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Episode 44: Why Identity Politics is Necessary (But Whiteness is a Fraud): Race & Class Inequity in America
July 24, 2018 10:58 AM PDT
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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.

Episode 43: It’s Not About Bigotry: Institutional Racism, Gentrification and the Perpetuation of Inequality
July 17, 2018 04:21 AM PDT
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While I take a break from guest interviews for the summer, enjoy this compilation of two previous (but still highly relevant) commentaries from my 2017 Patreon archives.

In the first, I explore the way that racism operates institutionally, even in the absence of deliberate racist and bigoted intent. When we presume that racism requires overt prejudice we often overlook the subtle but destructive ways in which racial inequity is perpetuated in labor markets, education and the justice system, simply by way of the normal, seemingly race-neutral operation of those systems. In so doing, we miss some of the most persistent and destructive manifestations of racial injustice.

In the second piece, I explore the issue of gentrification and the way that “economic revitalization” often serves to displace and further marginalize already marginalized persons of color, and the poor (of all colors), while disproportionately benefitting affluent whites.

Although perhaps preferable to white flight and the abandonment of urban areas, the question remains: why do lawmakers only commit to economic development when certain people move back to an area? Why don’t urban planners and elected officials have the same interest in creating opportunities for working class folks of color as they do for upper income white hipsters, tech-bros and “creative class” artists? And how might cities balance the need for economic development with the need for affordable housing, cultural preservation and respect, and opportunities for all?

Episode 42: White Nationalism and the Absurdity of Neo-Nazi Rhetoric (A Best of Tim Wise Episode)
July 10, 2018 09:35 AM PDT
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While I take a break from guest interviews for the summer, enjoy this compilation of two previous (but still highly relevant) commentaries from my 2017 Patreon archives, in which I discuss, dissect and dismantle the logic and argumentation of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis.

First, I explore the inherent moral and practical absurdity of white nationalism and white racial identity politics itself, and why organizing for “white interests” is inherently different than when people of color organize on the basis of theirs.

Then, I examine the particularly illogical and flawed reasoning behind the anti-Jewish bigotry so central to these movements. From claims that Jews enjoy “Jewish privilege” to claims that Jews control the media and financial sectors, the stupid is seriously strong with these arguments, as I explain in the second half of the show.

Episode 41 Free Speech, Hate Speech & Equal Protection on Campus: Challenges & Obligations in Higher Ed
July 03, 2018 09:19 AM PDT
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This episode features the third of three public dialogues held specifically for the show at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), last month in New Orleans.

In this conversation, I’ll speak with educators and advocates, David Pilgrim, Michael Benitez and Loretta Ross – whose bios will be presented in the program itself – about the challenges facing college campuses when it comes to balancing the right to free speech (even for those espousing ideas that are racist, homophobic, sexist or in other ways hurtful) with the rights of equal protection for all students, especially those targeted by hateful or prejudicial speech.

What can campuses do to ensure the free and open exchange of ideas while at the same time ensuring civility and promoting an equitable and just community where all students can feel respected and safe?

Are there lines campuses can draw between speech that is protected and that which is disallowed? If so, how do we determine those lines?

Does the notion of free speech obligate campuses to provide platforms for any and all speakers, even when their views violate the stated mission and principles of the institution itself?

And putting aside actual restrictions on certain speech acts, what actions can institutions of higher learning take, proactively, to minimize the damage of hateful activity on campuses and create environments that are conducive to learning and community engagement?

Episode 40: Immigration & the Meaning of America: From the Muslim Ban to Family Separation & the Rhetoric of Hatred
June 27, 2018 09:31 AM PDT
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On this special episode, I offer an extended commentary on the extraordinary events of the past two weeks with regard to the issue of immigration policy, including the Administration’s cruel and inhumane policy of family separation at the border, as well as the ban on migration from several Muslim nations, which was just upheld by the Supreme Court.

What do these policies and rulings mean in terms of how we see the nation and the very concept of an “American?” What are the real motivations for these policies, and how does the president’s regularly dehumanizing rhetoric towards migrants of color prime the public for ever greater levels of cruelty? What does it really mean to speak of people as “legal” or “illegal,” given the arbitrary nature of those concepts?

And what should people of conscience do now in response: from lawmakers to church parishioners to average everyday folks? Is public shaming of Administration officials a legitimate response to their policies, and why are so many people calling for “civility” from the left, while the president and folks on the right have made a pastime of issuing cruel and demeaning invective towards virtually anyone who opposes of even questions them?

Episode 39: Movement Building for Justice: Black Self-Determination, White Allyship & Intersectionality
June 19, 2018 08:29 AM PDT
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Today’s episode features a conversation on social justice movement building between Tim and three of the nation’s most engaging thinkers and activists: Tia Oso, Dayvon Love and Chris Crass. The dialogue took place in front of a live audience at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) in New Orleans on May 31.

