Skip to content
Please enable your javascript to have a better view of the website. Click here to learn more about it.

Tim Wise on Anti-Racism

Tim Wise is an educator and author on anti-racism.  He addresses students at Bellevue College in March of 2019.  Here is a recording of the event.


91.3 KBCS 20200218 Tim Wise at Bellevue College

Host 0:00
91.3 KBCS music and ideas. Listener supported radio, from Bellevue College.

Dr Jerrry Weber 0:05
Today to introduce our keynote speaker, is the President of Bellevue College. Dr. Jerry Weber, Tim Wise is the author of seven books, including his latest under the influence, shaming the poor, praising the rich and sacrificing the future of America. Other books include dear white America, letter to a new minority, and then his acclaimed memoir, white like me reflections on race from a privileged son. Weiss has been featured in several documentaries, including the 2013 Media education release, white like me, race, racism and white privilege in America. He appears regularly on CNN and MSNBC to discuss race issues and was featured in a 2007 segment on 2020. He graduated from Tulane University in 1990 and received anti racism training from the people’s Institute for survival and beyond in New Orleans. Please give a really nice Bellevue College welcome to our speaker today, Tim Wise.

Tim Wise 1:23
Thanks. Thank you very much. So, it’s good to be back at Bellevue College. I was here I don’t know. 5,6,7 years ago, I was in the theatre space. They also had a play going you’ll take your plays very seriously here. Clearly, which is great. And I enjoyed being on the stage with the set behind me. It was a little weird. It was like some kind of country cabin theme, as I recall was a little odd. But it was cool. I would have been really happy to do it with the Camelot set actually, just because I know the story and it’s oddly appropriate. But it is good to be here and have a chance to chat with you. It is also humbling to be here in a lot of ways, especially because this is Black History Month and a humbling especially because, you know, I’m not black if you hadn’t figured that out yet. And it’s humbling for me, as a white person in this work, in the field of racial equity, and anti racist activism and education, to be asked to speak anytime, obviously, about the subject. But it is especially an honor and humbling to be asked to do so during Black History Month at a time when to be perfectly honest, we need to be spending the vast majority of our time listening to black people talk about these things. Now, I used to be a community organizer. And what we were taught was when you’re asked when you come so that’s why I’m here. But I do want to make it very clear to everyone that I am acutely aware of the importance of black wisdom at this time of the year and at all times of the year. And indeed That it would be impossible for me to have spoken with any level of legitimacy about these subjects for a quarter century, it would be impossible for me to have written anything, even remotely legible or intelligible about the subject, whether it was an article or a book or anything else, it would be impossible for me to give up and give talks that made any sense about the subject had it not been for the mentorship and the teaching of peoples of color, mostly black folks in this country, going all the way back to my childhood. So before I say anything, in regard to my own remarks, I want to acknowledge the source of the wisdom that you will hear today. It’s gonna be a lot of wisdom, By the way. I’m just gonna share a lot of wisdom with you. But I just want you to understand that I am not the originator of that wisdom. I am the translator of that wisdom, which apparently we still need in this country, because we are still afraid to hear the truth from black people. And we are still afraid to hear the truth from brown people. And we are still afraid to hear the truth from folks who don’t fit this asthetics. So, as long as that is true, I will just share what I think is truth with you. But until and unless we are a people who are eventually able to hear this from the folks who actually wrote the book on it literally wrote the textbook on it, and are most qualified to teach the class until we are ready to hear it from black and brown bodies. We aren’t free. And so I just want to make sure we all know that before I get started.

