Posts Tagged ‘tim wise’

Tim Wise ‘White Like Me’ summarised in 15 tweets

White Like Me

White Like Me

As a random learning exercise, I tried to summarise Tim Wise’s excellent book ‘White Like Me’ in 15 tweets. I figured I’d post them here for posterity.

Here we go:

  1. We breathe racism – it’s everywhere around us. Therefore we all have to be constantly vigilant about our own prejudices.
  2. ‘Whiteness’ is a construct that was developed in the Americas in the 1600s to prevent the unity of black slaves and poor whites.
  3. Before that, people weren’t talked about in terms of white or black. Skin colour wasn’t considered a significant attribute.
  4. Laws were created, privileges were enforced. Whites were persuaded that their solidarity should be focused on race, not class.
  5. Race has no value from a scientific point of view, but it has become a sociological/political fact.
  6. Exceptions (Oprah, Obama) don’t prove the rule. There was a black millionaire in the US in 1911. Did racism not exist then?
  7. Many white people find it difficult to come to terms with the idea of white privilege, because it threatens their self-image.
  8. Privilege starts from day 1 – where you live, your family’s financial security, networks, inheritance, perception, education access.
  9. It is our human obligation to fight injustice. This struggle will never be truly finished, but we focus on playing our part.
  10. White people have everything 2 gain from fighting racism. Racism destroys US/English culture. We must develop a new inclusive culture.
  11. Silence is collaboration. Regardless of colour, we have clear responsibility to stand up to injustice perpetrated against others.
  12. If we can recognise that we’ve done wrong to the environment and take measures to fix it, why can’t we do the same with race?
  13. White people should set antiracist example in all areas. Expose racism. Refuse to worship a white Jesus. Boycott racist companies.
  14. White people should be willing to follow, not lead, in antiracist struggle. Respect that others have deeper experience of issue.
  15. Reject the Eurocentrism of mainstream education and press. Actively explore non-European history and culture.

Read the book; it’s great. Very refreshing and healthy to hear a middle class white male recognising white privilege as a problem.

Personally, I agree with the contents of the book almost entirely, but as always, remember to read critically and develop your own view.

Get the book for £7.73 on Amazon UK

Excellent description of the con of racism (Tim Wise)

The notion of the white race found traction in the North American colonies, not because it described a clear scientific concept or some true historical bond between persons of European descent, but rather because the elites of the colonies (who were small in number but controlled the vast majority of colonial wealth) needed a way to secure their power. At the time, the wealthy landowners feared rebellions, in which poor European peasants might join with African slaves to overthrow aristocratic governance; after all, these poor Europeans were barely above the level of slaves themselves, especially if they worked as indentured servants.

From the mid-1600s to the early 1700s a series of laws were promulgated in Virginia and elsewhere, which elevated all persons of European descent, no matter how lowly in economic terms, above all persons of African descent. The purpose of such measures was to provide poor Europeans (increasingly called whites) with a stake in the system, even though they were hardly benefiting in material terms from it. In other words, whiteness was a trick, and it worked marvellously, dampening down the push for rebellion by poor whites on the basis of class interest, and encouraging them to cast their lot with the elite, if only in aspirational terms. White skin became, for them, an alternative form of property to which they could cleave, in the absence of more tangible possessions.

This divide-and-conquer tactic would be extended and refined in future generations as well. During the Civil War era, Southern elites made it quite clear that their reason for secession from the Union was the desire to maintain and extend the institution of slavery and white supremacy, which institutions they felt were threatened by the rise of Lincoln and the Republican Party. One might think that seceding and going to war to defend slavery would hardly meet with the approval of poor white folks, who didn’t own slaves. After all, if slaves can be made to work for free, any working-class white person who must charge for their labour will be undercut by slave labour and find it harder to make ends meet. Yet by convincing poor whites that their interests were racial, rather than economic, and that whites in the South had to band together to defend “their way of life”, elites in the South conned these same lower-caste Europeans into joining a destructive war effort that cost hundreds of thousands of their own lives.

Then, during the growth of the labour union movement, white union workers barred blacks from apprenticeship programs and unions because of racism, with the encouragement of owners and bosses who would use workers of colour to break white labour strikes for better wages and working conditions. By bringing in blacks and others of colour to break strikes, bosses counted on white workers to turn on those who replaced them, rather than turning on the bosses themselves. And indeed, this is what happened time and again, further elevating whiteness above class interest in the minds of European Americans.

The effectiveness of racist propaganda to unite whites around race, even if it meant overlooking economic interests, has been stunning. And while it would be nice to think that this kind of shortsighted mentality were a thing of the past, it appears to still maintain a grip on an awful lot of whites in the present day as well.

White Like Me cover

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