9.11.2010

For POC with Tim Wise Issues....

So...RVCBard drew my attention to some Tim Wise interviews, debates, discussions, etc. (Racialicious, Racialicious Again, LiveJournal).  His perceived arrogance, financial setup, and such were under hot debate!  And while it was great to see POC asserting themselves and holding their own, a few things sort of nagged at me.

I'll admit I like reading Tim Wise's essays (he is a good writer after all) and quoting him on my blog, particularly when I'm trying to make a point to white people...a habit which I'm trying to break, mind you.  I also love wearing my pajama pants and occasionally watching a Tim Wise vid on YouTube on a Sunday afternoon.  But while I enjoy his speaking and writing styles, he never tells me anything new (by his own admission, no less!).  So naturally, I didn't realize he's considered "the face of anti-racism".  I just figured he's "the face of white anti-racism" - clueless Moi, I know.  And I while don't mind that he gets paid or writes books; I don't understand why POC pay to read/see him - we already know this stuff.

Now, does Tim Wise know his stuff?  Sure...to an extent.  Like, on paper.  Not to spit on the dude or anything, but he ain't no John Brown*.  *shrug* Call me a picky woman, but in matters of race in America, accept no substitutions.  Should Tim be gettin' paid for what he does?  Doesn't bother me...so long as the money ain't POC's.

See, if we were to actually suggest white Americans have a "culture", then we would probably place individualism and capitalism in the very center of said culture.  And while some of you are probably thinking, "Well, duh", let me remind you that y'all were the ones getting surprised/annoyed/offended/appalled that a white dude is making money and getting famous from his work in anti-racism, being fanboyed/fangirled left and right by white kids, and all the while, he's not even remotely changing their minds about a damn thing.  Because when it comes to white people's reaction to Tim Wise fans, I can't help but notice they react in either one of two ways: they either hate his guts, or they worship him for all the wrong reasons.

And this, I believe, is "that thing" no one seems able to put their finger on.  Tim Wise is a potential resource to white Americans, because in all the years of his activity, he's yet to move past the "potential" status.

Pop quiz, children: for all his speaking, and writing, and reaching "millions"...do any one of you see a noticeable change in white America?  For all his educating and training of others, Tim Wise is just another "quick fix" to white Americans, along with having mixed babies, being Bohemian, voting for Obama, and "helping" black people reclaim the word "nigga".  Why boycott a corporation when you can buy an anti-racist T-shirt?  Why march on Washington when you can retweet an essay?  Why actually confront and dismantle white privilege on a consistent, everyday basis when you can just say, "Look, I'm aware of it, okay?  And yes, I get that it's fucked up so stop talking to me about it."

White Americans who like Tim Wise are just glad he doesn't "make them look bad".  They're not remotely interested in what he's actually saying; they most likely feel that if they merely carry his books around, that'll be their "anti-racism pass".  He's their "safe alternative" to reading the so-called Slave Narratives, or the writings of Douglass, DuBois, Hurston, X, Garvey, or any post-colonial African writers...you know, anything that might bring them down or cause them to have an inconvenient Amazing Grace.

Is it really a surprise, then, that the whole "white anti-racism" thing isn't causing more widespread change in white America?  I mean...it ain't like folks didn't already predict this.

Now, I realize this mess is upsetting the hell out of some of my fellow POC who fight the good fight.  You're busting your asses, being patient, running informative blogs, organizing events, and trying to cooperate with a stubbornly uncooperative system.  So I've compiled a few Fashion Tips from Moi on how to deal with white folks who absolutely insist upon talking about race with you ('cause you know they will).

Do Not Debate; Declare

I avoid racial debates because I've come to realize that debating is just another derailing tactic.  POC, do not fall for this scam.  There is nothing to "debate".  Talking about racism in America should not be an argument, it isn't a competitive sport, and no one should be aiming to "win" - I've said this before.  Racism exists.  It is widespread.  It is a problem.  It's not as bad as white folks think because it's actually much, much worse.  Anyone trying to skirt around this issue is a selfish sociopath, and not a decent human being.  This is not up for "debate".

So if you come across a white American who wants to argue, cloud the issue, split hairs, etc., then you've reached the end of the conversation - period.  Social justice is not a cult; it's not your job to "convert" people.  They have to choose to either be a decent human being or to support the racist colonialist system that is America.  Establish these boundaries immediately and stick to them.  Look for code words and phrases to indicate their disposition.  If they talk a lot about their "opinions", end the conversation.  If they ask you if you really do experience racism, ask them why they're asking you that.  If they start with lines like, "I can't imagine," "I refuse to believe," "I just don't see," and the like, end the conversation.

