Hate Swallows: Reflections on the Passing of Fred Phelps

By the time you read this, Fred Phelps will be dead.

Fred Phelps, who more than anyone in the last two decades has come to symbolize the most viscerally evil edge of Christian heterosexism — and who made a name for himself by picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in combat with “God Hates Fags” signs (since naturally, the only reason the soldiers died was because the U.S. is too tolerant of homosexuality) — is no longer among the living. He has cursed his last lesbian couple, picketed his last funeral, fired off his last hate-saturated fax, filled with utterly out-of-context and maniacally pasted-together Bible verses, all intended to prove his point about the hostile homophobia of the Creator.

Well, if there be a Creator, it is probably safe to say that Fred Phelps is even now learning the hard way (at least one can dream), just how incredibly, indelibly wrong he was while tethered to this mortal coil. Would that his demise might soften the hearts of his church, or rather his family (same thing), which continues to pour forth the bilious codswallop handed down to them by their psychotic father and grandfather, a man so besotted with contempt for virtually everyone outside of his Topeka klavern as to call into question how he managed to live this long. Antipathy, after all, eats away at the body as with the soul, and with as much odium as was regularly emitted from the pores of Fred Phelps, his body should well have given out years ago. His soul, or whatever there was of it, had no doubt rotted decades earlier.

And so now the Phelps fury will fall to the remaining elders of the Westboro Baptist Church, people like Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred’s daughter, who evinces a frenzied, almost orgasmic degree of vitriol every bit as concretized as anything her deranged dad ever managed to show the world. As do the male elders of the church who apparently have been sparring with Shirley, and even went so far as to excommunicate Fred in the months leading up to his demise. Talk about irony: Fred Phelps, kicked out of his own Tabernacle of Spite by those upon whom he bestowed such malevolence in the first place.

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Bearing False Witness: Reflections on Being Attacked by Lying Right-Wing Christians

I guess it would be too much to ask for honesty from a decidedly right-wing, reactionary and Christian supremacist bunch such as publishes LifeSiteNews, but ask I will in any event. Or rather, I won’t ask, and won’t expect it; instead, I will simply respond to the absurd, dishonest characterization of me that appeared in their recent hit piece on my February appearance at a Chicago Diocesan event concerning racial justice. Almost all the allegations are inaccurate portrayals of my views, and the ones that reflect things I have actually said were taken so ridiculously out of context as to call into question either the functional literacy of the LifeSiteNews folks, or their honesty. Perhaps both.

First, I find it interesting that the authors include my description of myself as “not a Christian,” at the outset of their attack, as if this were somehow pertinent to the larger matter of my views on race (or even religion) and whether or not they deserve a hearing, either in general, or within the Diocese of Chicago in particular. Are the authors suggesting that one who is not a Christian has no place speaking to a church-affiliated group? Or that such a person has no valid insights into Christian doctrine or history? Really? That’s funny, coming from non-Muslims who are quick to pontificate about the supposed evils of that faith, despite not being part of it. So too with Christians who were always very quick to tell me, growing up in the Bible Belt south that my being Jewish meant I was going to hell. Doctor, feel free to heal thyself, in other words.

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Tim Wise At Princeton (With Imani Perry) 2/10/14: Colorblindness and the Myth of Post-Racialism

Here is an audio of my 2/10/14 talk at Princeton. First 30 or so minutes are my speech, followed by a dialogue with scholar and Princeton professor, Imani Perry, and then a question and answer session involving us both.


Choosing Whiteness or Humanity: Jordan Davis and the Minimizing of Black Pain

And so a despairing ritual has once again played out, and once again in a Florida courtroom, where apparently some number of jurors find it difficult to accept that a young black male might not be to blame for his own murder; that his killing might actually have been completely and entirely unjustified. Then again, perhaps it’s premature to say it this way. Until the jury or some member of it speaks, we won’t know for sure why they were unable to agree as to the murder charge against Michael Dunn.

Yes, it could be that some among them believed the utterly preposterous self-defense claim put forth by Dunn and his attorney.

This, despite the fact that the gun Dunn claimed to see pointed at him did not exist.

