Lying Media Bastards

April 26, 2006

The House Wins

Really excellent article here by anti-racist activist Tim Wise.

It begins with Wise deconstructing the concept of “the race card”, the idea that African-Americans can get their way by falsely crying “racism”. Wise counters this claim with “the denial card”, the way in which white people assume that African-Americans overexaggerate racism in society and frequently see racism when there is none.

Wise takes this much further, looking at the overly common view among white Americans that racism is not really a problem, a view which is completely undercut by reality (Wise cites a handful of studies that show how clearly racism does damage). Wise’s citations make it look like–at best– about 40% of American whites see the problems of racism in this country. More realistically, that number is down around 6%. And it looks as though the number of whites who think that everything is fine for Black America has remained relatively steady since the early 1960s, in the days of Jim Crow.

What it comes down to is that the denial of the existence of racism by white people becomes a form of racism itself. To think that African-Americans as a whole are incapable of understanding the world around them, to interpret the day-to-day events of their own lives, is to believe that they are inferior, or are afflicted with some sort of lunacy or mental disease. But with decades of whites getting the story wrong and seeing equality where there is none, who’s really the one misinterpretting reality?

I interviewed Wise on my radio show last year, you can catch it here. He walks a tightrope, trying to explain white racism to white people, most of whom do not want to hear about such things. But he’s got a knack for it.

Posted by Jake on April 26, 2006 12:20 pm

4 Comments »

  1. Dear Jake,
    I read the article you recommended. I can only hope that you were extremely tired from watching Crash or something.
    Usually your opines and refers are solid gold, but this one, wow.

    What a horrible, self-serving and tangental pile of circular and specious arguments. Boiled down, Wise’s point is this: denial of racism makes you a racist. Well, racist me up then.

    Here’s a news flash for Mr. Wise (and Kanye) and everyone else who simplified the Katrina debacle down to racism: President Bush does not care about poor people. It was difficult for poor people to evade the hurricane. Most poor people in New Orleans are black, ergo it’s a race issue. That just simpler than admitting that FEMA is an aftermath management organization, not a first responder, and was hamstrung by homeland security and bureaucratic incompetence; that national infrastructure and disaster preparedness is a low national priority; and that no one in the administration either knows or cares about any poor person of any color. That’s a bit indigestible for the sound-bite spoon-fed media consumer of the day. But it’s the truth.

    Class also played the pivotal role in the OJ trial. OJ Simpson was rich. Rich people are rarely convicted of anything, and almost never of capital crimes. That is how the criminal justice system is set up. Cochran played the race card, because he was a smart, competent, and extremely well-paid lawyer. And because Furman was a bigot. And because Simpson was framed and incompetently so. Here again, the meeting of class privilege and incompetence. If I mention that I think OJ is guilty, is that racist? It doesn’t change the facts.

    Wise suggests that if a black sports star of the present day is held accountable for his individual decisions in the present day then all white sports stars of the long-distant past should be held personally accountable for societal injustices in the long-distant past. That’s not justice it’s tit-for-tat-ism.

    Wise makes his living playing the race card. He’s a paid racism- witness and specialist and speaker and author. And for someone who complains about what a weak card it is, he sure loves to play that two of diamonds.

    Well, he’s right. A lot of white “folk” are tired of that card. And yes, some of us are racists. But being tired of talk about racism does not make you a racist.

    The issue is one we haven’t solved. Maybe we never will. Maybe overcoming racism is simply contrary to human nature. But guess what? I no longer care. Why? Because discussions of race and racism distract and divide the people of this country and it’s a distraction we cannot currently afford. We need to give race a rest and work together for a change. We need to put that energy toward fixing the problems we all share and can fix. We need to prioritize.

    Stopping war is more urgent than racism.
    Restoring and protecting civil liberties is more important than racism.
    Rescuing our democracy from plutocracy is more important than racism.
    Providing health care to every citizen is more important than racism.
    Improving our disaster preparedness is more important than racism.

    Had to be said.

    Comment by Mike the Racist — April 27, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  2. what mike really means when he says talk about racism divides the country is that it is that it divides WHITE PEOPLE.

