Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tim Wise on White Privilege and Terrorism

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 Robert Mathews and David Lane and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Byron Williams 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, 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.
 Read the rest of this article (April 16) here.

Comment: Tim Wise's argument here is important and timely because it critically deconstructs the assumption by many whites that terrorism in the post-9/11 world is pathologically synonymous with Muslims and Islam.

Where Wise falls short is that he fails to recognize how this current feature of whiteness is adopted by so- called non-whites who are not Muslim.  In fact performing whiteness by non-whites (adopting and defending its values and commonsense) is a marker of value/prestige/sophistication and even sanity in most post-colonial societies.

That aside though, the importance of this piece and an article written by David Sirota in Salon and provocatively entitled "Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American" (April 16), is that both pick at whiteness and its racist investment in diagnosing Muslims and Islam as innately and collectively predisposed to acts of terrorism.

Whites will not have to worry about being racially profiled as terrorists no matter what - even if the Boston bomber(s) turns out to be a white American.

If s/he does turn out to be white it won't take too long until questions about mental health are asked.  White people who kill and massacre in acts of terror/terrorism are almost always contained by prescriptions of mental illness that exempts any close scrutiny of whites as a group or whiteness as a value system.

In so doing whiteness bestows the privilege - through power - of detached and, consequently, historically uncompromised individuality on whites.


No comments: