Tim Wise: White Like Me Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son



Assism you name it Of course I may have learned it all but I promptly forgot it and here s why the knowledge had no applicability in my world It was interesting like knowing the borders of the Late Roman Empire or how a neuron functioned but it wasn t something that I ever had cause to se in my day to day life Everyone I knew was largely like me white working class or middle class heterosexual with a few exceptions and to me normal That s what normal was to me people who looked and spoke and acted and lived as I did Fast forward to the United States Navy where for the first time in my life I was actually with people who were not white Northeastern Catholics I lived worked played and fought in very close arters with a lot of black people or if you prefer African Americans Sitting in a dark room for twelve hours at a time with nothing to do but talk or living in the very very difficult environment of a deployed warship you get to know each other ite well During those days for the first and only time in my life I had candid discussions about things like race and class I learned a lot My horizons as they say were broadenedThen I forgot all about it Why I came home White Middle class Straight mostly Catholics Friends Family Co workers Normal When I became a teacher in 1999 one of the first classes I had to take was called Diversity and Multiculturalism or something like that You can picture my eye rolling Oh great PC bullshit attitude when I first sat down with my fellow graduate students including the young lady who would later become my wife We went to class for about three weeks before my first day in the Boston Public Schools at Dorchester High School which was about 95% minority that is black Hispanic Asian etc I felt as though I had landed on Mars Everything I had learned about in college everything my black friends had told me about in the military and everything I was currently learning about in my Oh great PC bullshit class was absolutely ass kickingly eye openingly true BAM Welcome to America white boy So when I first read this book a few years back I was startled at how the author s experiences as a white person so closely mirrored my own I had learned but promptly forgot of course about white privilege even as I experienced it every day Even typing those words makes me The Icarus Girl uncomfortable because I know how horrificallynpleasant this topic is to discuss White privilege is the benefits you have in our society simply because you are white Without going on and on about it nderstand that there are enormous piles of shit that you as a white person never ever have to deal with as you go about your daily living Because we do not have to face these things they are invisible Because they are invisible we tend to think that they do not existThey doI was very moved and disturbed after my first reading of White Like Me I thought to myself man I don t have any black friends or even any black acuaintances I live in an all white town my co workers are all white When I take vacations go food shopping eat at a restaurant make a stop at the bank or the library or the movies everyone is largely white I do have a few gay friends and relatives but for the most part that s as diverse as it gets in my world Again none of this happened on purpose It justhappened So of course and you can see where this is going after a little while I forgot Again Sure I have black students and Hispanic students and gay students and disabled students and but there is no relationship there beyond ME TeacherYOU Student Perhaps I am a bit knowledgeable than many of those with whom I work about issues related to poverty and things like that but that s something we deal with as work issues not something personal A few weeks ago a person I admire read and reviewed this book reminding me in my little white bubble that the world as I experience it is not the world that a great many other people experience it I am white educated heterosexual Christian employed insured healthy and live in a town with no crime good schools and a lot of police Normal right Not so much Race and the legacy of our nation s past is the 800 pound elephant in America s living room We ll do anything to avoid talking about it because when we do talk about it it tends to get gly and mean Perhaps as you are reading this review you feel yourself growing angry or perturbed Perhaps you are thinking about ways to counter what I ve said Feel that snarly dyspeptic wave sweeping over you right now That s what I m talking about and trust me it happens to me too I have no idea what the solution to the problems in our country are with regard to race I do know from my own experience that as a member of the ruling majority it is easy to ignore the whole thing I also know that because of the way my life and work and living arrangements are structured it s not hard to take for granted the many many benefits I have as a white person in America Likewise it is entirely too easy to skip over the problems that many non white people face on a day to day basis I don t see them right They must not be there and even if they arewellpersonal responsibility or some other bromide It is easy on other words to forget Trust me I know I forget all of the timeThis is the part of my review where I am supposed to write But THIS time Oh this time except most likely that would be a lie or perhaps a distortion of the truth Not much changes for me in my world except perhaps my perceptions of it I can only hope and pray that this time I will