August 19, 2010

Dear Tim (and other White anti-racist activists) . . .

Hey, Tim.

This has been building up for a while, so forgive me if I get emphatic with my statements.

I usually think you're on point about a lot of things, and I've often pointed people in your direction about a breakdown of how racism works in a way that White people can understand (or, shall I say, are willing to listen to). I got a lot of love for you, Tim.

But right now you're fucking up.

What I think a few comments were getting at is the irony of POCs being forced to do for free what White people get paid to do - even though POCs, by virtue of being POCs in a White supremacist society - are more qualified to talk about it. Not to mention, the risks for us are greater than they are for any White person. I've been a queer Black woman in America for 30 years. I attended an HBCU. I'm writing a play right now that dramatizes what this is like for a real live human being. I've been told that I'm extremely intelligent, that I say a lot of things that need to be said in a few words, yet no one is paying me despite what it costs me to do this.

No one is arguing that the work White anti-racist activists are doing is worthless. But what I see is that the work of White anti-racist activists is treated as more valuable than anti-racist activists of color from the get-go. The problem is not that White anti-racist activists like you get paid to do your work. It's that POCs are expected to do the same shit for free. And I can't pretend that it doesn't piss me off. Even guests on Jerry Springer and Maury Povich get better treatment - at least they are financially compensated for destroying their own dignity.

Here I am - with all my intelligence, all my passion, all my creativity, all the people who "value my input" and "learned so much" from me about the same shit White anti-racists are talking about, all this that is so remarkable about me, all this that is worth so much - flat broke, unemployed and genuinely apprehensive about my immediate future. And I'm not the only one like me.

Believe me, that's bad enough. Yet your knee-jerk defensive responses to such critique are so predictable in their irony that I almost want to cry. Seriously, it's almost like you really want to say, "Aren't I doing enough for you people? What more do you people want from me?" You're so busy trotting out your anti-racism cred (really, you're not that far from "I read a book/took a class/asked my Black friends") that you don't see the irony of you making a career out of something POCs are expected to provide as a community service.

Why do I feel like I'm repeating myself? Oh yeah, because I am! What was that brilliant shit I said all them months ago?

What I was thinking is that there's nothing wrong with White anti-racist activists doing their thing. Nothing wrong at all because, as POCs already know, White people listen to other White people (at least when they're in the Completely Clueless phase).

But as I was saying to another blogger, it would be nice if these White luminaries would use their White privilege for good by providing opportunities for other POCs to rise to their level of prosperity.

It's not enough for a White activist to say that they got all their ideas from POCs. That's just being honest about stealing our shit and profiting from it. "I got some of my best stuff from these particular people of color. They are alive right now, and you can talk to them today." Or, better yet, "Everything you hear today has already been said by a person of color. As a matter of fact, they probably already told you what I'm going to tell you today, but you ignored them."

Put the money where the mouth is. Literally. What good is all the talk about anti-racist activism if the people getting most of the book deals, speaking engagements, and accolades are White? What good is all the talk about dismantling White supremacy when the anti-racism industry is dominated by White faces and White voices?

Anti-racism credentials are for shit if most people benefiting materially from it are White.

Does it make more sense now?


  1. *applauds all of this*

    And co-signed

  2. I think about this a lot as well. White anti-racist get both financial and emotional "cookies" for doing what POC are expected to do every day. I've also had white people use Tim Wise in a discussion to "educate" POC in a discussion about racism. So once again the white person is the neutral logical party and the POC are emotionally illogical not be believed.

  3. I guess listening to us is fine when you need to gather material but not when we lowly culluds dare to criticize.

  4. But yeah, what we're learning is that there are definite limits to what we can expect from White people regarding racism. When you start going after their money (and weapons), prepare for a fight.

  5. @Witchsistah:

    That's what I'm saying.

  6. What Tim Wise does in the comments of that blog post is exactly why I'm skeptical of White leadership in anti-racism, heterosexual leadership in gay rights, and male "feminists."