And no, you do not have to be nice about it.

Racial Discussion Is Not an "Exchange" of Ideas

One of the popular lines from white Americans who talk about race online is, "This is why we need to have these conversations more often."  One of the popular POC sentiments is, "There are centuries' worth of literature on racism in America."  My version: "We've already been having this conversation.  We've been having it for centuries.  You just didn't want to listen, and you still don't.  So if we're going to do this, it's going to start with your listening.  This isn't about what we can learn from each other - this is about you learning from me, and you're already behind by four centuries.  There are no two ways about it.  It is non-negotiable.  If that hurts your feelings or bruises your ego, then admit to yourself now that you are weak and not cut out for this."

Do Not End Racial Discussions on a Positive Note

Psychology 101, kids: if white people end racial discussions on an optimistic, the-future-is-bright note, they stop thinking about what they were hearing about only moments earlier.  They're happy, they feel absolved, and they tell themselves that things "will eventually work themselves out".  In short, they're not motivated to do anything.  That's why they have to leave these discussions bothered, troubled, and deeply perturbed.  They need to hear and see the worst, and they need it all at once.  POC don't get a slow, gentle, candy-coated introduction to the pains of American racism.  Never have.  White folks shouldn't get to either.

Maintain Realistic Expectations

White Americans have had 400 years to "get it" and their performance so far has been the quintessential definition of incompetence and/or abysmal failure (take your pick).  Folks living in China understand American racism better than white Americans living in America do (see "The White Papers").   What leads to many POC's frustration is most of us operate under the misguided notion that intelligence is all someone needs to learn something.  Learning, in fact, requires additional components to intelligence, like consistent practice, research, recall, overall self-discipline, and a need for the absolute truth of things.  White privilege conditions much of this out of most white Americans by the time they hit puberty.

Stop Being Afraid

Some of you call it being patient, or considerate, or being the bigger person.  I call it fear.  You are not "trapped"; America is not the best country to live in and emigration is always an option.  You are not helpless.  You don't need white Americans to like you - if they cross the line, make them uncomfortable.  POC have already overcome and survived a lot in this country and contrary to popular belief, we did so with an overwhelming lack of support from white America.  Many of us were tortured and killed...and we're still here.  So do not doubt your worth or tone down your voice or temper your strength.  If every single person of color in America rose up right now and emigrated elsewhere, taking their taxes, revenue, expertise, and military service with them, what they'd leave behind wouldn't even be Third World America.  It would aspire to Third World status, long for and dream of the good ole days of Third World America.  It would be a defenseless nation with a demolished economy, with billions of implacable people living abroad and calling in their debts.

So if you're being dehumanized socially, assert yourself and walk way.  If you're being dehumanized occupationally or academically...lawsuit.  Tolerance is a bullshit term, and POC need to stop tolerating from hereon out, online and in real life - period.
"People of color are going to liberate themselves from white supremacy - bet on that.  The question is, who's going to liberate us?"

~ Tim Wise
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*Since referring white people to Tim Wise as their introduction to social justice hasn't had the necessary effect, stop doing it.  Make inquisitive white Americans read the biography of John Brown instead, written by David S. Reynolds (2006).  Also available to download on Kindle.  Instruct them to ignore the bullshit reviews and instead remember what Malcolm X said.

36 comments:

  1. You and your blog deserve all of the popularity that Tim Wise enjoys... I like Wise, but it always weirds me out when he's fetishized. The phrasing on Racialicious that hyped him up made me pretty uncomfortable, too, since there are so many great POC thinkers out there, like yourself. Thanks for this excellent post.

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  2. Thank you very much, dear. You honor Moi.

    And no...I'd never charge for shit like this.

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  3. POC don't get a slow, gentle, candy-coated introduction to the pains of American racism. Never have. White folks shouldn't get to either.

    Exactly.

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  4. Bob Marley has the right idea.

    Oh, girl...that's my baby right there.

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  5. I like Wise, but it always weirds me out when he's fetishized.

    Well said, Geneva. I get very uncomfortable when POC shush one another for daring to be critical, as if we should just be grateful that some White person actually cares. When allies' feelings are catered to at the expense of POC, then the "movement" has failed.

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  6. Precisely. I'm beginning to wonder what the whole "we need him" philosophy is about - I never thought he was that necessary to us. He himself will tell you that POC will liberate our damn selves from white supremacy; it's white people who, in the end, will have the most trouble with that because they - as a group - don't know how to function without it.

    Like, I think Wise rocks and all, but POC have been banking waaaaaaaay too much on him, and of course he's going to enjoy the adulation. His is coveted position.