remember and do what I can when I can for who I can to push back against this giant elephant that s set p shop in my beloved America s living room Because really we don t have forever to figure this out Forgetting has a price OK majorly important book here Let s please take a moment and give Tim Wise the ridiculous amount of respect he deserves for advancing the dialogue on white privilege I want to give this book 5 stars just for its existence I settled on 4 because I don t know if it s a brilliant book but it s without a doubt a provokingly honest book I hope that readers will come away from it as I did not guilt stricken but with a greater sense of empathy and mindfulnessGrounding an exploration of white privilege in his personal narrative is obviously an intentional choice that raises the bar for all of s to examine race and privilege in our own lives And an accessible rather than scholarly text No problem here That being said I felt it sort of went back and forth between treatise on white privilege and this is a memoir so excuse me for a moment while I work out my own family issues Relatedly I feel like the title may as well have been White liberal activist like me He works with people from all walks of life in his speaking career but this book seemed pretty narrowly aimed at the white crowd who honestly call themselves progressive S from his own life Tim Wise demonstrates the ways in which racism not only burdens people of color but also benefits in relative terms those who are “white like him” He discusses how racial privilege can harm whites in the long run and make progressive social change less likely He explores the way.

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N race and other social issues were activists or sympathetic to activism while obtaining a liberal arts degree and are eager to have their eyes opened to the insidious nature of white privilege This is of course his own background and we are the demographic most likely to pick Marie Antoinette up his book But for a speaker gifted at connecting with all kinds of audiences why not write with the same aim In fact one of the strongest aspects of the book is that for whatever reaction you might want to voice he s had that conversation before His most effective strategy is including anecdotes from his own experience where criticism pushed him to even deepernderstanding Like the man who had known Wise s grandfather a Jew who gave back to the black community where he owned a liuor store and asked him how it felt that such a good man was for all intents and purposes a drug dealer in the ghetto He works through that The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics uncomfortable realization to conclude that all ofs are neither good nor bad but complicated and that the best of intentions cannot shield Programming in Objective C us from overwhelming social forces that tend to makes part of the problemSays Wise We could make our lives a hell of a lot easier if we d just embrace the complication and confront the contradictions with our eyes and our hearts wide open willing to celebrate our victories but also willing to learn from our failuresOne of the most powerful moments comes when he relays the story of an early lecture A young white woman spoke Beyond Band of Brothers up with I really agree with you and would love to do the kind of work you do but I m afraid black people won t trust me won t accept my contribution In the interests of furthering rather than suppressing debate he chose to let an obviously angry black woman give the expected response Make NO mistake we do hate you and we don t trust you for one minuteHe gives a thoughtful reply excerpted thuslyUltimately I m not doing this for you I don t view it as my job to fight racism so as to save you from it To do so would be paternalistic I fight racism because racism is evil and I don t want to contribute to or collaborate with evil I fight it because it s a sickness in my community and I m trying to save myself from it Further in this discussion of resistance he writesI want to be clear that I and other whites have an obligation to do this workWhat white liberals mustnderstand is that people of color owe The Water Of Life us nothing They don t owes gratitude when we speak out about racism They don t owe The Year of Living Biblically us a pat on the back They don t owes a goddamn thingNow we re getting somewhere I do think that he could perhaps have left his readers with some concrete tools for empowering them to be allies for people of color But I suppose we all are meant to seek our own paths Or maybe he ll just have to write another book The content of this book is outstanding Wise makes many a good point about whiteness and the privilege it allows for and I did take away a lot of information in reading this book Wise brings p a a lot of great points that I think white people need to hear My problem with this book was the tone Wise assumed the reader was an absolute idiot and he comes off in the book as such a dude such a bro that I had a hard time keeping p with it I loved the content hated the tone And it wasn t that what he was saying was hard for me to hear no A lot of the topics he raised are things I d thought about and have even studied It s just that when I read a book like this I want to put it down feeling inspired not like I was just berated for being born white I nderstand that he was trying to point out how we re all a little bit racist no matter how hard we try to suash it but someone who s going to pick p his book is generally not going to be someone who needs a