Dispatches from the race war

Tim J. Wise

Book - 2020

"In this collection of essays, renowned social-justice advocate Tim Wise confronts racism in contemporary America. Seen through the lens of major flashpoints during the Obama and Trump years, Dispatches from the Race War faces the consequences of white supremacy in all its forms. This includes a discussion of the bigoted undertones of the Tea Party's backlash, the killing of Trayvon Martin, current day anti-immigrant hysteria, the rise of openly avowed white nationalism, the violent policing of African Americans, and more. Wise devotes a substantial portion of the book to explore the racial ramifications of COVID-19, and the widespread protests which followed the police murder of George Floyd"--

Saved in:
  • Preface
  • Racism and Inequality in a Time of Illness and Uprising
  • Introduction
  • America's Longest War
  • I. Post-Racial Blues: Race And Reality In The Obama Years
  • Good, Now Back To Work
  • The meaning (and limits) of the Obama victory
  • Denial Is a River Wider Than The Charles
  • Implicit bias and the burden of blackness in the age of Obama
  • Harpooning the Great White Wail
  • Reflections on racism and right-wing buffoonery
  • Imagine For a Moment
  • Protest, privilege, and the power of whiteness
  • If It Walks Like a Duck and Talks like a Duck
  • Racism and the death of respectable conservatism
  • Bullying Pulpit
  • The problematic politics of personal responsibility
  • No Innocence Left To Kill
  • Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and coming of age in an unjust nation
  • Killing One Monster, Unleashing Another
  • Reflections on revenge and revelry in America
  • You Will Know Them by the Eyes of Their Whites
  • Ferguson and white denial
  • II. Trumpism And The politics Of Prejudice
  • Discovering the Light in Darkness
  • Donald Trump and the future of America
  • Reeking City on a Dung Heap
  • The dangerous worldview of Donald Trump
  • Patriotism is for Black People
  • Colin Kaepernick and the politics of protest
  • If It's a Civil War, Pick a Side
  • Charlottesville and the meaning of Trumpism
  • Making a Murderer (Politically Profitable)
  • Immigration and hysteria in Trumplandia
  • Racist Is Too Mild a Term
  • The president is a white nationalist
  • The Face of American Terrorism is White
  • Weaponized Nostalgia
  • The evil genius of Donald Trump
  • III. 2020 Vision-America at the Crossroads?
  • Americanism is a Pandemic's BFF
  • Why the U.S. has been so vulnerable to COVID
  • It's Not a Death Cult, It's a Mass Murder Movement
  • The homicidal indifference of MAGA nation
  • Saying The Quiet Part Out Loud
  • COVID and Trumpism reveal America's true virus
  • Bad Will Hunting
  • The killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the rituals of white supremacy
  • This Bias is Not Implicit
  • The problem isn't fear, it's contempt for black humanity
  • It's Not The Apples, It's The Orchard
  • Police violence is neither new nor rare
  • Violence never works? America would beg to differ
  • Nobody's Perfect-So Why Do We Need Black People To Be?
  • Demanding angelic victims of police violence is absurd
  • IV. Confronting White Denial Deflection, And Fragility
  • White Denial Is As American As Apple Pie
  • What, Me Racist?
  • Understanding why your intentions are not the point
  • Weaponizing Appalachia
  • Race, class and the art of white deflection
  • Chicago Is Not a Punch Line (Or An Alibi)
  • White deflection and "black-on-black crime"
  • Identity Politics Are Not The Problem, Identity-Based Oppression Is
  • Farrakhan Is Not the Problem
  • Exploring the appeal of white America's bogeyman
  • You May Not Be Racist But Your Ideology Is
  • Why modern conservatism is racist
  • Who's The Snowflake Now?
