Reading White Like Me, a memoir and reflection on white privilege, by Tim Wise, an antiracist author and essayist, was the most eye opening experience on race I’ve had in a long time.
In White Like Me Tim Wise details his life’s history through the race lens, noting experiences from his life that led to his work as a white antiracist.
When I first began reading Tim Wise, I was all agape, like, “holy shit, I am so ignorant about race and racism.”
And I feel like I understand racism better than the average white American.
But we are. White people are unbelievably ignorant about race. It’s not our faults. Schools and history books whitewash (pun intended) our education to make Euro-Americans look like heroes and pioneers rather than than invaders and land thieves.
But if we ever want race relations to get better in this country, we have to tell the truth. And that’s what Tim Wise does.
His first book, White Like Me is a memoir of his life with examination of his own racist past, racism in his family, his own white privilege and how he understands that in order to fight racism, we must start with our own minds.
I highly recommend this book, White Like Me, as an introduction to examining your own racial bias and a good primer for your self education on racism.
If you don’t do it, nobody will.
One of the first thing you will learn from White Like Me is this:
Tim Wise teaches workshops on racism and when he begins, he asks people to tell about their first experience with race.
White people, he writes, usually look dumbfounded. Some will try to tell of their first experience with “racial others.”
But he says, the black people, always know the answer.
It began when you were born.
You have race. You have skin color. And it has colored your experience.
The fact that there are no people of color around is not an accident.
“Although white Americans often think we’ve had a few first-hand experiences with race– because most of us are so isolated from people of color in our day-to-day lives– the reality is that this isolation is our experience with race. We are all experiencing race, because from the beginning of our lives we have been living in a racialized society, where the color of our skin means something, even while it remains a matter of biological and genetic irrelevance. Race may be a scientific fiction, but it is a social fact: one that none of us can escape no matter how much or how little we talk about it.”