In just about any society or culture, much is taken for granted. We don't think about every little thing that might differentiate us from members of other groups. We live these things every day. In a good society, people can go about doing their jobs, living their lives, getting along and it will all add up to something positive. Deep analysis is not required. This fact is often lamented by people like me who have a knack for deep analysis. No one else cares! [Cue the violin music...]
I do resent it, though, when an "anti-racist" charlatan like Tim Wise starts picking apart "the things that go unspoken" in order to infect the best minds of my people with guilt for the crime of being who they are.
The phrase, "the things that go unspoken," is from Wise's White Whine: Reflections on the Brain-Rotting Properties of Privilege. There are unspoken aspects of Wise's approach we need to think about. I'm going to run speculative and deep here. I do not have any formal training that would give me credibility. I have not even read extensively concerning the things I wish to discuss. I believe there is value in thinking along certain lines. If I am wrong in theory or in detail, I'm willing to stand corrected. (No guarantees, of course.)
Wise begins the essay:
To truly understand a nation, a culture, or its people, it helps to know what they take for granted.I agree with that statement completely. A familiar example involves the distance between two people that they find comfortable when they are conversing. It is different in different cultures. If you live your whole life in the same town with the same people, you would probably never even think about it. But if you took a trip to South America, it might take you a while to adjust to the fact that "comfortable conversation distance" isn't the same down there as it is up here.
After all, sometimes the things that go unspoken are more powerful than the spoken word, if for no other reason than the tendency of unspoken assumptions to reinforce core ways of thinking, feeling and acting, without ever having to be verbalized (and thus subjected to challenge) at all.
You might have caught a few unspoken assumptions in the above paragraph. The phrase "your whole life in the same town" seems to presume that "you" are white; that is how I mean it. (If you are not white, you can read this in a spirit similar to that of a white person reading an essay by Malcolm X directed at other black people. I appreciate all my readers!) I also presume that North is "up" and South is "down."
When I have some aspect of human life that I haven't previously thought about called to my attention, I sometimes get a "feeling of enlightenment." I might think, "Oh, that's a trippy little thought," because I actually feel something in my head. It's a little bit like this cayenne pepper preparation I use to help with circulation. I take ten drops in a glass of warm water. Sometimes I actually feel my head sort of lighting up a bit. I presume, with the trippy thoughts as well as the pepper drink, that one of those machines that illuminates brain activity would show some change.
I don't know how many other people have physiological reactions like mine, but some ideas do have a captivating quality, which might be only loosely related to their truth or falsehood. The easiest example I can think of is feminist interpretations of magazine advertisements. We have to start with some situation where a speaker has some degree of accepted intellectual authority. Let us say she is a professor who has written prize-winning articles on the subject of "sexism in advertising."
"Look at these advertisements!" she might begin. "They all feature good looking women who are smiling and looking right at the viewer."
The college girls in the audience think, "Wow, that's interesting, I'd never noticed that before!"
The professor continues, "That's how women look when they are flirting with a guy. You see, the advertisers are trying to induce an emotional reaction in the male reader."
The college girls think, "Hmmm, yes, that's right, that's right."
Ms. Dr. Professor concludes, "This shows how society exploits women! It sends a message that if you're not pretty, if you're not flirtatious, if you're not always paying attention to men, then you're worthless!"
The girls entertain thoughts along the lines of, "Yes! We are grievously exploited! I will devote my life to fighting for the rights of women!"
The general formula here is: observation, enlightenment, interpretation. The speaker gives observations, then expresses some sort of general idea that ties them together. The audience, newly exposed to the generality, experiences some kind of "enlightenment." Then the speaker give the interpretation. That is the key point. The enlightened brain is ready to be filled. When manipulation is involved, this is where it happens.
