Wednesday, September 24, 2008

White Privilege & Election Fever

The UU Blogosphere has been abuzz with discussion about an article titled "This Is Your Nation on White Privilege" by Tim Wise. To read what other UUs are saying, a brief description of some of the responses can be found at the Interdependent Web, along with links. I will say that I find the article snarky and abrasive, and at a couple of points I took exception with it, but there were a lot of places where I thought it was, sadly, right on in its analysis.

What you think of this article, I believe, comes down to what you believe about the concept of "white privilege." If it's a new concept for you, the classic essay by Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," is a great place to start reading. White Privilege is a concept we've been discussing at our church in our adult religious education group on "Building the World We Dream About," if you're interested in discussing it more and are in our area.

White privilege is by no means a concept universally accepted in this country, so there are people who disagree with it as a concept, and then people who may agree with the concept but think that Wise goes too far or that it's not applicable to an election. I think Wise may take it too far at points, but that it is a concept that's applicable to this election.

I do think racism is a factor in the presidential election. And I think it's a bigger factor than we realize. Polling numbers often can't control for racism; people don't want to admit to racism to the pollsters. Of course, there are other isms in play, too, in this election. I've heard plenty of people talking against racism against Obama one moment and turn around and use ageism against McCain. Xenophobia and religious prejudice play a part against Obama, too (since so many people continue to think he's both not a real American and is a Muslim). Sexism has been used against Hillary Clinton and now against Sarah Palin. Religious discrimination was used against Mitt Romney. I've even heard lookism--a person gloating that Michelle Obama was so much better looking than Cindy McCain! People who are on one side or the other may not want to admit that the opposing candidate faces discrimination, too, but it is there.

What I would call on us, as UUs to do is simple: listen for it, speak out against it, try to avoid using it yourself. Think twice before speaking, and don't be afraid to speak out, gently, when you hear these isms at work. Don't demonize those who disagree with you by calling them racist or sexist, but work to challenge the underlying assumptions or call people into remembering to be their best selves. Our work as religious liberals during an election season is not to tell people how to vote or change their mind about how they're voting, but to call us into, as always, living our values, to "live your religion" as our closing song at our church reminds us to do.

1 comment:

Robin Edgar said...

"People who are on one side or the other may not want to admit that the opposing candidate faces discrimination, too, but it is there."

And here.

And here.

And here. . .

etc. etc. ad naU*Useum