Is Tim Wise an Illogical, Hateful Person? Part Three

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About This Series Of Articles

I first became aware of Tim Wise when he was featured on CNN, where he discussed public outrage regarding an article of his.  The article is titled “An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum”.

I’ve since briefly reviewed his website, and have come to the conclusion that he’s likely not a good person. 

I get the feeling that he tends to write primarily, or wholly, about white racism.  Look at the titles of his books:

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White

Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama

Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity

Again, I get the feeling that he tends to write primarily, or wholly, about white racism.  I have a bit of a problem with that.  Wouldn’t it be better to focus on combating racism in general, regardless of race?

In fact, might his apparent focus on white racism actually be, to some degree, counterproductive to his efforts?  After all, if you’re a white person, and you heard him highlight white racism yet downplay or ignore non-white racism, would you not feel he is acting unfairly?

Feeling that he’s acting unfair, might many whites tend to ignore his message, since they dislike the speaker’s seeming unfairness?  I would think so.

If Tim Wise really wants to eliminate white racism (or racism in general, for that matter!), would it not be fair to address racism by non-whites also?

Before getting into in-depth analysis of his articles, I suspect that Tim Wise has hatred in his heart, and I suspect that he likely makes many illogical arguments.  Why do I suspect this?   Well, I suspect that he has hatred because of the contempt shown by some of his statements.

I think it’s likely the case that people with hatred in their heart are more likely to make illogical arguments.  I am very confident that left-wingers are also more likely to make illogical arguments; however, I suppose it’s possible that Tim Wise doesn’t consider himself left wing.

I value fairness and logic.  And perhaps most of all, I value good intentions.  I’m not so sure Tim Wise is a person with good intentions.

Therefore, I have created a series of articles, each of which will review and analyse one of his articles.  I have a feeling that they will expose, not support, Tim Wise.

Let’s see what I, the 74th smartest person in the world, discover!

Below, Part Three makes observations from a third Tim Wise article!

The article I will review below was written by Tim Wise as a followup to his unpopular article “An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum”.

That’s the article I reviewed in Part One of this series. After reviewing that article, my conclusion of Part One stated:

“Based on this article, Tim Wise sure seems to be an irrationally hateful person, don’t you think?”

About the article at hand:  I’m going to comment on a few interesting observations I made.

I don’t disagree with Tim’s main thrust of his article: That many people misunderstood or were unable to comprehend the intentions of his article.

Nevertheless, within the article I found several illogical points Tim has made, and I’d like to point them out.  Why?  Well, I find them interesting, and…I think Tim Wise is likely not a good person, and hence he’s likely deserving of my critique!

Observations From: “Reading Comprehension 101: Text, Subtext and the Politics of Misinterpretation”

1) Tim Wise writes:

“I think I know what it feels like to be the person who writes the reading comprehension questions for those standardized tests we’re so fond of giving, if quite a bit less fond of taking.After all, think about that person for a minute. He or she writes four or five paragraphs for inclusion on the PSAT or whatever, knowing full well that when asked questions about the passage they just read, millions of those who are taking the test will not get the point…”

“Will not get the point”?  Isn’t the point of answering a question simple?  Isn’t the point to answer correctly?

So Tim thinks that millions of people taking the test would not even realize that it’s in their interest to answer the question correctly?

Perhaps Tim instead meant to suggest that millions of test takers wouldn’t be able to decipher the answer by using information provided by the question.  That’s quite different from not getting “the point”!

2) He writes:

“It must be difficult to write, all the while aware that large numbers of those reading your work will utterly fail to comprehend it.”

Why does Tim believe it would be difficult for a test writer to write questions while knowing that many test takers will answer incorrectly?

Isn’t it the intention of the test writer to create questions of varying degrees of difficulty, with the intention that progressively fewer numbers of people will be able to correctly answer progressively difficult questions?  Why would that be particularly difficult, given that it is a requirement of the position?

I could see it being frustrating if a principal was to address an entire school about an important, yet difficult to understand, topic.

But one of a test writers’ principal aims is to ensure that large numbers of people aren’t able to figure out how to correctly answer certain questions!

3) He writes:

“I’ve long known that the same kind of miscomprehension often greets my own writing. First, I focus on touchy subjects like race, and whenever we delve into such matter as this, there is a chance that emotional reading may take the place of reasoned study and analysis. In other words, we see what we want to see, based on wherever we are at the time of the reading, emotionally, and with regard to the issues at hand.”

True.   Just look at the absurd reactions to my article about Obama’s anti-Americanism.

