Tim Wise (1968- ) is the best-known white anti-racist in America. He writes books and articles and speaks at universities across the country – and sometimes even appears on CNN.
His big thing is telling white people about white privilege: the advantages that all white people, rich or poor, enjoy simply for being white. If blacks and other people of colour suffer from disadvantages because of racism, whites must then likewise enjoy the opposite advantages – like generally living in better neighbourhoods and more easily avoiding prison.
Rich whites in America use white privilege to buy off poor whites with certain advantages to split and weaken the working class by race. Divide and conquer. Something they have been doing since the late 1600s.
The losers are not just blacks, Mexicans and other people of colour – but poor whites too and even middle-class ones. Because whites vote against their class interests. So, for example, America does not have universal health care, something other rich countries take for granted.
White privilege blinds them to danger. So they are taken by surprise by things like 9/11, the mess in Iraq and the subprime mortgage meltdown. By seeing America from a narrow, self-serving white point of view they miss the big picture.
Wise grew up poor in Nashville, Tennessee. His father was Jewish, his mother, Scottish. At least some of the schools he went to were mostly black. He was part of one of the country’s top high school debating teams.
In the late 1980s as a student at Tulane University he took part in the anti-apartheid movement to get the university to pull its money out of companies that do business in South Africa.
In the early 1990s after Tulane he worked as an activist and fought against David Duke, a Klansman who would be senator. Wise found that what he did best was speaking and writing, which he has been doing ever since.
Blacks tend to see him as a white anti-racist, as a white ally, but whites (those who have heard of him) tend to see him as the face of anti-racism – which makes him into something more than a mere ally.
Wise says he is needed because there are plenty of whites who will listen to him who are too racist to listen seriously to people of colour. So at least the message is getting out there more than it was.
On the other hand from what I have heard and read of Wise he does not point his listeners and readers onwards – to people of colour to be taken seriously or to actions to be taken to fight against racism. His message allows whites to say, “At least I get it” – and stop there.
Malcolm X on white allies:
If you are for me and my problems – when I say me, I mean us, our people – then you have to be willing to do as old John Brown did.
- His website: timwise.org
- Ankhesen Mie: For POC with Tim Wise Issues…
- From Tim Wise:
- other white people who talk about race:
- white privilege
- Irish Americans
- Malcolm X
- How to help end racism