Beth suggested on Thursday that the book is to some extent autobiographical, in part tracing her personal involvement as an activist in the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement. In reading the book, I found my own story also represented in the history that she illuminates through her research.
Today, I want to focus on one key aspect of the thesis that Beth advances in the book. She contends that the “success” of the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement in passing legislation and gaining public legitimacy was in large part due to the increasingly conservative political climate that was emerging in a parallel way. That conservative political climate emphasized a “law -and-order” and “tough-on-crime” approach to addressing social problems.
Beth pointed out in her talk that many activists within the anti-violence movement (particularly women of color and queer people) spoke out about the fact that increasing criminalization would adversely affect certain populations. Their voices, however, did not win the day. (Click Links Above for Rest of Article)
The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity
Following the civil rights movement, race relations in the United States entered a new era. Legal gains were interpreted by some as ensuring equal treatment for all and that “colorblind” policies and programs would be the best way forward. Since then, many voices have called for an end to affirmative action and other color-conscious policies and programs, and even for a retreat from public discussion of racism itself.
Bolstered by the election of Barack Obama, proponents of colorblindness argue that the obstacles faced by blacks and people of color in the United States can no longer be attributed to racism but instead result from economic forces. Thus, they contend, programs meant to uplift working-class and poor people are the best means for overcoming any racial inequalities that might still persist. In Colorblind, Tim Wise refutes these assertions and advocates that the best way forward is to become more, not less, conscious of race and its impact on equal opportunity.
Focusing on disparities in employment, housing, education and healthcare, Wise argues that racism is indeed still an acute problem in the United States today, and that colorblind policies actually worsen the problem of racial injustice. Colorblind presents a timely and provocative look at contemporary racism and offers fresh ideas on what can be done to achieve true social justice and economic equality.
“I finally finished Tim Wise’s Colorblind and found it a right-on, straight-ahead piece of work. This guy hits all the targets, it’s really quite remarkable . . . That’s two of his that I’ve read [the first being Between Barack] and they are both works of crystal truth . . .”
“Tim Wise’s Colorblind is a powerful and urgently needed book. One of our best and most courageous public voices on racial inequality, Wise tackles head on the resurgence and absurdity of post-racial liberalism in a world still largely structured by deep racial disparity and structural inequality. He shows us with passion and sharp, insightful, accessible analysis how this imagined world of post racial framing and policy can’t take us where we want to go—it actually stymies our progress toward racial unity and equality.”
—Tricia Rose, Brown University, author of The Hip Hop Wars
“With Colorblind, Tim Wise offers a gutsy call to arms. Rather than play nice and reiterate the fiction of black racial transcendence, Wise takes the gloves off: He insists white Americans themselves must be at the forefront of the policy shifts necessary to correct our nation’s racial imbalances in crime, health, wealth, education and more. A piercing, passionate and illuminating critique of the post-racial moment.”
—Bakari Kitwana, author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crises in African American Culture
“Tim Wise’s Colorblind brilliantly challenges the idea that the election of Obama has ushered in a post-racial era. In clear, engaging, and accessible prose, Wise explains that ignoring problems does not make them go away, that race-bound problems require race-conscious remedies. Perhaps most important, Colorblind proposes practical solutions to our problems and promotes new ways of thinking that encourage us to both recognize differences and to transcend them.”
—George Lipsitz, author of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness
For African Americans, our history has borne witness to our willingness to love at all costs. We have jumped the broom to love that has reached the stars and returned to earth, a place that can become heaven when we love with all our hearts. Stories like those told in the collection, Standing the Test of Time: Love Stories of African American Elders, by Julie Rainbow remind us that we are worthy of the rich and long-lasting love we seek if we are willing to engage ourselves fully in the process with God, our families and our communities by our side.
Before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, she had already been fighting for racial equality for more than a decade. She strategized with other activists, organized protests, and in 1948 gave an impassioned speech that led to her election as secretary of the Alabama conference of the NAACP. In that position, she investigated cases of sexual violence and other crimes against blacks, as she had done for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.
In her meticulously researched book, McGuire maintains that in order to fully understand the civil rights movement one must understand the history of sex crimes against black women and how these attacks were used as a weapon against the fight for racial equality. Being able to sit at a lunch counter or vote didn’t mean anything if black women couldn’t walk down the street or ride the bus unmolested.
As McGuire writes, “Between 1940 and 1975, sexual violence and interracial rape became one crucial battleground upon which African Americans sought to destroy white supremacy and gain personal and political autonomy. … If we understand the role rape and sexual violence played in African Americans’ daily lives and within the larger freedom struggle, we have to reinterpret, if not rewrite, the history of the civil rights movement.”
I have lived in books, for books, by and with books; in recent years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from books. And it was through books that I first realised there were other worlds beyond my own; first imagined what it might be like to be another person; first encountered that deeply intimate bond made when a writer’s voice gets inside a reader’s head. I was perhaps lucky that for the first 10 years of my life there was no competition from television; and when one finally arrived in the household, it was under the strict control of my parents. They were both schoolteachers, so respect for the book and what it contained were implicit. We didn’t go to church, but we did go to the library.
My maternal grandparents were also teachers. Grandpa had a mail-order set of Dickens and a Nelson’s Cyclopaedia in about 30 small red volumes. My parents had classier and more varied books, and in later life became members of the Folio Society. I grew up assuming that all homes contained books; that this was normal. It was normal, too, that they were valued for their usefulness: to learn from at school, to dispense and verify information, and to entertain during the holidays. My father had collections of Times Fourth Leaders; my mother might enjoy a Nancy Mitford. Their shelves also contained the leather-bound prizes my father had won at Ilkeston County School between 1921 and 1925, for “General Proficiency” or “General Excellence”: The Pageant of English Prose, Goldsmith’s Poetical Works, Cary’s Dante, Lytton’s Last of the Barons, Charles Reade’s The Cloister and the Hearth.
None of these works excited me as a boy. I first started investigating my parents’ shelves (and those of my grandparents, and of my older brother) when awareness of sex dawned. Grandpa’s library contained little lubricity except a scene or two in John Masters’s Bhowani Junction; my parents had William Orpen’s History of Art with several important black-and-white illustrations; but my brother owned a copy of Petronius’s Satyricon, which was the hottest book by far on the home shelves. The Romans definitely led a more riotous life than the one I witnessed around me in Northwood, Middlesex. Banquets, slave girls, orgies, all sorts of stuff. I wonder if my brother noticed that after a while some of the pages of his Satyricon were almost falling from the spine. Foolishly, I assumed all his ancient classics must have similar erotic content. I spent many a dull day with his Hesiod before concluding that this wasn’t the case.
The local high street included an establishment we referred to as “the bookshop”. In fact, it was a fancy-goods store plus stationer’s with a downstairs room, about half of which was given over to books. Some of them were quite respectable – Penguin classics, Penguin and Pan fiction. Part of me assumed that these were all the books that there were. I mean, I knew there were different books in the public library, and there were school books, which were again different; but in terms of the wider world of books, I assumed this tiny sample was somehow representative. Occasionally, in another suburb or town, we might visit a “real” bookshop, which usually turned out to be a branch of WH Smith.