For years, acclaimed author and speaker Tim Wise has been electrifying audiences on the college lecture circuit with his deeply personal take on whiteness and white privilege. In this spellbinding lecture, the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son offers a unique, inside-out view of race and racism in America. Expertly overcoming the defensiveness that often surrounds these issues, Wise provides a non-confrontational explanation of white privilege and the damage it does not only to people of color, but to white people as well. This is an invaluable classroom resource: an ideal introduction to the social construction of racial identities, and a critical new tool for exploring the often invoked – but seldom explained – concept of white privilege.
There have been other less progressive arguments resulting from Schutte’s article. One in particular posed by Andile Mngxitama and Athi-Nangamso Esther Nkopo in “There’s no unlearning whiteness, despite what “anti-racists” say”, holds a very regressive and somewhat contradictory argument that white people cannot engage (even among themselves) in critical dialogue about the race question because as inherent beneficiaries of white racism, any contributions that they make are bound to be an affront to the black struggle against the conditions created by the very existence of whiteness.
The two “Black Consciousness activists” argue Schutte’s article is reflective of her “liberal” agenda, which seeks to neutralise the race discourse by taking on a paternalistic approach. They go on to argue that Schutte’s appeals to the white community end with the acknowledgement of their guilt without really giving constructive solutions on how to dismantle and obliterate the structural and institutionalised white racist realities that have been entrenched by centuries of colonialism and apartheid. The issue of Schutte being married to a black man and having a mixed child also receives mention but because such arguments that seek to attack a person rather than an idea must never be dignified with a response, I will not delve into it, only focus on the former.
In a response to Gillian Schutte’s article, “Dear White People,” author Jackie Shandu writes:
The letter says “Dear White People”. A white person writes to fellow white settlers to discuss their collective and unique problem of race privilege, supremacy and racism. Very well. This is precisely what Biko taught us, that the work of white anti-racists is in the white communities — they need to talk each other out of racial arrogance while we blacks talk each other out of self-hatred. Later we meet as equals, to decide on the kind of South Africa we want to build — if whites are interested. Biko reprimands white liberals out of black communities and reminds them they can’t have it both ways: gladly accept exclusive race privileges but also moonlight as anti-racists. The blatant hypocrisy is out there for everyone to see: accept skin-colour benefits and repeatedly vote back into power that racism machinery, yet make an empty claim to non-racism.
I welcomed Gillian’s letter because I thought she would create an alternative space for white activists who are crowding and collapsing the black struggle. I thought at last we would have white people talking among themselves about their issues, as opposed to the dominant practice of imposing themselves on black initiatives while their stomachs and purses are full of white privilege.