Suey Park (a younger version)
I was originally going to blog and tweet responses to Tim Wise’s misguided tweets, but after reading further, I decided as a self-professed radical who commonly uses both twitter and blogging as tools for so-called activism, I may be a bit too irrelevant to warrant Tim Wise’s attention.
Although Tim Wise himself has a common practice of blogging and tweeting, his words are more significant as he is a white man. Therefore, I draw upon the brilliant blogging mind of Tim Wise himself, to inform the twitter activist Tim Wise. After all, Wise clearly believes that sometimes the critique needs to come from a white person.
On Wise’s blog post on appreciation and accountability, he says “accountability, in an antiracist context, means engaging in “the work” (whatever that work might be, from organizing to educating to providing some social service, to parenting, as just a few examples) in a way that is responsive to the needs and concerns of people of color, communities of color, and their interest in the eradication of white supremacy.” Unless of course their responses makes you feel defensive.
Although he himself is telling off mainly people of color in a potentially self-gratifying function, he insists that activists must be educators. This seems contrary to his own post on crime and the politics of white deflection where he said “often militant and radical black voices who speak out against crime and violence in the black community, but also against racism and systemic injustice (because black folks, unlike white conservatives apparently, are capable of addressing both at the same time).” I think someone needs to brush up on his Tim Wise readings.
Another piece of this accountability Wise mentions in this post is “taking constructive criticism seriously, integrating insights provided by others into your own work, and following the lead, direction, and advice of those who have the most to lose from antiracism work done badly: namely, people of color.” Unless they just can’t spell well, have too simple of thoughts for you to follow, or are totally jealous and insecure over your fame.
Ugh…if only we could offer Wise feedback in a way that wasn’t so infantile. In the accountability piece, he writes “there are many different individuals, organizations and communities of color, and they will not always agree as to the direction in which antiracist work should go, let alone how white antiracist allies should engage in the struggle. But by listening to as many different voices as possible on these matters, and by forging real relationship with individuals, organizations and communities of color, it becomes easier to know whose voices are themselves rooted in structures of accountability, and thus, especially important to heed.” He adds that he is “open to change and re-direction when concerns are raised by persons of color or other white allies, as to the helpfulness, tone, focus, or content of my writing.” I guess we missed the subtext that must say “just kidding”.
Tim adds that “Because people of color are understandably focused on combatting racism as a first-order survival issue, it is somewhat impractical to expect educators of color to focus substantially on the ways that white supremacy also injures whites.” However, Wise seems to believe that the work of people of color may be insufficient in actually fixing racism, since apparently only white people can fix racism. And only in the confines of the educational system. At least Wise takes his own advice of “acknowledge when you screw up, apologize for mistakes, and commit to doing better next time.” Thank you for the heartfelt apology, Tim Wise.
Wise also decides to deny his offenses by talking about how his black friends are cooler and more successful that than Twitter folk.
In Wise’s blog post on playing the friendship card, he says “it seems that everyone who ever says or does something blatantly racist to a black person is quick to wrap themselves in the cloak of their multicolored affinity networks, as if this provided the perfect inoculation against the charge that they were anything less than purely enlightened.” He also says “even if one does have black friends, this doesn’t mean that one is free from racial bias or could never act in such a way as to further racism.” He even says “white folks who are actually committed to that kind of action, and the change it would portend in the larger society, are the white folks who never feel the need to parade their interracial friendships in front of others, while the ones who wear their black and brown friends on their sleeves like trophies are the ones who rarely ever do a damned thing to alter the institutional patterns that subject said friends to myriad injustices.” I would say more, but I think he’s already called himself out.
Next, Wise talks about why he is valued by mainstream media and how it’s the fault of people of color for being ignored by mainstream media.
In Wise’s blog post on crime, race, and the politics of white deflection, he states “That most white folks — and especially those on the right — don’t know this, is simply because they don’t know many if any black people (at least not those who live in black communities), haven’t spent time themselves in those communities, and don’t read or listen to black media, where not only are such issues covered, but the efforts made by people in the community to address those problems are also highlighted; unlike in the “mainstream” (read: white) press, where they are usually ignored.” Therefore, we need Tim Wise to say all the things black people have been saying for decades, since he actually gets heard. Also, privilege means having undeserved representation and access, meaning it is not out of reason to ask that more room be made for people of color to speak about the racism they experience.
Then Wise gives a shout out to his piece on personal responsibility of white folks, in which he states “white men were nearly twice as likely as black men to die from an opioid overdose and white women were more then twice as likely to die from such an overdose as black women.” I guess he’s allowed to tell students to overdose then, since it’s pretty likely.
When Wise wrote about the myth of reverse racism, he states that “When a group of people has little or no power over you, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence, they can’t limit your opportunities, and you needn’t worry much about the use of a slur to describe you, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it’s going to go.” Tim proves this truth by letting criticism roll off on him, while using words such as “fool” and “jackass” to refer to black men. In the same article he states “you can’t put white people in their place when they own the place to begin with.” Point taken, oh wise one.
Not only has Tim authored books and reaped the benefits of his privileged education, he insists we all understand how pedagogy matters, stating in the same blog post that “Within a class system, people compete for “stuff” against others of their same basic economic status. In other words, rich and poor are not competing for the same homes, loans, jobs or even educations to a large extent. Rich compete against rich, working class against working class and poor against poor; and in those competitions — the ones that take place in the real world — racial privilege attaches.” Unless you have some advanced degrees and some sophisticated tactics, Wise will not be able to hear your feedback. I mean, try a little harder to get your critical theories and strategies for systematic change together, people. It’s like we’re all being too lazy to learn.
Gosh, why can’t us darn people of color manage to have deeper conversations? We should be grateful for Tim Wise’s help. Again, in his blog post on the politics of white deflection, he states “I can start drama, and if you respond to the drama I created, you are to blame, not me.” And he certainly proves the validity of his theory when he responds to a twitter hashtag critiquing white feminism and then fails to properly respond to pushback. He is able to escape blame by first stating that twitter is ineffective and hostile, then reaffirms his own self-fulfilling beliefs. Indeed, “whites are rarely typified as pathological, dangerous, lazy or shiftless” and therefore Tim can easily dismiss counterarguments.
Perhaps it is suffice to say that the internal work of a white anti-racist is never complete, but is instead a continual process.
 “Then” should be “than”, but I’m not white enough to resort to attacks on grammar or perceived intelligence.