I’ve been thinking some more about the New Yorker dust up and what it says about this campaign. What’s just struck me is how it’s a prime example of the benefits of white privilege – a concept that’s been as heatedly discussed here as the cartoon.
Here’s what I mean by that: this is another episode where Obama’s identity has been dissected in relation to the symbols of American identity, especially god and country. He’s had to continually locate and define himself in relation to the kinds of patterned behavior and images that America defines as “black,” along the way distinguishing or distancing himself from those aspects of black identity that whites might find threatening or objectionable.
By contrast, let’s look at John McCain. Do we even know anything about his ethnicity, other than the fact that he’s a white guy? Where “his people” come from, other than that his father and grandfather were Navy? Or how ‘bout Cindy? We know she comes from money – but, again, who are her people?
Speaking for myself, the answer is: I don’t have a clue. Nor can I recall a single instance where I’ve heard anyone raise the issue of McCain’s racial or ethnic background and what it does or doesn’t say about his faith, his patriotism, his loyalty, morals, politics, etc. And that’s the essence of white privilege. No one bothers to ask such questions of McCain because, well, he’s a white guy. Now, if he were a Jew or a Mormon he'd get jammed on that front – but simply by virtue of his being white he “belongs” in a way that no non-white candidate can “belong” without having first gone through an inquisition. That’s white privilege.