Tim wise white privilege essay

Once we come to realize that, we become a lot less smug about our own goodness and more aware of the evil we participate in every day. Wise: When injustice benefits you, you have a material interest in not challenging it. That is a real fear, because no one wants to lose his or her social connections. So only a few people — usually ones who are more privileged, ironically — are likely to speak out. Another reason few people speak up is that we have a learned helplessness around social change. I imagine one indication would be when I could look around a neighborhood and not be able to tell, by virtue of which businesses were there and which were not, and what the houses looked like, who lived there.

Because right now I can recognize signs of economic deprivation and apartheid and racial inequity almost immediately. When I can no longer do that, I will know things have changed. People of color have to fight racism every day. My guess is it will always be a distinct minority that challenges injustice in any society. A minority called for the abolition of slavery. A minority demanded fair labor laws and child-labor laws and the forty-hour workweek. A distinct minority brought down legal apartheid in the U. A year later the Civil Rights Act was passed. Wise: A wake-up call. Wise: A missed opportunity.

Here was a chance for us to stare racism in the face, and we did it for about a minute, but then everybody went back to sleep. Cook: The border wall being constructed between Mexico and the U. Wise: Selective enforcement. If we were really serious about maintaining our culture, then we would want to keep out those crazy Canadians.

I have a lot more in common with people to our south than I do with, say, Croats, but during the Serbo-Croatian war we greeted Croatian refugees at the airports and helped them find jobs. Cook: Sean Bell, an unarmed black man shot fifty times by New York City police, who were acquitted in Wise: Typical. This sort of thing happens regularly, and there are rarely any consequences. The reality is that thousands of black and brown people have been killed by law-enforcement officers. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was routine. But for Forbes to say racism has ended is entirely different.

Forbes is written, published, and edited by people who played little role in the progress of the last fifty years. I question their motivation for proclaiming the end of racism. But it also changes nothing, because I predict it will have little impact on racism in our society. If I were to say that India and Israel and Great Britain have no sexism because all have had female heads of state, would my comment even be taken seriously? The success of individual persons of color does not change reality for the rest of the approximately 90 million people of color in the U.

Tim Wise and the Failure of Privilege Discourse

In a way it is easier for a person of color to become president than for a person of color to become, say, the head contractor in rebuilding after Katrina. Oprah Winfrey, when she gave her endorsement of Obama, said that he was the fulfillment of Dr. Black parents can now tell their children that becoming president is a realistic possibility. That is a real change. At the same time, Dr.

It was about the eradication of institutional racism and oppression for all people. Am I less intelligent? Probably not, but I might be viewed as such. Something similar happened in the s with Bill Cosby, another black man whom white Americans found they could love. Even though he had African art on his walls and wore sweat shirts from historically black colleges, he was racially neutered.

Cook: More than 90 percent of black voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. Wise: I think the percentage was 96 percent, and if Hillary Clinton had been running, she would have gotten 94 percent.

For the last forty years the vast majority of black voters have supported the Democratic Party. Early on in the primaries, Clinton had more black supporters than Obama. Had the Republican candidate been black and the Democrat white, some blacks would have voted for the Republican out of excitement to have a black candidate, but I suspect most would have gone Democratic. Cook: Would it be so wrong for African Americans to vote for a candidate because he or she shared their cultural background?

We have never been the group not in the room. He says that black Americans have problems, such as a 70 percent illegitimacy rate, but those problems are their own fault. Wise: Walter Williams has been saying the same thing since the eighties. Are all the problems blacks face the result of racism?

All people are capable of making bad choices and must take responsibility for them.

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But so many problems blacks face are out of their control. Williams names many powerful black people in that essay. The statistic about out-of-wedlock-birth rates is deceptive. Williams wants people to see that number as evidence of black sexual irresponsibility, but the rise is actually due to a decline in the number of babies born to married black couples over the last fifty years.

When black two-parent families have fewer children, it drives up the percentage of out-of-wedlock births. What do you say to that? Wise: What the research says is that people of color have at least the same, if not greater, aspirations for educational achievement. Black students work just as hard on their homework, and their parents are just as likely to push them to get good grades. According to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which was a twenty-year study, lower-income black kids are more likely to put emphasis on schooling than lower-income white kids, who are more fatalistic about their chances.