Now, thank you. Now, it’s important also for me, to explain why as a white person, it is still appropriate nonetheless, for me to speak to this issue of black history. I want to suggest it is important and even somewhat subversive in a way for me to speak during Black History Month on the subject because black history whether we who are white want to acknowledge it or not. And I know sometimes we aren’t prepared to do so because we haven’t been raised to do so but, it is important to articulate the truth. That black history is American history. And then in fact we’re it not for black history, there would be no American history. I don’t mean that metaphorically, I don’t mean that to be hyperbolic. I mean that quite literally first and foremost, because it was the labor the vast majority of an unpaid for hundreds of years done by peoples now called Black peoples of African descent that made possible the existence of this nation, literally. Not figuratively, literally. Without the labor most of it unpaid of black people. The revolution itself could not have happened. It was financed in its entirety, by the benefits produced by the tobacco and also sugar and later cotton economies. That is what made the nation’s economy possible allowed the revolution to happen. It is not as if white folks just had a whole bunch of money sitting around that they had earned themselves by dint of our own hard work and effort was because of the hard work and effort of others forced to labor against their will, that made the revolution possible, which To say that all of the things that we celebrate as a country, including the revolution itself, every July 4 is something for which we owe a great debt of gratitude to people now called Black. So we cannot understand American history unless we start with that premise. The second reason is that black history and the black freedom struggle stretching back hundreds of years, 400 years, as of this year, at least in this land and on this continent is a touchstone. Is in fact the prototype for freedom struggles the world over. And it has been so for a very long time. When the Haitians expelled the French from the island in the early 19th century, the first few years of the 18 hundred’s, that served as a part of the black freedom struggle that then inspired what? The abolitionist struggle in the United States. And then that abolitionist struggle in the United States inspired what? It inspired the anti colonial struggles against other European domination and European powers in Africa, in Asian Nations all around the world in the 20th century. And then that inspired what? It inspired the civil rights movement in this country in the fight against segregation, Jim Crow, etc. And what did that inspire? It inspired the ongoing anti apartheid struggle in South Africa. And what did that inspire? that inspired in turn, as did the civil rights movement, freedom struggles in China, freedom struggles in Tibet, ongoing freedom struggles in Palestine. All around the world, people looking to the history of the black freedom struggle as the touchstone for their own actions both strategically, morally and in every other way. And so, if we’re going to understand America and even world history, we have to understand and relish in black history. Additionally, it is important for those of us who are white, to speak to this moment because it is important for those of us who were white, and really those of us who were anything but black, to decide which side we’re going to be on in this country. Because the black freedom struggle is one That is going to need the support and the involvement of people not just called Black if it is going to succeed and indeed all of our liberation is bound up with the eradication and the defeat of white world supremacy. So the question is Which side are we going to be on? Are we going to be on the side of the folks in the white nationalist movement like those boys in Charlottesville marching around with tiki torches talking about the need to create a white ethno state? those nice young men and their polo shirts and their their badass tiki torches I’m sure you will agree with me that nothing says white supremacy like a bunch of 21 year olds in polo shirts with oversized Polynesian candles they bought at Pier One. Nothing, Nothing says badass white revolutionary like that. Nothing is quite as intimidating as that, right? But of course they did kill someone. And of course, there have been about 40 people killed by the so called alt right movement, neo Nazi hyper misogynistic movement over the last five years or so. So it’s not a game. We can Make fun of them. But we have to understand the seriousness. Are we going to be on there side because see they want to speak for us. Those of us called White they want to speak for you. They want to speak for me they want to say that that is what it is to be white. is to be down with the purging of non white peoples and the creation of a white ethno state they prance around with their pretty little mogga hats. Right? Suggesting what that America was once a great place. But then something horrible happened America was once this fantastic place, they would have you believe, until something they never defined exactly what because they know that whatever answer they give is going to make them sound like assholes, you see, but they were there pretty little mogga hat and tell you they want to make America great again, never defining exactly when America was great, especially for the vast majority of its inhabitants. Because if you know your history and not just black history, if you just know your history, you know that America was never great for people of color. It was never great for not just black folk, but for indigenous people, right? It was never great for the vast majority of Latinx peoples, including those half of whose country Mexico was stolen from them in a war of aggression, that this nation began on false pretense. That’s not what they taught you in eighth grade. But that’s actually what went down. America was not great for those who were forced to work on the railroads, Chinese labor brought here for that purpose, working from sunup to sundown, dying by the thousands, but no one cared because they could just bring more in. For that purpose America was never great for LGBTQ folks. It was never great for poor people of any color. wasn’t great for those children, including white children working in coal mines at the age of 11. In the early part of the 20th century, it wasn’t great for them. It wasn’t great for women as women, most people don’t realize this, but like even white women, right couldn’t in most cases get lines of credit in their own name until 1971 or 2, when the equal credit Opportunity Act was passed. It used to be that if you were a woman, in most cases, if you wanted a line of credit from a bank, you had to get your dad To take it out for you or your husband, you had to have some connection to a man in order to get your own credit that is within the lifetime of many of us in this room, certainly within my own. And so, for whom was America great? For whom does that tap, and all of that gear that our president has created as a branding and a marketing opportunity, the one and only thing he’s ever been good at, right? For whom was America so great, so they don’t want to tell you, but what they are telling you by harkening back to such a thing and using such a slogan is that they really only mean those who are white, and those who were male, and those who are straight, and those who were cisgendered, and those who were at least middle class or above and those who are Christian, because it was certainly never a great place for religious minorities in a Christian hegemonic society. And so, we have to decide which side we’re on that side or the other side, on which side there are millions of people of color and thankfully, white allies, though not enough of us, who were saying that rather than going back because maga after all is a backward looking reference, it is about going back to a fictional nostalgic time when things were supposedly so fantastic, but in fact, we’re not for most. Those of us on the other side are saying rather than go back, we wish to go forward, right to a different place to the creation of a multiracial democracy in which all can thrive. So the question is, which of those sides are we going to be on? And it strikes me that Black History Month is a perfect time to have that conversation, and then to ultimately come out of that conversation deciding today and everyday what side we’re going to be on. The problem being that our current political tension, which is not necessarily at an all time high, but certainly higher than normal, right that our current political tensions especially around race, and ethnicity, and issues of identity flowed directly from our historical ignorance. So what better time than black history month a time where we were supposed to be reflecting on history To truth, to address that historical ignorance, a profound lack of historical memory Because see, if you don’t understand whence you come, it becomes very difficult to understand where you are now and almost impossible to figure out where you’ll be tomorrow. But we don’t like to talk about that we don’t like to talk about. And it’s ironic, isn’t it? Because on the one hand, I’ve just told you, we love to dwell on the past, right? The mogga hat, by definition, is dwelling on the past, the notion of making America great, quote, unquote, again, is all about dwelling on the past, and yet the very same people who will wear that hat are the very same people who will tell black people to get over the past. Now that is like a dictionary definition of irony, right? Because if you’re telling black folks to get over slavery, and you’re rocking a mogga hat, you need to check the definition of irony today, like not tomorrow today, right? It’s like the other day I was at the University of Mississippi right and and the day before I got there are all these Neo Confederates marching around in Confederate uniforms with Confederate flags, telling black people to get over slavery once again, like, have you looked in the mirror and seeing what it is you’re saying you’re telling me to get over you’re telling me as an ally and black people as the targets of that history to get over the past and you live in it, you revel in it, you dwell in it. White Americans love the past man. We absolutely love it so much that we want to go back to it but we want to tell other people to get over it. The idea being that we actually love the past as long as it makes us feel good. We just don’t want to deal with the ugly parts. We think we get to pick and choose to so we get to pick July 4, right as Independence Day now that correct me if I’m wrong, is a celebration about some pretty old shit like that. Breaking Away from the British didn’t just happen last Tuesday. Like that was a really long time ago, but we’re still celebrating it every year. We’re setting off fireworks right? Eat an apple pie and hot dogs wearing red, white and blue because that’s is a fantastic wardrobe palette.