However, it’s safe to say that my review of Tim’s unpopular article included quite a bit of reason and analysis.  Don’t you think?  😉

4) He writes:

“Interestingly, the same phenomenon is true for writers, whose work product — or ‘art’ on our better days — also reflects our emotional state at any given moment.”

So Tim states that “the same phenomenon” that occurs for readers also occurs for writers: Emotion overrides reason and analysis.

Oh, wait a minute.  Oops.  Tim states that “the same phenomenon” occurs (emotion leads to lack of reasoning), but when he actually spells out the phenomenon as it occurs for writers, he refers to the emotional effect yet doesn’t refer to its effect on reason!

Well, we already know from Parts One and Two that Tim Wise isn’t a very reasoned person.  Is it his emotions that cause that?

5) He writes:

“I am yet amazed at how difficult some find it to decipher the words I have caused to appear on the page, and to really interpret what they mean, as opposed to that which they do not.”

I agree that many readers were probably unable to decipher the words that Tim wrote.

What is interesting, however, is this:  Tim seemingly also had a problem deciphering!  He was apparently unable or unwilling to decipher how illogical some of his arguments are! (With the exception being that he did decipher the logic yet chose to lie).

Here is an example I pointed out in Part One (my words):

“And notice that Tim Wise refers to ‘whites’, not ‘white conservatives’.  The implication is that all whites, including white liberals, are bred to believe that America is for whites.  But this implies that being bred to believe America is for whites isn’t enough to ensure that whites will act to ensure America is for whites.  After all, don’t white liberals supposedly avoid the effects of their breeding and act to ensure that America is for all?”

And another doozy, again in my words:

“Tim Wise is saying that there is nothing original about the white conservatives of 2010…after all, there have always been whites who decried black rights; just look at the whites circa 1856!

Is it rational to imply that white conservatives of 2010 feel similarly about black rights (not to mention stringing blacks up from trees!) as the whites of 1856? Of course not!

“Further, is it rational to imply that the Supreme Court in 1856 represented the views of typical whites?  Perhaps…but don’t be so quick to make that judgment.  Congress currently has a very low approval rating, and I wouldn’t be surprised if powerful elements of government have often been unrepresentative of some majority white views, if only because powerful positions tend to favor the few over the many!”

6) He writes:

“To wit, after my latest piece on the election results went viral, there have been more than a few folks who have written to say how appalled they were by my ‘attack on white people,’ or my ‘attack on America,’ or my ‘hateful diatribe’ in which I ‘gleefully anticipate the death of the elderly’ and the ‘initiation of violent payback of whites writ large by people of color’ once whites become a less prominent portion of the national population, a few decades hence. In other words, putting aside the inherent absurdity of this interpretation — I am white after all, as are my kids, as is my wife, as is my momma, all my immediate family and my best friend too — some who read the piece believe against all logic and in the face of plain English (however aggressive the piece may be), that I have announced, excitedly, the coming of a glorious race war and the end of white people.”

I agree that Tim’s article didn’t advocate or foresee violence against whites and/or conservative whites.  In fact, his article stated:

“And they know how to regroup, and plot, and plan, and they are planning even now — we are — your destruction.  And I do not mean by that your physical destruction.”

However, I do find this passage of his to be curious:

“We just have to be patient.  And wait for you to pass into that good night, first politically, and then, well…”

It seems like he was implying that a continuation of the sentence would’ve referred to the literal passing and death of white conservatives.

If so, why would he refer to the death of white conservatives?  After all, if conservative whites lose political power before they die, and if Tim’s goal is for conservative whites to lose political power, why would he reference the death of white conservatives?  Is that a goal of his?  I’m not suggesting that it certainly is a goal of his, but it was a curious statement of his.

Also curious is this: Why would the white conservative movement lose political power before they die?

Wasn’t Tim’s point the opposite?  That the shrinking proportion of conservative whites among the national population (in part due to their death) would lead to a decline in the strength of conservatism?

After all, wasn’t that the point Tim was trying to make when he wrote the following?

“It’s OK. Because in about forty years, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it.”

And wasn’t that his point when he wrote this?

“The kind of math that proves how your kind — mostly older white folks beholden to an absurd, inaccurate, nostalgic fantasy of what America used to be like — are dying.”

So yes, he was referring to the composition of America changing through death.

However, he is incorrect in determining the cause of the changing composition of America.  It is not primarily (and perhaps at all) because white conservatives are dying at a faster rate than colored people.

