Saturday, September 20, 2008

On White Privilege and Tim Wise-Open Thread

There is some fun coming up Monday, but we reasoned this could be useful and appropriate as a primer. I also saw Tim Wise on Thursday at a local university (another hint as to my location) where he spoke about race, politics, and white privilege at the first year convocation. But, as I often say about whiteness studies, at times this "discipline" commits the same oversight of power that it is ostensibly challenging. Because even as whiteness studies "fights" white racism and white privilege, white folk are still at the center of the conversation, and it can become a communal therapy session that really accomplishes little. But again, you know I am biased in my feelings towards guilty liberal types and others.

Random thought number 1: how many Cornel West tapes has Tim Wise studied?

Random thought number 2: those women at the 13 second mark are looking really hungry for some Cornel Socratic dialogue/foundations of American prophetic pragmatic loving aren't they?

For those not in the know, anti-racist, scholar, and author, Tim Wise--what a cool name, by the way--has published a piece on race and the presidential election that has gone viral and is causing some more conservative (and other myopically challenged) White folks to engage in hysterical denial. Read the article, but make sure to read the comments section as well: truly priceless examples of the power of denial.

Let's begin:

And you know, just thinking aloud, while a clear homage to Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, I also think Time Wise was reading our Niggaro Universe posts as he wrote the following piece, and that we deserve proper attribution.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

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.

the post continues here...

What do you think? How much does white privilege impact the election? Does it or does it not? Is there such a thing as white privilege? Are there multiple white privileges and not one privilege? Are there black, brown, or people of color privileges? If so what are they? Frankly and being provocative, can White folk be anti-racist? Can they work against racism? Generalizing, can men be feminists? Can straight people work against heterosexism? Or can they try and ultimately always fail because their/our hands are always dirty? Do you buy Tim Wise's argument? Is he sincere or is he pandering and working an angle? Is he a con man of sorts? Or is he a brother in the struggle, a man down like John Brown?


MAds said...

I left the US long ago, so I need not hide or be anonymous.

The election is obvioulsy all about race and Tim Wise is not speaking to black folks, but to white ones. And since they will ony listen to one of their own he is the most effective tool out there.

And then their is also my way...

Glennis said...

Hey you guys. White girl here saying thanks for publishing such provocative and interesting material. I'm off to read Wise!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he's a John Brown in my opinion and he'd be like the one white guy we wouldn't kill if we all suddenly channeled our inner militant Negro. Clearly he's more accepted in black circles and having to break it down if he goes to white circles. I mean even black folk who have never heard of "white privilege" know EXACTLY what you mean. I did an internship in Mont.Co in MD this summer and menioned white privilege once and they had no remote idea of what I was talking about.

Believe it or not, I think the John Brown is a great comparison because I remember in h.s. tryin to fiure out what the hell was his motivation? I mean I just think its more than guilt--people like him, Wise and someone like Fr. Michael Pfleger back in Chicago--I'm really convinced they believe what they preach and speak. By far, they have lived and suffered the brutal consequences of their moral persuasions.

gordon gartrelle said...

I like Tim Wise.

I think it's great for people to critique forms of privilege from which they benefit.

But the notion that male feminists, straight proponents of gay rights, or white critics of white privilege deserve special recognition is bullshit. Wise's popularity is not just a testament to his ideas and public speaking skills; it's an ironic manifestation of the very privilege against which he rails.

Zora said...


Is it akin to giving props to black men for "taking care of their children" (a la Chris Rock)? What you are saying is that Wise is getting extra credit for doing something that should be done anyway. This true, but the sad fact is that most don't and they really don't have to.

Alternatively, he could be compared to black Republicans who get attention less for substance and more for novelty. I don't think, however, that Wise fits into this.


Anonymous said...

I think grouping these Palin bits, particularly the college bit, poor examples of white privilege. There are a great many, particularily those who vote for the opposing party that condemn all of these comments and actions.
The more recent story on white privilege is much more informative and thought provoking, but without balance.
As a control, what money would it cost or take those of other ethnicities to become white? People almost always put strong emphasis on their ethnic identities regardless of circumstances.