The White Elephant in Romney’s Room

Stephanie Li, Huffington Post, September 26, 2012

Mitt Romney’s recently leaked comments to Republican fundraisers are a stunning illustration of how poorly the former governor understands his own racial identity. Romney has tried to use his racial identity—his whiteness—to his advantage with his comment last August “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.” But the leaked video reveals something more pernicious: his utter blindness to his own privilege. For decades, scholars in the field of critical race theory have demonstrated how “whiteness” is not a universal standard but instead a specific social identity built upon unearned entitlements. Romney’s whiteness is most flagrant not in the remarkable privilege he enjoyed, but in his denial of how his race has fundamentally influenced his life’s trajectory.

In the video, Romney states: “Everything that Ann and I have we earned the old-fashioned way, and that’s by hard work.” While it’s true that Romney gave his father’s inheritance to charity, the former governor’s statement entirely disregards the unearned privileges of his upbringing and race. He attended prestigious private schools, and according to statements made by Ann Romney while students at Brigham Young University, the couple lived off the sale of stock Romney received from his father. Romney was later accepted into Harvard Law School while his father, former governor of Michigan George Romney, was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon.

It is impossible to precisely quantify how George Romney’s political success and wealth influenced his son’s rise to national prominence, but the two are hardly independent developments. No doubt Mitt Romney has worked hard; however, a statement like, “I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success,” made by Ann Romney at last month’s Republican National Convention, is surely naïve at best. Romney’s remarkable wealth is built not just on his own efforts, but also upon the educational, political, financial and racial foundation provided by his parents.

The Romney’s shortsightedness on this issue demonstrates their ignorance of one of the central ideas in the field of critical race studies, the unearned privileges accorded to whiteness. In her foundational essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh likens whiteness to “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” McIntosh goes on to list dozens of ways in which her whiteness provides her with greater degrees of social validation, convenience, comfort, safety and opportunity. She enumerates how because of her whiteness she “can be sure that if I ask to talk to ‘the person in charge’ I will be facing a person of my race” and “Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.” Read by countless high school and college students every year, McIntosh’s essay is a classic in understanding how whiteness, with its close associations to financial stability, remains an invisible standard in American society. {snip}

Romney truly is the whitest man to run for president because he doesn’t realize how his whiteness has influenced his life and how his class standing provided him with remarkable educational and financial opportunities. Instead he explains in the leaked video, “I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America.” Romney’s blindness to his own racial and class privilege feeds into the myth of meritocracy, the false illusion that simply by hard work and steely determination, it is possible to attain the American dream. According to the 2010 census, 40 percent of black children are born into poverty compared to 8 percent of white children. None of these children, black or white, are born with silver spoons.


{snip} Romney’s blindness to his own racial privilege is a further function of his whiteness and its invisible entitlements. It would not be fair to criticize Romney because he was born to great privilege. But it would be naïve not to judge him for his unwillingness to acknowledge it.

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  • Enar_Larsson

    1. If “Romney’s blindness to his own racial privilege is a further function of his whiteness and its invisible entitlements”, then blindness is a constituent part of his whiteness, so he will never gain sight until he ceases to be white. He must first be cured of his whiteness.
    2. I actually agree that Romney’s comments about working for everything he has are on the absurd side. It has nothing to do with his race, however, and everything to do with his class. This article provides some evidence that his class has helped him but says nothing about his race has helped him. It merely interjects that bit about the knapsack but it is has nothing to do with the rest of the article or with Romney.
    3. If whites don’t deserve privileges made possible by our ancestors, then blacks do not deserve privileges made possible by their ancestors (i.e., being black) or those made possible by our ancestors (i.e., medicine, plumbing, written language, Nikes, voting rights, birth control, whiskey, affirmative action, etc.)

  • Barrack Osama

     Romney has the privilege of having half of his tribe vote for the other guy. If only he had that black privilege of virtual 100% voter loyalty.

  • MekongDelta69

    If the HuffPo had to take truth serum before writing their usual idiotic race baiting articles, you might see something like:

    The Black Elephant in Obama’s Room


    The White Elephant in Arianna Huffington’s Room


    The Yellow Elephant in Stephanie Li’s Room

    (You can fill in the rest of the blanks in this dopey article.)

  • jedsrael

    Romney’s dad was a leading supporter of Civil Rights.

    When Romney loses, we can all say BARAK OBAMA IS JEFFERSON DAVIS’ REVENGE.

    If too many illegal votes are tossed out by SCOTUS  from Nov. 2012- March 2013, giving Romney the victory, his pro Diversity and pro Amnesty initiatives 2013-2016 will decimate the future of White Humanity up North.  


  • Ulick

    “Romney truly is the whitest man to run for president because he doesn’t realize how his whiteness has influenced his life and how his class standing provided him with remarkable educational and financial opportunities.”