(A side note: I doubt white conservatives have a shorter life span than non-whites, given that whites have a longer life span than non-whites.  Even if white conservatives are mostly elderly whites, and even if those conservative, elderly whites have a shorter lifespan than white conservatives born today will, I still doubt that elderly white conservatives have a lifespan shorter than non-whites born today will.  Regardless, the lifespan issue is not the primary driver).

The changing composition of America is due primarily to legal and illegal immigrant populations being composed largely of non-whites.  Another primary factor is the birth rate of non-whites being higher than that of whites.

7) He writes:

“So perhaps we should start with the obvious, for those a bit too slow to begin the reading of the essay with, ya know, the title. For if one reads the title, ‘An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum,’ one would almost immediately discover an important nugget of relevant information; information that rather clearly spells out who is being critiqued in the piece, and thus, to whom my ire is being directed. It is not white people. It is not the white elderly. It is the white right, as in right-wing.”

I agree that Tim’s title, as well as some qualifiers throughout his article, are enough to make it clear that the article is aimed at the white right.

However, at points Tim refers specifically to whites, and not white conservatives, and that makes it understandable that some people may have gotten the impression that Tim was anti-white, even though technically Tim’s article was address to the white right.

Here’s an example of what I mean (my italics):

“In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around who actually remember that Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Opie-Taylor-Down-at-the-Fishing Hole cornpone bullshit that you hold so near and dear to your heart.

There won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days, because there won’t be any more white folks around who actually remember them…”

8) He writes:

“To believe that I am condemning all white people in this essay requires an incapacity for rational thought almost too stunning to contemplate.”

I would say that rational people should’ve understood the article was aimed at the white right.  

But given Tim’s broad references to “whites”, I wouldn’t use the word “stunning” to describe the magnitude of irrationality on the part of those who didn’t understand!

Given the large number of illogical statements of Tim’s that I pointed out in Parts One and Two, it does seem hypocritical of Tim to point out the irrationality of readers.

9) He writes:

“I specify the white right, and I even go on to note that a ‘sizable minority’ of whites (including myself) will, in the future, stand against the kind of reactionary whiteness embodied by those to whom I was directing my verbal wrath.”

Actually, he never used the term “sizable minority”.  He wrote:  “decent size minority”.  Similar meaning, yes.  But did Tim not actually go back and read what he wrote?

10) He writes:

“Nor does my mention that this bunch of older right-wing white folks are ‘dying’ — nor my insistence at various points that this will be a good thing for the nation and the world — mean that I hope they die soon, or am cheering their physical obsolescence. Simply put, it is just a fact: generations come and go, and within a few decades, all those white folks who have the luxury of clinging from first hand experience to the nostalgic past of the 50s, and the days we often refer to as ‘American innocence’ will be gone. And although I wish them all a long and healthy life (even if I might prefer that fewer of them vote)…”

“Long and healthy life?”  Hmm.  I think it’s fair to doubt if he is genuine about that, given the points I raised in 6) and 7).

11) He writes:

“And I think it will be a good thing when we are no longer hampered as a society by those who have the capacity to so thoroughly misremember a time that they themselves lived through, and in which so many of them did nothing to move the country forward (and in fact, often stood in the way of human and civil rights for so many).”

It was certainly wrong of many whites to stand in the way of civil rights.  However, I don’t think it’s necessarily (without knowing more about the potential actions available to whites) fair to blame the majority of whites that did little or nothing to advance civil rights, because humanity often seems reluctant to engage in unpopular change.  It’s fair to critique humanity’s limitations in that regard, but I think it’s inflammatory to imply that whites might be more susceptible than non-whites.

Although I am one of the few people that are willing to speak out in the name of justice, I can acceptthat many are unwilling todo the same, for fear of harming their personal circumstances.

12) He writes:

“If half the population in the U.S. will be people of color in, say, 40 years, then even a decent minority of progressive white folks, combined with a heavily progressive population of color will be able to eviscerate the white right, in political terms.”

I find it alarming and incorrect to refer to the left as “progressive”.More on that here.

13)He writes:

“I will grant you, some of the wording I chose for the piece was intemperate, and upon greater reflection, there are no doubt words and phrases I could have chosen that would have conveyed this same core message, perhaps more effectively.”

I wish he would provide several specific examples! (One example follows, as you keep reading his article).

14) He writes:

“It is for this reason that I went back and made a few edits to the piece.”

Edits?  So the article I reviewed had already been edited?  Just how intemperate was the article prior to being edited?

Conclusion

This article provided me with several more entertaining, curious and/or illogical statements made by Tim Wise.  The collection is adding up!

Coming soon: Part Four!

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