Speak Out with Tim Wise
Episode 53 - Dying of Whiteness: A Conversation with Scholar Jonathan Metzl
April 02, 2019 01:54 PM PDT
In this episode, Tim speaks with Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, and the author of the new book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland. In his groundbreaking volume, Metzl sets out to explore and answer the question: why do working class and struggling white Americans so often seem to vote against their own interests? Electing politicians who vote against public health care initiatives (like Obamacare) from which they themselves would benefit? Or politicians who vote for fewer restrictions on gun availability even as white gun suicide rates skyrocket? Or politicians who vote to cut funding from education budgets upon which they themselves depend?
Wise and Metzl discuss the latter’s explosive findings from months of research in Tennessee, Kansas and Missouri—findings that illuminate how white fear (of black criminals, of “wasting” tax dollars on people of color, and of squandered resources in “urban” school districts) lead many whites to support right-wing policies that only make their own lives less livable. As one white man in Metzl’s study, who was dying of an untreated illness but couldn’t afford health care, put it: he would rather die than go on Obamacare, because he doesn’t support tax dollars going to welfare recipients and “illegals.” That man, who indeed has since died, is perhaps the best (but hardly the only) example of how white racial resentment harms not only its intended targets, but ultimately can destroy whites as well.
A powerful and illuminating conversation about a critical topic, this episode of Speak Out With Tim Wise will force us to ask the critical question: can we build a movement for justice in a nation where whites are so blinded by racial resentments and anxieties as to not even care for their own well-being, to say nothing of the well being of others? And if we are to build such a movement, what will it take to overcome the politics of resentment so aptly chronicled in Metzl’s research?Episode 52: Palestine/Israel, the Firing of Marc Lamont Hill & the Limits of Open Inquiry
December 04, 2018 02:51 PM PST
On this episode, Tim discusses CNN’s firing of contributor Marc Lamont Hill (a former guest on the show), for comments he made in favor of full equality and justice for the Palestinian people.
Hill’s words, misinterpreted as a call for violence against Israeli Jews, have demonstrated not only the intellectual dishonesty of some of Israel’s most militant defenders, but also the limits of open inquiry and dialogue around the pressing issue of Middle East peace. In this reflection on Hill’s firing, Wise examines the way his own critique of Zionism has resulted in professional pushback and attacks over the years, and explores the way in which the conflation of anti-Zionist thought with anti-Semitism is not only rooted in ignorance but actually results in greater danger for Jews around the world.
Unless and until we can separate Zionism as a political movement from Judaism as an ethnic/cultural and religious community, not only will Jews themselves/ourselves be unwilling to sufficiently criticize Israel, but anti-Semites will conflate the two in a way that ultimately, and ironically, makes Jews less safe. In short, the silencing of pro-Palestinian narratives is not only bad for Palestinians, but when done so as to “protect” the interests of Jews, actually makes everyone including Jews, worse off.Episode 51 - Analyzing the Midterms: What Do They Mean for Progressives, the Democrats & the Fight Against Trumpism?
November 07, 2018 03:34 PM PST
Well the midterm elections are over and the Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives, though losing ground in the Senate. What do the outcomes of key races mean for the Democratic Party, the battle against Trumpism and the future of the country? In this episode, Tim breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly of the midterms, and discusses what progressive forces need to do (and not do) in the wake of the election.Episode 50: Donald Trump, the Myth of Meritocracy and Building Solidarity Through Radical Humility
October 23, 2018 12:17 PM PDT
The recent New York Times expose on the Trump family—and how Donald’s father passed along hundreds of millions of dollars to his son—has once again exposed the way great wealth is often the result not of hard work and talent, but inheritance and intergenerational handouts. Although the focus of the story was on the Trumps, its value goes well beyond piercing the veil of self-dealing and occasional graft at the heart of one family’s empire. The narrative of “rugged individualism” and the myth of meritocracy—the idea that people “make it” or don’t based on talent and hard work—is firmly ingrained in the American psyche. Exposing the falsity of the notion as it regards the Trumps can allow us to examine the broader concept as it regards the rest of us and the society we share.