Much of what Tim Wise writes in the essay cited above is true, much of it is interesting. He mentions white people who "have taken for granted that 'American history' as told to them previously was comprehensive and accurate, as opposed to being largely the particular history of the dominant group." Change the wording a bit and the remark would not be out of place on a paleoconservative web site. Wise's articles give many instances of things he can interpret as "white privilege." As he says, he is good at what he does. The readers, the listeners don't understand how they are being conned.
I must point out that I am doing, in this essay, something like the thing I'm describing. I've been thinking about this issue for a long time, but I've always had trouble expressing my ideas. I'm hoping that you see something in my little deconstruction that you haven't noticed before. I hope you will read White Whine: Reflections on the Brain-Rotting Properties of Privilege and see if it does or does not fit the pattern. I hope you feel, in some small way, that I've enlightened you.
I won't sneak in an interpretation, I'll just come out and say it. This whole process is fairly mechanical. It can be done by just about anyone of any ideology. We pro-white advocates don't need to fool anyone. We can offer compelling observations, enlightening formulations and interpretations that resonate with people's real experiences. We do not have to reference fashion magazines or 1950s family situation comedies. For the right audiences, we can do deconstruction jobs on the likes of Tim Wise and get nice rounds of applause after the presentations.
Now that I have whetted my appetite for deconstruction, I will discuss another Tim Wise essay. I will begin by stating two simple facts: Black people are much more likely than white people to be criminals. Black people are much less likely to be academically talented than white people. True, those characteristics are exacerbated by bad schools, dangerous neighborhoods, etc., etc. But those characteristics also contribute to bad schools, bad neighborhoods, and so on.
There is a question as to how much improvement is possible. White "anti-racist" types presume that with the right social policies, affirmative action, etc., that black achievement and success rates could equal those of white people in, say, 25 years. I don't believe that. White supremacists tend to attribute low performance statistics by black people solely to genetic factors. I don't believe that either.
I believe progress is possible given the right dogmas, the right policies and the right people in charge. But progress for black people is not my primary concern. I'm concerned with the situations of white people in America, many of whose lives have been harmed, to one degree or another, by all of the "pro-black" policies put in effect over the last 50 years or so. The momentum is in the direction of ever more state control over the lives and thoughts and opportunities of white people for the sake of black people in particular and "minorities" in general. One way to convince white people that this is the proper trend for public affairs to take is to instill in them a sense of guilt. Tim Wise does this by emphasizing "white privilege."
I was born white and was brought up in white communities. They were clean, orderly places. They had generally good schools. They were safe. There wasn't much in the way of serious poverty. All those things are products of white culture. I was indeed fortunate to be born in the midst of such pleasantness and opportunity.
Now, this cliché about "white privilege" has been around for a long time and I really have given it serious thought. I really don't see much of it. I see white people reaping the rewards of successful social policies (through government or culture, mostly the latter) and black people suffering the consequences of bad social policies, some of which, we must admit, were imposed on black communities by white society. Specifically, stable black neighborhoods were severely disrupted by the construction of freeways in cities. Black family life was ruined by welfare policies designed by white liberals.
What bugs me about Tim Wise is the almost cultically totalistic nature of his thinking. In his essay Race to Our Credit: Denial, Privilege and Life as a Majority, he complains about the difficulty of "having a discussion with someone who simply refuses to accept even the most basic elements of your worldview. At that point, disagreement is less about the specifics of one or another policy option, and more about the nature of social reality itself." Here we have it! "White privilege" isn't just an aspect of society Wise wishes to call our attention to, it is a "most basic" element of his worldview. It is the axiom, the dogma, the first premise. Those things are always hard to talk about. But Wise is not inviting anyone to discuss "social reality itself." He is demanding that we accept his dogma so that we will interpret "social reality" just as he wishes us to.
There is a weird circularity in some of his remarks:
Of course, what is ultimately overlooked is that denial of one's privilege itself manifests a form of privilege: namely, the privilege of being able to deny another person's reality (a reality to which they speak regularly) and suffer no social consequence as a result.What is the deal? Is he upset because I'm not being punished for disagreeing with him? I say I don't think I'm privileged. Wise says, Ah Ha!! That proves you are privileged! I win!
