More Than a Black and White Issue?


I came across the following Tim Wise video on the “concept of whiteness” today. I thought I’d post it in hopes of getting a discussion going.

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55 Responses to More Than a Black and White Issue?

  1. swarthmoremom says:

    Elaine, You might need some off the guys from the Turley blog that constantly complain when they are called out on either their racist or white privilege remarks. Doubt nick is coming over but maybe your pal will. 😉

  2. swarthmoremom says:

    of the guys

  3. Elaine M. says:

    What do I know? I’m just a clueless lily-white nanny.

  4. Anonymously Yours says:


    As you do not make it personal I have no problem having a rational discussion with you. Since the PC police is present….. It’s almost impossible….. Gene has even been called out….but using white privilege term is insulting….. It’s akin to reverse discrimination….. And discrimination of any form is bad….. I worked for awhile at the Department of Civil Rights….. I was assigned a task and took surveys of the various proficiencys that LEO were required to have….. Some departments have no requirement for shooting accuracy….. I was supposed to write it from the prospective of Tenn vs Garner….. It became for me a human rights paper….. Ill trained LEOs shooting guns are not just a threat to minorities….. But to any race fleeing a scene……

  5. Elaine M. says:


    Did you watch the video? I found that Wise talked more about how elite whites use the less fortunate–both black and white–to further their ends than about white privilege.

  6. Blind Faithiness says:

    I can’t believe that a small minority of the population –that just happens to be super wealthy and tied deeply in to the political workings of our nation– would ever utilize a tactic of exploiting a population’s minor differences and historical racial divides in order to keep us from uniting in a fight to protect our rights? [[sarcasm]]

    A place that’s “more about how elite whites use the less fortunate–both black and white–to further their ends than about white privilege!” –> could be the new state motto here in NC.

  7. Elaine M. says:

    Can We Fix the Race Problem in America’s School Discipline?
    Four solutions from a new federal report on discriminatory discipline policies
    JANUARY 24, 2014

    When Marlyn Tillman’s family moved from Maryland to Georgia, her oldest son was in middle school. Throughout his eighth grade year, he was told by his school’s administration that his clothing was inappropriate. Even a simple North Carolina t-shirt was targeted – because it was blue, they said, it was flagged as “gang-related.”

    Things got worse when Tillman’s son got to high school, where he was in a small minority of black students. While he was in all honors and AP classes, he received frequent disciplinary referrals for his style of dress throughout ninth grade and tenth grade. Frustrated, his mother asked for a list of clothing that was considered gang-related. “They told me they didn’t have a list, they just know it when they see it,” Tillman tells Rolling Stone. “I said, I know it when I see it, too. It’s called racism.”

    One day, Tillman’s son went to school wearing a t-shirt that he had designed using letters his mother had bought at the fabric store – spelling out the name of his hometown, his birthday and his nickname. He was again accused of gang involvement and and told that his belongings would be searched. “He’d just been to a camp where they gave out pocket-sized copies of the Constitution,” Tillman recalls. “My son whips out that copy and tells them that they’re violating his rights.”

    The administrators accused the teen of disrespect. He was suspended and pulled out of his AP classes. That’s when Tillman – convinced that her son had been targeted because of his race – went to Georgia’s American Civil Liberties Union.

    What happened to Tillman’s son might seem extreme, but it’s nothing exceptional for students of color in the United States. In fact, new data from the federal government confirms that such practices are ubiquitous. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education released a set of documents detailing how school discipline policies across the country may be violating the civil rights of American elementary and secondary school students. Nationwide data from the Office for Civil Rights found that black and Latino students were more likely than their white peers to receive harsher punishments for the same type of behavior; students with disabilities also faced disproportionately harsh discipline. Punishments like suspensions and expulsions mean that those same children often lose classroom time and experience a significant disruption to their education. The documents, collectively known as the Federal School Discipline Guidance, urge school districts to adopt policy changes to mitigate those discriminatory practices.

