Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, April 26, 2010


just imagine as Tim Wise does in this blog post:

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters - the black protesters - spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.


Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.


Sue said...

wow stunning words, I am speechless... How true, how true, how TRUE....

Dave Miller said...

Nice post Shaw.

I am sure it will not be long before people who say us libs should not be bringing up Bush to defend Obama's handling of things like the deficit will rush to say the same happened with Fmr. Pres. Bush.

Time will tell...

Sue said...

I'm linking this on my blog, all bloggers should read it!

Teeluck said...

Wow, this makes you think....

Leslie Parsley said...

I'd like to read Wise's new book. Terrific post, Shaw. I'm beginning to feel very discouraged about the state of affairs in our country.

Maybe we should start our own grass roots group: We Love All Peoples . . .

Sue said...

Leslie, Liberals DO LOVE all peoples!!Thats what makes us SPECIAL in Gods eyes! :-)))

Satyavati devi dasi said...

This. was. amazing.

Unknown said...

DAUM!! You Shawked and Awed me with this one. AWESOME post! Just awesome.

The hypocrisy of the neocons is like the Energizer Bbunny – on and on and on……….

Pamela Zydel said...

I am a Conservative therefore I write some things that Liberals won't agree with, HOWEVER, I don't write hateful, racist posts because that's not who I am. Do I sometimes joke around about Congressmen and women? Yes, I have, but it's never been mean. I wish people would stop and THINK. It's all so disheartening. Both sides contribute to this hard-core bantering though. Not that if one side does it the other side should retaliate. I just see it coming from the radical sides of both parties and I need to step away to catch my breath.

Arthurstone said...

I don't see this sort of thing coming from the 'radical sides of both parties' at all.

I see the fear-mongering, race baiting, smears and threats coming increasingly from mainstream GOP types egged on by endless amounts of vile drivel posted on the internet and egged on by talk radio, Fox news, and know-nothing 'real Americans' basking in all their Tea Party glory.

I don't see anything on the left remotely comparable to the nativist, reactionary rhetoric of the right.

Not in substance and certainly not in scale.

The post by Mr. Rice hits the nail on the head and underscores some very painful truths about America.

As yet another in an endless list of examples for I don't see much Democratic/Progressive/Leftist support for the latest racist nonsense out of Arizona.

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I'm neither stunned nor awed that pandering to bigots goes on in this Nation still.

That's what the right has lefty as a base. Closed minded idiots. People of conservative values like Pamela have to look at what the republican party has denigrated to and ask themselves if they really want to be part of this. They are running away from the republican label.

The good thing out of this is that more and more, people are no longer afriad to call themselves "Liberal" again.

Shocked and awed at bigots who've been among us since time began? Nah. My disgust has turned into dismay that one of our political parties would rather pander and exploit hatred than fight it. Is keeping corporate welfare and occupations of countries that are no threat so important that bigots need a party that sucks up to them in order to maintain it's viability?

Unfortunately, not many republicans think so.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I think what Tim Wise is getting at is that the behavior of the privileged white people who carried guns to political rallies, who carried them to areas where the president of the United States, Barack Obama, was speaking, and who threatened revolution or who, like Rep. Bachmann of Minnisota,k called the present administration a "gangster administration," are able to get away with behavior that would otherwise not be tolerated if the same behavior were manifested in crowds of African-Americans or Latinos or any combination of minority peoples.

This is just a fact.

And Tim Wise is just allowing us to recognize that the white population gets away with types of behavior that would never be tolerated in any other segment of American society.

And yet they--the aggrieved white population-- continue to act like they are being marginalized. It's a lie and it's a pathetic lie.

We all know this.

Oso said...

Tim Wise has always made compelling, well thought on arguments against racism.

Anonymous said...

where are the tea party protests about the new AZ law???? I haven't seen one.... that says it all.

Thayer Nutz said...

See, the tea partiers only complain when they imagine their freedom is being taken away by a black president, not when that freedom has actually be taken away by a white governor.

Essentially, its' about race and stupidity.

dmarks said...

There are some great points to be made here, but someone having called "called the present administration a "gangster administration"" is not a call for violence nor is it racist.

I have no problem at all with calling people out for making racist statements. But I do have a problem with the sloppy "mere dissent = racism" broad brush.