Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

Chauncey DeVega's Links

FEBRUARY 9, 2010 2:42PM

A Lesson in White Privilege: What if Sarah Palin Were Black?

Rate: 13 Flag


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The impenetrable stupidity of Sarah Palin knows no boundaries. She wallows in mediocrity. Palin is the queen bee of a cult of personality where to be anti-intellectual is a trait to be rewarded. Ultimately, she presides over a confederacy of dunces.

People of color have many a shared experience that comes from being racially marked in a White society. One of my favorite examples of this social reality is the moment when a crime is announced on the evening news and we collectively grimace with the thought, "I hope he or she isn't black/brown/yellow/or red." I must also imagine that in a post 9/11 world, my Arab-American brothers and sisters likewise have a similar moment where they hold their collective breath in dread upon the announcement of some act of terrorism (real or imagined, in any part of the world).

Question: Do white people lower their heads in collective shame when they listen to Sarah Palin? Is there a moment where white folks shake their heads in mass and say to themselves, "Lord, I wish she weren't white?"

To be White is to be "normal," "invisible," and quintessentially "American." It is also the freedom to be an individual. When crazy white people bomb buildings, kill cops in the name of radical right wing politics, go on shooting rampages, or more generally just act like fools, it is never framed as a "White" problem. I would suggest that these actions are rarely, if ever, interrogated for what they reveal about Whiteness and/or white folk at large. In short, there is no "I hope that person isn't white" moment. Why? Because a given white person's actions are usually a reflection of their individual shortcomings, not a commentary on white people as a whole.

Efforts to communicate the essence of white privilege in American society are often made difficult because of the denial, fear, and vulnerability that comes from self-reflection about power. Moreover, in a time of economic calamity, white Americans are probably (and quite understandably) resistant to hearing about some "unearned privilege" when they are fighting for their financial lives. Surely, this is a time when conversations about the deep linkages between race, wealth, and white supremacy in the United States are an increasingly hard sell, even in so far as they remain especially true (as the old saying goes, "When White America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu...or worse").

Nevertheless, the need to discuss how race structures life opportunities remains necessary--and perhaps even more so--during our Great Recession. As opposed to the heavy theory and abstractions often favored by academics, scholars, and public intellectuals, I prefer practical common sense examples to prove my point. To that end, Sarah Palin is a perfect object lesson.

So, let's play a game of fill in the blanks. I will start:

If Sarah Palin were black
she would have disappeared into obscurity long ago.

If Sarah Palin were black, her daughter's out of wedlock, "baby daddy drama" would have been presented as an example of both pathological behavior and a dysfunctional family that is symbolic of the social problems in that community. If Sarah Palin were black, never would the poor decision making by the Palin family be marked off as challenges overcome, or deeds to be valorized.

If Sarah Palin were black, her neo-secessionist husband would have been the death knell for her political career, because as we all know you can't trust "those people."

If Sarah Palin were black, her lack of intellectual curiosity, willful and cultivated ignorance, and lack of grace both written and spoken, would not be taken as "folksy." Instead, Palin would be viewed as unqualified for any public office.

If Sarah Palin were black she would be tarred and feathered as an "affirmative action baby."


Tell me, how would you fill in the blank? If Sarah Palin were black she...


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
If Sarah Palin were black, she would have had a a really hard time reading the crib notes scribbled on her hand at the Tea Party convention. Sorry, that was really awful of me but I couldn't resist...
If the lurvly woman was black she would be ashamed of herself.
As she is white, she is a role model for all the other white women out there who have daughters with problems.
If I get started here I will type a whole post on her complete stupidity.
Even when we can't resist, we should try.
What the hell sort of loon is this Zyskandar fellow? I think it is perfectly acceptable to use the term "confederacy of dunces", just as "cult of personality" is a phrase so often bandied about as to be commonplace. No way is Chauncey plagiarizing or otherwise defrauding Mr Toole by use of his title.

To answer your question, Chauncey, as a white guy but also a liberal and an atheist, I don't cringe at Palin's stupidities and feel ashamed she's white. I cringe and feel ashamed she's a member of the human race.
"If Sarah Palin were black she would be Alan Keys"

That was easy.
If Sarah Palin were black: maybe black conservatives wouldn't have to hide from their own race.
If Sara Palin were black: progressives and blacks would still hate her. Progressives because she is arch conservative and blacks because they have been co-opted by the socialist left to the point that they care more about whether their politicians are socialist progressives than black.
If Sarah Palin were black: The Tea Party would get real mainstream media coverage instead of treated like a radical fringe group.
If Sarah Palin were black: she would be the darling of the media instead of the bane of MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC (All Barrak Chanel), the Huffington Post, The Daily KOS, and OS etc.
If Philos777 were black he would be Clayton Bigsby, and would lead the party to lynch himself.
Thanks for the interesting responses--the crazy and bizarre--included.

But I have to say check and mate to Anthony on that ownage of Philos777.

Good stuff.
If I were black I would listen to the current and past voices of independence, strength, reason, peace, intellect and virtue that modern progressive blacks have relegated to obscurity.

