Self-denigration won’t produce justice. Solidarity requires love — of the other and oneself.

Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash

Consider, for a second, the picture above. Think about the sign held by the protester in this photo — taken at a Black Lives Matter rally last year — and ask yourself: what is its purpose? For whom is it being displayed?

Is it aimed at the law enforcement officials whose racially-disproportionate use of force this person is ostensibly there to protest? Clearly not.

Is it aimed at the lawmakers to whom its carrier might direct their petition for redress of Black grievance, as they fight to shift funding from policing to more preventative public safety mechanisms? Again, no.

There…


Exposing the toxic positivity of conservative race theory

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) Image credit: North Charleston, Flickr, used under creative commons license

Despite his admission to being unjustly pulled over 18 times for Driving While Black, Senator Tim Scott wants everyone to know that America is not a racist country.

It’s a message he considers so important that he made it the core of his rejoinder to President Biden’s recent address to Congress. To some, it may have seemed a bizarre rebuttal, considering Biden had offered only a few brief remarks on the subject of racism, none of which included the claim that America was a racist country. But Scott’s remarks weren’t aimed at the president; instead, they were crafted for a…


Slogans like A.C.A.B. personalize a systemic problem — and that makes change harder

Image credit: Laurie Shaull, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Here’s a heads-up, which may come as a shock to some: radical activism is not about seeing how many four-letter words you can cram on a placard. It’s not about spray-painting BLM on a Starbucks, or breaking restaurant windows with your skateboard because “fuck capitalism.” And it’s not yelling A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards) at police, especially if that yell springs from a white mouth — a mouth that can yell that at cops precisely because it’s white. At that point, it’s just an ugly display of privilege and arrogance masquerading as something meaningful. It’s performative revolution, not the real…


The trial was fair, and right-wing claims of jury intimidation are absurd and dangerous

Image credit: Chad Davis, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

For right-wing lawmakers hoping to raise money in time for their mid-term campaigns, few bogeymen serve the purpose as well as Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As a Black woman and racial justice advocate, Waters ticks any number of boxes on the side of the ledger marked: Things the far-right despises.

And so it’s no surprise that as we awaited the jury’s decision in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, her words to protesters would be deliberately twisted to suggest she had issued a call to violence in the event of a not guilty verdict. What better way to conjure the…


The Chauvin verdict is worth celebrating but not evidence that the system works

Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Sampling error.

It’s what you’re guilty of when you draw conclusions about something based on a limited number of examples that point in a particular direction.

For instance, most serial killers are white. But serial killing is also a rare enough event that predicting the race of the next serial killer on that basis can easily turn out wrong. Same with predicting who the next terrorist attacker will be based on 9/11, or Tim McVeigh, for that matter. It’s what you engage in when you say that since you know someone who held off a home invader with a gun…


Sustaining white antiracism requires real cross-racial connection and relationship

Photo: Diego Lozano on Unsplash

Don’t worry. This will not be yet another essay lamenting the sometimes performative nature of white antiracist activism since the killing of George Floyd. First, we already have enough of those, most of which amount to the woke-scolding of racial justice newcomers by those who think making folks feel shitty for an admittedly simplistic Instagram post will help grow the movement. Hint: It won’t. Neither will insisting that white outrage now is meaningless because it didn’t emerge in sufficient amplitude five or 10 or 20 or 400 years ago. …


Reflections on terminology and shifting the power of language

Photo Credit: Ruperto Miller, Flickr, public domain

Words matter, even, and perhaps especially in moments of crisis. At such times, words provide us with a conceptual framework to understand the things happening around us. Choose words that are inadequate to the moment, or fail to capture its gravity, and you run the risk of letting down your guard in the face of chaos. Choose words that are hyperbolic or extreme, and you risk becoming like the boy who cried wolf or someone more interested in social media clicks than enlightenment.

As such, it’s essential to use words as precisely as possible. No, not every politician with whom…


Whiteness has always followed a very predictable playbook

Photo credit: Marco Verch, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

It happens every time. Something awful transpires — something that indicates the venality of the nation’s leaders or certain of its people — and we are treated to the same refrain by swaths of the newly-shocked: namely, “This isn’t the America we know.”

It happened after Hurricane Katrina when hundreds of thousands of mostly Black people were left to fend for themselves or die in New Orleans. Although social media wasn’t a thing yet — this was 2005, when the Earth was young— you could still hear the surprise from commentators in mainstream media, on websites, and via e-mail listservs.


No peace without justice, no reconciliation without truth

Image by Scott Lum, Flickr, Creative Commons License

For people who savor calling others snowflakes, Trump supporters certainly are a delicate bunch. And to hear many tell it, we should treat them as such, with understanding and compassion, giving them time to work out their sadness at the defeat of their Emperor God.

Calls for this kind of forbearance have filled the airwaves and op-ed pages since the election. Don’t gloat, they tell us. Be good winners, they implore. Reach out to at least one Trump supporter and try to engage in productive dialogue, comes the advice of political scientist Ian Bremmer.

Do it for the sake of…


No matter the outcome, please remember these words

Photo by Keith Helfrich on Unsplash

Forget the polls for a minute. Forget the punditry. Forget the campaign hype that seeks to tell us what we want to hear or what the other side wishes to believe. The fact is, we don’t know for sure how this is going to turn out.

I can sketch out very plausible scenarios by which Joe Biden wins in a rout, but also a few, only slightly less convincing, where Donald Trump squeezes out another victory in the electoral college, while, of course, losing the popular vote handily. Such is the lasting force of an institution created by those who…

Tim Wise

I’m an antiracism educator/author. My latest book is Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020). I post audio at patreon.com/speakoutwithtimwise

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