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Friday June 18th 2021

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What if author Tim Wise was Black?

There is a difference between Wise and those who bask in unadulterated self-congratulation, fully donning the mantle of the White Savior.

by Don Allen, Publisher – OurBlackNews (Originally published in the Hamline University Oracle in Fall 2013)

On October 1, congruent with the university’s ongoing commitment to diversity, Hamline will welcome to campus anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise.  Wise will give the 2013 Commitment to Community Keynote Address, and ask how we can move beyond “post-racial rhetoric and politics,” in our “quest for racial equity.”

Preach...the USA still has no clue. (photo: bluetigerportal.lincolnu.edu - Fair Use)

Preach…the USA still has no clue. (photo: bluetigerportal.lincolnu.edu – Fair Use)

As a white man speaking forcefully about racism and white privilege in the 21st century, Wise has made quite a name for himself, gaining ardent supporters and fierce critics of all colors and political persuasions.  He has authored hundreds of articles and blog postings, and has published six books.  His best-selling text White Like Me (2d. Edition 2011) was recently made into a documentary film.  Wise has been coined as “One of the 25 visionaries who are changing the world” by the Utne Reader, and scholar Molefi Kete Asante calls him “one of the brilliant voices of our time.” According to Wise’s Wikipedia page, he has given speeches at over 600 college campuses and “trained teachers, corporate employees, nonprofit organizations and law enforcement officers in methods for addressing and dismantling racism in their institutions.” While others fighting the good fight most often focus on black or Latino disadvantage, Wise squarely takes aim a white privilege, the “flip side” of racism.  His hard hitting rhetoric, often polemical tone and unfailing willingness to “call whites out on their shit” as he would say, make him a lightning rod for controversy, and have led him to receive death threats on a daily basis.  Wise is one of the most sought-after speakers on the issues of race and racism today; having made a career out of “race-speak.”

As a black man, I can say that Tim Wise is clearly the kind of guy you want on your side in a fight.  But I also want to take the opportunity to ask some hard questions about race, racism, and white privilege.  These issues may be summarized in the interrogative at the top of this page, “What if Author Tim Wise Was Black?”

Wise himself has written an essay in a similar vein, asking in a 2010 article, “What If The Tea Party Was Black?”  He argued there that if black protestors were to adopt some of the more rowdy and boisterous tactics taken up by White “Tea Partiers” protesting Obama’s “socialist” ways, that they’d much more likely be rounded up and arrested than regarded as patriotic Americans.

Wise writes:

Let’s play a game, shall we? …The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.”

It is my argument that by looking at the career of Tim Wise, compared to the careers of innumerable race activists and scholars of color, we can also gain “insight into the workings of race in America.” It is the case, ironically, that the success and fame that Mr. Wise has achieved via speaking out against racism and about white privilege has come to him as a function of white supremacy itself.  In short, if Tim Wise were black, he would not be Tim Wise.

In an exclusive statement for the Oracle, Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University said, “I assume that since Tim Wise is known for his expertise in white privilege, he himself would probably not deny that he is the beneficiary of it. I appreciate the fact that Tim is willing to say things that black people have been saying all along . . . [but] the unfortunate truth is that they [whites] are more likely to listen to him than to the rest of us.”

Wise seems to get this, at least in part.  The title of his recently reissued White Like Me for example, is a play on John Howard Griffin’s civil-rights era text, Black Like Me. In 1959, Sepia Magazine had Griffin, who was white, travel throughout the south posing as a black man. Griffin had a doctor to darken his skin so he could surreptitiously travel freely and journal the difficulties facing black people.  Whereas Griffin set out to tell the story of the Negro problem, Wise tells a story of white privilege and advantage, writing about how he and others like him have benefited from whiteness at every stage of their lives.  Unlike Griffin, Wise sees racism not as a problem of people of color, but as a problem of whites.

But there is the thorny issue of opportunism to consider.  Too often, whites have benefitted economically and professionally, from the “business of anti-racism.” This is also known as the White Savior Complex.  In recent times, the White Savior Complex can be blatantly seen in Hollywood blockbusters such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and 2009’s Oscar-Award winning white savior fantasy film Avatar.

Consider also the “internet movement” spawned by the “Kony2012” video, highlighting atrocities committed by Ugandan dictator Joseph Kony.  As author Teju Cole wrote in The Atlantic of the white outraged generated by this video, “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.”  He continued, “[There is] feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.”