Celebrating that which happened a long time ago, but we want other people to get over what happened to them even though what happened to them affects the present. Right? Everything affects the present, like the good stuff that happens to us the bad stuff, all this stuff. And on some level, we know this right? Like, let’s take it out of the racial dynamic for a second. Every one of us knows right that the families we grew up in, for good or for bad sometimes both affected who we are, right. So the dysfunction that we grew up with all of us grew up with a certain degree of dysfunction. Some of us more than others, some more honest about it than others. But all of us were messed up. All of us need therapy, y’all like all of us need therapy. I started mine in July. I’m doing good. Y’all should try this shit like it is really good, right? But the point is, when you get into therapy, you start to realize, Oh, now I understand why I do some of this stuff. I do. Like some of the good stuff and some of The bad stuff, it gives you an insight into yourself, which is really helpful, right? It’s really helpful and illuminating, to be able to understand the way your past affects the present. That’s just on an individual level. That’s true for everyone. So most of the time, we’re willing, if we, you know, get into therapy, we start talking to people about, we’re willing to explore that we’re willing to sort of look at how our family stuff might have messed us up, or how it might have helped us or maybe both. But we don’t want to do that as a culture as a collective. We want to do it individually, we can accept that. But when it comes to looking at the sort of collective body of America, we get a lot less willing to have those deep explorations and our understanding of how the past affects the present sort of goes out the window. So we understand it for us as individuals, we don’t want to understand it for us, as a society, but if it’s true for one, it’s got to be true for the other right inertia, which is this concept you probably learned about and what like third or fourth grade, right? It’s not just a concept of the physical universe, right? It’s also property of the socio economic and the political and the cultural universe that which happens in one generation affects the next and the next and the next and the next until we decide collectively to undo whatever that effect has been. So if we think of it in terms of inertia, or the second law of thermodynamics, right, that an object in motion tends to remain in motion, that is not just true of a ball, that you roll down a hill, right? It is also true of a society that is moving in a particular direction unless you push in a different direction. It keeps on going, even if it slows down a little bit, right. It continues to go in the direction that it was pointed. And so we have to be prepared to address that. But we don’t want to that’s why it’s so hard for certain people to hear the criticism of the mogga hat and the slogan because if you don’t really understand how ungrate America was, because you’ve been sold on this notion that America was always founded in freedom, this place of liberty and justice for all. Then criticism of That will seem odd criticism of that will seem downright unAmerican why you must hate America, Tim for not supporting the slogan of Make America Great, no, I support history accurately, I understand history. And I think it’s important for us to do so. And to suggest that America was once great at a time when it clearly was not, for the vast majority of people is, at the very least, and a ratio of black and brown reality. At the very least, it shows an indifference at the very most, it’s an outright call for white supremacy. Right? I’m not saying that everybody who voted for the president is a white supremacist. I’m not saying even that everyone who wears that hat is necessarily a conscious white supremacy but there is no way that you can wear that hat, rock that slogan, support that slogan and claim that you have a concern or compassion for the lived experiences of people of color, or LGBTQ folk or women as women or religious minorities or anyone whose lives would not have been so great in Those past errors because at the very least, you’re willing to ignore it. At the very least you’re willing to erase it. At the very least what you’re saying is your life does not matter. Right? And then, after having said that, you still can’t figure out why black folks want you to say black lives do matter. See? See how this all links together? Because if you think everything’s always been good, then when folks tell you it’s not you get pissed at them. Right? That’s what we do. We get angry. A lot of us who are white get angry when folks say Black Lives Matter. We don’t understand this movement. We get all up in our feelings about this and start saying things like, well, but But what about my life?

