential candidate to avoid defending a background filled with close associations with socialism (http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=3 …
Wise is also hypocritical is implying that it is wrong for women to take a second look at the GOP ticket because of a woman being on a ticket, when I suspect he would have no issue with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) being emotional over a black man being nominated for president by a major party. (http://www.examiner.com/r-1848315~Rep__John_Lewis_ …
Wise also misleads in discussing the church affiliations of the two candidates, implicitly equating a political endorsement during a campaign with 20 years of sitting in the pew of said pastor.
Thus, this is not a column about real instances of “white privilege” (even in the rare cases where this exists) but rather a political spin job intended to establish a powerful defense based on a threat of racism so that Obama does not have to defend his history and policies. There are even some bonuses where Wise attempts to minimize positive perspectives on McCain/Palin using the same “brand them as racist” tactic.
As you should Michael, people of all races need to understand that this is not a one sided back room conversation. This topic needs to be spoken about plainly & openly. You will still encounter defensiveness, but bring in those facts. I had a conversation recently regarding how Obama would have looked had his daughters been teenaged & pregnant & how it would look to embrace that by bringing her “radical” teenaged husband to be up onto the stage with the hopeful presidential family . . . you think America might have the same reaction they had to Palin’s family? I think not. Take a look at the young man this family is welcoming, dig around & find out a little about him, then think about what will happen if McCain wins & dies in office. The fallout would be catastrophic! Talk about white priviledge, we all better pray. I know I’ve strayed a bit from the core topic, but it all relates. I’ll be spending my Sunday, like I have in the past year, making calls at anothers house, with my children & other supporters to get people out to win that vote we so desperately needs, that all of America needs. The power is in our vote, encourgae others, so we can effect a change.
Kiera hit the nail on the head. Maybe it’s just that the GOP is better at muckraking, but if Obama had these problems it would be a much bigger deal. It would also be a much bigger deal if the day after Katrina Obama was hanging with Bush and celebrating his birthday while people were drowning in New Orleans. It would also be a much bigger deal if Barack had called Michelle a c*nt as McCain did his wife in 1992. It would also be a much bigger deal if Obama said something derogatory about white people as Palin allegedly did about black people. She doesn’t even get asked about this stuff. I don’t think it’s as much that she’s a woman or even that she is white. It’s simply that there aren’t left leaning political commentators on FOX, CNN etc that would say something like that whereas Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh make their careers out of it. Why not simply ask Palin if she tried to ban books or called Obama Sambo? The GOP is much better at that game and if the Dems do it it’s someone like Michael Moore who isn’t taken seriously.