  8. Mike Spindell says:


    A brilliant catch. Mr. Wise in his brief 9.5 minutes completely nails the “race” problem in America and its sad, horrific history. While “white privilege” and its sociopolitical usage is defined aptly, the more important information is his putting the utility of its use by our ruling classes into context. It is so easily forgotten now that the widespread term for working class southerners was “poor white trash” (PWT). The message was indeed one of contempt of these plebeians by the southern elite, but with it was the “carrot” of being allowed to be considered White. The end message was that now matter how “low” we consider you “PWT” to be, we see you as better than those “degenerate Black folks.” In society’s ruled completely by a wealthy elite, with scant opportunity for the poor, this became a powerful recruiting tool for the “PWT” to act as the “Sergeants At Arms” of slavery and oppression of Blacks.

    AY, if you somehow think this video was about “reverse racism” you weren’t paying attention.

  9. Oro Lee says:

    PC police — (def) those who call out a person for treating others with less than basic human dignity

  10. swarthmoremom says:

    Orp Lee, That’s a great definition.Yesterday the above poster said It was a “disease” to point these things out. lol

  11. swarthmoremom says:

    Oro lee, Sorry. I should not be typing without my glasses.

  12. Elaine M. says:

    Racism, Injustice and Explaining America to My Daughter
    By Tim Wise
    Posted: 07/14/2013

    And yes, I am fully aware that there are still those who would admonish me for even suggesting this case was about race. Not just the defenders of George Zimmerman, with whom I shall deal in a moment, but even the state, whose prosecutors de-racialized this case to a point that frankly was as troubling as anything the defense tried to do. Maybe more. I mean, the defense’s job is to represent their client, and I cannot fault them for having done so successfully. But the prosecution’s job is to make it clear to the jury what the defendant did and preferably why he did it. By agreeing to a fundamentally colorblind, “this isn’t about race,” narrative, they gave away the best part of their arsenal before the war had really started.

    Because anyone who still believes that this case had nothing to do with race — or worse, that it was simply a tragedy, the racial meaning of which was concocted by those whom they love to term “race hustlers” — are suffering from a delusion so profound as to call into question their capacities for rational thought. And yet still, let us try to reason with them for a second, as if they were capable of hearing it. Let’s do that for the sake of rational thought itself, as a thing we still believe in; and for our country, which some of us still believe — against all evidence — is capable of doing justice and living up to its promises. In short, let’s give this one more shot.

    Those who deny the racial angle to the killing of Trayvon Martin can only do so by a willful ignorance, a carefully cultivated denial of every logical, obvious piece of evidence before them, and by erasing from their minds — if indeed they ever had anything in there to erase — the entire history of American criminal justice, the criminal suspicion regularly attached to black men, and the inevitable results whenever black men pay for these suspicions with their lives. They must choose to leave the dots unconnected between, for instance, Martin on the one hand, and then on the other, Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell or Patrick Dorismond, or any of a number of other black men whose names — were I to list them — would take up page after page, and whose names wouldn’t mean shit to most white people even if I did list them, and that is the problem.

    Oh sure, I’ve heard it all before. George Zimmerman didn’t follow Trayvon Martin because Martin was black; he followed him because he thought he might be a criminal. Yes precious, I get that. But whatyou don’t get — and by not getting it while still managing to somehow hold down a job and feedyourself, scare the shit out of me — is far more important. Namely, if the presumption of criminality that Zimmerman attached to Martin was so attached because the latter was black — and would not have been similarly attached to him had he been white — then the charge of racial bias and profiling is entirely appropriate.

  13. swarthmoremom says: and Robertson and kindred spirits like Sarah Palin charted a bold new civil rights frontier in 2013: fighting for the right of White people to say false, stupid and bigoted things without facing criticism, let alone paying any real penalty

  14. Blouise says:

    Moral Blindness is another way of saying White Privilege. Southern plantations were forced labor camps and operated as such here for hundreds of years. White privilege was the cover-up and still is.

    However, in my opinion, white privilege is so deeply ingrained in our culture that one doesn’t have to be a bigot or a racist to practice the moral blindness that is the essence of white privilege. One only needs to be blind to it to be a part of it.

  15. Blouise says:

    Here’s a slightly different take on the Megyn Kelly whiteness that eniobob sent me. It’s a worthwhile read:

  16. Mike Spindell says:

    “To wit, her insistence that although she knows “the pain of slavery is real and runs very deep and wide,” nonetheless, she thinks it is “very unfortunate what many have chosen to do with that pain.” In other words, not only will she profess the right to tell black people what to do with their pain — since it is indeed their pain about which we speak when we speak of enslavement — but more to the point, she will consider it not at all troubling to insist that criticizing her for her lack of discernment is an inappropriate focus of said pain.”


