Laughter is the Best Medicine

Cracking the Codes: Tim Wise, Fear & Envy

Frank Rich, who again is a fairly liberal
columnist, wrote a piece, I think it was in the New York Times, right after or right before
the election. Where he said, you know, basically, that racism is not a problem anymore because when
white folks get to know black folks well, their biases and their fears subside. Now,
number one, I’m not sure that’s true but secondly, even if it were true, the truth
is, given the history of racism, spatial segregation residential isolation, the fact that 85%
of white folks live in communities with virtually no people of color around. Even if he were
right, it wouldn’t matter because most white folks won’t get that opportunity to actually
form close, intimate friendships or connections with people of color. And unfortunately, if
it isn’t happening the only way we get to know folks of color is via media. So, maybe
we see Barack Obama on television coming into our living rooms every night and over an eighteen
month to two year period we’re able to say, “yeah, you know, I sort of like that guy.
He seems really capable and really bright. And maybe I wasn’t sure at first, but given
two years he was able to overcome, you know, maybe my first impression.” But the only other folks
we’re seeing in the media are either folks who are sort of superstars on the one hand,
or, criminals on the other hand. Those are the black folks we typically see on t.v. They’re
either like mega-millionaire athletes or entertainers or they’re the folks doing a perp walk on
the 6 o’clock news that the cops have just gone and arrested and haven’t even let them
put a shirt on before cuffing them and bringing them out in front of the cameras. If the only
people you see, regularly, are superstar millionaires and thugs, for the average person, they can’t
relate to either of those right? The average person of color can’t and the average white
person can’t either. The superstar you’re likely to envy their position and the thug
you’re afraid of. And envy and fear are not particularly good human emotions upon which
to base some personal connections or intimate relationships. So I think that’s what we’re
dealing with, you know, Barack Obama, or Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey or a handful of people
of color. We’re able to get to know them, or at least think we know them via media,
but for average, everyday white folks and for average, everyday black and brown folks
the ability to really get to know each other and overcome those implicit biases is a lot
more rare.

3 thoughts on “Cracking the Codes: Tim Wise, Fear & Envy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *