race: White Privilege for Dummies

Tim Wise, called one of the most respected antiracist writers and educators in the U.S., wrote an essay for Red Room titled, This is Your Nation on White Privilege*:

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.

… and so on. He tags it as a rant and the focus of the essay is aimed squarely at a lot of the recent kerfuffle surrounding statements and criticisms made about the current political parties and their candidates’ campaigns. It’s a very good response to the unenlightened statement, “I don’t see what all the fuss is about.” Similar views are touched on in this blog entry, What if Bristol Palin were Black?

I don’t really talk too much about race because… well a lot of people don’t get it, can’t handle it or don’t realize that just because you don’t think it’s a big deal, doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal. Just recently I had an “excuse me, what did you just say?” moment with an online friend after he said something pretty racist without even thinking about it. He realized it and apologized, but it reminded me of other moments when I haven’t said anything out loud, but it drastically affected my opinion of the person.

My usual privilege target is personal privilege, the assumption that one can do what they like, say what they like and that their expectations will always be appeased regardless of the reality of the situation. Sometime it’s rooted in class, but most of the time it’s pure selfishness. You see frequent examples of it on the blog Not Always Right. I’ve read many an article about how Baby Boomers are raising a society of privileged children, and sometimes when I look around where I live and work, I can believe it.**

Nobody’s perfect, nor are they ever going to be or need to be so, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to be better than we are instead of just acting like it.

* I couldn’t reach the actual site from work as it kept timing out, so I used Google’s cached version of the page. It can also be found at Hello Negro.

** Like the girl in the Starbucks this weekend who ordered one thing, then changed her drink order 3 times while waiting for it to be made. Then had the nerve to look at her friend with the head shake and shrug to indicate, “I don’t know why they’re taking so long!”

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1 Response

  1. sean808080 says:

    A great post on something that boils down to thoughtlessness. I’m not sure if it’s generational but it sure is human. This idea that MY needs are more important than YOURS. It probably is intertwined with capitalism and enables the hoarding of resources and focus on getting MORE.

    It’s all too easy to talk about change and caring about others but it’s quite another to open ones home and heart to those less fortunate. I am also not convinced that one race is immune although I would have to agree that one race is much more familiar with the idea that THIS is MINE and not YOURS and I’m entitled to the benefits of wonership and you are NOT an owner and therefore not in my CLASS.

    Something to think about and definitely something to examine in ourselves.


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