    From the DiFranco article this really says it all. How dare any White person be made uncomfortable by Black people who are not willing to forgive and forget. I am so tired of the “get over it” attitude adopted by many Whites in this country, who will even acknowledge the viciousness of this country’s racist past, yet deny that anyone has the right to say anything today that might draw the conclusion that the horror continues. How lovely that we have such plantations on exhibit today as examples of a more refined American lifestyle. Slavery for Blacks in the US and the Shoah in Europe were holocausts of equal dimension. Had Hitler a more profitable use for his victims more may have lived longer. Yet had the slaveholder found decreased economic advantages in slave ownership, then perhaps they would have found good reason to terminate them. Malefic mistreatment of people cannot be reckoned by degree of oppression.

    Oro Lee,

    Gyasi Ross’ airline story had great impact because Mr. Ross is a skilled writer. As I read of his encounter with the Captain I found myself choking back anger in sync with Mr. Ross who knew all to well that he had to “shuck and jive” just to keep from being arrested. Native Americans suffer yet another American Holocaust that they are “forbidden” to get angry about.

    Part of the reason I am no longer with Mr. Turley is that it was expected that I as a guest blogger should refrain from attacking those “regulars” there who would bring to any discussion of racism the “playing the race card” proposition. My position there was clear then and it was that anyone who actually uses a phrase like “playing the race card” is a racist. The old Jewish joke is of a Jew who prays to God “Thank you God for making us the “chosen people”, but couldn’t you have chosen someone else? One could almost see a black person or Native American thanking God for giving them the ability “to play the race card”, with all the rewrds that entails.

  17. swarthmoremom says:

    Mike S. I did not know that it was that bad. I used the words “white privilege” last week to call someone out and Turley commented negatively on my use of the words. He could ban me, and that would be just fine with me.

  18. Oro Lee says:

    Forget Hillary or Elizabeth . . . Wise for President!!!

  19. swarthmoremom says:

    ” We do not need name calling like “nanny” or “white privilege” directed against individual posters while discussing these issues.” said Jonathon Turley. Calling someone a “nanny” is name calling but using the term “white privilege” to describe remarks of some bloggers concerning a certain black athlete is not in my opinion. Jonathon Turley was called on the carpet by some posters for calling the young man a “thug”. That is name calling.

  20. Oro Lee says:

    Climate change may constitute humanity’s greatest existential threat, but racism is probably the greatest threat to our even being human

  21. Blouise says:

    Gyasi Ross is a warrior and a person I greatly admire.
    ( )

    So often when discussing white privilege we fail to mention Native Americans, rather like when discussing Dachau, we fail to mention the Sinti and Roma. ( )

  22. Blouise says:


    It’s almost impossible to remain sane when surrounded by insanity. 😉

  23. Elaine M. says:

    Here is a poem written by Sherman Alexie. He is a preeminent Native American poet, novelist, performer and filmmaker. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene tribal member, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He won the National Book Award for his young adult autobiographical novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”–a book which I highly recommend.

    The Powwow at the End of the World
    By Sherman Alexie

    I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
    and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
    and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
    downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
    that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
    their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
    and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
    and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
    waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
    and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
    of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
    as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
    in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
    I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
    that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
    a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
    which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
    by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
    who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us
    how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
    the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
    of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
    with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

  24. Tony C. says:

    Tim Wise (and I have just watched four hours of him) is using several such terms, more or less interchangeably: White Obliviousness, White Privilege, White ignorance, etc. Along with railing against passive terms, like “under-privileged” or “under-served”, as if those were not caused by anybody, they just, you know, happened somehow.

    His idea (and a good one) is that by being white, we don’t see the world from the viewpoint of a person of color. Just like if we are able-bodied we don’t think about it, or think about the advantage we have by not interviewing for a job in a wheelchair. If we are male we are not discriminated against for being female; and unlike females we aren’t forced by reality to think about it, or recognize it, or worry about it.