Unknown Speaker 19:36

Tim Wise 19:39
do all jobs matter? Don’t they? What about my white life? White lives matter? I know precious.

I know. I got two white daughters. I know their lives matter. 17 and 15 years old, God bless them. I love them. I know their lives matter. But here’s the difference. So does everybody else in this city. And nobody questions in the cops know it. The employers know it. their teachers know it. The loan officer at the bank one day when they’re trying to get a mortgage, they’re going to know it. No one questions that my white daughter’s lives matter. You don’t have to say all and you certainly don’t have to say white lives matter in a society that takes that for granted from the jump, you don’t have to reinstate that which is taken for granted. You don’t have to reinforce that which everybody assumes as normative. You only have to repeat that which is ignored. You only have to proclaim that which gets left out. That’s why we have to say black lives matter because those are the lives that are so often discounted and have not mattered and so until they do we have to insist upon it. But see if you don’t know the history of law enforcement operations within black communities that might strike you as odd I understand that. It’s not your fault if you don’t know it, because how would you know it? Did you get taught it? Did they spend a lot of time and In high school history classes on the history of law enforcement abuse in black communities, I mean, Hell, I took AP history. Oh, that’s the history for the smart people. That’s what they tell you. But they still didn’t cover that. They still didn’t think that we could handle that. But see, black folks know that history. Right, black folks know that the history of policing grows what directly out of slave patrols, slave patrols are the first iteration of law enforcement in this country. And so if your history of policing traces back to domination and control the subordination of black bodies and black communities, why would you be shocked that black folks look at cops a little sideways? Why would that be shocking? That’s the history. See, for a lot of us in the white community, that’s not the history, right? Police were the ones that protected us from them. Right? But black folks were the ones being protected against quote, unquote, right, hurting others. So naturally, we’re going to have a different take on it. And it’s not about us being bad people in racist and horrible people. And it’s not about black people being innocent angels. Right. It’s just about everybody has a perspective that grows from their experience. Right for black Americans. They know, for instance, that the history of law enforcement, those are the folks that enforced segregation laws that wasn’t just random white people. Those were white folks with guns and with badges and with the authority of the state. Right. And they know that it was police who dragged those protesters off of the sittin stools in Greensboro and other cities throughout the south and 1960. It was police and jailers, other members of law enforcement, who would open the doors of the jail cell and release black folks to the mob to be lynched, rather than having them go through trials for suppose in crimes which many of times they had not committed anyway. Right. black folks know that the war on drugs has been enforced by whom police not by random white people, but by people with guns and badges and the authority of the state. And I beg to remind you, of course, that the war on drugs is not that it is not a war on drugs. is war on certain people? Right. And we know this because we know from all the data that white folks use drugs, sell drugs possess drugs at the same or higher rate than the rates at which black and brown folks do. We don’t like to believe that. But that’s what all the data says Centers for Disease Control, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, every data source you want to consult will tell you that the rates of possession the rates of usage, even the rates of dealing are approximately the same across racial lines, but who’s going to jail, disproportionately black folks and Latino folks four to five times as often some states, it’s as high as nine times as often. Meanwhile, we got white folks becoming weed millionaires in states like yours, and other states around the country for selling things illegally, while black and brown folks still rotting in prison for selling the same product. But before they could get an occupational license and a storefront, and we act like that justice, right. So it’s not about a war on drugs. About a war on certain people. And frankly, I didn’t need the data to tell me that. I could have told you that from personal experience. And I can tell you this now, because the statute of limitations has expired on this shit so I can just be honest about it.

Y K 24:20
You’re listening to essays to an educator Tim Wise, speaking to students at Bellevue College in February of 2019. This is listener powered and member driven Community Radio 91 three k BCS.