    Every single white man that ran for President prior to Cultural Marxism creeping into our society didn’t feel guilty about being white or think their whiteness accorded them special opportunity.  I’m guessing white people on the frontier weren’t thinking “Man, it’s awesome to have these special white privileges” as they were attacked by the Navajo for the fifth time that year.  I’m guessing the white Texans at the Alamo weren’t thinking, “Man, we got it so much easier than these Mexicans.” 

    Most NAMs simply can’t accept that their failure is all on their lack of talent and work ethic, and white success is built on better white talent and work ethic.  Chalking the divide up as “white privilege” is so much easier than admitting the uncomfortable truth.

  • But race is just a social construct.  How can Liberalism (Tm) and Critical Race Theory (Tm) exist in the same ideology?  That’s what us “privileged” white folks call a PARADOX!

    • Sheila Dinehart

      It takes a radical liberal to create a racist in the first place so he can have something to whine about…

  • JohnEngelman

    Mitt Romney’s advantages were advantages of class. A white male blue collar worker will have affirmative action policies between him and everything he tries to achieve. 

    • Eagle_Eyed

       People didn’t continue reinvesting in Bain because of Romney and his cohorts were born rich.  They did so because Bain was (and is) good at managing money and earning returns on investment.  Romney had advantages many others don’t, this is to be sure.  But he also worked and earned what he received as an adult.

      • JohnEngelman

        Mitt Romney’s father produced cars and jobs. What has Mitt produced? 

        • Shawn_thefemale

          Five White male Republican voters.

    • Tom_in_Miami

      You nailed it.

  • Biff_Maliboo

    Ms. Li is very accomplished at accomplishing academic works of significant value. She also teaches a graduate seminar in “Slave Narratives and Neo-Slave (?) Narratives.”

    • Sheila Dinehart

      Hell I just can’t wait to sign up for that course…

  • Sheila Dinehart

    hell…what’s wrong wif you girl?  Romney *is* the white elephant in the room!


    After Romney elected there will be time to thing about privilege.  I am white and cannot get a free Obama cell phone.

  • IstvanIN

    I am white and I do not have any “white privilege”, nor does anyone in my family.  That being said one must remember that George Romney was born in Mexico.  His family fled Mexico due to the 1910 revolution.  He grew up in the US on Welfare.  He worked his way out of poverty.  He was a bright young man who took American Motors from a money losing firm in 1954 to profitable in 1958.  By the early 1960s Rambler was the third most popular auto make in the US.  He then went on to become governor of Michigan.  Sounds to me like George was a self-made man.  It is ridiculous to expect that he would not have raised his children, including Mitt, in better circumstances than he himself had been.  Mitt took the advantages his father was able to provide and ran with them, also becoming successful. I am tired of the whole jealous of the rich routine.

    A father SHOULD provide for his family.  A MAN should work hard.  A WOMAN should be married to the father of her children.  If blacks followed just those recipes for success maybe they or their children wouldn’t be quite the drags on society that they are.

    As for Ms. Li:

    Would she not have a leg up in her native country of China over a black or white man because she is CHINESE?  Why is that so wrong?  Or is it only wrong for a white person to have a leg up in a country built by and for whites?  I am sick of non-white “minorities” who came here voluntarily, or whose parents came here voluntarily, telling me I am bad simply because I am white in a country founded and built by whites.  And for all you Asia-philes, you can have them, in fact you should all go to Asia.

    • dmxinc


      I will gladly send your statement to Ms. Li. If you will allow it.

  • SarahConnor

    All I want to say is boo f#*%ing Hoo Steph Li!

    Umm…wonder if she got into college with the elephant in the room AFFIRMATIVE ACTION?

  • bubo

    You can feel the contempt and hatred this woman has for whites.     Like virtually all leftist minorities, as well as many whites, what she is really saying is, “Your time is over white man.  This is MY country now.”
    How anyone can believe that there will not be blood when it all goes down is beyond me.  

  • White Privilege is a theory of simple-minded, narcissistic idealists who went to college, but never learned a valuable skill, trade or profession. This theory never attempts to answer simple questions like:

    Why do people like the very black Oprah have more money than 99.99% of White people? Why is it that Oprah’s cash flow was a direct result of her audience which was overwhelmingly White?

    Why are there millions upon millions of White people who are unemployed, homeless or living below or near the poverty line?

    Why are black people in a White-majority America much, much better off than their African counterparts who have virtually no White people, much less White people with some kind of privilege?

    If White people are such a detriment to black people and other minorities, then why do those minorities seek out White communities, but almost never vice versa? Why do they not stay in those communities they’ve taken over and make themselves a black utopia with no White privilege?