    We like him, and we generally don't like anyone.

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  7. Tim Wise has claimed on many occasions that despite all of the horrific things white people have done and continue to do, they are still basically good with good intentions. In other words, he's insisting that we give white people the benefit of the doubt, something that has never been extended to PoC.

    Could you imagine if white people gave us the benefit of the doubt when examining blatant inequality? Instead of believing we're inherently stupid, prone to criminal behavior, lazy, evil or lacking in self-confidence, they would have to question american society and whether it is fair and just.

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  8. Tim Wise has claimed on many occasions that despite all of the horrific things white people have done and continue to do, they are still basically good with good intentions. In other words, he's insisting that we give white people the benefit of the doubt, something that has never been extended to PoC.

    This I find quite annoying as well. It's also why I prefer the likes of Dr. Robert Jensen (see "Jensen's Law" in the tags). He doesn't reason from that platform.

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  9. Tim Wise has claimed on many occasions that despite all of the horrific things white people have done and continue to do, they are still basically good with good intentions. In other words, he's insisting that we give white people the benefit of the doubt, something that has never been extended to PoC.


    Tim does that because he knows he is included in the group of "White people." If we start giving the side-eyed to Whites as a group, that side-eye'll settle on him as well.

    With "allies" like Tim Wise and Mr. Flounce-My-Own-Blog Macon, I'm wondering about the feasibility of including Whites in PoC liberation movements outside of just plain using and discarding them.

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  10. Or we just got to figure out a better way to exploit them. Knowing Whites' tendency is to dominate and control (or destroy what they cannot dominate and control) and that they'll do that with ANYTHING they touch, we need to figure out how either to channel that urge into something useful to us or how to subvert it.

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  11. Whites' tendency is to dominate and control (or destroy what they cannot dominate and control)...

    ...is going to be their undoing. That's simply the natural, unavoidable way of things.

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  12. @Witchsistah:

    I recommend interstellar travel. See, they'll find a suitable earth-like planet to colonize - er, explore. But they wouldn't want to go themselves. Not at first (too expensive, too dangerous, etc.). So they'll send POCs ahead of them. Meanwhile, we'll find paradise and create a sustainable way of living while they stick around here and shake their heads and feel like they got the better of us.

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  13. "Knowing Whites' tendency is to dominate and control (or destroy what they cannot dominate and control) and that they'll do that with ANYTHING they touch, we need to figure out how either to channel that urge into something useful to us or how to subvert it."

    China has to a certain extent done that. Despite repeated defiance toward america, China has yet to be invaded or severely sanctioned by america. Why? Because there are a plethora of american corporations with gigantic financial interests in China. Assuming China will be able to resist corporate imperialism, american corporations have to a certain degree kept China safe from american attack.

    In other words, China is taking advantage of good old american greed.

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  14. Wise also claims that the best way to encourage white children to become "allies" is to tell them about past white "allies" who fought racism, a.k.a. mighty whitey stories.

    Here's my question: given the fact that there are thousands of mighty whitey books, films and stories, many of them quite mainstream, if mighty whitey tales are so effective at reducing racism, why the hell does racism still exist?

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  15. To sorta address the OP again, for me it's not so much Tim Wise; he's just one man. It's the people who think the sun shines out of his ass. I honestly don't care how arrogant or condescending he is. I care about how his status as THE White Anti-Racist activist can be used to uphold the imbalances of White supremacy rather than undermine it.

    It's not like these people don't exist. Hello, MC Search (who I thought was Black until I found out he was Jewish). I bet there are a bunch of them somewhere, hiding out, wondering if they're crazy or something, who haven't even heard of Tim Wise, but when the shit goes down will fight on our side. If there are White allies out there, we should be looking for them instead of trying to change people who don't want to be changed.

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  16. if mighty whitey tales are so effective at reducing racism, why the hell does racism still exist?


    DING! DING! DING! You win an internet!

    Seriously, I've asked RVCBard this exact question in another form. Basically, why have so-called White allies and well-meaning Whites been soooooooooo damn ineffectual in eliminated White supremacist racism? If supposedly soooooooo many Whites were truly against WS racism then at least THAT form of racism would be GONE in America or at least transplanted by maybe anti-Black racism or Latino/Asian/"real American" supremacy racism or something.

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  17. Wise, to me, serves as a decent 1st step for WP who are just waking up to the "startling" realization that we're not living in a post-racial society. He's safe race reading. He serves the purpose of getting some WP to acknowledge things POC have been saying since the dawn of time, but he also is so safe that many WP never want to venture into what comes after that. That's really damaging.