All too much white anti-racism today smacks the same self-congratulation of Avatar and of Kony2012.  It is the same self-congratulation that the nation has basked in as a whole since the election of our first “black” president in 2008—despite the fact that this president has done nothing to address the issues of racism or of civil rights, or to benefit actual black people in any way.

There is a difference between Wise and those who bask in unadulterated self-congratulation, fully donning the mantle of the White Savior.  Yet we must still ask, when do the sons and daughters of Africa get to their story themselves?  When will our own telling of our history, and our own anti-racist speech be seen as equally “visionary,” “bold,” and “brilliant?”  People of color must have allies like Tim Wise in the fight for racial inequality.  But must not get so caught up in the thrill of the validation of the white man that we think of people of color only as the helpless, hopeless and the conquered.

If Tim Wise were black, he would not be received with fanfare at so many universities across the U.S.  A black activist, speaking truth to power in terms as forcefully as Tim Wise does, would be regarded as crazy, as bitter, or as a crackpot.  A black scholar writing about white privilege in the terms that does Tim Wise would have a hard time receiving tenure at his/her university.  A black journalist, who routinely took whites to task for their racism, and wrote widely about white supremacy in the 21st century, would not so readily be asked to speak on CNN, appear in documentaries, or give book tours across the country.  That the hard truth about race is only palatable to whites when it comes from other whites must make one wonder how revolutionary that truth really is.

White Threat, Black Sweat: A Manifesto of America’s Consciousness

While a lot of Americans seem rather obsessed with saving fetuses, the value of a grown human colored in hues of brown and black seem to be on the decrease.

By Don Allen, Publisher – Our Black New

"...The home of the who?"

“…The home of the who?”

Social media brought national attention to the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; in New York, Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD; in Beaverwood, Ohio, John Crawford was shot dead in a Walmart while looking at BB guns; in Los Angeles, Ezell Ford was killed after police randomly stopped him; and in Victorville, California, Dante Parker was tasered to death by police after he was thrown from his bike because the suspected robber was reported to have ridden away on a bike. Parker had no criminal record and was unarmed, according to the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper and later police reports. None of the officers involved in these deaths were black or of African descent.

Historically, the Twin Cities has seen multiple killings of unarmed black men executed by police. In 2010, David Cornelius Smith, an avid basketball fan and member of the downtown Minneapolis YMCA, was executed by stun gun on the sixth floor of the YMCA by Minneapolis police. The video is too gruesome to watch. This is just one example of many murders by law enforcement of unarmed black men in Minnesota.

What is the difference between Ferguson, Missouri and the Twin Cities? Why does national media come to play in one and not the other?

According to a study called, “Operation Ghetto Storm,” compiled by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, “Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extrajudicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012.” This means a security officer killed a black person every 28 hours. Their study’s sources included police and media reports along with other publicly available information. In 2013, the organization published a similar study showing that security forces kill a black person every 36 hours. However, this study did not tell the whole story, as it only looked at shootings from January to June 2012. Their latest study is an update of this. The report also notes that it is possible that the real number could be much higher.

In deconstructing the media interpretation of the assassination of black men, the narrative of Ferguson, Missouri, murder victim Michael Brown as being a “good kid,” or an “altar boy” who was allegedly on his way to college the Monday following his execution may not be completely accurate. Of course it’s not accurate. The only question that needs to be asked is if Michael Brown was an armed threat to the cop who shot him. It seems excessive to shoot someone eleven times, pausing between the sixth and seventh shot, with two execution-style shots to the head.  It seems apparent Brown was not a direct threat against an armed police officer. It does appear this “kid” was big enough to kick the cop’s ass and mop the sidewalk up with him. He was more likely a bigger threat to the cop’s ego than his life.

In some Minnesota classroom settings, students  read texts that describe the black body as “savage, angry, ignorant and dangerous,” with a vernacular far south of the assumed proper version of the King’s English. The historical description of justice for the black American, applied as “unofficial justice,” dates back further than Jim Crow. It continues to promote stereotypes that coexist in the denial of basic civil rights within America’s social, economic and educational constructs for black and brown Americans. With that said, the continual definitions of “true identities” and the mainstream media’s “creation of untrue identities” have birthed an ongoing social stratification characterized by historical devices that lend themselves to indicate the poor, and people of color will never have positive encounters or outcomes with law enforcement, the media or each other.

