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White privilege, McCain/Palin — and the Kenyan witchhunter

Tim Wise‘s bio lets you know he’s in a unique position to lay this out on the line. He is the director of the Association for White Anti-Racist Education (AWARE) in Nashville, Tennessee.

He lectures across the country about the need to combat institutional racism, gender bias, and the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S. Wise has been called a “leftist extremist” by David Duke, “deceptively Aryan-looking” by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and “the Uncle Tom of the white race,” by right-wing author, Dinesh D’Souza.

Well, Wise discusses the third rail of race in a way many progressives usually avoid because it’s pretty damn uncomfortable. Here’s Wise’s assessment of white privilege and its lingering, nagging impact on race relations in this country and this election. Snippets from “This is Your Nation on White Privilege” are below the fold, as well as a prime example of what Wise is talking about when it comes to Sarah Palin and her praise of a witchhunter – she believes his laying on of hands helped her win the gubernatorial election in Alaska.

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly 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 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 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 claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

* 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 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.

Amen. Wise’s essay collection, Speaking Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, is out now.

***

And that dovetails with this beyond bizarre aspect of the Sarah “Armegeddon” Palin story — it illustrates what she can get away with because of white privilege:

Palin linked electoral success to prayer of Kenyan witchhunter.

The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witchhunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

…”As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he’s so bold. And he was praying “Lord make a way, Lord make a way.”

“And I’m thinking, this guy’s really bold, he doesn’t even know what I’m going to do, he doesn’t know what my plans are. And he’s praying not “oh Lord if it be your will may she become governor,” no, he just prayed for it. He said “Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that’s exactly what happened.”

I want you to just imagine how much (and what kind of) coverage this would receive if the above statements were uttered by Barack Obama — note Muthee is from Kenya, so it would only add gas to the fire stoked by the right on that front. And bonus points accelerants for this aspect of Muthee’s ministry:

The pastor speaks of his offensive against a demonic presence in the town in a trailer for the evangelical video “Transformations”, made by Sentinel Group, a Christian research and information agency.

…According to accounts of the witchhunt circulated on evangelical websites such as Prayer Links Ministries, after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python which they believed to be a demon.

This guy makes Rev. Wright look like Billy Graham. How would this have been played by the professional right wing “Christian” organizations and the far-right crowd if we were talking about a Muthee association with Obama instead of Sarah Palin? I think we all know the answer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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