In this extended commentary, I explore the reasons why the notion of meritocracy is so compelling, psychologically, even for folks who are struggling. I also examine the evidence suggesting the notion is more mythical than real, and then delve into why the mythology is actually dangerous for most Americans, both individually and in terms of the kind of society people beholden to the concept end up creating.
Finally, I offer a method for progressives to push back against the notion of meritocracy and individualism, which can begin to chip away at this key stumbling block to solidarity: namely, a radical and transparent humility about our own stories. By acknowledging our own path—the unearned advantages we had, perhaps because of economic status or racial privilege, or even the luck and serendipity over which we had little control—we can forge an honesty that makes it harder to judge those below us and less likely that we’ll undeservedly praise those above. And by sharing our stories with others, we can build sustainable movements rooted in humility and a sense of collective purpose, both of which are critical to the creation of a more just society.Episode 49 - Talking About Race in a Time of Turmoil: Dr. David Campt on the White Ally Toolkit for Constructive Dialogue
October 09, 2018 06:41 AM PDT
On today’s episode, I speak with Dr. David Campt, racial dialogue facilitator, educator, and creator of the new White Ally Toolkit Workbook, which aims to provide white folks with the rhetorical and practical tools they need to engage other whites around issues of racial equity.
At a time of increasing political and racial division, the importance of white progressives and so-called “woke” folks knowing how to speak to (and with) those whose awareness of race issues is limited—or who steadfastly repel from the idea that racism is really an issue of importance at all—has never been greater. In their conversation, David and Tim explore why it’s so hard for some white progressives to speak to conservatives about these issues, why its important to figure out a way to do so, and what rhetorical and narrative tools are most effective for the purpose of ratcheting down partisan and ideological hostility, while possibly building bridges across philosophical divides.
So whether you’re interested in facilitating large scale group dialogues at your school, your place of worship or in your community, or just looking for practical advice about how to speak to that difficult family member at Thanksgiving, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.Episode 48: Educational Inequity is a Feature not a Glitch: Racism and Schooling in America
September 19, 2018 02:21 PM PDT
On this episode — the last before returning to the regular interview format of the program — please enjoy Tim's presentation to the teachers, staff and administrators of the Cahokia Illinois School district on August 31 of this year.
In this presentation, he discusses the ways that racial and ecnomic inequities in education, far from indicating failures in the system, actually suggest that inequality is a desired and deliberate outcome of schooling, and has been for many years. Herein, Wise explores the role techers can play in challenging that system of inequity, the importance of adopting a paradigm of schooling that focuses on collective liberation rather than individual accomplishment, and discuss the problems with colorblindness as a method for eduating children of color.Episode 47: The Psychological Effects of Police Violence, Racism & Inequality in America
September 04, 2018 02:22 PM PDT
This week’s episode features Tim’s plenary presentation at the 2018 American Psychological Association’s National Conference in San Francisco, this August. In this speech, Wise addresses the way that inequities in the justice system — especially police violence, racial profiling and disproportionate incarceration—impact the psychological health of peoples of color in America, and what those impacts mean for professionals seeking to offer trauma-informed care.
He also examines the way that racial disparities in the justice system and elsewhere affect the psychological well-being of whites. From internalized notions of superiority to a mentality of entitlement and unrealistic expectations, racial inequity can generate unhealthy states of mind even for those who typically benefit from a system of inequity. When entitlement and expectations are then frustrated (as with a global economy or as a result of changing demographics) whites then either lash out at others in ways that fail to make their own lives better, or internalize shame for their failures, contributing to things like the current opioid epidemic.
Bottom line: solidarity across racial lines and a society of greater equity are necessary to a psychologically healthy nation.Episode 46: Facts Matter (No They Don't!) Well, Actually They Do (But it's Complicated)...
August 21, 2018 11:43 AM PDT
On this episode, I explore what it means for progressive political movements that so much recent research suggests “facts don’t matter” when it comes to persuading people on various social issues. Does this mean we ought to ignore research, analysis and data in favor of more emotional and narrative forms of political appeals? Is the research even accurate when it says “facts don’t matter?” How do we know, and what do the answers suggest for organizing strategy or the way we engage others around politics?