America’s law enforcement has always been the legal arm of the American sanitation of black and brown bodies. What took place in Ferguson, and what continues to be the juggernaut of American normalcy past, present and future is the targeted and designed arresting, imprisoning or killing of black men by some type of law enforcement, be it the police, or a lynch mob. In the broad sense, these killings send a disturbing message on many fronts: 1. Self-destructive behaviors are not always black and white; and 2. The same reasons some white police kill black men is the same reason black men kill black men; they see no future or value in the black body.

To understand the meaning of the civil war raging in Ferguson, we must be clear on how flat characters fit into a thick plot charged with white privilege, race-baiting, and racism.  We must begin by defining the meaning of normalcy in a manipulated society within a dominant-white patriarchal construct that cannot rescue nor redirect itself from historical assumptions of the black body. For example, saying a black male is “angry” has a far different meaning from saying a non-black student is “angry.” If a black person can identify a flaw-in-process to find a better way to complete a task, he’s trying to pull a fast one. If a non-black student sees the same flaw and works in an attempt to fix it, the response is: This guy is great! We should get him a job in the bosses office. In the one case, a single consciousness rewards privilege. In the other case, the student is damned by double consciousness in which he becomes the normative historical target of assumptions.

Questionable deaths, especially the deaths that provide a platform of tension and propaganda between blacks and whites make for good television news ratings. Like the police, the mainstream media has done a great job of hyping up the non-normalcy of black men. At this point, it is highly unlikely to separate real news from high-impact television and print news sensationalism.  CNN’s Melissa Harris-Perry was just downright upset. Using her bleeding-liberal bully pulpit, she repeated over and over again, “The Ferguson Police shot and killed an innocent black man who was on his knees with his hands in the air,” noting it was a white officer as if she witnessed the incident personally. Our “friends” at FOX News took to the tunnels posting alleged photos of Michael Brown from his Facebook page holding a wad of cash in one hand and what appears to be a 9mm handgun in the other. FOX wanted to make sure they promoted the message that all young black men are still “savage, angry and ignorant – dangerous.” The denial of facts and the distribution of untruthful information in support of the police state by FOX News in America is way more dangerous than any gun.

The iconography of a cold dead black body laying on a tarred road covered with a sheet, hanging from a tree, or burned alive by a mob creates a seductive voyeurism, which has been a part of American history and culture as long as there has been such.  So rather than stun a black or brown suspect, it is easier to shoot him dead. A historically designed “picnic” of the most irregular making.

It is unlikely the town of Ferguson will change in our lifetimes. The mainstream media has portrayed Ferguson, Missouri as a town of angry nonlogical black protesters, dismissing the fact the town of 21,203 (2010 census) is in the middle of a race war, fueled by an economic crisis. A report from ArchCity Defenders — a legal group that “works to break the cycle of ‘revolving door justice’ in the St. Louis metropolitan area” — reveals that in 2013, “the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.” In Ferguson, the “majority (67%) of  the city’s residents are African-American” and “22% of residents live below the poverty level.” Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400. According to a court employee, the docket for an average court session may include as many as 1,500 cases. Assuming an 80% conviction rate, the average fine in a case resulting in a guilty verdict would be $275.The local carnage happening over the last month and a half is a direct representation of what being poor and non-white looks like in a town with no opportunities to rise beyond the mundane. This is America’s finest model of designer oppression.

Today, those who command the definitions of human identity have once again reconstructed the definition of humans beings by unloading trash bags full of rhetoric and propaganda in an effort to maintain stereotypes. The American Dream as an urban utopia controlled by white masculinity that has historically been the headmaster in the circus of identity will not be swayed. If this group in the slightest thinks they will lose control, they can and have implemented dangerous and desperate measures, including mass genocide of economic bases for their red-blooded American counterparts – both black and white. The shameful part of the process is that poor whites and most black Americans are strained into a culture that is not their own by simply turning on the television set, picking up a newspaper, or listening to a song on the radio. This represents the intersectionality of many struggles in a nutshell.

The police have tried, found guilty, and executed in a split second many men (and women) from many ethnic backgrounds across the United States. Is this how the justice system is supposed to protect and serve? I predict officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown will not be indicted; out of the twelve members on the Grand Jury, he (Wilson), has nine peers with only three African Americans seated.

Those who are responsible for defining identities have always made sure social cleansing is never second-guessed. From cotton fields of Mississippi to the White House, the narrative of subjugation arrived at in the mainstream media, law enforcement and the court system have shown what happens when you are poor, young and colored; it has nothing to do with fairness. Author James Baldwin wrote, “This subjugation is the key to their identity and the triumph and justification of their history, and it is also on this continued subjugation that their material well-being depends…This is why, ultimately, all attempts at dialogue between the subdued and subduer, between those placed within history and those dispersed outside, break down…the subdued and the subduer do not speak the same language.” You cannot have justice or peace within a framework of inequality; they are incompatible. This is the nexus of Black Sweat.