Tim Wise 24:40
Here’s how I know the war on drugs is not about drugs, y’all. 31 years ago this April. It’ll be 31 years ago, this coming April I was in college. And I was coming back to New Orleans where I went to school I was been away for a couple days at a college debate tournament in San Antonio is coming back in the rental car that we that I was driving with the rest of the debate team. So it was me and my debate partner, another two person team and the coach in this car coming back. And in a little town called Gonzales, Texas a little bit out of the way of San Antonio on the interstate coming back, we get pulled over by a cop. I’m driving I was going like 13 miles an hour over the limit, no big deal. But I was still nervous. I was nervous. Not so much because of the ticket that I figured I would get for being 13 miles an hour over the limit. That’s not gonna be that big a deal. But I was nervous because I knew what was in the car. And by what was in the car, I do not now mean boxes of debate evidence. I do not now mean luggage with clothing and toiletries and such. I mean what was in the briefcase of my debate coach at that very moment because in the briefcase of my debate coach at that very moment was two and a half ounces of weight and eight ball of cocaine, six sheets of acid and 12 hits of ecstasy. For those of you not particularly well versed in the narcotic arts let me just assure you, that is way more drugs than one person can do. Which is to say that if we get stopped with that amount of illegal product in our car, we are not going to be arrested for mere possession. We are going to be arrested for possession with intent to distribute and it’s Texas y’all in 1988 and we are going to go to prison for a real long time that’s how I know the war on drugs is not a war on drugs if it were right I wouldn’t be here somebody else would be I’d be in prison that’s y’all let me Skype it in right but but here’s what I was worried about. I was worried he’s gonna find the drugs But see, he didn’t Why didn’t he? Well, here’s the story. comes up to the window wraps on the glass with his I guess baton or flashlight, whatever the hell it was right. I roll down the window. By the way, young people. This is a this is a motion that old folks make when we’re describing the rolling down evolution. Do I know it makes no sense to you? Just like if I say I made a phone call and I do this just ask your parents or something, they’ll explain it to you right? But I roll the window down. And he says, Can I see your license and registration? I said sure it’s a rental car. So we’ll get that out of the glove box. I’m looking for my wallet. I pull my wallet out to get my ID I’m sweating right? Marty very nervous because I know what’s in the car. Right? And so I’m fumbling with my wallet trying to get the ID out trying to get the I cannot find the ID cannot find my driver’s license right. Now. I know it’s in there had to be in there to rent the car. No, I have one. But I cannot find it. I’m getting very, very nervous. And it felt like it took a week. It probably wasn’t more than 2025 seconds. still couldn’t find it. Right? He can see that I’m sweating. My voice is cracking every time he talks to me like I’m going through puberty again. He finally says Would you like to come back into the cruiser and sit in the front seat. The light is a lot better in there. I didn’t really want to get in his cop car, but I didn’t know that I had a whole hell of a lot of choice. So I went ahead And went back to the police car sat in the front seat. He was right. By the way, the lighting is way better in there. So I sat there and continued to fumble with my wallet, still trying to find my license still could not find it flipping through things, flipping through things, flipping through things. Finally, I come across my fake ID, which is of no use in moments like this, by the way. He sees it. He says, Isn’t that it? I said, No, no, I have no idea what that is. Must be some kind of craft project or something. I don’t know what that is, even though it said right at the top Maine as in the state of Maine driver’s license. By the way, side note I’m not from Maine had never been to Maine at that point. But when we made the IDS in New Orleans, we looked at each other and said, Nobody knows what the hell a Maine driver’s license looks like. Let’s just make that right. So he sees that he says, isn’t that and I’m like, No, no, no. He says are you sure he starts to reach for it and just as his hand meets my hand and he begins to grab the wallet, I flipped one more little plastic flap over and there’s my Actual license, I pull it out. I say, here it is. I’m very happy now very relieved. Now I said, Here it is. Here it is. I found it. He takes it and he looks at me for about 10 seconds, and then he says, Are you sure this is the one you want to go with?

