I’ve been working all day on a blog post on the role of White anti-racist activists in the struggle to end racism. It’s been a tough piece for me to come to terms with, and I’ve been working up the courage to write it since April when I attended the White Privilege Conference. However, in writing, I found that I was quoting an article by Ewuare Xola Osayande over and over and over. Considering that I’ve been quoting Osayande so much and considering that without this perspective, it can be hard to understand where I’m coming from in the piece I have been working on, I’ve decided that this week, I will just post Osayande’s article. That way, when I post my own reflections on the role of White anti-racists, my readers and I can be more on the same page. Please consider taking the time to read the entire article to inform a vital conversation that must be had by any who work to end racism.
Ewuare Xola Osayande is an author, poet, and political activist from Philadelphia, PA.
A Word to the Wise
By Ewuare Xola Osayande
“My friends, I have come to tell you something about slavery – what I know of it, as I have felt it. When I came North, I was astonished to find that the abolitionists knew so much about it, that they were acquainted with its effects as well as if they had lived in its midst. But though they can give you its history – though they can depict its horrors, they cannot speak as I can from experience …”
Frederick Douglass, 1841
In the past decade or so, we have witnessed the rise of critical race studies, even something called Whiteness Studies. With the rise of Whiteness Studies on college campuses across the country has come the resurgence of whites as so-called experts on all matters pertaining to race. Among the most popular of them is the anti-racist speaker Tim Wise, who has become a regular presence on the college lecture circuit as well as in the media in the past few years. He has even been deemed the leader of the anti-racist movement by some of these very media outlets.
As Black liberationist, abolitionist, anti-racist and social justice activists, we would be wise to use this moment to ask some critical questions of ourselves and the state of the movement for racial justice in the U.S. We are thus compelled to critically engage Tim Wise and what his apparent popularity represents both in symbol and substance. In so doing, we confront the two fundamental issues in this work of eradicating racism: internalized oppression and white privilege.