by Rachel Biel
We had our weekly meeting tonight and watched “White Like Me” with Tim Wise. Tim grew up in Nashville and his parents decided they wanted him to grow up with an immersion experience. He was one of the few white kids at a mostly black school. The friendships he had there and the leadership he experienced by his black teachers led him to pursue a career that has been dedicated to expose racism.
The movie is an hour long and looks at many of the systemic inequalities that have been built into our way of life. The footage is often hard to watch as it shows the brutality blacks have experienced, time and time again. There is a blurb with the video with more info:
The continued prominence of racism is explored through the prism of white privilege in the engrossing documentary White Like Me. Based upon a book of the same name by anti-racist advocate Tim Wise, the film explores the many advantages afforded to whites throughout the history of the United States, and the extent to which they have defined a culture of racial discrimination that continues to this day.
The shameful days of blatant segregation thankfully exist in the rear-view mirror of the country’s history. But although great strides have been made in the arena of racial equality, the residue of discrimination still reverberates in nearly every corner of society. The film argues that the promise of a post-racial society has not yet been realized, and that the deeply embedded traditions of white privilege are largely to blame. “For more than twenty years now, I’ve been trying to better understand for myself and to raise awareness among others how dangerous and damaging it is when white people like me are blind to racial inequality and our own privileges,” says Wise in the film. That search for understanding begins in a study of the laws, policies and institutions that have long informed America’s identity, including the Naturalization Act of 1790, and the initial enactments of programs that ensured social security and veteran benefits.
Whether obvious or insidious in their approach, the documentary contends that each of these instances catered to some level of racial discrimination in their formation, and set a foundation from which individual attitudes and governmental policies continue to operate. White Like Me goes on to explore avenues like education, housing, the prison system, the government-waged War on Drugs, and additional aspects of American society in which racial discrimination still plays an informing role. Along the way, the film also tackles the notion of reverse racism in the age of affirmative action, and the belief that America has moved beyond matters of race in the wake of electing its first president of color. White Like Me handles these potentially inflammatory subjects with great sensitivity and frankness, and supports its assertions with a wealth of enlightening facts and data.
The movie was made while Obama was still President. We talked about whether all of the racial hatred we see these days is a reaction to having had a black President and what Tim would have said in his movie if it had been made under Trump. Well, he has a website, loaded with more videos, podcasts, essays and resources: timwise.org
He has a lot of current commentary on his Facebook page.
We had a short but good discussion after watching the movie. Somebody should take notes as it is too much to remember! 🙂 But, earlier today, I watched another video by Freddie Harrel who has some interesting insights on race and identity. Here is her TED talk:
Finally, when I searched for “White Like Me” on YouTube, another video popped up with Eddie Murphy exploring that theme way back in 1984 via Saturday Night Live. Humor is usually something that speaks to me, but watching it made me sad… There is still a white club that gleefully blocks out brown and black people. To what end? Life is so much more interesting and fun when we can celebrate our humanity and work towards a kinder world.