Oh damn…somebody just sent me this and reminded of how much fun I had thoroughly eviscerating right-wing nonsense in a debate back in 2007 on affirmative action for the now venerable IQ-squared debate series. I was teamed up with my friend Kimberle Crenshaw (of Columbia and UCLA Law Schools), and Khin Mai Aung of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. We were opposing Terence Pell of the Center for Individual Rights, John McWhorter, conservative fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Joseph Phillips, a black conservative actor whose claim to fame is that he was on the Cosby Show or something…enjoy. Even though I got cut off at the end, by Robert Siegel (who didn’t seem to like me at all, which makes me happy, actually), I’m still pretty happy with this.
My talk at USF, 2.26.13
Tim Wise at Providence College, “Diversity, Racism and the Trouble With Colorblindness,” February 20, 2013
My entire speech at Providence College, 2/20/2013. By all means, watch the entire speech, rather than the snippets posted by various websites, which they are using so as to suggest that I “attacked the Catholic Church,” or demeaned Catholicism — both of which are absurd arguments made by liars…which is to say, by right-wingers. Same thing. Always. No exceptions.
Seems like every young conservative with a phone cam thinks they’re James O’Keefe.
Sadly for them, since there’s no Andrew Breitbart left to selectively edit and post their handiwork, thereby making it seem a lot more damning than it really is, they’re reduced to making even the most obvious, historically inarguable comments by those of us on the left seem controversial.
Just such a thing happened to me this past Wednesday, during my talk at Providence College in Rhode Island. I’ll get to the supposedly “shocking” video shortly, but first let it be noted that most of the 500 or so in attendance were enthusiastically supportive of the message I delivered regarding the obligation of educational institutions to promote racial equity and representation, by way of deliberate efforts at recruiting and retaining students of color. There had been some controversy at the school recently, thanks to an article in the student paper critiquing the college’s diversity plan, and so I weighed in. My argument was really quite un-radical, in truth. I merely explained, drawing on the available evidence, that unless deliberate efforts were made to make Providence a more inclusive place, it would not simply happen on its own, and that highly capable persons of color would continue to be overlooked. And this would happen, not because they were unqualified, but because of the inertia of a K-12 education system that too often provides unequal opportunity to students, such that would allow all students to thrive and even consider Providence, let alone apply and be admitted.
Seriously, in terms of radicalness, it was like a 6.5 on my normal scale.
But in any event, during the Q&A period things got more interesting. Two conservative students asked me questions — good, tough questions (and indeed the kind I like getting at these sorts of events) — and my answers, and our interactions proved grist for the right-wing “undercover video” mill, despite how incredibly mild and obviously true my remarks were, to which they took such offense.
It’s one of those stories that can leave even the most jaded and cynical critic of racist thinking scratching their head; the kind that manages to shock even those of us for whom acts of bigotry and intolerance seem all-too-typical, and who have, sadly, come to expect them in a culture such as this.
And so it was that in Flint, Michigan recently, a new father — and this is a term he has earned in only the most narrow, biological sense — demanded that when his recently arrived child was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where she had been born, no African American nurses were to attend to her needs, to care for her, to do what neonatal ICU nurses do, which is to say keep sick babies alive. White hands only for this white, fresh as snow child, whose father, sporting a shiny new swastika tattoo (a Christmas present no doubt from his pathetic skinhead bride) prioritized his own hatreds above and beyond the needs of his precious little girl. That the future does not bode well for her seems hardly worth saying. To be delivered from an ICU into the arms of one as unhinged as this can only, by reasonable people, be seen as a turn for the worse. Incubators and breathing machines might be preferable to having parents such as she has, through no fault of her own, inherited.
But what is worse, perhaps, than the bigotry of this one neo-Nazi — which is at least to be expected and so, can, despite its irrationality in a case such as this, remain somewhat within the realm of the banal — is that the hospital in question, Hurley Medical Center, actually capitulated to his psychotically racist demands, posting a sign on the little girl’s chart instructing the unit to disallow any black nurses from as much as touching this baby. Presumably, were Tonya Battle, a black Hurley neonatal nurse since 1988 the only nurse within arms reach of the girl as she entered cardiac arrest or as her kidneys began to shut down — both of which have been known to happen to those in a NIC-U — Battle was to scream loudly for a white nurse to come and save the child’s life. Because God forbid a black woman with 25 years experience do the job. And if she dies, well, at least her precious white skin wouldn’t have been sullied by black hands.
Hurley’s acquiescence to this insanity, in contravention of all ethical responsibility, not to mention legal obligations to treat their employees in a non-discriminatory fashion, is going to cost them no doubt, as they are apt to discover once the lawsuit currently brought against their witless administrators plays out. They are going to pay, and pay big, as they should, for their enabling of overt white supremacy. But that is hardly the most important part of this story. Just as it was not the most important part of the story back in 2000 when a heart specialist at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville did a similar thing, agreeing to the lunatic ravings of another racist white man, who demanded that his wife, who needed open heart surgery to save her life, not be attended to by any black doctor, because he didn’t want a black man to see his wife naked.
