Monday, March 12, 2012

Tim Wise takes on the attacks against Prof. Derrick Bell

As you might expect, Tim Wise does an excellent job of taking on the Breitbart crew's recent attacks on Professor Derrick Bell. I highly recommend that you follow that link to read the whole article.

At one point he captures the bigger picture of an overall attempt to shut down any conversation about racism in this country.

To mention racism makes one racist. To speak of injustice in your own nation makes you un-American...

If the right wants to argue the points made by persons like Bell, Wright, most all folks of color or those of us in the white community who echo their concerns, so be it. They are free to do so. Decent people can disagree about the extent and force of racial discrimination in the modern era. But to suggest that it is by definition racist against white people to believe in the persistence of racism against persons of color is intellectually obscene. It is an argument intended to shut down debate, to cow people of color into remaining silent about their own lived experiences, to make whites into victims of black and brown reality — in other words, it is an attempt to invert the structure of oppression, by suggesting that whites are more victimized by the feelings of people of color than people of color are victimized by the actions of white people and the institutions within which we exercise so much disproportionate control. It is an attempt to make it, in effect, an inexcusable moral crime to merely engage in thinking while black.
(Emphasis mine)

Anyone who has attempted to call out racist words/actions has experienced this, no doubt. What you've likely heard in response is how incredibly offensive it is to call someone/thing racist. And now the right wing in this country has taken it one step call out racism is to be racist.

I continue (perhaps naively) to be an optimist when it comes to our ability to talk about race. But when I see this kind of thing happening, I can't help but think of Ta Nehisi-Coates' reaction to the whole Shirley Sherrod debacle.

Expecting an American conversation on race in this country, is like expecting financial advice from someone who prefers to not check their bank balance. It's not that the answers, themselves, are pre-ordained, its that we are more interested in answers than questions, in verdicts than evidence...

It's not so much that we don't know--it's that we aspire to not know. The ignorance of the African-American thread in the broader American quilt--the essential nature of that thread--is willful, and the greatest evidence that the spirit of white supremacy walks with us. There was a lot of self-congratulation around the justice done on Shirley Sherrod. It's premature. The thing will happen again. Race isn't a "distraction" from Obama's agenda--it's the compromised, unsure ground upon which this country walks everyday. It is the monster, and it will not be evaded writing Shirley Sherrod off to the machinations of the 24-hour news cycle.

Talk is overrated. There can be no talk with people who've conditioned themselves out of listening.

Now I'll do my Scarlett O'Hara imitation...I'll get back to my optimism tomorrow. Today I'm just sick and tired of our inability to listen.

1 comment:

  1. I figging love Tim Wise! "Thinking while black" or any variation of that is never allowed.