  • White fragility in a time of turmoil
  • V. Mis-Remember When: Race And American Amnesia
  • Dream Interrupted
  • The sanitizing of Martin Luther King Jr
  • Holocaust Denial, American- Style
  • History, Memory, and the Implicit Racism of Right-Wing Moralizing
  • Europe Didn't Send Their Best Either
  • Immigration and the lies we tell about America (and ourselves)
  • Racism Is Evil But Not Un-American
  • Maga is a Slur and Your Hat is Hateful
  • Statues Make Good Rubble
  • An open letter to my fellow Southerners
  • VI. Armed With A Loaded Footnote: Debunking The Right
  • Cheap White Whine
  • Debunking reverse discrimination and white victimhood
  • Rationalizing Unequal Policing
  • Exposing the right's war on justice
  • Hey Conservatives, Facts Don't Care About Your Feelings
  • Debunking the lie of welfare dependence
  • Baby Mama Drama
  • Debunking the Black Out-of-Wedlock Birth Rate Crisis
  • Debunking The Model Minority Myth
  • Asian Americans as pawns in a white game
  • Intelligence And Its Discontents
  • Debunking IQ, and the absurdity of race science
  • Nazis Make Lousy Researchers
  • Debunking the myth of Jewish power
  • VII. Where Do We Go From Here?
  • Not Ready To Make Nice
  • The fallacy of outreach and understanding
  • Checking Privilege (While Not Being An Asshole)
  • Spreading Solidarity In Pandemic Times
  • Coalition building in post-coronavirus America
  • "Listen To Black People" Is Exactly Correct And Entirely Insufficient
  • Amplifying black voices does not mean refusing to use our own
  • Taking Personal Responsibility Seriously
  • Rejecting white saviorism and embracing allyship
  • Forget Stem, We Need Mesh
  • Civics education and the future of America
  • Who's Afraid Of De-Policing?
  • Why a radical-sounding idea isn't as crazy as you think
  • Hope is a Noun, Justice is a Verb, and Nouns are Not Enough
  • About the Author
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Educator and public speaker Wise (White Lies Matter) examines white privilege and systemic racial inequality in this collection of previously published essays dating back to 2008. Even the older pieces--such as "Imagine for a Moment," in which Wise describes "white gun enthusiasts" armed with semiautomatic weapons rallying in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, and asks readers to imagine how different the authorities' response would have been if the protesters were Black--have a deep relevance for today. More recent essays reveal that America is in the midst of a "soft civil war... between those who believe in freedom and those who do not," by looking at how the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated racial disparities, and by examining how President Trump's "perpetually overheated rhetoric" has fanned the flames of "anti-immigrant hysteria." In some pieces, Wise is more provoking than persuasive, such as when he declares modern conservatism "a cabal of hateful, ignorant, antisocial eugenicists intent on removing those they deem inferior from society." Still, he offers sound advice on how to promote antiracism and "solidarity and empathy across lines of identity." The result is a bracing call to action in a moment of social unrest. (Dec.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A White social justice advocate clearly shows how racism is America's core crisis. Educator and activist Wise collects more than 50 of his hard-hitting essays from 2008 to the present, most previously published online, that address racism, inequality, and injustice. "In a nation founded on the dichotomous values of liberty and enslavement, freedom and white supremacy," he writes, "hypocrisy was baked in from the beginning. And white folks have been trying to smooth over the contradiction ever since." Asserting, with ample evidence, that "post-raciality is a fantasy," Wise comments on a host of events that bear witness to pervasive racism, including reactions to Barack Obama's election, Henry Louis Gates' arrest after being mistaken as a burglar, the rise of the militant tea party, the killing of Black men by police, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. "The biases that ended George Floyd's life were explicit," Wise writes. "Even more, they were part of an institutional and systemic process, whereby unequal treatment of black and brown bodies and communities is normative." Trump, not surprisingly, comes in for vigorous criticism as a racist and narcissist. "It hurts," Wise writes, "to see a nation elevate someone to the presidency so lacking in knowledge, so incurious about the world, so marinated in the politics of revenge, and hostile to a large part of humanity." Debunking White denial, amnesia, and rationalizations, the author aims to "shore up the knowledge base of progressives who already have a commitment to racial justice and equity but perhaps find themselves less confident than they should be about the positions they hold" and, he hopes, "to inoculate uncommitted persons" against right-wing, uninformed arguments. He wishes schools would teach MESH subjects--Media Literacy, Ethics, Sociology, and History--"because if these are not given equal attention, we could end up being a nation filled with incredibly bright and technically proficient people who lack all capacity for democratic citizenship." A trenchant assessment of our nation's ills. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Excerpted from Dispatches from the Race War by Tim Wise PREFACE RACISM AND INEQUALITY IN A TIME OF ILLNESS AND UPRISING By the time you read these words, we will know the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. We will know whether American voters--or at least 75,000 people or so in a handful of key states--have re-elected Donald Trump for four more years or decided to end his time in office and return him to reality television. No matter the answer, this book will remain relevant, because the issues about which it is concerned pre-date his presidency and, if history is any guide, will continue to plague us long after he is gone. That said, this has been a strange time to compile a collection of essays on race and racism. With a man such as Trump in the White House, I knew as I began work on this volume how quickly events could change and how often race-related stories could emerge from an administration that, from the beginning, sought to divide the nation along lines of race, ethnicity, and religion, for political gain. Keeping up could prove hard, and I always suspected we could get near publication time only to have to insert something at the last minute to reflect the latest outrage. Little did I suspect, however, what 2020 would ultimately have in store for the nation. As I write these words, it is summer, and the coronavirus pandemic is still ravaging the United States. Approximately 160,000 people have died, and estimates as to what lies ahead are not promising. If they prove prescient, as many as 300,000 will have perished by the time you laid eyes upon this sentence. Experts say that at least 60 percent of the earliest deaths could have been avoided, and then most of those after, had President Trump taken the threat seriously from the beginning. Had he even listened to members of his own administration and the intelligence community that serves him--voices that were trying to tell him in early January of the dangers ahead--hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died would still be alive today. Likewise, had he been as concened with public health as with his own private gain, he might have resisted calling for a quick re- opening of shuttered businesses in the hopes of an economic rebound. But with millions thrown out of work and the economy contracting by one-third in mid-summer--the largest single economic collapse in contemporary national history--Trump's concerns were with spur- ring commerce and evincing optimism that the virus would magically disappear: anything to bolster his sinking poll numbers and his re- election chances. The results, of course, were predictable and have proved tragic. Sending children back to school, encouraging people  to gather in restaurants, bars, churches, crowded downtown streets and beaches--lobbying tirelessly for a return to "normal"--the president and his enablers have endangered the lives of millions. This they have done for the sake of political marketing, hoping that even if hun- dreds of thousands more die, his attempts to blame the virus on China (where it originated, although the most virulent strain to hit the U.S. came from Italy) will convince enough voters that none of the suffering was his fault. According to the data, around half of all fatalities have been persons of color, and the mortality rate for black, Latinx and indigenous folks has been about 2.5 times higher than for whites. It is not likely a coincidence that the Trump administration met the present challenge--one in which people of color have done a disproportionate share of the dying--with such nonchalance. Indifference to black and brown suffering, if not outright hostility to black and brown peoples, has been a hallmark of Trump's presidency and most of his life. And if this had not been clear enough from the administration's response to COVID-19, it would be made glaringly obvious from its reaction to the other major event of this year: the uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Once video footage of Floyd's murder went viral, showing officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, while continually sporting a disinterested smirk, it was only a matter of time before the nation exploded. Although we had witnessed this scene before, seeing on film the killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, and John Crawford III, among others, this time was different. Perhaps it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, or perhaps it was the relative quiet and isolation of the COVID lockdown providing people the space to truly see and feel in ways that would have been more difficult had they been going about the normal hustle and bustle of their lives. But whatever it was, within weeks millions of people in the United States, including large num- bers of whites, had poured into the streets in the largest mass uprising for racial justice in the history of this country. In the face of more than 11,000 overwhelmingly peaceful protests, the administration and local authorities have met demonstrators with tear gas, clubs, and rubber bullets. On multiple occasions, the president has threatened to call in the military to