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Thu, Mar. 20th, 2008, 09:05 pm
conversant1: I Know Everybody Loves Tim Wise, But ...

In light of discussions here on Rev. Wright, Barack Obama's speech and the post with the link to Tom Wise's essay: I saw this comment (pasted below) in a discussion on a blog and wonder -- what do people in this community think about the questions it raises?

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"From what I know, white anti-racists including but certainly not limited to Wise have for many many years been having elaborate conferences and building organizations and getting grants and other funds and writing and saying stuff.

Tim Wise in particular has been a white man who for many years has making an actual living off of saying and writing stuff that people of color have been saying and writing. And he gets lauded because in comparison to other white people what he says has much less BS in it.

I have been thinking about this white anti-racist thing in reference to the dynamics with Senator Obama -- because of how incredibly functionally irrelevant the work of white anti-racists has been (IMO) in actually affecting the way that white people collectively comprehend reality.

Tim Wise and co will say that white people will listen better to other white people so that's why he and others should be the ones saying things (and in his case and some others, making a wage of of it).

Barack Obama spoke for himself. Other Black people from various perspectives spoke and are speaking and writing about this as is obvious here.

But so now, predictably, here comes the white anti-racist whose one claim to attention is that he is white and so (the story goes) is uniquely qualified to be heard by other white people so his words should be lauded even though nothing he says is particularly more useful analytically than what anyone else is saying. He certainly isn't uniquely insightful apart from that IMO.

What exactly has all that energy and time and conferences and discussion groups and etc etc from the white anti-racists, and all the money/resources flowing to the white anti-racists, for all these years -- what exactly has that done to actually affect the overall white comprehension they claim to be all about affecting, that's what I want to know. Because they have been taking resources and talking and writing for some time now and so far as I can see it has not had any sort of real visceral affect on white comprehension in a collective way.

And yeah I knew in this situation with Senator Obama it was only a matter of time before Tim Wise Himself would come along and write something seeking to "explain" what others have already explained, and do it on the basis that as a white person he has the ears and attention of other white people in a unique way. That's the story.

I would like to know if anyone is holding Tim and other white people who have been taking resources in the name of "educating other white people" really accountable. Instead of just lauding his words which are usually more or less accurate and predictably appear over and over and over again whenever racism comes up nationally, predictably saying what others have said, predictably "explaining" and "analyzing" issues that others have done already --

I would like to know who is holding him and other white people who have been making a living off of being professional anti-racists (as teachers hired for expertise in this area, as consultants, as speakers/writers etc) accountable for what their methods are, what their strategies are, why their work has not had more of an impact, as we can see right now in this situation?

All those words, the conferences, the words words words, the assumed "best" strategy of raising individual white awareness, after the resources that have flowed into white anti-racist "work" -- as far as I can see, it hasn't made one bit of real difference in how white people collectively actually respond to situations like this.

But Tim Wise stays on course, offering more words and more and more, defining and talking and writing and riding the story of "white people can hear other white people better." And the white anti-racist "work" will continue overall, riding on that story and not seeming to take a harsh look at itself and asking why it has not made a real impact on white collective "awareness.""

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 09:22 am (UTC)
angel_one

Personally I think its much better that he, as a white man, holds these views and is out there speaking about them regardless of whether or not anyone is listening. At least he cares enough to try. Because what's the alternative? That he just continue to be blind and racist like most other white people? And besides, how do you know he hasn't made a difference? Maybe its not significant but we're talking a handful of white anti-racists out there. Its not like the majority of people are listening to the millions of voices of POC either, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep speaking out, right?
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 09:47 am (UTC)
angel_one

For some reason that link isn't working for me. It just refreshes this page.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
olamina: thanks for posting this.

I hadn't thought about it up til now, but I knew there was a reason I was always annoyed to hear Tim Wise brought up and I never wanted to read anything he wrote. He and his ilk are heavily invested in their whiteness to an uncomfortable point. Their starting point is the assumption that whites only wish to get their information from other whites. This is a racist and stupid assumption. And even if it were so, wouldn't the MORE RADICAL thing be to push the lines? To operate from a place of radical courage and encourage challenging new discourse and interactions? Why the white accomodationism?

White anti-racism should not be a paying-job, it is an ethical responsibility. While I am critical of all "non-profit activism", I think the writer made a valid point that Wise and the crew are siphoning funds from other possibly more important groups so they can keep doing the same old stuff.

Tue, Mar. 25th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
schoolofsoul: Re: thanks for posting this.

It's never been my impression that this is Wise's viewpoint. Although he does refer to himself as "white," I wouldn't go so far as to state that he is "heavily invested in (his) whiteness."