More interesting, I think, is what this story (and the earlier one from Nashville) says about racism in America, and not just of the sort evinced by one bottom-feeder, troglodytic fan of Adolf Hitler. For while we are too quick to presume racism to be merely an individual pathology manifested by individually bad people, much like the father in the story from Flint, the fact is, an incident like this illustrates as well as anything can, the way that racism continues to operate as a systemic force in the United States, civil rights laws and all our vaunted post-raciality notwithstanding.
This is the second half of a longer discussion on CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon, 2/16/13, in which several guests, myself included, discussed the way in which actors of color are too often typecast in roles, in ways intended to keep white consumers comfortable. Part One of the discussion, which featured commercial actor, Jamison Reeves, film director, Anthony Hemingway, and casting director, Mimi Webb Miller, can be watched here
Tim Wise – Black History Month Speech, “Allyship and the Struggle for Justice,” 2/11/13, Harpeth Hall School, Nashville, TN
My February 11th speech at Harpeth Hall School, a Nashville school for young women, grades 5-12. This was their annual Black History Month Assembly, and the first time I have ever been called upon to speak to an audience ranging in age from 10 to 18 all at once – Yikes! But despite the challenge of that (seriously, try it sometime), thanks to the wonderful students, faculty and administrators, it proved to be a great event!
Back in November, 2011, I was approached by A.R. Ward, a blogger over at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment site, and asked if I would be interested in engaging in a debate or dialogue of sorts, regarding the issue of race and racism in America. I knew of A.R. only because, for the previous several months, he had been blogging at his own site, specifically about me, my writings, and all the myriad flaws that he claimed to have found in my positions. His interest in me seemed to coincide with the rather public beef — first on Facebook, and later Twitter — between myself and his pal, Breitbart, so I never really knew how much of his interest was his, and how much was proxy for Andrew, but in any event, I found it interesting. Indeed, it was even a bit flattering to have someone dedicate an entire blog just to rebutting the things you say. And since I say a lot, I figured if nothing else, I could keep him busy.
Anyway, I said I might well be interested in such a debate, depending on the specific topic, the format, and the rules of engagement, and even invited him to attend my upcoming speech at Occidental College just outside Los Angeles, where he lives, and to ask the first question during the Q & A session that evening. He did, on both counts, and then shortly thereafter we agreed to conduct an online dialogue, lasting three rounds total, on a topic on which we could both mutually agree. He sent me one topic draft, I tweaked it a bit and sent it back to him, and then he agreed to my wording. Since then, we both completed two full “rounds” and he has submitted his final statement/rebuttal to me. Because of a host of other obligations, familial and professional, I have yet to complete my final statement, but am working on wrapping that up in the next week or so. Meanwhile, and although we had agreed not to publish the debate until it was completed (with no caveats that would allow us to publish it partially if the other debater was delinquent in responding to something), and only to publish it in full (no excerpts that would allow for distortions of context), A.R., perhaps needing attention, decided to go ahead and publish an incredibly partial, truncated excerpt from the debate on his site.
Feeling as though one should see each completed round as it currently stands, rather than just snippets intended to make one debater seem particularly absurd and the other especially bright, I am now, in retaliation, posting the full two rounds thus far completed. Upon finishing up my final statement, I will post his closing and then mine, for a fully completed debate. Please note, my decision not to publish his final statement here should not be interpreted as an indication that he did not have a rebuttal (and in fact, a quite strong one I feel) to my second round comments. He did, and has proven to be a very able debater, well-versed in conservative theory, both racial and economic. I just believe it is irresponsible to post partial debate rounds online until they are completed. We have finished two, and here they are. In any event, what I am posting is far more complete than what he posted on his own site.
Although the dialogue is quite long, I think it stands as a pretty comprehensive example of how folks on the right and left simply do not see the world in anywhere near the same way; and especially on the matter of race and racism. His position is fairly standard as a representative of the mainstream conservative worldview on these matters, and mine is mostly reflective of the left and antiracist worldview, although it differs in some ways too. It is my hope that readers will learn something from the discussion, and that the exercise will perhaps inform our understanding of how the right and its spokespersons simply cannot face the truth about racism in America, past or present.
(Readers will note that for the most part, the first two rounds here do not include footnotes or hyperlinked web citations. I am hoping to go back and insert these soon, as I know they would be helpful on both ends. A.R. includes some in his third round rebuttal (to be posted soon), as will I, but I will also strive to insert links where possible for my fact claims in rounds one and two. Until then, it should be noted that almost all fact claims herein are to be found in my previous two books, with footnotes; namely, Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, and Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity. Questions about particular fact claims can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here is my recent interview in Grand Rapids, MI, with Jeff Smith of Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID). In this 37 minute discussion, we discuss the difference between White Supremacy and racism, the failure or limitations of diversity training, gentrification, Israel/Palestine and the future of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions campaign, the importance of doing intersectional analysis that bridges race, sex, gender, class and other identity categories, and my upcoming book, Cruel But Not Unusual: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future.
…and if you need some, there are few images as capable of filling the bill as this one. This is, to me, the most inspiring photo from the civil rights era: Richard Avedon’s photo of the Atlanta SNCC staff in 1963 (and a few national leaders), including Julian Bond, Bob Zellner and Dottie Zellner. The focus, the intensity, the righteousness of this group, standing up in the face of American apartheid, reveals the best of the human condition and our potential. Fearless…real American heroes…sadly our history books tell our children little about them. So that becomes our job…