Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 23 01:28:57 UTC 2008

Slightly OT WRT dialectology, but relevant to the present topic.


This is Your Nation on White Privilege
September, 14 2008
By Wise, Tim
Tim Wise's ZSpace Page
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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.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised
2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also
by Soft Skull. For review copies or interview requests, please reply
topublicity at

On Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 8:45 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re-"uppity"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Someone else who observes, and more eloquently than I did below, that
> calling a black man--particularly one running for national
> office--"uppity" is not as racially innocent as was claimed by Rep.
> Westmoreland (and "the dictionary"):
> LH
>>Date:         Sat, 6 Sep 2008 20:18:34 -0400
>>Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: uppity
>>At 2:45 PM -0700 9/6/08, Susan Tamasi wrote:
>>>I'm trying to do some research on the word "uppity" and it's racial
>>>>>From yesterday's "Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn
>>>>Westmoreland is standing by his statement that Barack Obama is
>>>>'uppity,' claiming that he has never heard of the term being
>>>used in a 'racially derogatory sense'."
>>>Having grown up in the South, I've always known (or felt) that
>>>"uppity" is derogatory when used to describe an African American.
>>>The term "uppity nigger" definitely rings in my ears when I
>>>hear the word. When I heard of Westmoreland's gaff, I almost choked.
>>>However, in conversations with other white folk over the last couple
>>>of days, it seems that this connotation is only
>>>known by about half. Some claim that it is a neutral term which
>>>simply refers to "snobby" or "elite", as Westmoreland claims.
>>>I'm trying to figure out how widespread the "racially derogatory
>>>sense" actually is as well as when "uppity" took on this
>>>connotation. I have some ideas, but I wanted to your get your
>>I had always understood "uppity" to be used of those who (because of
>>class, sex, or more generally race/ethnicity) did not "know their
>>place", e.g. by running on a ticket for national office.  No doubt
>>Westmoreland's remark won't do any damage to the Republican ticket in
>>Georgia, despite the presence of a woman on it.  It is a bit scary,
>>though, given what has traditionally been done to rectify the problem
>>of someone being uppity.
>>The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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