suppress lawful assembly and protest, and actually did so in response to demonstrators in the District of Columbia. Hundreds of videos available online show law enforcement attacking nonviolent protesters without prov- ocation. Dozens of people, including police officers, have attempted to run over demonstrators with their vehicles. The hostility of the "law and order" brigades, from the president on down, is apparent, and their embrace of authoritarianism has been laid bare for all to witness. Since June 2020, we have been in the midst of a full-scale rebellion, or what some have called a soft civil war. Not between North and South, or even black and white, but between those who believe in racial equity and pluralism and those who do not. And into that breach, in late August, yet another black  man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back and killed on camera by an offi- cer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The rebellion that followed involved widespread property destruction by those frustrated with the lack of charges brought against the officer. This uprising was then countered by white vigilante violence, including the murder of two white antiracism activists by 17-year-old Trump supporter and police super-fan, Kyle Rittenhouse. The president, in keeping with his soft-pedaling of right-wing violence, not only refused to condemn Rittenhouse, but has justified his actions as self-defense, and continued to blame the black community and its supporters for the chaos. This volume is divided into seven sections containing essays written from 2008 to the present. The first two chapters track, in chrono- logical order, the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. They seek to show both the continuity of race as the background noise of everything that happens in America, as well as the way that the nation can quickly careen from hope and optimism around race to the depths of cynicism. The third section looks specifically at this unique moment in our history, and the way in which both COVID-19 and the current uprising for black lives have rendered 2020 a year that few others can match for historical significance. Sections four through six contain essays that speak to three broad themes: white denial about the reality of racism in the United States, historical memory and the way our tendency to misremember our past contributes to racial strife, and the propensity of the nation's right wing to rely on faulty data to craft their narratives in opposition to racial justice efforts. The final section seeks to provide some direction for antiracism work, activism, and advocacy, both for individuals and for institutions, moving forward. There is one thing, however, that binds these chapters together: They all speak to the core crisis at the heart of this nation. Because however unprecedented this moment may be in our lives, in some ways what it reveals is as old as the country itself. Some lives matter more than others in America. It was true at the founding. It remains true today. It will remain true forever, unless and until we decide we have had enough. A few words about citations and sourcing of fact claims in this volume: Because this is an essay collection, I have opted to forego formal footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations within  the  body of the work itself. To insert such notes would have proved visually distracting in short pieces, and would have increased the size of the book to an unwieldy length. However, because it is important to make citations available, especially for references, data or histori- cal material that is not widely known or understood, City Lights   and I will be posting references on their website, www.citylights. com. These notes will be textual, meaning they will be broken down by chapter, and then reference particular page numbers, with a few words of the text cited so as to orient the reader to what is being referenced. These will then be followed by formal citations. I hope this will satisfy the aesthetics best for most readers while also meeting the needs for scholarly legitimacy desired by those seeking truth in these dangerous (and often surreal) times. --Tim Wise, Nashville, August 2020 OUR FEAR IS REAL BUT FAR FROM UNIQUE Empathy in a time of pandemic   Is it safe to leave the house? To go to the store? To get in the car and drive, even if only to break the monotony of days or weeks inside? Is it OK to go for a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air?  Will my job be there next week, next month, in six months? If I get sick, will I be able to get care? And even if I can, will I be able to afford it?             Questions such as these have become commonplace for millions in recent days and weeks in the face of COVID-19. Whether having chosen to shelter-in-place or having been told to do so by state and local officials, they are queries on the minds if not lips of much of America right now. They are questions filled with far more emotion than mere words on a page can convey. They are laden with anxiety and dread at the new normal and what it might portend for our families, our children, ourselves. And in such a moment, in which so much insecurity has been visited upon so many, it is perhaps the perfect opportunity to reflect on a few things we are often reluctant to consider in more sanguine times. Indeed, reflection may be the one gift offered up by this pandemic. All the rest, to be sure, is shit. But having been offered the time to engage in it, reflecting is the one positive thing we can do now, even as it often eludes us in the hustle and bustle of our regular lives. And so, let us think for a second.             