ALRIGHT FINE SO I FELL OFF THE WAGON, OK?
Here’s the thing. This book just hasn’t wowed me, if I’m being honest, and since it hasn’t caught my interest like I thought it would it’s not been the most motivating item on my to do list. Either way, I plan on finishing the task. If you’re interested, here is the introduction, chapter one, and chapter two, three, and four.
Nonetheless, I do feel like there have been some important themes in this book that I’ve enjoyed taking in, whether or not it’s how or what I anticipated would be discussed. I sense the same from some of you? I’m going to join chapter 5-6 together this week and talk about what happened and then what caught my eye.
Chapter five is all about Tim post-graduation, once he decides to stay in New Orleans and look for activist work – most of which, in this chapter, centered around the politician David Duke (an ex-klansman) and working to prevent his election. Chapter six moves into Houston, where Tim moves to follow his girlfriend of the time. While in Houston he works on two separate projects: first, helping to serve as an expert on race for a black coach named Jimmy Jackson who was attempting to sue the NFL, as well as his time working as a community organizer and what that taught him.
+ Per usual, I guess what interests me mosts is factual discourse revolving around studies. Not that that needs to be his entire book, but when he very subjectively rants on topics and throws in statements like, “which studies indicate…” while NEVER citing these studies. I cannot tell you my frustration at this! I WANT TO READ THESE STUDIES. Not because I think he is full of crap, but because, that’s where my real interest lies. Not in reading his very personally charged diatribes that I sometimes feel lessen the value of his message overall (life lesson?).
+ I appreciate Tim’s encouragement to whites in order to work toward changing the hearts of other whites. I think it’s really, really easy to get dogmatic and vitriolic with people when you talk about charged topics like race. But what is the real goal? If it’s racial reconciliation and opening the hearts of people to help them become empathetic and understanding, your methods have to be considered. It’s pretty much like any other topic (and a lesson I’m definitely still learning) in the sense that we’ve all got our beliefs that have been fossilized over years – people are not going to change overnight and they certainly aren’t going to change through angry arguments. Noted.
+ I appreciate his time spent giving a solid, fleshed out example of systemic racism that normally would be hard to see, in regard to Jimmy Jackson’s story within the NFL. No it wasn’t straight up bigotry, but the system used to hire coaches was “a hiring criteria that, while facially race-neutral, was guaranteed to produce a racially exclusionary impact on black coaching aspirants,”(162) he goes on to say, “It was a perfect example of institutional racism, which allows racial disparity to be produced and maintained with or without the deliberate and bigoted intent of those producing the disparity, but merely as the product of normal operating procedures so common to employees. SO often, the way in which qualification requirements are used favor those who have been in the pipeline for the best opportunities previously.” (162)
+ I think the most interesting thing I have read so far was his portion on poor whites in New Orleans when a councilwoman made a proposal that was seemingly a hit to the rich whites in the city. Wise points out that the poorest whites in the town were so quick to jump to defending the rights of rich people who don’t like them, that it was troubling to him. He says, “To the white masses in Duke county, they had more in common with the multi-millionaires along St. Charles Avenue…than with African-Americans struggling for opportunities as much as they were. Racial bonding took priority over class unity, or in this case, common sense.” (166).
I just couldn’t get over this point, and how true I think it is.
+ The last thing I enjoyed reading about was the training Wise received while he was a community organizer. During the training the group was asked to write down what they liked about being their race. Even before I read the rest of the portion, I felt pretty stumped. The only things I could think of were being glad to be in the majority culture and never feeling out of place, or related items. Which is funny, since that was exactly his point.
All of the people of color in the room had meaningful reasons they liked being black, for example. The music, the culture, the camaraderie of families, and the perseverance of their ancestors. The only things that white people in the room could come up with? “None of it had to do with internal qualities of character or fortitude. Rather, every response had to do less with what we liked about being white…than what we liked about not being a person of color.” Not being followed around in a store. Not presumed out of place on a college campus or high ranking job. Not being followed around in stores. Etc.
He went on to describe that when America was growing heavily with European immigrants, to be taken in and acclimated fully into society, you often had to let go of your heritage to embrace the new American “white.” Speak English. Dress like we do. Listen to the music we listen to. Eat our food. So, even though at one point we had cultural traditions and unique qualities, essentially most of our families and ancestors shed those to fit into the “American” mould. Which is funny, since America is a melting pot.
What are your thoughts on chapter 5-6? I want to hear!