Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm White, But I'm Not a So-Called "White anti-Racist" Like Tim Wise & Co.

by JuJuBe (Joanna)

I am not a "white anti-racist". I do not understand the whole concept of the "white anti-racist" identity. I know "white anti-racists" LOVE Tim Wise, and treat his books as if they are bibles. I notice on anti-racist web sites/blogs when I disagree with someone's method/opinion I am met with the answer "Well Tim Wise says POC think that...." and go into a white man's explanation of what a non-white person wants/needs.

Tim Wise is like a translator, he lets "white anti-racists" know what "people of color" want/need/think without them ever have to go through the messy process of actually SPEAKING TO or INTERACTING WITH, or God forbid, HAVING TO ANSWER TO non-white people. Apparently Tim Wise KNOWS what is on the mind of ALL "people of color", and for a nominal fee, he will come and TELL your organization what that is. Or, you can just buy his book, pronounce yourself a "white anti-racist", and move on with your life, safe in the knowledge that you can ADMIT white privilege and DENOUNCE white privilege without ever really having to DO ANYTHING about it.

There are a lot of rules to being an "white anti-racist." And, if you go to an "white anti-racist" website, and you make the mistake of actually thinking differently than other "white anti-racists", you will be given a link to a long list of rules of "white anti-racism", and told you have some reading to do. I was recently at a prominent "white anti-racist" blog, and said that I believed racism can be more effectively fought by a multi-racial coalition than by an all white group. I was then informed by a white woman that I needed to read and absorb the wisdom of Tim Wise so I could realize why white people need to form their own organizations.

So, I said I do not consider Tim Wise an expert on racism, and I would much rather listen to an ACTUAL expert on racism (a person of color) and do as I am asked/instructed to do by them! So, I was told by this woman that by responding to her, I was "showing my privilege" (I try to respond to everyone who addresses me on blogs), and that if I tried to join a multi-racial coalition of activists, I would just be a nuisance.

I don't know... to me it sounds like two issues going on at once. According the the "white anti-racists", people of color do not want white people around because we "try to take over". True enough. To me, that can be solved simply by sitting back and allowing a person of color be in charge, and do what is requested of me. But, according to the "white anti-racist" handbook, apparently that is the wrong answer.

The true solution is to form an all white group. So, in other words, to avoid being accused of trying to take charge, form your own group where you CAN be in charge! Seems to me like a good way to avoid having to answer to a non-white person. In addition, "white anti-racists" seem to be afraid of rejection.

When they are told by one organization that they are not needed, instead of sucking it up and figuring out where they CAN be of service, they would rather go off on their own. There are so many different organizations fighting racism with so many different needs/methods, I simply cannot believe that the ONLY way a white person can be an activist is if they work with only other white people.

Another thing I do not understand about the "white anti-racist" movement is the assertion that people like Tim Wise and other "professional white anti-racists" are vital because "white people are more likely to listen to other white people". In other words, they are MORE COMFORTABLE hearing about racism from a white person, and God forbid we should do anything to make white people uncomfortable! So, instead of getting a person who has actually EXPERIENCED racism to speak, we should get a "professional white anti-racist" to make the lesson more palatable to those delicate white sensibilities.

This "white anti-racist" movement seems like a way for white people to make money talking about ending racism without actually having to do anything to end racism, or even challenge specific incidences of racism.

When I read "white anti-racist" blogs, I notice a lot of talk about what white privilege is, and what racism is. However, I see very little that addresses actual incidences of racism! I saw nothing about Aiyana Jones' murder by police officers, nothing about the teacher who allowed her students to dress up in KKK robes and walk through the school. None of the "white anti-racist" blogs I read mentioned Rand Paul or spoke up against the white people who were protesting a field trip taken by Black students in an Ann Arbor elementary school. I even suggested that one of the major "white anti-racist" blogs I read do a post about the Ann Arbor elementary school story, and my suggestion was ignored. In fact, all of the suggestions I made that addressed ACTUAL incidences of racism were ignored. (Note: If these examples seem outdated, it is because I stopped visiting "white anti-racist" blogs about six months ago, basically for the reasons I have enumerated in this post)

I actually saw an advertisement for a "White Privilege Conference". I am still not convinced this is a real thing. It just seems like a colossal joke to me. The part that really had me puzzled was the tourist activities available at the conference. I think they even had a cruise scheduled! And when I heard a "white anti-racist" tell a Black man who follows a counter-racist philosophy that the "critical race theorists" at the conference would "eat his logic alive" I had to wonder how is it she thought that she and other white attendees were better able to understand and respond to racism than someone who is living as a Black man in America!

It seems to me "white anti-racists" talk a good game without actually doing anything. I wonder how many of these "white anti-racists" actually interact with non-white people on a regular basis. Their strict adherence to rules and their focus on semantics does not seem very conducive to genuine communication. I am sure the intentions of some who classify themselves as "white anti-racists" are pure. But, to me, it seems like most of them just like to use the "white anti-racist" identity to impress upon other people how enlightened they truly are.

P.S. No, I am not the perfect ally; no white person is, or can be. We all have certain biases that influence our actions, and often act in ways that are steeped in our own privilege, either consciously or subconsciously. This post is not to say that I am any "better" or "more effective" than anyone else at fighting racism, it is simply a reflection on issues I see within the "white anti-racist" movement that cause me to not identify myself as a "white anti-racist".


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