Among the topics discussed by the panel: What things get in the way of effective movement building? What are the lessons we can take away from past and present movements about how to push through those obstacles? Are there common mistakes we make in this work, and if so, how can we learn from them as we move forward? What is the role of white people in social justice work? How important is Black self-determination to the cause of liberation and how has it been often overlooked within both historical and contemporary accounts of movement organizing? We’ll discuss all this and more on today’s episode of Speak Out With Tim Wise.

Episode 38 - Psychologies of Oppression: Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the Death of Empathy & the Assimilation Blues
June 05, 2018 07:38 AM PDT
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This episode is the first of three programs taped in front of a live audience at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), held from May 29 to June 2, 2018 in New Orleans.

The guests — Joy Degruy, Jacqueline Battalora, and Rahuldeep Gill — explore the ways that people of color are psychologically affected by racialized injustice, from internalizing oppression to feeling intense pressure to assimilate, and the way whites in America are conditioned not only to accept our “superiority” but to restrain and subdue our own natural empathic tendencies, which might otherwise mitigate against injustice.

Additionally, the panel discusses the way racial trauma is transmitted across generations, the importance of using a sense of shared injury and pain as a bridge for building movement solidarity, and the issue of how and why we must begin to repair the damage of accumulated racial injury, both collectively and individually.

Episode 37 - Before You Call the Cops: A Conversation w/ Tyler Merritt About Personal Narrative & the Power of Empathy
May 30, 2018 12:23 PM PDT
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On this week’s episode, Tim speaks with Tyler Merritt, whose original video “Before You Call the Cops” recently went viral, provoking conversations across the nation about racism, stereotypes, and the importance of empathy in combatting racial injustice.

The video, part of a larger effort he calls the Tyler Merritt Project, seeks to reach hearts and minds through original video content steeped in both humor and personal narrative. Tim and Tyler discuss the importance of personal narrative, the proper role of humor in addressing social injustice, the role of artists in addressing matters of social concern, and what it means that so many people responded viscerally to “Before You Call the Cops.” They’ll also address some of the criticisms leveled at the video by folks in the larger antiracism struggle as well as some of Tyler’s other material on race and how it fits into racial justice activism.

Episode 36: Equal Opportunity for Dummies: Reclaiming Progressive Principles from Right-Wing Distortion
May 22, 2018 12:50 PM PDT
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On this episode of Speak Out with Tim Wise, I offer an extended analysis of the issue of equal opportunity and its real meaning. Often the right insists that they are the ones who believe in equal opportunity while the left is calling for “equal outcomes” or “equal results,” and that these notions are fundamentally at odds with the reality of individual differences in ability and the requirements of a free society. But this framing is fundamentally dishonest.

First, the left does not claim that everyone has the same abilities, or that everyone should have exactly the same “stuff” or expect the same outcomes. But the reality of inequalities and the normalcy of certain disparities in outcome cannot justify the vast gaps between the haves and have-nots in this society or the world, especially since those gaps have grown in recent years. And as regards race, there is no reason for individual-level ability differences to cluster by so-called racial group unless one presupposes racial inferiority or superiority: fundamentally racist notions that most all conservatives insist they reject.

Second, for real equal opportunity to exist, a certain equity of access is a necessary prerequisite. Simply passing civil rights laws and proclaiming the competitions of life fair and equal doesn’t make them so when generations of sedimented inequality have been built up and transmitted. To simply rely on procedural equality of opportunity would be like expecting those who start out 5 laps back in an 8-lap race to catch up to those with a built-in (unearned) advantage, and thinking such an expectation fair and just.

Justice requires that correctives to intergenerational inequality be developed and carried out so as to provide the groundwork for any meaningful and operational system of equal opportunity.

Bottom line: the right’s version of equal opportunity is a smokescreen intended to sound as though it is rooted in a commitment to fairness, but one which in truth is intended to rationalize the maintenance of existing hierarchies of power and privilege.

This extended personal commentary is an important corrective to common conservative propaganda and right-wing talking points.

Episode 35: Coffee, Community and Justice: A Conversation with Keba Konte of Red Bay Coffee
May 15, 2018 10:05 AM PDT
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On today’s episode, I speak with Keba Konte, founder of Red Bay Coffee in Oakland CA. On a mission to diversify the look and feel of the specialty coffee business in America, Konte’s business model for Red Bay considers issues of equity and fairness at all points along the supply chain: from where the coffee is grown and how much growers are paid, to how much his own baristas and other employees receive in pay and profit sharing, so they can continue to afford to live in rapidly gentrifying communities like the Bay Area.

Blending commerce and conscience — and demonstrating a successful model rooted in fairness, equity, and community — makes Red Bay Coffee a model for not only the coffee industry but for companies in general.

And at a time when companies like Starbucks are training their white employees on matters of implicit racial bias, companies like Red Bay are demonstrating that people of color ownership and connection to communities of color might well be an even deeper and more meaningful institutional challenge to racism.

This episode also contains Tim’s commentary on the recent spate of white folks calling police on people of color in a number of high profile incidents, and what these suggest about white privilege, white fragility and the current political and cultural moment.

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