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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Give Me Privilege or Give Me Death!

A Privileged Nation -- for Some
By Tim Wise
For those who still can't grasp the concept of privilege,
or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand
examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

Privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 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.

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 sh it" for fun, and still
be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great
son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

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 an African-American who did
this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably som eone
who only got in in the first place because of affirmative

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."

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 terroris t s 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.

Privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not
make people immediately scared of you.

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.

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 labour -- 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.

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."

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.

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-g oing 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.

Privilege is not knowi ng 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.

Privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW
has anything at all to do with your fitness for president,
while being blac k and exper iencing racis m is, as Sarah Palin
has referred to it a "light" burden.

And finally, 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 "c hange" 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.