Monday, 4 February 2013

White Like Me
(2004)

80%



Insightful-because-anecdotal look into contemporary White supremacy - written by a White.

Although author Tim Wise lacks first-hand experience of most racist practice (which he admits), he understands that White racism can cripple Whites into never becoming fully human - his basic thesis. He also recognizes - this time from the personal experience of being castigated as a “race traitor” - that a White stepping outside of the preordained attitudes of his culture invites malice from his fellow-Whites for giving the game away.

Moreover, the perspicacity of Wise also reveals White anti-racism and political correctness as largely frauds designed to fool Blacks into believing White racism is caused by Blacks rather than by Whites. (White anti-racism is done for Blacks [or to them] rather than with them because of the implicit belief that Blacks cannot stand on their own two feet, otherwise, and so anti-racist Whites are seeking a gratitude they are not owed.)

This clever book understands the full complexity of the system of institutional racism within which we are all enmeshed in the Western world, yet only posits solutions based on goodwill. Because racism is itself not a function of goodwill these solutions are hardly likely to work since they require Whites to renounce unearned privileges and cut the throat of the goose laying them golden eggs. Because this is rather unlikely, any sincere rapprochement between the two cultures of White and non-White is extremely unlikely. This is why personal friendships between peoples with differing privileges are so fraught because no matter how much a White likes a Black, the White can always turn away from the friendship if they find that the enhanced ability to enjoy the material privileges of living in Western civilization are more to their liking than friendship. (This issue has much in common with other areas of unearned - allegedly genetic - privilege such as social class and gender.)

That a White has the courage to face these issues is little short of a miracle since White supremacy relies fundamentally upon the twin-track policy of denial combined with blaming Blacks for their comparatively-poorer economic situation; ie, collaboration with White supremacy. The most important issue for Whites in dealing with their racism is that of guilt and shame - which emotionally cripples most into inactivity and into accepting a status quo that materially benefits them to the disadvantage of others.

Thus, Whites are trapped within an economic system that denies them self-knowledge, since they can only think about themselves comparatively. They can never know if they are any good at anything because they have been given automatic birthrights against which they cannot test themselves, objectively. Employed Whites can never know for sure if the job they do is because of their skills, abilities and experience or simply because of their skin color. This lack of genuine self-knowledge inhibits personal growth and makes White culture quintessentially immature and ultimately self-destructive.

The point of this book here is that by renouncing the benefits of their racism, Whites will lose their racist privileges and gain a healthy self-respect; while also renouncing the guilt and shame of their unearned position: The same as a recidivist redeeming himself and deciding to go straight.

The author also raises the question of the fact that White self-proclaimed anti-racists are often the biggest racists because of this denial-of-reality. Dealing with issues of employment housing, education and crime, the author shows that White racism is a tax on Blacks and a subsidy for Whites, that ultimately destroys both since Whites become complacent and lazy about the fate of their culture because they assume an allegedly-superior culture cannot fail. Because all Whites benefit from racism, it is hypocritical for any White to loudly-proclaim their abhorrence of it while never renouncing its benefits

For Blacks, books like this can be dull reading since the book contains self-evident truisms that Whites find difficult to face about themselves, yet which Blacks experience continuously. This makes the book longwinded when it should be to-the-point, as only a book written by someone trying to face the truth about himself can be.

White Like Me contains much educated guesswork that never, however, properly considers whether racist Whites can stand on their own two feet without the psychological prop of racism. Wise does not show how this desire for superiority can be effectively renounced. In this, Wise tacitly compares White racists with nicotine or alcohol addicts failing to repudiate their suicidal temperaments because they have nothing else to replace them with. Wise recognizes that White racists desperately try to avoid the inevitable changes in White culture that would be brought about by such changes, because those individuals possess few underpinnings in reality. An obsession with false imperial pride - past and present - based on myths of progress, civilization, liberalism, education & enlightenment now sound like the shrill and hollow delusions they always were.

It is here that the book spoils itself by being angry (rather than suitably tendentious) at the systemic nature of White racism that makes it appear difficult to remove - like a red wine stain from a white blouse - both from others and, most especially, from oneself. Are we all recovering racists, perhaps? Yet, misplaced anger cannot adequately deal with the psychological challenges presented by such racism. Yet this book’s great value lies in its not being a guilt-trip for the author nor an example of whining self-pity that almost all writing about White racism by Whites is.

This is a much-needed book since Whites are more likely to read it when they would ignore the same topic discussed by a Black. Black authors like Frantz FANON, Malcolm X and James BALDWIN are rarely-stocked by predominantly-White libraries, even though their insights into White racism are far profounder than those of Wise. Thus, Blacks will find little here to surprise them about endemic Western racism since it is merely preaching-to-the-converted. However, Wise does honestly deal with his own inevitable “race treason” and, in so doing, implies Whites would denounce a Black author with a similar point-of-view as “playing the race card”, which they could not do to a White author. Thus, paradoxically, Wise fully exploits the racial privilege this affords him to criticize that very racial privilege.

Tim Wise admits he is a not a great writer - and he certainly is not. Nevertheless, his conversational tone and his solid reasoning get him through unmasking the fact that racism is the Whites’ heart of darkness. Would it take, for example, a book written by a man about women to convince sexists to stop being misogynists? Or, can only women write such books?

That racism is a leading pathology in White culture is well-expressed and noted for its honesty. Such a cultureless culture cannot face its past and has no future unless it does so: A culture defined by its negation of others, superficially judged by externals (not inherent) attributes. To define yourself by what you are not is cultural genocide; tempting Whites to fill the cultural void with positive discrimination for themselves - negative for others - that they have come to depend on like a junkie seeking a heroin fix.

A book to help a Martian understand the nature of Whites.


Copyright © 2013 Frank TALKER. Permission granted to reproduce and distribute it in any format; provided that mention of the author’s Weblog (http://whitespeak.blogspot.com/) is included: E-mail notification requested. All other rights reserved.

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