Moreover, he's said on more than one occasion that he'd prefer that white people listen to POC, but because they often don't, perhaps they'll listen to him, given that he's a white man. It's not so much a matter of profiting off that racism, than it is using that racism in order for anti-racist views to be communicated. Assuming that whites will listen to other whites over non-whites is neither a racist, nor stupid, assumption. In fact, it isn't an assumption at all. Consider the target audience - the "I'm not a racist, but..." whites who specifically will listen to a white person over a POC. That's who Wise is trying to reach. Not the white person who'll listen to POC. But even there, Wise routinely gets challenged and called a "racist" who "hates white people" because of his views. How many people are willing to stay in an industry that ensures name-calling and death threats (yes, he's gotten them) as part of the job?

Wise is an author, public speaker, educator, and activist. While it would be nice if money did not exist, and bills did not have to be paid, and one could perform ethical responsibilities without the bothersome worry of making sure there's food on the table and the lights stay on, receiving remuneration for one's efforts is not really out of line, nor is it unethical. Wise's primary role is as an educator - he educates white people to recognize their white privilege and work to end it. Unless you think all education should be free (and the only way that will happen is if we have robots for our teachers), then it's not inappropriate for Wise to be compensated for his efforts, no more so than it is for any other public speaker, author, or educator to be compensated. Dr. Cornel West gets compensated for his speeches, books, and articles. Nobody complains (nor should they). Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is compensated for his books, essays, and public appearances. Nobody bats an eyelash. But when Tim Wise does essentially the same thing, he should be uncompensated just because he's white? Come on. You can't fight injustice with injustice.

Tue, Mar. 25th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
olamina: Re: thanks for posting this.

Dr. Cornel West gets compensated for his speeches, books, and articles. Nobody complains (nor should they). Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is compensated for his books, essays, and public appearances. Nobody bats an eyelash. But when Tim Wise does essentially the same thing, he should be uncompensated just because he's white? Come on. You can't fight injustice with injustice.

I don't think any of those other people are working towards any grand anti-racist campaign either. I am not saying Wise should go without pay because he's white, I am saying working against racism should not be a job unless you are explicitly working so that your job will no longer exist, and that runs entirely counter to the capitalist system that they are all invested in. This "he's a good guy but the world is tough" rap is not flying with me. He's totally spineless and is doing accomodationist work so that the huddled masses don't rise up. He's doing the "capitalism with a human face" project that is still taking us on the same ride in the same direction. If he gets out and throws himself in front of the train or actively does anything interesting to stop it then let me know, but until then I am not interested in his "humanitarian" work.

Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
schoolofsoul: Re: thanks for posting this.

I don't think any of those other people are working towards any grand anti-racist campaign either.

Really? Do you even know who those two other men are and what they do? Are you familiar with the works of Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson?

I am not saying Wise should go without pay because he's white, I am saying working against racism should not be a job unless you are explicitly working so that your job will no longer exist, and that runs entirely counter to the capitalist system that they are all invested in. This "he's a good guy but the world is tough" rap is not flying with me. He's totally spineless and is doing accomodationist work so that the huddled masses don't rise up.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you not previously indicate that you haven't read anything that Tim Wise has written? If that is indeed the case, how do you feel fully qualified to pass judgment on his viewpoint and his anti-racist works? On what basis do you make your claim that Tim Wise is "spineless" and "accomodationist" given the fact that you've read absolutely none of his writing before?

He's doing the "capitalism with a human face" project that is still taking us on the same ride in the same direction.

He is? Which essay of his do you base this claim upon? Are you even familiar with Tim Wise's political and economic viewpoints?

If he gets out and throws himself in front of the train or actively does anything interesting to stop it then let me know, but until then I am not interested in his "humanitarian" work.

Who said anything about Tim Wise in regards to "humanitarian" work? Please, let's deal with known, verifiable facts, not hearsay and maybes and second-guesses based on assumptions. Thanks.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 11:45 am (UTC)
olamina: the alternative

What's the alternative? Uh....

He could live by example, like John Brown. See this small transcript from John Brown's Holy War documentary. . There is power in showing the world you believe what you say, not just in a demonstrative "look at me" kind of way, but in a committed daily behaviour.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
conversant1: "Hypocrisy as a Way of Life"

olamina wrote: There is power in showing the world you believe what you say, not just in a demonstrative "look at me" kind of way, but in a committed daily behaviour.

Yes. Actually, this brings to my mind one of the (not-satirical) links in the satirical website that fire_fly mentions below:

Hypocrisy as a Way of Life

PS I'm finding this whole discussion very interesting and am thinking about all of it.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 01:04 pm (UTC)
mythgene

Your icon... omg... priceless!

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
angel_one

Fittingly enough, it is a quote from Tim Wise that he said during one of his lectures in Oakland. I thought it was really funny, so I made it into an icon.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
frightened

making an actual living off of saying and writing stuff that people of color have been saying and writing

Wow. That notion, what's wrong with it, really should've been obvious to me. I mean, in theory I knew all the stuff you ought to know to get there. But it's never hit home like that before.