    In being white, he's like the dude in that Avatar movie, choosing to care about POC because he feels accepted by them. The problem with us (WP) is that when we're not acknowledged or accepted we stop choosing to care, or we get pissed off and revoke our "help". I wonder what his reaction would be if POC stopped promoting him, or how inclined he will feel to continue doing what he does after realizing that his help also inhibits, and is not appreciated by the people he hopes will appreciate it. I shudder to think that he'd take his ball and go home, settling for puffing his chest up on his own past achievements. But that's always a potential with us.

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  18. To sorta address the OP again, for me it's not so much Tim Wise; he's just one man

    Which is why I try to refer to this as "the Tim Wise Sitch." He's a "situation" if you will. He's that white samurai who, unfortunately, draws white people's attention away from the annihilation of samurai and white attempts to colonize their people.

    The problem with us (WP) is that when we're not acknowledged or accepted we stop choosing to care, or we get pissed off and revoke our "help". I wonder what his reaction would be if POC stopped promoting him, or how inclined he will feel to continue doing what he does after realizing that his help also inhibits, and is not appreciated by the people he hopes will appreciate it.

    That is an excellent question.

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  19. Tim Wise stirs the pool a bit but his books/lectures and television appearances only serve to lift his profile as an authority on antiracism. He’s becoming the ‘go-to-guy’ when the media needs an expert on race. His activities aren’t able to produce waves large enough to capsize the boat that is racism. He keeps the narrative going and as you know that’s the trick; because white people’s words don’t necessarily have to represent their actions. As long as you keep the discussion/debate going you never have to worry about the solution. Tim Wise has never been beaten at a lunch counter- he's never been denied his liberty or singled out because of his skin color. Because of his antiracist activities he’s safe for all extensive purposes; he's no threat to the status quo, so racism continues.

    Not one book written by Mr. Wise has put a dent in racism; the same with Mr. Macon’s blog. Blacks who engage in antiracist activities Suffer at the hands of vindictive- non-empathetic whites; while white antiracists write more books and get richer by the day.

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  20. Thanks for this. I've only recently discovered Wise but find him and his popularity/lucrative career maddening. I posted something to this effect on Racialicious and was kind of dismayed to see I was the only PoC raising any objection. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing to see people fawning over him.

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  21. Not one book written by Mr. Wise has put a dent in racism; the same with Mr. Macon’s blog. Blacks who engage in antiracist activities Suffer at the hands of vindictive- non-empathetic whites; while white antiracists write more books and get richer by the day.

    Couldn't have phrased it better myself. *applauds* Wonderfully stated , Mr. Gibson. Good to see you stopping by.

    @ Saladin!

    Merci! And thanks for stopping by.

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  22. I ran across one of Wise's books one day and I'm fairly certain his stated goal was to save "white" people's souls through his writings.

    Therefore.his.work.has.absolutely.nothing.to.do.with.my.black.ass. For this reason, I allow "white" folks to feed him.

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  23. Hateya pretty much summed it up. Let White folks pay Tim's bills from now on. He hasn't said anything DIFFERENT in all his lil talks and books. At least nothing different for PoC.

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  24. like I've said in your earlier post (Black Women...Stop Being the "Platonic Friend"), I have been gone for too long.

    I remember years ago when i worked at a retail store my WW boss (store manager) kept trying to get me into a race discussion particularly the movie CRASH. Well, i wasn't having it...so i told her not now maybe later (yeah right). The look on her face was a combo of hurt and anger, I mean it was dark! Two weeks later I was fired, but that's okay, one month later she was fired. Now i just found out last week that her husband left her a** for an Asian chick. Wish I could make this s**t up! LMAO as I type this!

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  25. As a white male, I can't understand why other white males read Tim Wise on race and Robert Jensen on gender when they could be reading women and POC who have more to say. I'm not saying Tim Wise and Robert Jensen aren't brilliant, but they're not very exciting.

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  26. @Moi

    I'm with you right there. For a good deal of them, racism is a form of entertainment.

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  27. Hmmm. I've known about Wise for a long time, and when I first read him my initial reaction was mild surprise that he at least seemed *get* a few things, but it became quickly obvious to me that he was doing a Racisim 101 aimed for people who'd never really thought about race in any serious way. (i.e. white and white identified people) But as time has worn on, I've become increasingly uncomfortable and suspicious of the almost rapturous reception that he gets for saying the dirt obvious and fairly commonsensical - especially since he's not saying anything that most black people with a little sense haven't already lived through, experienced and know first hand.

