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August 1, 2014


Deep – Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness by Tim Wise

One of my hometown friends sent me an email with the essay below written by Tim Wise. It’s message is germane to what is occurring now with the current Boston Marathon bombing. In fact I wrote an article this morning after seeing Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the Tamerlan Tsarnaev & Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the alleged bombers, making a statement to reporters. I felt ashamed for the uncle believing he had to or was forced to pledge his love overtly to country because of the evil done by relatives.

Tim Wise gives a necessary perspective. Every minority whether they articulate it or not, at some time in their lives have had that fear of having to carry the negative deeds of those of their own race, religion, creed, or some other grouping. One group, White Anglo-Saxon Christians never has to worry about that inference.


Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness

Posted on April 16, 2013

imageAs the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second.

But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful.

It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.

I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and Justin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Jeffery Harbin and Byron Williams and Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover and Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.

It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.

That is all. And it matters.



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About Egberto Willies

Egberto Willies is a radio show host, author, blogger, political activist, DailyKOS Featured Writer, Vice President of Coffee Party USA, Executive Committee member of Move to Amend, 2nd Annual CNN iReport Spirit Award Honoree, HuffPost Live Contributor, self-employed software developer, & web designer. Egberto wrote the book ‘As I See It:Class Warfare The Only Resort To Right Wing Doom’ based on his belief that the mainstream media is derelict in its duty to relate what really ails the middle class and the complicity of the Right Wing in its demise. Bio: http://egbertowillies.com/bio/ Linked In: http://linkd.in/TOiHUS. Google

Comments

  1. Betty Case says:

    I understand. I know I felt uncomfortable watching the uncle loudly proclaim his feelings about the boys. I knew if they were white Christians I would have felt bad, but would not have to distance myself from them. It would have been assumed I did not share thier feelings.

  2. I think this time we are all in for a lot more trouble because this case is not going to be all that simple! Firstly consider that these guys did a less less damage than the three shooters at aurora , or Newtown, or Arizona! in the case of the younger brother it will become clear that Ideology may not be a part of any of his actions! He may well have more in common with Jarred Laughner than with some terrorist! If that’s the case, then what exactly do we define as Terrorism??? It may force the nation to widen its definition of Terrorism and that could have enormous impact as both the Law and the Social mindset try to come to grips with this new definition. Just exactly what is terrorism? Do you have to be a certain color to be a terrorist? Or is terrorism a great deal more prevalent than we think when it all comes down to the nitty gritty.

  3. I basically accept the critique–but it has big limits.

    It basically is a critique born on the foundations of a racist reality. It engages the fight on the same terms and becomes like that which it is focused on.

    So I think it is a critique that is a helpful snapshot (one perspective of many) that helps see ourselves in a new light and make choices.

    But it doesn’t guide or articulate any hope.

    It really just points out the nature of every culture and the benefits of fitting into dominant cultural categories.

  4. George Rappolt says:

    I am really bothered by the concept of “white privilege” because in every case where I’ve seen it used, it dangerously mis-states what’s going on. I don’t mean that people who are not white aren’t treated differently than people who are white, or that this situation isn’t a problem – quite the reverse. However, calling it “white privilege” makes it into the wrong kind of problem. A “privilege” is something you have to earn, and if you didn’t earn it, it should be taken away. Not being blamed for something that other people who happen to share your skin color, religion or nationality did isn’t a privilege – it’s not even a right, it’s just basic common sense. This isn’t something white people have, but we didn’t earn it, so it should be taken away. This is something everyone should have, without question. It’s true that people who aren’t white Christian Americans are often blamed for anything bad anyone of their “group” does, and it’s wrong. That’s not “white privilege” though, it’s something worse – plain old-fashioned prejudice!

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