Thank you for posting it.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
marciamarcia

IAWTC

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
fire_fly

This satirical website comes to mind here.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
phoam909

Anti-racism as a whole hasn't made a real impact on collective White awareness, regardless of source. But I think T.W. is right in that White folks, especially those who are not actively trying to be anti-racist, are less likely to off-handedly dismiss words coming out of another White's mouth. I also think Wise gets the resources that he does in part because he is White, and more White people listen to him. Anyway, no amount of "education," discourse, or speeches will change social structures or the "consciousness of masses." That helps individuals. To fix structures, change structures, or influence people with the power to do so.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC)
existentme

Leave it to a white person like me not to recognize these things.

I do have to say, that I wonder what kind of an essay White would write in response to your own, here - it could be interesting.

I have to agree on the difference his work has not made on white collective awareness. But, perhaps, the effects (that I cannot imagine he has not had on individuals) will eventually make a more collective difference. While I'd like to see him answer this write up, for sure, I don't think stopping what he's doing, even if he changes the way he does it, is an answer, though.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
whittles

One of the places I've actually seen Wise really appreciated has been in POC circles. Time and time again I hear POC folks bemoan being the one to always have to call out racist shit, bemoan being the only ones writing about racism in any sort of critical or progressive way. And I've definitely witnessed POC express gratitude and praise for the writings of Tim Wise. Because in their eyes he's being an Ally.

I've never gotten the impression from the majority of white folks doing anti-racist work that they see themselves as the "best" strategy so much as a piece of the multi-directional strategy that's necessary. I've seen them working as an attempt to respond to the "don't come to us to be your teachers" often heard by Whites from POC. Trying to educate their own.

Maybe part of the reason I don't see as much of a problem with this work is because I haven't seen the extent to which it has become a place for financial profit. I haven't seen the level of resources go into White antiracism work that the writer is claiming. I'm not saying that my reality is more accurate, just explaining where my views are coming from.

Also from personal experience, I have seen plenty of white folks respond better to an article by Wise because he is white and they feel less defensive around him. The construction of that is obviously quite problematic, but if it's an effective way to get some folks engaged and bring them further into conversations that they previously avoided then I'm all for it.

Tue, Mar. 25th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
schoolofsoul

One of the places I've actually seen Wise really appreciated has been in POC circles. Time and time again I hear POC folks bemoan being the one to always have to call out racist shit, bemoan being the only ones writing about racism in any sort of critical or progressive way. And I've definitely witnessed POC express gratitude and praise for the writings of Tim Wise. Because in their eyes he's being an Ally.

THANK YOU! Wise is appreciated by quite a few POC, who consider him a breath of fresh air. I've seen many of his essays re-posted on POC-centered blogs and message boards. damali ayo is just one blogger who loves and appreciates all he does. It's always been my experience that it's on the predominantly Caucasian boards that he and his essays are challenged and vilified.

I've never gotten the impression from the majority of white folks doing anti-racist work that they see themselves as the "best" strategy so much as a piece of the multi-directional strategy that's necessary. I've seen them working as an attempt to respond to the "don't come to us to be your teachers" often heard by Whites from POC. Trying to educate their own.

Again, THANK YOU. If anyone thinks Tim is self-aggrandizing and in it only for the big bucks (?), I suggest they send him a direct note on his MySpace page and ask him about this. He does respond.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
gendertrouble

>>Tim Wise and co will say that white people will listen better to other white people so that's why he and others should be the ones saying things. <<

i'm not sure this is the case. i think the argument is more that white people, like wise, should be talking about this, not because white people won't listen to non-white people, but because it's the right thing to do.

i don't think wise is beyond reproach, but i also think he does more good than harm.

i always assumed he didn't make his whole living from being a speaker, since it seems more people who write books like that and speak are usually teachers or something, so i can see where that would be frustrating, but i don't think it's a super huge injustice, just something to think about when he's being lauded.

that said, as little 'progress' as we've seen in the collective racism of white folks, we have to think about the hundreds of years of white supremacy we're working against. i don't think that a few decades of wise's work can be declared a failure because there is still racism.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
hardheadhabit

thanks for saying what i couldn't quite articulate.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
maevele

As I watch more and more public white folks say dumb shit, I'm just glad for Wise, because I can point to him and say, "see, some white people get it, we're not all assholes"


And I think behind the whole presumption that whites will listen better to whites about racism is the racist notion that because it affects them personally, black people can't be being objective about racism. So Wise, coming at it from an academic angle as a white guy, can get through a little bit to the people who immediately get defensive and scared when hearing a black person talk about racism, and can't be written off as just another angry POC.