And I said, Yes, this is at Tennessee. That’s it right there in Nashville. That’s where I’m from. That’s me. Tennessee driver’s license. absolutely legitimate real driver’s license, you should absolutely rely on that one he did. He wrote me a ticket for $75 for speeding, gave me back my license sent me on my way. Now, point of the story. If you think that would have gone down that way, if I had been black or brown, in 1988 or tomorrow, you’re not paying attention. And I don’t mean to this talk, I mean to life in general. Because if I had been a person of color exhibiting that level of nervousness having in my possession and something he knew I had in my possession of Fake licence which in and of itself was a misdemeanor at that time, punishable by $5,000 fine in about two months in jail, they would have searched that car. And they would have found those drugs. And I would have gone to prison. So that’s why when black folks and sis Black Lives Matter, they’re thinking about the history of law enforcement that does quite the opposite of what it did with me that day. And the other folks on that debate team and my very white debate coach who had all those drugs, in his briefcase, all of them undiscovered, because the presumption of guilt simply wasn’t there. So as long as that kind of thing continues to happen, as long as that disparity in law enforcement continues to happen, we’re going to have to continue to insist that Black Lives Matter and that black freedom matters because again, to so many, it doesn’t and this is not meant as a critique against every single person who is a member of law enforcement. It is not about saying that every cop is a racist, and every cop is corrupt and every cop is horrible. It is about the system of law enforcement. It is about the culture. Law enforcement and cops are influenced by those stereotypes the same way all of us are not any more and not any less the differences though they got a badge, and they got a gun, and they can enforce those stereotypes at the point of that gun in a way that most of us can’t. That’s what makes it more dangerous when they hold on to those same beliefs. It’s not that they’re worse than any of the rest of us. It’s just that they have power that the vast majority of us don’t. And that’s why they have to be better, right? That’s why by definition, we have to hold them to a higher standard than the standard to which we hold average everyday folks precisely because they have the power of the state. So we have to say Black Lives Matter. And if we understand the history, it’s not so hard to know why. Right? If you know the history, for instance, you know, that the response of all lives matter doesn’t make any sense because we’ve said all for a very long time and didn’t mean it. Right. I mean, it was Thomas Jefferson who said what he said, all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these life, liberty and In the pursuit of happiness, right, those were his words. And yet when he wrote them, he owned like 230 people. So I’m fairly confident he didn’t believe his own rhetoric. Now, it was pretty rhetoric. But he didn’t really believe it. certainly didn’t live as though he did. So he said all but he didn’t mean all. And then we have a what a pledge of allegiance. Right? What are the last words of the pledge. Now there have been three different iterations of the Pledge of Allegiance. The first was in the 1880s. The next was in the 1920s. And it was finally redone again in the 50s. But every version of the pledge ends with the line with liberty and justice, for whom, for all there it is again, but now Come on, we we didn’t mean all really when we set it in the 1880s in the 1920s, in the 1950s. So we have a history of saying all and not meaning it that’s why black folks don’t trust it. When we say oh, no, really, let’s just say all it means y’all to know. Historically it has not. And until it does, we’re just going to have to understand why certain folks demand That we ratify their existence and their lives and their truths. And once again, that’s about historical memory. If we don’t know the history, we get upset about that. Because it seems like we’re calling for some kind of special treatment for black people. It’s not about special treatment. It’s about acknowledging the humanity that is so long been unacknowledged. Right? The same thing with the Women’s History Month. Right? Right. We do that we don’t need men’s History Month, y’all. We got a whole bunch of them. We don’t need white History Month, we got a bunch of them. We just gave them these tricky as names like May, June, July, August. So we’d have to let anybody know what it was we were up to. Right. But trust me, like we’re learning white folk stuff, those other 11 months. We’re learning about dudes, those other 11 months, like, my guess is we’re still learning about guys, even in March. I’m thinking we’re probably still learning about some white folks, even in February but you have to specify that which has been ignored. You have to drill down directly and specifically into that which has been ignored. maybe it’d be better If it wasn’t that way, but intil indeed, that history is acknowledged, and the impacts of that history are fully acknowledged throughout the culture, we’re going to have to continue to do that this historical memory or lack thereof is very dangerous. The same is true, by the way with the issue of immigration.

