This opinion by Tim Wise was emailed to me by a priest friend, Fr. Lee Walker. I found it timely and worth sharing:

From Tim Wise, “This is Your Nation on White Privilege”  (
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who
are 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 five 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 if you’re black and believe in reading accused
criminals and terrorists their rights (because the Constitution, which
you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), you are a
dangerous and mushy liberal who isn’t fit to safeguard American

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 is “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 and the fact that she lives close to Russia–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 suddenly 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 when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get
to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be
viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is
unquestionable, and whose “next door neighbor” qualities make her
ready to be VP, while if you’re a black candidate for president and
you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you’re
irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you
talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no
substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to
be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives
an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy
proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague
about what he would do if elected.

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 go to a prestigious prep school, then
to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as
just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a
prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and
then to Harvard Law, makes you “uppity,” and a snob who probably looks
down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your
college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.)
and that’s OK, and you’re cut out to be president, but if you’re black
and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you
can’t be trusted to make good decisions in office.
White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she’s
disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire
beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be
thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you’re black and
married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is
viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other
are called “terrorist fist bumps.”

White privilege is when you can develop a pain-killer addiction,
having obtained your drug of choice illegally like Cindy McCain, go on
to beat that addiction, and everyone praises you for being so strong,
while being a black guy who smoked pot a few times in college and
never became an addict means people will wonder if perhaps you still
get high, and even ask whether or not you ever sold drugs.

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and
still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity
to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should
speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them,
makes you “dangerously naive and immature.”

White privilege is being able to say that you hate “gooks” and “will
always hate them,” and yet, you aren’t a racist because, ya know, you
were a POW so you’re entitled to your hatred, while being black and
insisting that black anger about racism is understandable, given the
history of your country, makes you a dangerous bigot.

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 and an absent father is apparently among
the “lesser adversities” faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin
explained in her convention speech.

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 a lot of 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.