lecture about what a jerk they are for being white for 200 pagesWhat turned me off the most was his epilogue on Katrina a 10 page bitch session about how I don t know what really happened there about how I still think race didn t play an issue in the awful events that took place in New Orleans in 2005 His assumptions on my ignorance left me frustrated and annoyed Frankly as I watched the television news coverage in 2005 which Wise complains about for several pages I was well aware that race was an issue I ve seen the newspaper clippings of a black woman holding her child and a loaf of bread with a caption explaining how she was looting and the other newspaper clipping of a white woman doing the exact same thing with a caption explaining she was searching for food to provide for her child I get it Race was the bigger issue than the hurricane a fact I knew as soon as I saw the news coverage I really didn t need a letter from him explaining it all to me accusing me of sticking my head in the sand or pretending like it wasn t an issue He could have explained it differently without insulting my intelligence I borrowed this book from one of the teachers at my daughter s school This teacher also facilitates the diversity series that I had mentioned in my review of The Hate U Give The program will be longer this year and starts in a couple of weeks I am glad that I had a chance to read Wise s book prior to then because there is so much to discussWise is an activist who wrote this book to help white people For the Love of All Thats Holy, Dont Buy a Boat When Venus is in Retrograde understand how privileged their lives are versus minorities in America and by doing the right thing when it comes to certain issues such as race they can help make the world a better place He gives numerous examples of how whites don t have to worry about the same thing that blacks do such as being likely to be arrested for possessing drugs or getting pulled over for a traffic violation Wise s book was written prior to all of the police shootings of blacks that have taken place over the past few years which provides a recent example of one thing that whites don t have to worry about or really even think about in this country Wise s book covers additional territory around his first hand experiences working with poor people and presents a stark picture of what really happened in regard to Hurricane Katrina and hownfair it was to blame the African Americans who weren t able to evacuate Wise also examines himself when it comes to race and gives advice to parents on how to help raise children who are informed about the history of our nation and how certain groups of people have been treated Even though I feel pretty in tune when it comes to issues of race class and even gender I found Wise s perspective to be a real eye opener He also ends his book with messages of hope and pragmatism It s pretty simple just do the right thing Here a Scary Stories 3 uote from the book that I love written to Wise by Archbishop Desmond Tutu You do not do the things you do because other people will join you in doing them nor because they willltimately be successful You do the things you do because you are doing rightYep pretty simple. S in which whites can challenge their njust privileges and explains in clear and convincing language why it is in the best interest of whites themselves to do so Using anecdotes instead of stale statistics Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and yet scholarly analytical and yet accessible.

I was given this book in my Philosophy Race and Racism class and I could barely get through it A lot of the other students couldn t either it was obvious that Wise was full of himself The entire read was dull and it went no where It was basically a book to make white privileged people feel sorry for being born privileged I m a Puerto Rican born and raised in a ghetto neighborhood I was in no way privileged and this book disgusted me There is no reason why white people should feel sorry for being born into a wealthy family I was annoyed with Wise s assumption that going to school with a few black people made him nderstanding of what black people went through The worst part was how he constantly contradicted himself throughout the entire book He kept trying to prove his non racism by saying how he didn t make assumptions on black people he met but then he d go on to describe some situation he was in and just completely make himself sound like an ass Every time we had to discuss this book in class everyone would be in an The Bartender uproar and feeling the same way I did Anyone who thinks this book was great has to be as oblivious and self hating as Wise is Basically if you wanted to read about a white guy talking about how white people are bad and making a fool out of himself then buy this book I wish I didn t have to waist my money and time reading this book Wise is arrogant and obviously thinks too much of himself because he wrote an entire book of crap based on his generalized view points Wise has crafted an engaging personal and at times moving account of the effects of whiteness on his family and on white people as a whole I also had several issues with the book The book s tone was somewhatneven If there is one topic of discussion that makes people Tono Bungay uncomfortable than prejudice it s privilege Both elements constitute opposite sides of the same injustice so to only speak of one would leave the conversation woefully incomplete In his thematic memoir White Like Me Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son Tim Wise details