Look, here is an honest-to-Pete social reality. Sometimes black people interpret things as racial when they have nothing or little to do with race. Sometimes they even commit phony hate crimes. I'm not saying race is never the issue, I'm just saying sometimes it really isn't the issue. Wise can deny my common sense here and reap mucho dollars on the speakers circuit, so who is he to complain?
Wise follows the above paragraph with:
Whites pay no price, in other words, for dismissing the claims of racism so regularly launched by persons of color, seeing as how the latter have no power to punish such disbelievers at the polls, or in the office suites, or in the schools in most cases.I do take some claims of racism seriously. Black people really are much more likely to be criminals than white people. On the other hand, there is also racism in the criminal justice system. It would not surprise me to learn that innocent black people were more likely to be found guilty than innocent white people. This is a complex issue and I do not deny the importance of it. The guilty can cry "Racism!" as easily as the innocent. (NOTE: If anyone wants to send me to grad school so I can study this, please If you wish to link to this article, try copying and pasting:
<a href="http://m3peeps.org/02/tim.htm">Deconstructing Tim the Wise Guy</a> get in touch with me. I'm serious.)
I've read so many ludicrous accusations of "racism" over trivial things or over percentages, I have no trouble dismissing them. "Oh, we're only 4 percent of the freshman class at this university (sniffle, sniffle, sob, sob)." Gosh, that's terrible, someone start up the violins again! I mean, who cares? You're qualified to do the work, you get in. End of story!
Wise is not merely formulating a weird interpretation here. In suggesting that there are no ill consequences for white people for "dismissing" ludicrous claims of racism, he is telling an outright lie. People have been fired, harassed, ostracized and mercilessly hounded for expressing doubt over "the claims of racism so regularly launched by persons of color."
Wise's doctrines of "white privilege" serve two basic purposes. Rather obviously, they justify "affirmative action" and all the other racial gimmickry that's been going on for so long. They also support and strengthen the actual privileges of the entire "anti-racist" establishment, which includes journalists, politicians, professors, administrators, business people, clergy people and so on. In other words, his spiffy, generally self-consistent preachings about "white privilege" support a major faction of the ruling elites of our society by propping up their basic dogmas about race. Wise writes:
Denying ones privileges is of course nothing if not logical. To admit that one receives such things is to acknowledge that one is implicated in the process by which others are oppressed or discriminated against.Does anyone suppose Wise would apply that observation to himself? He and his ilk are sitting on top of one of the greatest privilege dispensing apparatuses in America, but I'm supposed to think I'm "privileged" because I can walk through the village park without getting mugged.
Wise further ruminates:
. . . privilege . . . is the daily psychological advantage of knowing that one's perceptions of the world are the ones that stick, that define the norm for everyone else, and that are taken seriously in the mainstream.Of course there is a benefit to being in the mainstream. I wouldn't exactly call it "privilege." I want white people to organize politically to serve their own interests as white people. Oddly enough, that puts me way out of the mainstream. Is that what bothers Wise so much? According to his web site, "Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., having spoken in 47 states, and on over 300 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia, and Vanderbilt." The credentials go on and on and on. I'm sure Wise is a smart, effective speaker. And I'm sure he profits well from his little "exposing white privilege" business because he has "the daily psychological advantage of knowing that . . . [his] perceptions of the world are the ones that stick, that define the norm for everyone else, and that are taken seriously in the mainstream." Wise is wise to project the advantages he enjoys in life onto average white people. Wouldn't want anyone horning in on his racket!
Wise likes to vaunt his status as a "public intellectual." That may be, but as far as I'm concerned, he is just another diversity wise guy.
Addendum, February 22, 2006:
Here is another blog entry concerning the great anti-white hope Mr. Wise: Tim Wise and Satan and Purses Against the Empire.
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