Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tim Wise - US is Snapchat Nation

[OK, this is rough, but if I wait to clean it up, it won't get up.  Gotta run to lunch and workshop.  Also there's video to be put up eventually.  Snapchat nation is explained near the bottom.  Typos will be corrected later, or not.]

Glad to be back in Alaska.  Anti-racism educator and writer from Nashville originally.  Working at schools, teachers, occasionally corporations, but I piss them off and they don't ask me back.  Seven books.

Today I want to do something a little different,  Books are fact and data driven which is useful in documenting.  But I know that for the most part, to create anti-racist movement it's not data, we didn't get into because we saw a position paper, but usually a personal story that was shared, that touched us not in the abstract way, but in the real way.  As a white guy, really good at abstracting this issue, even the people who want to make change.

I want to talk about the way the stories we white folks tell contribute to the problem.

Whites are people of the lie.  We've told ourselves so many lies that we no longer recognize truth from fiction.  James Baldwin said this long ago.  Speaking about black and white conflict.

People who imagine that history flatters them, and it does because they wrote it, are impaled like a butterfly.  They suffer from the being so embedded in a lie and suffer enormously from the incoherence this makes us.

I want to tell you three stories from my own life.

1.  My grandmother - incredible person and force in my life.  Come from messed up life.  Dad alcoholic.  Grandmother was my refuge from verbal violence.  She was also committed to equal rights.  Raised her kids right and had a big impact on me.  She had been raised in a very racist home - her dad was KKK in Michigan, Detroit.  GG father.  At 16 fell in love with my grandfather who was Jewish who lived in the black community.  She went to her dad one evening - either he was going to burn his robes and never go back to Klan, or she would burn them.  1936.  Back then girls didn't stand up to daddy.  GG Father took the challenge and accepted my grandfather.  That's the good part.

Toward the end of her life she began to develop alzheimer.  Both fascinating and terrifying process.  Stages of fear and anger and anxiety - you don't recognize people think they're trying to hurt you.  Saw her deteriorate.  Was tended by African American nurses.  In anger periods, would last hour at grandkids and nurses, this woman who made a stand against racism as a kid, as she deteriorated, she called those nurses - I won't repeat it, because you know.  When I asked doctors about the process we forget.  Dr:  Last thing you remember is the thing you knew best.  My grandmother knew racism best.

2.  My kid - now, about us.  We still have that virus.  Unless we are nurturing anti-racism.  Doesn't take us a  disease to make us angry and racist.  OK Tim, obviously your grandmother got taught that by her dad, but that doesn't apply to you.  My kids 14 and 12 now.  When 7 and 5, we watched a movie.  Heaven Almighty.  Morgan freeman plays God and he tells people to build an arc.  Kids had already seen it.  Rachel sees Morgan Freeman - is that really God?  5 years old, doesn't know better.  No, that's just an actor.  She says, Oh OK great.  Older daughter laughs at sister.  Rachel, that can't be God  - I knew I'd have to ask her why not and I knew what the answer would be.  I had a fantasy the answer would be great, like God is a woman.  But she was only 7.  She said, because God isn't black, God is white.  We don't have any pictures of God in our house.  But we can't protect our kids from all the images all over our culture.  Not only internalizing those white images of God, you internalize your superiority.  Blacks have opposite internalization.  If you have family who can overcome that, it doesn't make the internalized superiority go away.  None of us can be smug about who we think

3.  Me - this is mostly on video that will have to wait till I get it up.

The school got rid of his racist teacher, but my mom and I didn't see how the system itself, in its structure of different levels of courses that discriminated against blacks and favored the white kids.  We need to challenge our own narrative.

One more final story that speaks to the gaps in our knowledge.  Both daughters dancers.  Have to drive through public housing development, by definition is all poor and this one was predominantly white.  10 year old daughter asks, Why everyone in this neighborhood is black?   Good questions.  Most 5th grade classes don't teach this.  Older sister says, "Redlining."  How banks redlined neighborhoods to refuse loans to blacks.  Sister is right, but doesn't know why and talk about how history gets us to places.  It's not random.  These are outcomes of results of history.  Didn't lecture.  Just a two and a half honest explanation.  I don't think it was the first time she noticed it was a black neighborhood.  When you are the target oppressed community, you take the red pill (Matrix) and you're seeing the patterns.  But whites have the luxury of being on the blue pill.  Don't you see all this racism?  No, I don't see it man.    Kids don't have to be sociologists with PhDs, but they see these things.  Our kid had luxury of asking, because of what I do.  I asked parents about a week later.  There is only one honest answer about privileging and history.  Parents hemmed and hawed.  Or I don't want to burst the bubble of my child's innocence.  It's being burst every day.  Better we do it.  People say I shouldn't tell them about sexism because it will make it self fulfilling.  Hey, wouldn't send them down a dark alley with electronic fence at the end so they won't get neurotic.  No, they need to know for their own protection.

We've got to own the tuff that hurts.  Stop being snapchat nation, ok, but sending disappearing videos.  If Snapchat were a country, it would be the US.  What happened in the past is now gone and has nothing to do with today.

We're all privileged in some situations, if not white, then male, or straight,  or college educated, or able bodied.

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