Prejudice: a preconceived preference or idea: bias; or as EB White once said: “Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.”
As a northerner who’s never thought of herself as racist, the current election season has given me lots of opportunity to look more closely at my thinking. Others are doing the same.
From a recent letter to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Kelvin LaFond:
What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class [894 out of 899]?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said ‘I do’ to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama were a member of the ‘Keating 5’?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
If these questions reflected reality, would the election numbers be as close as they are? This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.
White 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.
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 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.