    Tim Wise expounds on White Privilege as something quite apparent to non-whites but effectively invisible to whites themselves; because the privileges mean something you don’t have to worry about or think about.

    He isn’t using it in the sense of whites being overtly racist or overtly asserting privilege because they are white, and says the vast majority would do no such thing. They just do not realize they are privileged, their life is easier, they get loans and assistance easier, their schools are better, it is easier for them to get jobs, get into college (even with affirmative action), start businesses, join collaborations, and even walk down the street or through a store without being stopped. Because they are going about their lives and so often nothing happens to them, and things just work, they don’t know (and may not want to know) that people of color are engaged in a daily struggle.

    I would say the same thing is true of the rich; as we were discussing on another thread. People defer to them, accommodate them, they can get loans at low interest rates, financing is not a problem in general and things just work — And they think that is them, that did all that, and people that don’t start businesses or invest in startups have only themselves to blame. They think they put $50K into a business and it turned into a million, why doesn’t everybody do stuff like that? Because for the rich it wasn’t their last $50K, it wasn’t their kid’s college fund, or their IRA, or the equity in their house. It was money they could lose.

  25. Elaine M. says:

    Tony C.,

    “I would say the same thing is true of the rich; as we were discussing on another thread.”

    Wise pointed out, however, that the wealthy white elites knew exactly what they were doing to poor whites and blacks in order to maintain their lifestyle. Many of the ultra-wealthy today–like the Koch brothers–manipulate the system/people with their money. They are aware of what they are doing.

  26. Tony C. says:

    Elaine: I think you misunderstood me. When I mention the rich I am not talking about racism.

    Wise also points out, in his speeches, the other types of obliviousness we enjoy. For example there is Male Blindness, men of all races, when surveyed, think there is much less sexism and gender discrimination going on then women do. There is Able-body blindness, the able-bodied, that are not burdened every day by the navigational, access and safety issues of living in a wheelchair, believe buildings and facilities are far more accessible to the handicapped than the handicapped think such venues are accessible, because the able-bodied navigate a step or a narrow doorway without thinking or remembering they even did it.

    I’m not talking about racism or the history, I am saying there is rich-blindness, amply demonstrated by Mitt Romney, for example. There are people born to money that grew up without ever hearing “we can’t afford it.” Not that they got everything they wanted, but if they were denied it wasn’t because money was a problem. I think many rich people that have never had to save for anything, and in fact have never had to work for a living at all (like the children of some people I have worked for as a consultant), have Money-blindness.

    White Obliviousness is Whites not understanding why Blacks are going on about racism, because the Whites are blind to their own privileged status. And therefore attributing all sorts of nefarious motives to Blacks (and others), the complaints and attempts to correct what is truly an imbalance looks to the Whites like attempts to create an imbalance; to over-correct or upset an existing balance (they falsely perceive).

    I suggest an analogous mechanism, not about racism but about money. Rich Obliviousness is the Rich blind to their own natural advantages of being nearly risk impervious, and selectively offered the best and most lucrative opportunities, and having the connections to be in on the best deals, that make the rich richer. They know they have money but are blind to the privileged status that affords them in the mechanics of making money, and the income disparity it creates. They can invest $10,000 on a whim, and laugh off a $50,000 loss, and if a $50,000 investment makes them a million, well that was a good outing, but not even a life changing event. So they are perplexed by the less fortunate complaining about the income disparity, because their blindness makes them see the current arrangement as fair. Couldn’t anybody do the same? Don’t you have $50,000 equity in your home? Can’t you muster up an IRA or something? So they, too, resist any attempt to correct the true imbalance, and perceive attempts to correct it as unfairly creating an imbalance, or an over-correction. They were raised on a tilted playing field without knowing it, making it actually level now seems like persecution to them.

  27. Elaine M. says:

    Tony C.,

    I understood you. I agree. What I was pointing out was the “moneyed elite”–the very wealthiest of the wealthy–who know how to manipulate other people. They pour money into partisan think tanks that produce “research” papers and opinion pieces to further their ends. And look at groups/organizations like ALEC and Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Look, too, at someone like Frank Luntz, the language meister. They are the one’s driving much of the “groupthink” in this country. They foster the us against them mentality–while the ultra-wealthy try to get away without paying their fair share of taxes and get laws passed that benefit them.