With stories from my own experience, I’ll make note of the way facts seem not to matter, but also one very important way in which they do. Also, I’ll discuss the importance of progressives learning to illustrate facts with stories and narratives in a way that can compete with the right-wing’s talent at doing the same.
And finally, I’ll note the way that facts, used badly, can harm progressive movements, leading to the inescapable conclusion that when we mobilize on the basis of them we need to make sure we’re doing so accurately and logically.
A helpful primer on the way to make the case for a politics of social justice and equity...and the way not to.Episode 45 - First Amendment Follies: What the Right Gets Wrong About Free Speech & the College Campus
August 14, 2018 12:53 PM PDT
As I wind down my summer hiatus from interviewing guests, enjoy this extended commentary on the issue of free speech, and what it means—and doesn’t mean—on campuses and in the nation at large.
Lately, amid the decision of various social media companies to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones or neo-Nazis from their platforms—and amid pushback against right-wing speakers invited to college campuses—many folks (conservative and liberal) have insisted that these moves amount to violations of the free speech rights of those affected. But this is neither legally nor logically accurate. Free speech does not entitle anyone to another person’s platform, online, in a newspaper, on the radio, or in a lecture hall at a University.
In this commentary I explore the fallacies surrounding the notion of free speech and the requirements of the first amendment, the legal standards currently in place on these matters and what colleges can do (and should be able to do) to uphold their missions and values, and to fulfill their core function: the dispensation of scholarship. To think that schools are obligated to provide platforms to particular outside speakers as part of the "search for truth" or as part of the “marketplace of ideas” is philosophically ridiculous, for reasons I explain in detail on this week’s show.Episode 44: Why Identity Politics is Necessary (But Whiteness is a Fraud): Race & Class Inequity in America
July 24, 2018 10:58 AM PDT
While I take a break from guest interviews for the summer, enjoy these three commentaries: one new and two previously available in my 2017 Patreon archives.
In the first (and new) piece, I respond to common critiques of “identity politics,” and explain why those criticisms are wrongheaded on multiple levels. First, they are selective: only condemning a political focus on marginalized groups (people of color, women and LGBTQ folks, for instance) while ignoring the way that a focus on the “white working class,” conservative Christians, or bringing back manufacturing jobs mostly for men, are also about prioritizing certain identities. Second, to the extent most of us have not only dominant identities from which we benefit, but also identities that confer disadvantages—for instance, white folks who are poor—a politics that examines how identity impacts us is of benefit to all. Ultimately the problem is not identity-based politics, but identity-based oppression.
In the second piece, I examine the difference between a critique of whiteness (as a social force) and white people as individuals. Too often a critique of the first is seen as an attack on the second. But whiteness was created as a way to sucker most so-called white people into casting our lot with the wealthy, rather than recognizing the interests we share with working class people of color. To the extent whiteness has served as a trick to divide and conquer working folks, criticizing whiteness is not only something we should do for the sake of people of color, but also something we should do for the benefit of most so-called whites.
In the third and final piece, I explore how our tendency to venerate the wealthy—and give them credit for all good things that flow to the rest of us, like jobs—not only rests on a faulty understanding of economics, but also relies upon two important American forces, which make a politics of class solidarity harder here that in many other societies. The first of these is the myth of meritocracy, which leads even those who are struggling to believe they’ll be rich someday if they just work hard enough, and the second is the role of white supremacy, and specifically what W.E.B. DuBois called the “psychological wage of whiteness.” By providing relative advantage for white workers over people of color, America’s racialized version of capitalism keeps many working class whites in line, loyal to the wealthy, even as they would be better off joining with people of color to fight for a more just system.
Speak Out with Tim Wise is an informative and entertaining podcast aimed at promoting multiracial democracy and justice in dangerous times. The show features the biting, factual, and humorous commentary of its host, alongside dialogue with some of the nation's leading scholars, artists and activists, as well as grassroots community leaders whose voices are often ignored in the dominant media.
I'm an anti-racism educator and author who has spent the past 25 years speaking around the country about methods for dismantling racism. I'm also the author of seven books. And now I'm excited to host this new podcast focused on racial and economic justice in the age of Trump, and how to effectively push for real and lasting change.
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