From Tim Wise. This bears repeating.

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called
“Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent
happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of
envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure –
the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or
other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the
public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of
color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the
workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to
descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from
the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and
ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black
protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly
even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were
enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black
protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second
Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the
republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s
what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the
nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness
to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded
by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one
of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators
desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans
voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even
insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters
did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to
say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told
him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent
said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent
mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot
as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly
participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a
white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent
black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization —
defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going
through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their
excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream
network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat
Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a
blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white
equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a
black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black
radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the
administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that
a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential
candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a
fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white
kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but
rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called
them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all,
these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s
administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a
school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a
white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black
pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part
of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to
“suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to
do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea
Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio
talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if
the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have
been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call
Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to
conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what
would happen to any congressional representative who praised that
commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to
“American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio
host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution
in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and
liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas,
who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy
who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not
blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said
about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing
up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal
website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling
her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her
by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what
conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year,
when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black
protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs
calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s
what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party
leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third
of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by
folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a
white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger,
the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax
eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many
would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and
investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as
fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing
themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous
and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural,
let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past
week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that
ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that
erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights
struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality,
working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT
folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to
threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without
consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do,
and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if
they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.


Tim Wise
is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the
U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to
community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism
training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical
industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health
care. His latest book is called
Barack and a Hard Place

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s