  28. Tony C. says:

    P.S., Elaine, thanks very much for the introduction to Tim Wise.

  29. Elaine M. says:

    Tony C.,

    I had never heard of Wise before I came across that video on Sunday. We were having a discussion about Richard Sherman, racism, and white privilege on another blog. I was doing some googling on the Internet when I found it.

  30. Tony C. says:

    I am probably six hours into some combination of his speeches, interviews and recent blog entries. He hits the same points repeatedly (that’s okay), but he is well worth the listen.

    He has a pretty good intro in his FAQS:

  31. Oro Lee says:

    Pete — Merci, you tickle me

  32. Blouise says:

    Tony C.,
    I was introduced to Wise a few years ago. His book “Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority” is an excellent read … different format but intriguing. About $10 for a Kindle … $10.50 for a Nook.

  33. “Sh*t, there ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me. … And l’m rich!”

    — Chris Rock, Bigger and Blacker

  34. Elaine M. says:


    I posted the following Chris Rock quotes when we were having a discussion about race on another blog:

    Chris Rock:

    “A black man with a C average couldn’t get a job managing a Burger King. But a white man with a C average just happens to be the President of the United States.”

    “None of ya would change places with me! And I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white!”

    “I love being famous. It’s almost like being white.”

    “If you’re black, you got to look at America a little bit different. You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but who molested you.”

  35. Mike Spindell says:

    In 1977 I worked security for a Jacques Cousteau benefit concert in Boston. I got to spend some time with Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver and Don Mclean. Besides it being a wonderful concert, the hours I got to spend with those men were revelations. Despite the fact that Denver was then on the top of the charts, he like the others had no entourage. They carried their own equipment from the cars they drove up in. I tried not to be intrusive of their private moments together, but I was casually treated and listened to their byplay. These were good men whose art was informed by their social commitment. One could see that they all looked to Seeger as a leader, but the man himself was so gentle and so lacking in artifice. In my time I’ve met some other famous people and was aware that there existed within them some sense of their self-importance. With Pete Seeger, my sense was that the man we saw….was the man there was. He was/is a hero of mine because of his lifelong commitment to humanity and against oppression.

  36. Mike Spindell says:

    Sometime in 1948 riding one night in the back of my Father’s DeSoto coupe I heard this song and I never forgot the memory or the tune. I was four years old.

  37. Anonymously Yours says:

    The man was a mans man….

    Mike you might like this…..

  38. I don’t view Pete Seeger as a “man’s man”. He seemed so sensitive and compassionate.

  39. Anonymously Yours says:

    Obviously command of the English language escapes you….. Read the definition….

  40. Oro Lee says:

    Pete Seeger was NOT a man’s man — he was just a Man. ‘Tis a shame that which should be the norm is so rare, yet it provides hope that the rest can do better (like all those “man’s man” that speak for themselves on the blog that does the same)

  41. Oro Lee says:

    Stand corrected, AY — confused it with “REAL man” which, btw, a few dictionaries offer as a secondary meaning

  42. Anonymously Yours says:


    I’m ok with it…. Words have many uses…. Different meanings in different eras….. You may not think Pete Seeger is a great fellow…. That’s ok…. I’ve never met the man…. But from what I’ve learned…. He did what he believed in…… Regardless of ridicule….. Regardless of forced appearances for unamerican activities…. Being labeled a communist…. Being shot at…. Being black balled…. Be asked to leave because of folks he associated with….. And still standing strong in what he believed In…. You can’t be much better than that in my mind…..

  43. Oro Lee says:

    Pete’s my hero — when my kids were young, we sang his songs on road trips. Folk music is one of my favorite types. Quite frankly, i don’t know of a word or a phrase that does him justice, except maybe “winsome”

    I thought posting some these particular performances of his on this particular thread was an appropriate way to pay homage on his recent “walking on” as they say on the reservation.

  44. Anonymously Yours says:

    I’ll agree with that word as well OL….. Winsome….

  45. Oro Lee says:

    BTW, Elaine, thanks for introducing us to Tim Wise — he’s coming to my town in a couple of months and i”ll be in the audience

  46. Pingback: Tim Wise on What White Americans Do Not Know…and Do Not Want to Know | Flowers For Socrates

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