  7. Okay!

    Honestly, dude wants to act like the big, Black niggers are coming to take the roof from over his family's head, the clothes off their backs and the food out their mouths and perform a sort of "reverse slavery" on their White asses. Because how dare we lowly darkies wonder why White anti-racists are the only ones that seem to clean up financially doing anti-racist work. And clean-up in less time with less experience and work put in than PoC!

    You keep pushing Whites, and they'll let you know exactly WHAT privilege they treasure the most by what privileges they'll defend to the death even if it goes against their alleged conscience.

  8. When he asked for hard statistics in light of you and other POCs pointing out that his Whiteness gains him more compensation for his work than POC get for their constant anti-Racism work, and also pushing them out of jobs, it reminded me of when I used to ask for hard statistics to prove Racism instead of believing a POC relaying to me experiences about racial profiling, and other similar things. Very defensive, wanting to willfully ignore what is right infront of him.

    Him constantly mentioning his books in his comments and the occasional link to them was also made me feel a bit uneasy.

    Thank you for posts like these, they have helped teach me a lot about myself and my White Racist tendencies over the last six or so months. You have also led me to some excellent works by other bloggers in that time, and I apologize for not thanking you sooner.

  9. I was definitely disappointed in the comments section.

    =I have tried to explain, as logically as I can=

    That part alone made me cringe. Like you're too dumb to understand.

    I'll probably still recommend him to people, but there will be a lot more trepidation and some warnings.

  10. Here's my final comment to him. I can't take this whitemansplaining shit.

    Maybe I'm just weak and stupid, but when I start noticing shit like that, I just - stop.

  11. damn. This kind of thing is why I get more and more sour at seeing Wise being referred as the first and foremost source on anti-racism.

  12. @Rochelle:

    I'm feeling ya. And the thing that burns me up is that few of us are saying nobody should be getting paid. What we're pointing out is the irony of a White man being touted as a leader in the anti-racist movement moreso than people of color (including other activists of color) - and being compensated as such. What Tim Wise gets out of his anti-racist efforts should be the bare minimum that anti-racist activists of color should be getting as well.

  13. Fail, fail, fail. I personally hate it when White people and men (and especially White men) claim not to understand over and over again when they disagree. I find that a passive-aggressive way of suggesting, "I'm going to keep throwing the ball in your court, asking the same shit over and over again, until you get tired and walk away." When people start that mess, I'm always like, "It's not that you don't understand, it's just that you don't want to listen."

    Did anyone else note the irony of him asking for evidence of his taking work away from POC given that you linked to your blog and mentioned that you do it for free?

  14. @Jasmin:

    Because 1 + 1 = 11.

  15. This is so eloquently put, it makes me wish that I had even half this amount of power when I write. I found myself getting moist in the eyes reading this. This. Is. Exactly. How I've felt about this particular subject matter. It's why I've stopped posting comments on "that other site". What I thought was a *safe place* became an area that supports the very people who upset my bowels. Eventually, I will get back the nerve to post my unfiltered thoughts about the privileged reapers gaining privileges from talking about the non-privileged's denial of same privileges once again.

    I've come back to your blog time and time again for a long time because it feels good in my bones to read The Truth that other non-female/black folks keep denying that I live.

    Rock on.

  16. @Crafts Lady:

    Thanks for the compliment. I'd love to see your unfiltered thoughts. We need more of that. Frankly, the time for POCs to be grateful for White people simply being decent is over.

  17. It seems like Tim Wise is successful mostly because it's so odd to see a white person talk the way he does. He's a curiosity. And he's not scary to whites. Most white people just assume POC anti-racists hate us and want us all to die painfully regardless of what they are saying. That is, if we ever hear any in the first place. Maybe if a POC anti-racist came out with a book called, "hey, white people, I'm talking to you!" It might sell. Buuuut then the writer would spend all their time defending the title from accusations of "reverse racism!"

    I think Tim should donate the money from his book sales to black charities or something. I mean you gotta support yourself but it's not right be banking off of anti-racism. It would be cool if there were a reliable anti-racism support organization. So people could speak and work without having to keep their day jobs. That might be a nice charity for Tim to support.