Let us think, in particular, about those questions with which I began. To be precise, let us think about how eerily normal they are, if not for some of us, certainly for others; and not just now, but always, every day, with or without a virus lurking in the background. Because what many are only now experiencing--the disorienting feeling of not knowing where we can go and what we can do safely, and the financial and health insecurity haunting our dreams--is hardly revelatory for everyone. It is nothing if not ordinary for millions of persons with whom we share a nation but have rarely shared a reality.             Let us think about the routine act of leaving the house and going to the store. Let us consider how fraught that act can be even in normal times for Black folks, so often followed around inside, asked for multiple forms of identification when making a purchase, perhaps even shot and killed, as John Crawford was, simply for holding an air rifle at his side, which he had gotten off a store shelf at an Ohio Walmart.             Our fear is real. It is justified. But it is far from unique.             Let us think about getting in the car and driving around, or walking or jogging through the neighborhood. Let us consider what that experience is regularly like for people of color, identifiable Muslims of all colors, or those who are Sikh. Imagine, if you are white, what it must be like to be presumed out of place, stopped by police, or followed by a wanna-be cop like George Zimmerman, who has decided that solely because of the color of your skin, you are likely a criminal. For that matter, let those of us who are men consider how maddeningly typical it is for women (of whatever race, class, or ethnicity) to have to worry about leaving the house for a walk or a run, never knowing if they may become the victims of sexual assault. Let all of us consider the utterly normative concerns of trans folk seeking to go anywhere at any time of day, knowing that they are so frequently the targets of abuse, verbal or physical or both.             Our fear is real. It is justified. But it is far from unique.             Let those who are white and middle class think about the job insecurity we now feel, the uncertainty about our careers, despite having done everything right. We got our educations, we've worked hard, and still, we are left to wonder how long before the wolf is at the proverbial door. And let us reflect for a moment on how often people of color experience that same anxiety not because of a worldwide pandemic but because of a little thing called everyday life in America. Because while all of this might be new to many of us, Black folks with a college degree have long been nearly twice as likely as whites with one to be unemployed.Latinos and Latinas with a degree have been about 50 percent more likely than similar whites to be unemployed. Asian Americans have been about 25 percent more likely, and Indigenous folks about two-thirds more likely than whites to be unemployed, even when possessing a degree.             Our fear is real. It is justified. But it is far from unique.             Let us think about our uncertainty in the face of potential illness, the fear that grips us as we contemplate what will happen if we contract this lethal virus: will we be able to receive the care we need? And if so, at what cost? Will hospitalization, perhaps several days on a ventilator (presuming there are enough to go around) result in a hefty bill, bankrupting our families, even in the event we manage to survive? And let us consider how many millions of people have wondered those same things, not because of the novel coronavirus, but because of a broken health care system that treats health as a commodity rather than human right to which all are entitled.             In other words, let us take this moment to reflect on the way that our present vulnerability has rendered us more normal than we knew. Let us think of this as a lesson on how much more interconnected we are than we had perhaps suspected. Let us see this as evidence, glaring, and obvious, of the cost of indifference in the face of pain. It's an indifference that has kept us from creating the needed infrastructure to sustain life and health and to prioritize safety and security for all. Perhaps if we had listened before, the terror that presently grips so many for the first time could have been avoided.             And now, with so many having paid the price for our prior nonchalance, perhaps we can begin to construct the empathic scaffolding upon which society and humanity depends. It is the edifice upon which they have always depended, however little some may have recognized it.             Because although our fear is real, and undoubtedly justified, it is far from unique. Excerpted from Dispatches from the Race War by Tim Wise All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.