    Comment by Jane — May 6, 2006 @ 8:12 pm

  3. also has to be said

    I’m not suggesting not wanting to talk about racism makes you a racist…similarly not wanting to talk about terrorism doesn’t make you a terrorist. I get tired of talking about racism, thinking about it, etc. On the other hand - all and out denial while not necessarily making you yourself a racist - does make you implicitly part of the problem. Just as if sexism was of issue, and yet I as a male would rather deny than address or acknowledge sexism, doesn’t make me sexist - but does employ me as a willing benefactor - a cog in the wheel of sexism.

    Now you make a good point in Kanye’s statements being a bit simplistic. But, it isn’t hard to understand why black folks get the impression George Bush doesn’t care much about them. Foremost as governor of Texas, Bush’s administration saw the highest rate of execution in this country’s history (152) and inevitably of black men on deathrow… in a time where DNA evidence was exhonerating quite a few people - Bush almost invariably ignored and denied clemency. We also have to consider the spurious disregard specifically of the black vote during Bush’s initial election - and who knows of the voting irregularities that occured in 2004. Or we can talk about Bush’s general ambivalence about black folks as he allegedly exhibitted when speaking to Brazil’s President in awe about whether “you had blacks too?”. Whether or not one agrees with Affirmative Action, Bush’s adamant opposition to affirmative action (though he himself being privy to legacy clauses that obviously benefitted him - and disproportionately benefit white americans in general ). Or perhaps Bush refusing to take part in an international summit on racism…let alone Bush’s insistance for democracy and such…all the while ignoring some of the most blaring examples one could imagine in Africa…all of these occurences and policy positions send the effective message that “Bush does not care about black people”. Now there may be the added dynamic of indiscriminate ineptitude and corruption - but the common denominator of adversely affecting black people, isn’t a mystery to black people.

    Its been long before Katrina that black folks have recieved the message that Bush doesn’t care about black people - and truth be told, Bush didn’t care about any dialogue to counter that until someone literally called him out on it. Perhaps there are other factors…but when one common factor (race) keeps emerging - its quite hard for the groups said factor affects most to ignore or chalk up to “coincidence”.

    The whole assertion that a dialogue on race is not something “our country can afford” is a prime example of subjectivity and white priviledge in this country. Perhaps to you as a white american, it isn’t something you yourself can “afford”, because it may affect comforts and privileges you have become accustomed to. But many people cannot afford to not talk about it - because many people *still* don’t feel whole as Americans today. People who may not get that next job because of their name or race - cannot afford *not* to talk about it. Amadou Diallo could not afford for us to *not* talk about race. If for nothing else, to fix a country that was economically wed to racism (slavery), politically wed to racism (imperialism, manifest destiny, internment,etc.). It is not a matter of not currently being willing to having an honest dialogue on race - but not being able to afford forfeiting the sacrifices and progress that have already been made. Be it emancipation or the death of influential persons like your Martin Luther Kings, Kennedy’s, Malcolm X’s, etc. Sure we need to “work together”…but how can Americans work together, if they’re not even working for eachother? What are we “working together” for? The status quo of what you yourself implied is a racist society? Since Crispus Attucks black Americans, have showed their willingness to work with, for…even die for this country. If working for this country today - means 3 centuries later black people are in a dire situation, what (and who) is the work for? Why should any person work for that - especially a person adversely affected? Why should anyone work to solve what you deem as a problem - if you entirely discount what the problems are in their reality?

    Yes, stopping war is important - but when we wage war for xenophobic as well as ideological (and in part racist rationale…) how much more important is it? Yes, addressing the theoretical and emerging real world examples of threats to civil liberties that are emerging in policies like “the patriot act” are important…but so are the basic civil liberties of folks having the right to not be brutalized in America. Indeed we have to protect democracy - but again when the most blaring examples that have *actually* occured are the disenfranchisement of black voters…

    yes all of these issues you raised are important - but how can you expect to understand or solve these issues in their totality, if you’re ignoring the component of race which is integral to much of what you’ve described as the impeding downfall of this society?

    Comment by anti-racist — May 9, 2006 @ 7:55 am

  4. Good point, AR. A well-reasoned argument. And totally correct. Maybe you should be the one writing books about it.

    My main point, however, seemed to have gotten lost. I will attempt to restore it.

    Racism is a long-term problem and it will be solved, if ever, over the long term.

    In the short term, racism is a distraction-issue. It divides the nation, setting blacks against whites and privledged white liberals against other privledged white liberals. And while we quibble, the neocons codify their reactionary agenda.

    All I’m saying is, let’s triage. Let’s stop the bleeding first.

    Comment by Mike the Racist — May 10, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

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