There is also more perseverance and resilience among kids of color.


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If white kids bomb on a standardized test, it tends to make them more despondent, because they think the test is valid. Yet white males still wind up running things. Bush bragged about having been a C -minus student at Yale. Only a white man could have done that and gotten away with it. Cook: You mentioned before that white couples are likely to start out with more money because their parents had more money.

How much of white privilege is traceable to wealth? Do you see the redistribution of wealth as a possible solution? Wise: A lot of it is traceable to wealth. The good news is that in the last thirty years some income gaps have shrunk, but the wealth gap — which includes inheritance — is still massive. The reason whites have those greater assets is because the government passed policies that subsidized white wealth accumulation.

Government assistance programs, such as the Federal Housing Authority and Veterans Administration loan programs and the GI Bill were in theory open to everyone but in practice limited to whites.


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We need a new GI Bill for people of color, so that those who were deprived then can now have access. We can disagree on how to restore equality, but society needs to begin to do it. Cook: Are there differences in race relations in the South as compared to other parts of the nation? Wise: There are differences in style and form but not in degree of racism. In other parts of the country racism exists in the same abundance, but it looks different. I can go to the University of Alabama and give a talk, and not everybody will agree with what I say, but they will all understand the concepts, because it is a subject they are used to talking about.

The first time I went to California, on the other hand, they asked me why I was there and said I should go back home to the South, where the problem was. Yet it was California — not Mississippi or Tennessee — that had just passed an anti-immigration bill and was banning affirmative action.

During Black History Month I could read about twenty amazing black people in history yet still view the five thousand who live across town from me in the projects as stereotypes. The only way it gets broken down is by knowing people.

Talk - Tim Wise on White Privilege

The people of color who get attention in the media are either dangerous criminals or superstar athletes, politicians, and entertainers. Neither envy nor fear is a positive emotion. How many average black people do most whites see on TV? The networks made him change the character to a doctor. Meanwhile Roseanne gave us a dysfunctional, working-class white family for seven seasons. We need to see more blacks and Latinos and Asians on TV living normal, everyday lives.

Whites are so afraid of black crime that they move to the suburbs, believing it to be safer there. Then they have to commute to and from work, when the data says you are far more likely to die or be seriously injured in a car accident than to be the victim of a violent crime. Yet whites feel safer on busy, congested roads than on city sidewalks.

If you look at the videos, you see hardly any faces of color in the crowd — just drunk white kids throwing bottles and rocks. And no one shoots them. If these had been black kids rioting and throwing things at cops, people would have died. This mentality of privilege can be destructive. Wise: The person who is the most inspirational to me lately is Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The fact that he maintained his dignity and refused to apologize is an amazing testimony to his character.

Wright talks about U. Seeing him do that keeps me in the fight. Cook: What do you think people of color wish white Americans knew? Wise: What people of color tell me is that they wish we knew our own perceptions are not objective.

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Like everyone else, we whites are looking through a lens of culture and experience that distorts perception. Wise: Some thank me. Cook: How can white activists help black activists rather than taking over or stealing the spotlight? The white activists were taken aback, but they realized that being an ally sometimes means freeing other people up to do what they need to do.

Being an ally to oppressed and marginalized groups requires asking, and listening, and understanding. And it takes practice. You might make mistakes, and somebody might get pissed, but relationships are messy. The person of color probably expected you to screw up. No big deal. Pick yourself up, and try again. Wise: Sure. Once I got on an airplane with two black pilots, and my immediate reaction was Can they fly the plane? I caught myself and realized that of course they could. But the thought was there, and I had to acknowledge it.

Why did I assume the person would be white? It helps to tell our story, because it allows other people to share theirs. Nobody is going to want to tell the truth unless somebody else goes first. Donate Now. About MA. Marin Academy is a co-educational college preparatory school located in San Rafael, California that pushes the boundaries of education to prepare our students for a future they can't even imagine.

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