Saturday, May 31, 2008

Introducing Tim Wise

Below the video clip is an excerpt from a Tim Wise article -- What Kind of Card is Race? Tim Wise is the author of two new books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005).

On the video he talks about how studies on race from the 1960s and 2004 both show that 70-80% of whites believe that black and brown people in their communities are treated equally and fairly.


So, for example, what does it say about white rationality and white collective sanity, that in 1963--at a time when in retrospect all would agree racism was rampant in the United States, and before the passage of modern civil rights legislation--nearly two-thirds of whites, when polled, said they believed blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities--almost the same number as say this now, some forty-plus years later? What does it suggest about the extent of white folks' disconnection from the real world, that in 1962, eighty-five percent of whites said black children had just as good a chance as white children to get a good education in their communities (12)? Or that in May, 1968, seventy percent of whites said that blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities, while only seventeen percent said blacks were treated "not very well" and only 3.5 percent said blacks were treated badly? (13)? 1963, three-fourths of white Americans told Newsweek, "The Negro is moving too fast" in his demands for equality (14)?

What does it say about whites' tenuous grip on mental health that in mid-August 1969, forty-four percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup National Opinion Survey that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job--two times as many as said they would have a worse chance? Or that forty-two percent said blacks had a better chance for a good education than whites, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity for a good education, and eighty percent saying blacks would have an equal or better chance? In that same survey, seventy percent said blacks could have improved conditions in the "slums" if they had wanted to, and were more than twice as likely to blame blacks themselves, as opposed to discrimination, for high unemployment in the black community (16).

In other words, even when racism was, by virtually all accounts (looking backward in time), institutionalized, white folks were convinced there was no real problem.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America at large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we've become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I am going to get Tim Wise's book. It is imperative that people adopting children from other cultures, understand issues that many white people never even contemplate. I have been guilty of being blind to my "white privilege," but my children do not have that luxury, and as their parent, I can no longer can be blind.

Thanks again,

Anonymous said...

I think sometimes people don't 'get it' til you are in the midst of 'it'. Having a son who is considered 'disabled' and a daughter from Asia and soon to be a son from ET, I'm much more aware of discrimination than I was before. I hit it a lot when I was in the work force as a woman in a male dominated field. Unfortunately, you just don't always 'notice' unless it happens to you or someone you love or maybe it's you feel helpless as to what to do about it.

History tells us where we've been and where we're headed. Living in the 'now' sometimes it's hard to tell what's making a difference and what needs to be changed and how to implement the changes.

I know with my son with Down Syndrome, I'm constantly getting info on 'call your congressman and have him vote "yes" on this bill". But really knowing how that bill will affect my reality is hard. And knowing the 'big picture' is even harder.

It should be easy. We should treat people the way we want to be treated. We should give them respect and allow them their dignity. We should not take away opportunities.(and much more)We know all the things we should do. We should do it without making laws, It should be a matter of doing the right thing. However, it just doesn't work that way.

I think the people who vote on these things are only seeing a very small slice of the world and don't realize not everyone is living the same slice. They are blind, either by omission or commission.


Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]