Tim Wise Interview at Racialicious, Part One: On the Role of the White Antiracist

Recently, Andrea (AJ) Plaid, over at Racialicious interviewed me about a number of subjects: some related to my book, Colorblind, others specific to race and popular culture, and then finally, a question about the role of white antiracists, and particularly my own role in the work against white supremacy. The results of our interview are now being released in two parts on their site, with the first part — the part about white antiracism — coming out today. Here is that segment. The second part will come out later this week. Please note, although the title that was given to this segment references me “taking on” critics of white antiracism, this is not how I see it at all, and was not my title or way of putting it. I don’t view this matter as combative or adversarial, and think the whole issue of what role whites should play in the work is a very valuable one to discuss.

3 Responses to “Tim Wise Interview at Racialicious, Part One: On the Role of the White Antiracist”

  1. It is a fucked up situation but I totally agree that when a person of color is teaching a group of white people about diversity they must include the work of white anti-racists. When I was a graduate student at Indiana university I was nervous to teach the diversity class for future teachers. I felt that they wouldn’t really listen to me because I would be seen as the angry black woman. I also felt the same way about my texts and articles. I required four books, one was Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Dr. Beverly Tatum and We Can’t Teach What you Don’t Know by Gary Howard. The reason I included both books is because I thought my white students might not agree with Dr. Tatum’s take on racism and I was right. I had a student admit that when she first read Dr. Tatum’s book she was angry and dismissed her as an angry Black women, but when she read Howard’s book she realized that he said the same thing but for some reason it was easier for her to accept because it came from a white man. This is the reality that faculty of color face when teaching aboout diversity. Some white students will be more responsive if they read about antiracism from a white perspective.
    My students always respond well to any of Tim’s article or videos so I’m grateful for the work that you do cause I know it helps my students deal with their own bias.


  2. I like Racialicious’ idea: Create a site specifically oriented at blacks and POCs and, to a lesser extent, white allies of color. That seems to be the best solution.


  3. Hi Tom, I’m writing today to express that I am saddened as a white anti-racist that you do not seem to allow for more shades of color and gradations within your definitions of whiteness, both in your writings and your lectures. Is a Jewish person with kinky hair and dark eyes and dark skin or a swarthy Sicilian really going to trade on and benefit from “white privilege” their entire life just by checking a white box? The Jewish person is teased about the Holocaust and called “lampshade” while the Italian child is told by some in his country he came out “muddy.”

    Does not the “race shifting” and the occasional racial vetting in the eyes of many but them at a disadvantage, even on job sites? And especially if they are anti-racists? If this is brought up in many anti-racist circles, the darker whites in question are usually at once reprimanded that they have never suffered as POC have or worst they are told to “be proud” to be something they simply are not. Not out of revulsion or fear but simply out of reality.

    Yet many white children who grow up with darker features are bullied and harassed and victims of racism and its accompanied confusion. The perpetrators are not limited to simply racist whites but to people of color themselves. Yet once again, to bring this up is to somehow be aligning oneself white white supremacy, if the opinions on many anti-racist websites are anything to go by.

    Another factor is that as more and more families blend racially and culturally, many children will and are growing up to defy white supremacist and Henry Louis Gates style “one drop de-facto laws” and white identify. Regarding the airing of this topic on a website which will remain nameless, the one time any comment was even moderated (or respected) was when a white identifying girl of reputedly ambiguous ethnic background (not my words)was beaten severely. Only in extreme violence was she or her ilk given any consideration for the negotiating in society that she obviously has gone through.

    If you’ve ever read Matthew Frye Jacobsen’s “Whiteness of a Different Color: The Alchemy of Race in America” you’ll see that this is nothing new. And while I enjoy your work I worry sometimes that you are inadvertently asking all whites who are anti-racists to be ashamed walking through the door, simultaneously denying their own cultural individuality and appreciation because its associated with so much negativity. No white anti-racist cares for Eurocentric history yet many of us do not know where we came from in a historical sense as well. I feel sometimes there should, within the anti-racist movement also be an appreciation for the positive aspects of being of European decent, by whites, that they can bring to the table when they meet people of colour and fellow anti-racists in their own lives.


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