This, despite the fact that he claimed to hear Jordan Davis threaten his life, even over music that was so loud, Dunn said he couldn’t hear himself think (and even though Dunn had by then rolled his window up, suffers from partial hearing loss, and had consumed, by his own admission 3-4 rum and Cokes that night).

This, despite the fact that he then fled the scene and didn’t call police to tell them what had happened.

This, despite the fact that he didn’t mention Davis having a gun to his fiancee, who was with him at the time, until several weeks later.

This, despite the fact that he kept shooting at the SUV which held Davis and his friends, even as that SUV tried to get away from the gunfire.

Sure, despite all of this, some jurors might have believed that Dunn acted out of a genuine concern that his life was in danger. Some people, after all, cling stubbornly to their belief in unicorns, and the idea that the Earth is only 6000 years old, and that God fabricated and then planted all those fossils (which are, shall we say, quite a bit older than that), solely as a way to test our faith. And a full 1 in 4 believe that the sun revolves around the Earth. Some people, in short, are so painfully imbecilic as to suggest that they should never be allowed anywhere near a jury room, whether in Florida or anywhere else.

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#DangerousBlackKids – A Twitter Meme to Challenge the Dehumanization of Black Youth

Found this really inspiring today: An ever expanding Twitter meme called #DangerousBlackKids, which both mocks and directly confronts the seemingly never-ending dehumanization and criminalization of black youth. In the wake of the Michael Dunn trial, which hinged on whether Jordan Davis essentially provoked his own murder at the hands of Dunn (a question on which the jury, of course, disagreed), it is more important than ever to push back against this perpetual criminalization of the black body. Although Twitter and other social media can never accomplish this goal on its own, it’s a good place to start. All credit for this amazing idea is due to Jamie Nesbitt Golden (@thewayoftheid) and Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia), who initiated it. Follow them on twitter, and regularly check out their blog as well.

So click to read more, and pass it around. And if you have pics you want to add, do it on Twitter with the hashtag #DangerousBlackKids

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The Poor Have It Easy? Wealth, Inheritance and Right-Wing Statistical Fraud

(The following is a slightly altered and far more sarcastic version of a section of Tim Wise’s forthcoming book, Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future)

Perhaps you think you’ve heard everything.

Perhaps you’re one of those folks who feels that comparing criticisms of growing wealth inequality to Nazi propaganda is so obviously absurd that nothing can top it.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself thinking, “Wow, ya know, 85 people owning as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion people on the planet really doesn’t seem to be about merit,” and perhaps you worry about the rationality of anyone who thinks otherwise. Perhaps you wonder how anyone could seriously believe that those who question this level of inequity might be planning their own personal Kristallnacht, or preparing ovens for the roasting of the rich; or at least you figure, “Hey, the only person who might actually believe that kind of puerile nonsense would be a cretinous toad like venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who was once married to that shitty novelist Danielle Steel, and who once killed a man by running him over with his yacht,” because after all, that would make perfect sense.

But if you find these kinds of suggestions preposterous, or even evidence of a serious cognitive disconnect between the world of fantasy and that of reality (or the kind of thing that could only be believed by a convicted yacht-killer who was once married to that shitty novelist Danielle Steel), rest assured, there will soon come yet another round of right-wing media fanaticism to make it seem downright amateurish by comparison.

And so it was this week when the conservative cognitariat served up another heaping dose of anti-intellectual dumbshittery posing as serious analysis; this time, arguing — seriously, this is what they said — that poor people rely too much on inheritance from family, and the rich don’t inherit enough. Rather, the latter work for their money, while the working class is coddled by hand-me-down wealth, allowing them to sit around all day doing nothing.

No, seriously, why are you laughing? Are you claiming not to know that poor people inherit lots of money? Have you not been paying attention?

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…But How Dare You Complain to Me: Ani DiFranco, White Obliviousness and Historical Memory

Imagine for a moment that an artist of some sort — perhaps for lack of a better example, a folk singer — decided to host a writer’s retreat, at which interested and aspiring artists might gather so as to pool their collective energy. And let’s imagine that said folk singer, not being an expert at locating inspirational retreat locations, turned that job over to a promoter. And let’s say that said promoter then came back to said folk singer, excited to announce that such a location had been secured. And let’s imagine that said location was Dachau: the legendary Nazi concentration camp.