    Why are blacks and other minorities accepted into universities, management positions, and given promotions when there are countless White people with better test scores and qualifications who were passed over?

    People like Timmy Wise base much of their theories of White Privilege on speculation, selective reasoning, and sheer hypocrisy and hatred. I’ve heard every “logical” account of what White Privilege is supposed to be, but I’ve yet to see a single balanced and reasonable explanation of how it applies to the 21st century.

    If you are White and poor or don’t fit the definition of White Privilege(most White people don’t), they ignore the contradiction. If you are White and very successful in any way, it’s an automatic indication of White Privilege. Trying to reason with insanity is an act of insanity.

  • JohnEngelman

    That is not how he got richer than is father, who actually produced cars and jobs. Romney was born rich and got  richer as a vulture capitalist. 

  • currahee1911

    People like author Stephanie Li remind me of the Claire Wolf quote:

    “America is at that awkward stage; it’s
    too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.”

    I want the awkwardness to end.

  • This is funny. The most privileged people in America are the Jews and, after them, the gays. Those two groups are vastly over-represented at the upper reaches of power. If anything, people who are opposed to ‘gay marriage’ –premised on the notion that fecal penetration between two men is the biological and moral basis for marriage–are far more likely to be discriminated against for elite positions than people who are for the radical gay agenda. What we have is totalitolerance. 

    So, will Jewish politicians talk about their power and privilege? Will gays in the upper ranks of society speak out about their gay privilege?  I certainly don’t hear anything.  Where are the Jews in Wall Street, media, Hollywood, and etc. admitting their privilege and power? If anything, Rick Sanchez called out on it, he was blacklisted(worse than the ‘victims’ of McCarthyism), and Huffington Post obviously didn’t offer him a job. 

    There was white privilege in the past but mostly for rich people. Most white people in American history toiled on farms, worked in factories, built roads, fought and died in wars, and struggled to make ends meet. Most whites were never born into ‘privilege’. Also, ‘privilege’ is  a relative thing. Compared to poor in the Third World, EVERY American is privileged. What does that prove? Romney gained from rich privilege than white privilege. Had he been to a hillbilly family working in the coal mines in West Viriginia, he’d likely be called ‘white trash’.  He was born into a rich family and he lucked out that way. That’s rich privilege, not white privilege. 

    And in today’s America, there is no privilege for being born white and working class or poor. Poor whites are not favored for their whiteness. Indeed, kids born to rich blacks and poor blacks are favored over white kids born to poor families.  Even kids born to illegals are favored over kids born to poor and working class white families. 

    Black Preference IS a reality. But nothing comes anywhere near Jewish Privilege and Gay Privilege. Jews and gays together supply 80% of the funds to the Democratic Party. Though only 4% of the population, they control the dominant political party, Hollywood, media, academia, and etc. As such, they also control the US military as soldiers take over from the Zionist controlled government. 

    • 5n4k33y3s

      It’s called power, not privilege. 

  • She’s a yellow privileged bitch. 

    • 5n4k33y3s

      Reciprocating her racism isn’t pretty, but that’s exactly what she says about white men.

  • 5n4k33y3s

    It’s called power, not privilege. 


  • I’ve read some comments on the huff puff. Most are- unexpectedly- OK (seems that even many liberals are fed up with this idiocy.

    But, one comment thread end really made me laugh:


    53 Fans

    This is a very unfortunate article, Ms. Li. Much bothers me from it, but this line sticks out:

    “For decades, scholars in the field of critical race theory have
    demonstrated how “whiteness” is not a universal standard but instead a
    specific social identity built upon unearned entitlements.”

    Richly-born (anyone – just pick one) have it much better off than anyone
    white or otherwise who’s middle to lower or lowest income.

    Every year, my employers parade summer interns across a stage at
    summer’s end, all African-American, bright kids, nice, etc., with each
    one if the 25 or so getting 100% free rides to 4-year schools, for

    My son, on the other hand, deploys to Afghanistan again in a couple
    days, as desire high honors in the int’l MYP and IB (Int’l Bacc), no
    such scholarships, not even recognized at universities he applied to,
    despite IB being much more advanced than AP (sic) courses in h.s. His
    English, Maths, science, two languages are commensurate with the 14th
    grade, several higher than the nice, polite, free-scholarshipped

    So will he do 30 years for his country like his white father (of several nationalities) or receive that ”

    This is to say: where the hell’s my son’s “privileged …knapsack” McIntosh writes of and you parrot?


    Greg Rosen

    you did not read that article very closely. “Whiteness” is not just the
    racial modifier. But i imagine that your son did have several privileges
    that many lower income families may not have been able to provide. to
    start with, he took IB classes, and received a very good education. Also
    your son has a paycheck, something that your unpaid interns probably
    could use.

    Matthew Servello

    Shut up.