the self reflection of his own white privilege in an accessible and personal accountWhile good I do not rate this book higher for two reasons First as the concepts of this book are extracted wholly from Tim s personal exploration I do feel that there are elements of privilege theory that were leftnderdeveloped There is an absence of literature on the subject but the lack of a bibliography was still nonetheless disappointing Second Frances E Kendall wrote a better book on this topic Understanding White Privilege Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Race that I feel better tackles the subject matter especially when it comes to different levels of privilege and how they interplay That said Tim s personal account is worth reading There is something moving about a person honestly detailing how they were wrong about something important even if it paints a deeply nflattering image and then how they learned from their mistakes and moved to do better Further as many of these examples of Tim s privilege are presented through his own prominent memories of eureka moments in which he erred he does do a good job of showing how even well meaning people can nwittingly contribute to societal problems we mustn t romanticize our resistance but fight to maintain its presence in our lives knowing that it could easily vanish in a moment of weakness anger insecurity or fear it is because we spend so much of our time in that other place a place of diminished capacity and wavering commitment that we have to be careful 92Also good is his approach to being an ally Pointing out your privilege should be neither an outward accusation The Choice unless it has to be and sometimes it really does nor anncouth call for personal self aggrandizement to show what a good person you are it should be just stating basic reality Truth telling is the bare minimum for being a decent person and acknowledging racial privilege does not belittle other types of personal struggle eg gender sexuality nationality mental health poverty etc Tim does a good job of explaining how his white privilege benefited and protected him from poor choices while others making the same mistakes would have faced far serious conseuencesOverall this is a pretty solid book and it s worth reading though I would recommend the Kendall volume first Yes it s important for white people to talk to each other about white privilege and racism No I do not think this book is the most important book of our time I think it s arrogant of him to talk about how he makes his living doing anti racist work with not really any discussion about what allows him to make money repeating observances about whiteness that people of color have been sharing for centuries without getting paid to do so I also think he s such a dude that it made it hard for me to read story after story about him On the plus side a lot of white people will probably learn something from his memoir There is some smart and thoughtful commentary presented in an a accessible way than the typical academic theory If you can get past how annoying and misogynistic and white dude it is Wise is very accessible to many white people I am not one of those people and I don t tend to interact in person with too many of those people and generally find him irritating He writes like the world is black and white so when he starts to talk about the experiences of Black and white people he simplifies to make points in a way that tends to deny or disregard the experiences of people who don t fit so easily into that I ve often wondered if the ease of communicating issues of race along these simplified terms is w Wise s book is interesting and Elementary Treatise in Herbology useful as an introduction for white people to encourage thinking about race and privilege That s a good thing for sure but it s a safe and white mediated approach to thinking about race For real and challenging stuff on race you should actually be reading writers who are people of color Case in point each chapter opens with a relevantote from James Baldwin s writings and I recommend that you prioritize reading and listening to Baldwin instead of WiseI m keeping this review short because you really should read this Womanist Musings piece about the limitations of Tim Wise It is rare for me to read a book twice I can count those books on one hand I have read this book twice not because I enjoyed it I didn t I read it twice because it is importantBrief autobiographical sketch growing p in Somerville MA way before it was cool to live there I had many black friends By the time I went to junior high school high school then college I had none None of that was on purpose it s just the way it happened While I went to college I learned from my predictably liberal college professors about all the ists and isms of America racism sexism heteronormity misogyny cl. With a new preface and pdated chapters White Like Me is one part memoir one part polemical essay collection It is a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the daily lives of white Americans in every realm employment education housing criminal justice and elsewhereUsing storie.

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Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti racist writers and activists in the US and has been called the foremost white anti racist intellectual in the nation having spoken in 46 states and on over 300 college campuses including Harvard Stanford Cal Tech and the Law Schools at Yale Columbia Michigan and VanderbiltFrom 1999 to 2003 Wise served as an advisor to the Fisk University Race