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
*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.