So part of why we have so much acrimony, I think over immigration is because of a mis remembrance of history, too. Right. And this isn’t so much black history, because black folks sort of know how they got here. Right. But white folks apparently have forgotten how we did see indigenous people know. And those Chinese labor and their descendants, they know why they were brought here and Mexican folks certainly know because they were already here, y’all. But white folks, we’ve told some myths bordering on lies to ourselves and to others about how we got here. That’s why when the immigration debate comes up, we’ll say things like Well, I don’t mind if they come I I just want them to come the right way. Legally like my ancestors did the hell does that even mean? legally like your ancestors did? There was no law to break y’all. Right? There’s like if your great, great, whatever comes in and there’s no law to break, the fact that they came in legally doesn’t get them any bonus points, right? You don’t get patted on the back for not breaking the law when there was no law that you could even theoretically have broken. I’m fairly confident that had indigenous people knowing what was gonna happen, they did pass some laws and you know what, we are still broken them. Right? You actually think that your great, great, Mike, my family’s from England, they’re from Scotland. They’re from Russia. They’re from all over? Do you actually think that if like England and Scotland and later Russia had been right next door to America, right next door to the United States so that all it took was crossing a border, you know, which is at least theoretically easier than crossing an ocean is not easy, but theoretically, it’s less distance, right? If Russia was right next door if England was right next door If Scotland were right next door, do you think my ancestors or that your ancestors would have been like, well, I really would love for my kids to eat next year. And for us not to die. But Gee, I wouldn’t want to break the laws of the United States of America. So I think I’ll just stay putting suffer. You got to be kidding. They would across that border in a heartbeat searching for the same thing that people who cross that border, quote unquote, illegally are searching for today. opportunity, but we’ve told a lie about our own story. The other lie we’ve told is this idea that like they’re coming to take advantage our people came for liberty, and for high minded principles, but they’re just coming for stuff. Liberty, we came from, Have y’all studied the colonial period? That was like the most unfree shit in the history of the world, y’all like pretty much the colonial period was about people going around trying to find who the witch was. And when they found her, they killed her like it was not about freedom. It was not about liberty. It was a whole unfree period of time where they didn’t just take it out on black folks and Native people how they killed other Europeans that didn’t pray the right way. right because they thought they were possessed by the devil when they got a fever or something like this is not about freedom and liberty Europeans came for stuff right came for opportunity came to escape oppression came for land no differently than what any person immigrates for but we’ve told ourselves this lie and then we get on ancestry see and it just encourages the like, as we get on there, we start tracing our families out looking for kings and queens and shit. Right? Because we don’t want to be connected to average everyday peasant. No, no, no, we’re looking for nobility. Right? We’re looking for folks that came over on the Mayflower and then we find them were like my family came over on the Mayflower alright.

Do you know who was on that boat? See if you know you wouldn’t be bragging so damn much. Do you have any idea who actually came over on those early ships you act like it was special people you act like it was really cool people really amazing. No bill, you know who was not on the Mayflower. The King the king. was not on the damn Mayflower. Nobody that King really wanted to keep around in England was still on the Mayflower. It was a bunch of people that couldn’t make it who came over on those early ships. It was convicts, thieves, people who couldn’t succeed people who were starving to death. But we still got leaders who are bold enough and brazen enough to call African nation shitholes to call Latin American nation shitholes. I guess he’s never read Dickens because if y’all ever read Dickens, you would know that like, we come from the original shithole countries, right? That’s sort of what Tale of Two Cities was about. That’s sort of what all of Dickens work was about. That’s what Christmas Carol was about. That’s what all of them we’re about. We act like our people came here with clean fingernails. Right, all of us reading Chaucer and calculating complex mathematical equations, man, we came here with no skills or low skills, couldn’t speak the language in many instances, but we act like somehow that’s just them see, they’re coming to take advantage we came for high minded print. But it’s just not true. We came for the same reason they come now for opportunity, right? For a better life, but we can’t see ourselves in them. And we can’t see them in us because we’ve told all these fictions to ourselves and we’ve created these barriers not just the physical barriers like actual walls and fences, but these mental intellectual barriers that make it impossible for us to see ourselves in the other and to understand the connectivity here. No one likes to move y’all. No one likes moving. y’all ever move like moving is like the most stressful thing next to divorce that you will ever do. Right? At least that’s what the psychologists say when they’ve studied this thing that moving is moving is so bad that my wife and I like six years ago, we built a new house. It is three blocks from our old house y’all and it damn near killed me. I told my wife that’s it. Never again three blocks out if we have grandchildren. This is the house to which they will be brought. Y’all can take me out of here feet first. This is where I will die. I am never moving again. That was three blocks. Now imagine moving not three blocks, not three states over, but an entire country, or several countries away, giving up your language, your friends, everybody, you know, all the customs that you’ve taken for granted. All just to start over again, no one would do that just to take advantage. No one would do that just for fun. No one would do that just to come into the United States so they can take advantage of our Oso awesome health care system. No one would do that. But we can’t see ourselves in them. And we can’t see them in us because our historical memory is so flawed. And so part of this isn’t just academic. It’s not just understanding history for history sake. Right. It’s understanding history so that we can better understand the ridiculousness of some of the conflicts that we see right now. And there’s one more area in which this is true. You know, when the election happened in 2016, there were a lot of people and you’ll still still hear them Who were first of all, there are a lot of people that were very surprised by the outcome. These people were not by and large black. Like, black folks weren’t really stunned, right? that this could happen, right that that white people might actually go vote for a guy who was promising to make America great again and take it back from the black guy who’d been running it for eight years right? by people weren’t shocked that this would happen. White people, however, were apparently stunned. Right, just how in the world could this happen? Oh, my God. This isn’t the America we know, for real. Because it’s sort of the America black folks have known for a really long time. And sort of the America that people of color have been dealing with for a very long time getting up and calling people of color rapists and criminals and drug dealers like that works. People of color have seen that work, right. So the idea that it might work again, I might actually get you elected. That’s not really surprising, but white folks were just beside ourselves. There were these white folks in media that were saying things like this is not normal.