    I had a friend (Sikh Indian) who behaves as if Tim Wise has all the answers and strategies regarding race but of course he hasn't read Fanon, Du Bois, Baldwin, Morrison, Hooks, Walker, Lourde or so forth and always smiles when you suggest that he actually reads them. But then again not only does he tend to look towards white MEN as authority figures he also likes his reading dumbed down and pre-digested, so... yeah.

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  28. Oh - and one thing (sorry!). What also bugs me about Wise and to a lesser extent Jensen is that their whole gambit rests on white identity and the notion of white exceptionalism - namely that they are indeed 'white', but just not like all those *other* whites - they're 'special' and different... and so forth.

    They operate along the philosophy of using their white (and male and class) privilege as a platform on which to speak and to reach other misguided whites. Thing is though, if the very platform on which they speak is predicated on privilege then what is the likelihood (or even incentive) that they will ever seriously dismantle those privileges, when privilege the very thing that enables them to do the work that they do and assume these positive, self-affirming identities? (As much as anything, I think that they are fashioning an image an identity for themselves (identity construction project), as well as carving out a niche.

    It's quite the conundrum...

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  29. "when privilege *is* the very thing..." Ugh. Typos galore

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  30. When the white man first came to Africa he didn’t come in showing open bitter hatred for the Africans, he came in with smiles, with gifts, he came in as a sincere friend, he learned from Africans but as soon as the Africans lowered their guard and he learnt the ways of the Africans, he destroyed them, tricked them and enslaved them.

    AGAIN

    When the white man first came to America, he didn’t come showing open bitter hatred for the Native Indians, he came in with smiles, with gifts, as a sincere friend, he learned from Native Indians, he even inter married but as soon as the Native Indians lowered their guard and he learnt the ways of the Native Indians, he destroyed them in a mass genocide.

    If you don’t learn your lesson from history you will be doomed to repeat them. The best killers in the jungle aren’t the animals who lay on the ground with their teeth open, NOPE, the most effective killers are those animals who creep up slowly, catch you off guard, then strike. Black people : Trust Tim Wise and he will take you to hell with him.

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  31. In practicing transparency, I am a white, heterosexual male who struggles with Tim Wise for many of the same reasons you have brought attention to. I support the cause, but I don’t support his approach. He spoke at my school last spring and it hurt me that he never once referenced a person of color in his remarks. He has lots of personal stories and research to back his claims, but he rhetorically re-centers himself as the movement. “If you want to learn more, buy my book.” It’s never, “If you want to learn more, read bell hooks, Audre Lorde, or W.E.B DuBois.” I also don’t mind that he gets paid, but I do mind the fact that he is not transparent about it. He consistently problematizes capitalism, but never discusses how much capitalism improves his situation.

    On a personal level, I do have a problem that my Black female partner with a PhD (and other Black faculty members) is expected to do diversity work on our campus, while Wise comes in for an hour long speech and leaves with $7,000. He gets folks excited, but Black folks are the ones who have to do the real work after he’s gone for no money and little recognition. Once again, he can get paid, but I would like him to be transparent about his earnings and discuss why this reality is problematic.

    Finally, I found your blog while looking for Tim Wise critiques. Yesterday he cursed me out via Facebook for a comment I left that critiqued his approached. The conversation is posted on my website if you’re interested (www.joshuadanielphillips.com). I’m all about cause, but Tim needs to publicly engage in some self-reflection if he expects me to support him as a leader. I would love to hear more of your (everyone’s) comments on this subject. There’s a contact through my website. I’m also on Facebook “Joshua Daniel Phillips” network “Central Michigan Univeristy” “Southern Illinois University”

    Your blog is much appreciated.

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  32. To cut to the chase, here's the exact link of Josh's post:

    Tim Wise just cursed me out on Facebook

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  33. @ ToddRod

    Should've said this earlier but this:

    For a good deal of them, racism is a form of entertainment.

    EXCELLENT statement. Racism is a "hobby" for a lot of these people, a personality credential they use to make themselves "interesting."

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  34. I must cosign this piece. I had heard of Tim Wise before but only recently sat down and watched some of his videos. Like others have mentioned, I like him but what he's saying is nothing new. I liked him because he was saying mostly what I was feeling so I figured by white people logic, because a white person was saying it would make a large difference. Wrong. Thanks Ankh for helping me clear things up. I also couldn't decide how I felt when he mentions "people are generally good and it's not about a blame game" or some such things. I immediately thought well, if we can't blame white people, WTF? White people don't deserve a get out of jail free card with their feelings without feeling the worst of it, I mean black people were never allowed to forget for a moment what it felt like to black every day, so why should they escape? After reading this, I no longer feel guilty about not wanting to be "the bigger person" or be nice about it anymore. I'm just tired of the pandering.

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