Tim Wise Essay Archive

Tim Wise Essay Archive-4
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” As I move away from guilt and toward solidarity, I discover that the actions I take on behalf of the most vulnerable among us are liberatory for me, as well.

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The postcards showed them posing next to the corpse, along with body parts they’d taken for souvenirs. I have a history and legacy of activism; still, I felt baffled, , as James Baldwin put it, like a butterfly pinned to a mat, unable to move forward.

I’d faced the history of systemic racism in this country and the ways I’d benefitted from it, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

I also feel, like Anne Braden, that the struggle for racial justice is related to my own humanity and integrity.

At Martin Luther King said, “All /human beings/ are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Now I could hear what people of color were actually asking of white people in the movement — not to feel guilty or ashamed, but to educate ourselves, speak up, and use our privilege for the good.

After the event, I talked to a black friend who told me about a party she went to a few weeks earlier where she was the only person of color in attendance. “If you want to be an ally, you need to speak up.” Nancy Fuosto, an Episcopalian priest, told a similar story at a Martin Luther King event I participated in in January.

However, she was mentioned in “Letters from the Birmingham Jail” as one of the few white people Martin Luther King could count on. Whenever I feel uncomfortable speaking out against racism — or facing my own privilege — it helps me to remember that it’s far more uncomfortable to have to live with racism on a daily basis.

If I speak up, maybe next time someone else might do the same, and then another.

Anne Braden with Rosa Parks In his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King mentioned her as one of the few white people he could count on.

As I read Anne Braden’s story, I was struck by what she said about white guilt, and how unproductive it was: “I never knew anybody who really got active because of guilt…I’ve never seen it move anybody.


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