Instead of the black victimhood perpetuated by DuBois', Malcolm, Rev Wright, Bond, Jesse & Sharpton, I would look up to and emulate the character of real people like Booker T. Washington, Thomas Sowell, Renee Amoore, Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice & Walter Williams.

I would reject the failed ideologies that have infected the American black communities and re-enslaved them and made them subject to the white run entitlement culture called the DNC. Amen!!!!!
she would never have risen as high in office in Alaska! Blacks make up a paltry number in Alaska. She could only have been elected governor in Alaska, no other state
Zyskandar Jaimot is a shitfook!
You seem to be saying you would just be you with a darker tan. As far as your list of Black People you approve of I am amazed you missed Ward Connerly.
Your ideology blinds you. Blacks in America are doomed to continue their decline into mental, moral and social poverty until they abandon the failed socialist entitlement ideology that has re-enslaved them since that great and fatal movement called "Civil Rights".

Assimilation, support and enthusiastic belief in free market capitalism is the only thing that will save blacks in America. Small business and property ownership is their only hope.

Obama will be a one term president. If the damage he does to our system is not too grave, we will recover with a new zeal for free trade, environmental deregulation, lower taxes, less government intrusion, strong domestic security, protected borders and school choice.

These are the policies that will lift ALL Americans out of the bondage of the nanny state mentality. The playing field must be leveled for all in regards to opportunity. The ideological lie that the Progressives/Dems and their Robin Hood Obama leader have perpetrated for 50 years is the single worst thing to ever be wrought upon American black people.
I would have mentioned Ward Connerly but with all due respect, I agree with him because he rejects and defies the one drop rule. To my understanding he supports a multi-racial movement in the U.S. I do appreciate that he wants a truly colorless society. He is still a little too progressive for my tastes because of his unacceptable support of gay marriage.
If Sarah Palin were black, she would be Adrienne Ross.

I appear to have pushed your talking point button, it is so funny when that happens.
President Obama could be a one term President, even he has acknowledged that. For now though he is the President and that chaps your hide. I assure you that is good enough for me sleep with a smile on my face every night.
If Sarah Palin were black, we never would have heard of her. She never would have been Mayor of Wasilla Alaska, she never would have been Governor of Alaska. I live in Alaska, always have. I hang my head in shame over this woman. But, while I am a progressive, and I thankfully live in a town much, much, more progressive than Wasilla, I know my State is not. It used to be, way back before oil. But since the pipeline brought Texans, and Oklahomans and Big Oil, not so much. With the exception of the military, we do not have many African American residents. And "The Valley, where Sarah is from, and ruled as "Miss Wasilla", I can guarantee she did not have many black acquaintances, if any.
I missed the gold, so sorry. Ward Connerly is too progressive? Perhaps the reason you think other people are blinded by their ideology is you are an ideologue.
Anthony, I would support any president, black, white, brown, yellow, male or female as long as they love America, govern without prejudice or class warfare and put America's best interests first. Obama does none of the above and I sleep wonderfully also. My hide is not chapped in the least because thankfully his loser is not king.
Philo - If Sarah Palin were black, you wouldn't know who she was.

If Philo was black he would be Uncle Ruckus.

Ocular - You are too hard on Alan Keyes, he has read the constitution.
Kyle, you my sweet lady have your finger on the slow and dying pulse of OS. If it weren't for genuine people like you and Sarah, OS'ers and their culture of complaint would have nothing to complain about.
Kyle Dykman,
You presume an objective authority that you are far from achieving. The suggestion that I write about Ms. Palin because I hate her is far from the truth. I think that keeping Ms. Palin in the spotlight is the best thing that can happen for the progressive cause, as I perceive it. If, I hope I hope I hope, Ms. Palin should ever run for any office again there is a vast treasure trove of well documented evidence of her epic incompetence.
Kyle, can you explain the teleprompter fixation? Did you not see any highlights of Obama playing 1 vs 140 with the House Republicans and totally owning them? It was like watching Shaq dunk over a tribe of pygmies. Have you not listened to any of his one on one interviews and found him to be intelligent, articulate, and reasonable?

Back to the question: If Sarah Palin was black, she'd probably be waiting tables somewhere. She wouldn't have been able to switch colleges four times or gotten a break being the eye candy on the local news channel. She certainly would not have been elected governor or mayor. She'd be a nobody, much as she is today.
The media would not be talking about her because they would be called "RACIST"
Excellent post Chauncey! The problem of the minority (Black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever) is that each minority member represents both the individual person and the ethnic group. This additional pressure to "represent" is a burden that majority (white) members do not bear. The majority (white) individual is free to embellish stereo typical behavior, good or bad, while the minority individual absolutely cannot do this and is pressured to exemplify their belonging.

If Sarah Palin were black, not one, corn-pone Nazis tea bagger would attend her hate rallies.
I love how the Palin defenders have no case other than "She's not Obama". Yeah, no shit, what else you got?

As to the Bush blaming...if there's someone else to hang the BUSH Administration's innumberable failures on, please, enlighten us all.
DAMN it! I hate the fact that I can't type sometimes. INNUMERABLE FAILURES is what I meant to say.