Still imagining for a moment, can we envision said folk singer thinking to herself (or himself, after all, since we’re still imagining here), “Whoa!” But then, and this is the important part, going on to think, despite the exclamatory thought bubble just mentioned, that perhaps “the setting would become a participant in the event,” and so rather than objecting to the location and holding the retreat elsewhere, moving full speed ahead so that “a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were.”

Oh, and can we imagine this “organic dialogue” emerging on the site of such suffering, when those gathered to “emerge” it have all paid $1000 for the privilege?

That the answers to these questions are self-evidently negative should be obvious. And yet, this is exactly what famed singer — and noted progressive and feminist — Ani DiFranco just did, by scheduling a retreat at Nottoway, one of Louisiana’s largest slave plantations, which at one point engaged the forced labor of over 400 African descended persons. And although she claims to have been at least mildly taken aback upon realizing where her promoter had scheduled the event — thus the “Whoa!” mentioned above (no doubt the most wildly understated reaction ever to one’s pending professional sojourn to a fulcrum of genocide) — she never once thought better of having the retreat; well, at least not until it became a PR catastrophe of epic proportions.

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No, I Haven’t “Changed My Mind” About Whiteness and Racism: Responding to Nazi Web Trolls

First, they tried e-mail threats. When that didn’t work, one of their number called me at home. Still no luck, and so a few years later they decided to visit the neighborhood where my family and I lived and pass out thinly veiled death threats and fliers. When that too failed to put a dent in my writing, speaking, and educational work, they organized protests at two of my speeches this fall.

Time after time, attempts to intimidate me have failed miserably, and so now, the white nationalists and supremacists who see it as their job to attack any of us who combat their ignorance and hatred, have switched gears. Now, they have decided to switch to disinformation tactics, intended to discredit antiracists in the eyes of a public they hope will be gullible enough to believe whatever it is they say about us.

To wit, today, a website operated by white nationalists (but which fronts as a site focused on Diversity, and which gives no clear indication of its political slant on the homepage), published an article claiming that I had announced that I had “changed my mind” about racism, and was now embracing their white supremacist worldview, anti-immigrant nativism, and other aspects of their toxic and bigoted agenda. Written up as a news story, the blog post said I had made this announcement at a speech, in which my newfound embrace of white racism was met with the “hisses and boos” of my “former supporters,” and that police were needed to protect me from the mob afterward. Though a nice job of creative writing, and although it would have even been amusing had it been labeled as parody, the fact is, the neo-Nazis in question were seeking to pass it off as entirely real.

Two points here:

1) It is bogus. I have not changed my mind on matters of race, nor will I. I reject white nationalism, white supremacy, and indeed, the very concept of “the white race,” which I see as a scientific and cultural fiction, created by people of various European descents, so as to subjugate non-European/non-white peoples. The very concept deserves eradication. Note, I said the concept of whiteness deserves eradication, not the people currently called white. And;

2) Because this piece was not labeled as a parody, and because its author’s intent was obviously to discredit me professionally by making people think this “change of heart” was real — and that I was now endorsing white supremacy — it is legally actionable as libel. Libel laws allow a lot of leeway for skewering public figures, but not when fake words are put in their mouths, and suggested as being real. Had it been labeled parody or snark, they could pretty much say whatever they wanted, within reason, and not violate libel laws. But they did not do this. As such, I will begin legal proceedings against them, in the aftermath of the holidays.

I will not link to the piece here, nor mention the site’s name. They want me to do that so as to boost their pathetic traffic, I’m sure, but it isn’t going to happen. Just make note that if you hear something about me now rejecting my lifelong antiracism in favor of some retrograde white racist bullshit, it is indeed bullshit. And soon, it will be bullshit that costs its authors whatever pathetic financial resources they have managed to muster up…


Tim Wise on “Racism in Legal Services” (Speech to Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, 9/27/13)

My speech to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, 9/27/13


Tim Wise at Google (September 17, 2013): Race, the Workplace and Silicon Valley

My speech at Google, September 17, 2013