Black Ink II: The Year of the Black Male

You can kill black men one at a time, but never will you eliminate blackness. (Photo: OurBlackNews)

You can kill black men one at a time, but never will you eliminate blackness. (Photo: OurBlackNews)

“It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” ~The Message

By Donald Allen, Publisher – OurBlackNews.com 

The Black American male must activate his survival mode software to navigate in a nation that is judge, jury and executioner in a magic blue uniform. We do not have time to hold our breath and wait for an ideology we have never seen. Malcolm X, dead. Martin Luther King, Jr. – dead. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – compromised. Charles Barkley, out of his rabbit-ass mind. Bill Cosby, done.

Face it – the 1960s and 1970s are long gone…the people that spoke for black America have been rendered useless by a Jewish-owned powerful mainstream media platform that can strike in the middle of a poor black neighborhood and every black person tuned to watch or listening believes every word. Respected black scholar Michael Eric Dyson has picked the Democratic plantation in preparation for Hillary Clinton and damned Dr. Cornel West for his consistent agitation against the presidency of Barack Obama, (of course I side with Dr. West).

I come before you today with a heavy heart. I need to talk to white and black, young, old, citizens and immigrants to explain this “black ink,” part-two (the first was published in the Oracle in 2012),  is not a celebration – but a cause for major concern in our county. America has a history of violence against those who passionately struggle for justice, including those posing for social media messages of support. Nothing is off limits in this age of Homeland Security, so it comes as no surprise that America has declared war on what is right and just.

There was a time, which some say it still is, when education was used as a divisive tool to segregate black men from the fields of higher learning by killing them in public and private school systems that were never meant to teach black boys or men. Today, in 2015, it has become almost ritualistic to shoot and kill an unarmed black man before questioning his intent or using alternative methods of apprehension. I understand law enforcement too must be able to go home after work, but you also shoot and kill your own in black bodies in blue.

Some of us are saddened by the current events happening across the United States and it is our duty to address these events with our students. We as black people sit wondering what the NAACP and Urban League will do, understanding that both agencies at one time in history were the Rock of Gibraltar for civil rights, human rights and engagement with mainstream America. Today we sit in the pew of corruption with sellouts and race baiters who have used America’s black unrest as a fundraising tool.

The original impetus for this communiqué is the shooting and maiming death of Freddie Gray and all the other black bodies that will be killed every twenty-six hours by law enforcement.

Images and descriptions of the dramatically militarized police response to the protests that formed in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore following the murder shocked the nation. All too familiarly we saw officers clad in Kevlar vests, helmets and camouflage, armed with automatic rifles and tear gas, driving armored vehicles driving through the streets as if it were a war zone.

Black people gathered to protest. They are called thugs, fools and worse. White people on social media, especially right-wing zealots, and Republicans in name only (RINOS) want more protesters shot; the water hoses opened at full and SUV’s to roll over protesters…if they are black. Let the killed be mostly white men and we would have World War III in the making.

News of the deaths of Brown, Rice, Gray and others as well as news of the subsequent protests of the murders, and the grand jury acquittals have spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and the international community, largely through the medium of social media.

The hashtags associated with protests of these deaths have included, #handsupdontshoot, #blacklivesmatter, #oursonsmatter and the twitter hashtag #crimingwhilewhite, but no one has come up with a real plan.

The president of the United States has checked out on Americans of color using boutique catch phrases and acting black by appearing on Black Entertainment Network (BET). I am sorry President Barack Obama, you are not doing enough, and no president could, not even a black one. So while we are stuck in America’s racial purgatory with people who see fit to assault protesters with dogs, fire hoses and tear gas, it lets me know my work is not finished. It has only just begun.

This story is for the black mothers, fathers, children and other concerned individuals so we can start to try and make sense of what is going on in America today. How should we address the issue of police brutality, and how can we make all of our sons safer? We need all young people to go about their lives, and be boys, make mistakes, and be imperfect, and not then face the risk of having their lives taken with impunity by the police.

2015 is the year of the black man because of the attempted annihilation of his black body. Comedian Chris Rock said, “Black men are endangered species. But endangered species have laws to protect them.”

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