Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Let's Have a Serious Conversation

An article was published on my birthday (aka the 14th of September) by anti-racism writer/speaker Tim Wise. The article is below in it's entirety for everyone to read. The subject of the piece is pretty obvious by reading the title of this post and of the article. I've gone ahead and put down my thoughts after the article.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

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.

The original article can be found here.

Now.....MY opinion.

Let's go from the top-down. This article is obviously about the media's presentation of different issues dealing with the (vice)presidential candidates of each party. More specifically Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin. Now if your reading this, don't come to some dumb conclusion that I am assuming everyone of the Caucasian race is evil and all minorities are the greatest thing ever. Just hear me out. Let your mind wander a little.

Propaganda is handed to us on a silver plate on a daily (almost hourly) basis through the main news organizations no matter what side of the political spectrum you lean towards. The media has such a big influence on the people of this country its ridiculous. If you watched a report on the War in Iraq on any news station in the US....and compared it to a report on the Arab station Al-Jazeera, you would see two completely different views on the same topic. Now, with the censorship that is prevalent in this country's news media, one can see why the raw images of war weren't available to us. Simply, the fear that would ensue by witnessing the mess that was created over there would be too great for the government to control. Or take the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the people of New Orleans struggling to survive. The "looting" problem was completely overblown. Because of the fact that it was "stealing" or because of their higher melanin count. Never mind the fact that the "help" that was supposed to come....didn't, and they needed some kind of sustenance to survive to see the next day. But I digress, the point I am making is that the media can portray things in such a way that you would not even notice it shaping your own opinion on that specific subject.

Take the teen pregnancy of Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin's daughter. Knowing the history of this country, as far as race and stereotypes go, Mr. Wise hit it right on the dot when he compared it to the "what if" situation - what if it was Obama's 17 year old daughter (i know he doesn't have one....). Would it still be an issue of Pro-life vs. Pro-Choice like it is now? Would it still be a simple family matter that shouldn't be talked about? Or would it conveniently become an issue of, as Wise said, minorities being "irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay." You make the call.

In the article above, Wise goes on to mention other instances (which I wont repeat since you already read them above) that make you think. Think something like "oh come on now, he's going to far" or "this guy reads too far into stuff" as I thought. But then I realized something that made me think about the whole idea of white privilege in a new light. I've grown up in a time where racism and issues dealing with race have slowly gone from being clearly overt to being institutionalized in everyday aspects of life. In spite of this, we (we being the country) have made giant strides in this area, but simultaneously, it has gotten harder to fix things deep rooted in our social mores. Taking the above article, you can ask yourself if it is striding the line of subtle racism or if it is simply on the side of white privilege. In either case there is still work too do in regards to equal playing fields for all.

This post has gotten to long and, frankly, I don't want to write anymore lol. I want anyone who reads this to take it academically and not emotionally. By doing that, it will stay an...enlightened...conversation if you will and not a argument that only god knows will end up.

Anyways, Thanks for reading, and leave your thoughts in the form of comments. now, lol.


Hola Jandito said...

I find the article lovely to read but reading it is just reinforcing what is already understood. You and i both know that conservative Anglos will permanently have this mindset that the earth's center of rotation is their "manifest destiny" to run the world and its entirety. Its fun to read things that you already know; its like knowing that you earned this much in a pay period and check your account online after the deposit is complete.
All i can do and suggest to all individuals that don't see eye-level with the right wing is to surpass their preconceived ideologies of us.

*There is nothing sweeter than upsetting your suppressors.

YonZaDon said...

i also found the article lovely to read but its just one of many that plays the race card as a means to make the public believe that barack obama and or any minority for that matter is a victim. The same way this article states that Sarah Palin and her daughter have recieved this sort of special pass or "white priveledge" another writer could use twist those words and write a similiar article with just as many points, showing the advantage minorites have. The point about Governor Palin encouraging woman to give their party another look because she herself is a woman shouldnt be looked down upon. Countless black americans have only become interested in the presidential race because Barack Obama himself is african american. Without any hesitation or insight on his views they have thrust their support towards him, is that wrong? If it isnt then no one should question Governor Palin asking her fellow woman to give her party a chance.

America isnt perfect thats what makes America what it is, their will always be somebody somewhere complaining and thinking something isnt fair but to bring race into for this presidential campaign is wrong. no doubt racism exists but it shouldnt be used as an excuse by Obama supporters, that isnt fair to democrats, republicans and most importantly Obama himself who has prided himself in building his campaign without having to resort to race in any means.

Shadow said...

First off, I appreciate the love with the comments, keep them coming.

Both of you are right in your comments, and I thank yonzadon for playing devil's advocate. Where i disagree with you is that im not sure it was written in a way to portray minorities as a victim, but Caucasians as the benefactors of favorable media coverage. Now I am not saying that this is the case ALWAYS, but rather it is the case SOMETIMES. And that is the "unfairness" that I was speaking on. The fact about women going with Palin and Obama being favored by blacks is a given simply due to human nature to migrate towards that which they can see similarites. Race in America is a great thing, while also being the thorn in this countries relatively short history. But my point was that the media has a tremendous affect on the minds of people, the fact that I chose this topic is just due to chance but, I also felt that it would show my point better than anything else could have.

And lastly, thanks Jandoito for that quotable, ima remember that one.

Again, thanks for the love!

Abel Zerai said...

Now upon reading this post I thought, wow. The insight and knowledge that was put into this post seems of great magnitude. America truly does still live in a racist mindset. We may not have the "white only" signs posted everywhere but the thought has been instilled into the generation that is in office and those past. Obama isn't a politician looking for his own glory or financial gain (at least yet it doesn't appear so), he wants to get back to the "for the people" mindset. Sarah Palin can only offer, in my opinion, a change of looks. We will still receive the same government which is now and maybe worse if she is in office because she holds the same views of the current president and that itself is a fearful thought because, the idea of John McCain surviving past the first two years is slim.

I hope we as Americans can see the opportunity we have to truly have a change in America, we need to re-establish our position in world politics and have the respect we once had as the most powerful country on the planet.