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
stoneself: meh

no one listens to poc.
we're all angry.

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 11:06 am (UTC)
maerhys

I think the original commenter is referencing the non-profit industrial complex and how capitalism and grant funding loves to reward the Tim Wises of the world. It's not that what he is saying is WRONG just that it's not as good as it is hyped to be. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, for one, springs to mind as someone who writes on the same issues as Wise but is not linked or referenced as much by white folks claiming to be anti-racist. It's the the nature of the beast, white folks are always going to be lauded even if it is just a recapitulation.

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)
fire_fly

A lot of people in this thread are supporting the Tim Wise Model of White Anti-Racism on the grounds that even if he is capitalising on his whiteness to restate what scholars of colour already say, then the potential result (that white people may begin to listen to anti-racism) justifies his stance.

I.e. The Ends Justify The Means.

This seems to be a very short-term strategy. If the Tim Wises of the world depend on their whiteness to reach white people, how are they doing anti-racist work? If they make their livelihood on the basis of appropriating the work of poc and restating it for white people, how is that anti-racist? How is it different from the race relations inherent in any other exploitative colonial relationship? What is the anti-racist outcome of this work meant to be? What part does it play in the process of dismantling white supremacy?

Because without that kind of big-picture analysis, Wise's work can't achieve much, regardless of how many white people he "reaches" or whose "awareness" is raised by his work. Supporting white anti-racism needs to be strategic, but people are calling to support it without any strategy at all.

People are also supporting the Tim Wise Model on the fallacious grounds that it's the 'only game in town'. As I said, that's a fallacy. It isn't true that a professionalised white anti-racism, as part of the non-profit industrial complex, is the only alternative to racism. There are many alternatives that include supporting more poc who write about race issues.

However, none of those alternatives hinge on white peoples' minds being changed, or white people endlessly talking to each other about racism.

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
the_automatik

Several commenters have referenced the idea that Wise is reaching other white people or raising awareness about racism with other white people.

I also have concerns that white people won't listen to what POC say unless it is filtered through another white person.

And I definitely understand and have concerns about Wise and other white anti-racists appropriating POC anti-racist messages, especially for profit.

However, I know that I would never have been made aware of an anti-racism approach to life/mentality were it not for the specific actions/words of POC. It's the POC on this community, for example, who have truly opened my eyes. I like Wise and he says good things, but he was not the key for my awareness.

How are we white folk to learn about how best to be anti-racist if not from a POC? How could another white person teach us unless they themselves learned from another POC?

I've seen a lot of suggestions on various posts here throughout the last few years that there are ways for us white folks to approach other white folks about their racism and that screaming, "You're a racist!" tends to shut the conversation down. Wise's method seems to be more successful.

If white people raising awareness with other white people is the first step for whites to get the message, then I personally don't think that's a bad thing, profit aspect aside. Somewhere in the past, some white person actually listened to a POC and realized, "hey, racism is fucked up; let's work against it."

Is it the profit aspect that bothers people? Or is it the appropriation? If Wise made no money from his writings/speeches, would that be less problematic?

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
jinnigan

Speaking as an Asian-American student, the person who truly got me started in these issues and inspires me is, ironically, a heterosexual white male.

But, talking to everyone he's had an impact on, talking to students who've taken classes with him and seeing how they've changed as a result - he is really and truly making a difference. Many of these students I'm now working with to continue where he's left off, as he's going to be leaving our college soon.

So there are absolutely white anti-racists who are going in the right direction.

Now, my teacher is not Tim Wise. However, his "White Like Me" was maybe one of the biggest lightbulbs that helped shape and define my thinking on race.

It's hard to see the effect that Tim Wise and other white anti-racists have on the nation, but I believe that that's because anti-racism work currently still has to happen on a personal level.

Mon, Mar. 24th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
stoneself: so...

could tim wise spend more time telling white people to listen to poc more? would that do any good? could tim wise more time telling white people that most of of the stuff he's writing is stuff he's learned from listening to poc?

Tue, Mar. 25th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
schoolofsoul: Re: so...

Why not ask Tim this question himself? He's very accessible.

Tue, Mar. 25th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
stoneself: Re: so...

well that might be interesting.

but would yes/no to any of those really questions satisfy?

as a poc queer i've learned to live with dissatisfaction as long as there is some forward looking movement.

Fri, Mar. 28th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC)
schoolofsoul: Re: so...

well that might be interesting.

but would yes/no to any of those really questions satisfy?

as a poc queer i've learned to live with dissatisfaction as long as there is some forward looking movement.


It never hurts to ask.

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 08:41 am (UTC)
conversant1: Information on Tim Wise's perspective

Here's a link with some quoted perspective from Tim Wise on his work, getting paid for it etc. The author (not Tim Wise) mentions this discussion.

Because I have this information…