This is not normal. This is not normal. This is so abnormal, right? But the truth of the matter is, once again, if you understand history, you know that not only is it not abnormal, it is absolutely a reversion to type. Right? comedian DO hewgley has a way of saying and he talks about it as sort of like, if you think of the Obama years as which were again, and I’m far to the left of Obama, so there’s a lot I could say that was critical of that administration. But you know, you got to put some shit in perspective, don’t ya? Deal hugely, his argument is that the Obama years were sort of like if you go to a Broadway show, you know, you got the first act and you got like the intermission, and then they come back and they wrap it up, right? Do the second act. So the Obama years were like the intermission, right, and now it’s like, back to the show, right? My analogy would be a little bit different. When I was a kid. I remember I don’t know if this is still the case, but I grew up in Tennessee, so Sunday football used to be just on CBS right and the three o’clock game Central Time, would always run over into the six o’clock hour and 60 minutes, right? comes on at six o’clock Central, seven o’clock eastern. I don’t know what time is out here, but runs into the six o’clock hour. And so you’d always get 60 minutes we’ll start a little bit late. Usually, I think on the west coast, it will start on time, right? Because the game would have started earlier out here. So you would get, but for us, it was like 60 minutes, we’re gonna start 15 minutes late. And so the announcer would always come in and say now back to your regularly scheduled programming. That’s sort of where we are right now. this is back to the regularly scheduled programming. The reason I say that is because of the plays that the President of the United States played. The ones that he pulled out of the playbook in order to win are not new. They’re not abnormal. They are the oldest plays in the playbook of American politics. Because there’s nothing new about rich white men telling not rich white people that their enemies are black and brown. That is literally play number one in the playbook one all the way back to the colonies. Right? Because it was the colonial period before they were even white people. And I know that sounds weird, cuz you’re like, wait a minute, hold on. What do you mean before there were white people we were not called White yet. That’s not what we call ourselves, in the European nations from which we come, right? We were English, we were Irish. We were Scottish. We were Italian. We were whatevers, right? We weren’t one big happy family then we spent most of our time killing each other. Right? The English didn’t like the Irish. Northern Italians didn’t even think Southern Italians were Italian. They thought they were these Mediterranean or even northern African peoples. Right? We spent most of our history killing each other. There was no such thing as the white race. But all of a sudden, in the middle of the 17th century, 16 hundred’s this concept starts to get thrown around these words start getting used why what happened is there’s some new discovery that linked us all together, but there’s some fossil day, Right? and they looked at it, and scientifically, Oh my god! all Europeans are connected! All Europeans are related! This is amazing, or was there some linguistic discovery or cultural, No! nothing changed, except one thing rich white people not even called White yet rich Europeans in the colonies. But what became the United States we’re pretty good at counting. And so they could look around and they could see that they were outnumbered by poor People, they were outnumbered by Africans whom they were enslaving, And they were outnumbered by indentured servants who were European is for peasants. And they were worried that eventually the peasant Europeans and the Africans would join forces to overthrow them and take their stuff. And it did happen occasionally there were these rebellions, Bacon’s Rebellions in 1676 on example, there were others and so the rich decided, man, we got to figure out a way to split these Coalition’s we can’t have this! we want to keep our stuff what’s the best way to keep these pigs for Europeans from joining forces with piss poor Africans. The way you do it is you give some kind of a lifeline some special little bonus to the piss poor Europeans make them feel superior even though you still ate them too. You still look down on them too. You still consider them trash too. But if I tell you, Oh, you know what? No more indentured servitude for you, white man. Now you’re on my team. Now you’re one of the team your light! You’re free! You can serve on the slave patrol. help keep those people in line, we’re going to give you a gun in a bad general horse! And you’re like, really? a horse? Oh my god, now I’ve got some power, you still won’t have any land, you still won’t have any money. Right? But now you got a little bit of authority with WEB the boys, that great sociologist later referred to as the psychological age of whiteness, this idea that, oh, I might not have much to ask somebody. Right? And when you don’t have anything that’ll get you through the day, won’t it? by French folks don’t even really need whiteness, this sort of redundant for that, right? But if you’re piss poor, and you got nothing but whiteness, that will get you through! Right? and it has, and so all the sudden these rebellion stopped because these rich folks gave a lifeline to poor people made them think they were special. Right? And then the Civil War comes along, and what are the rich do in the south where I’m from. The rich say openly, they want to break away from the union so they can keep their slaves, that was the only reason for succession, ya’ll. The only one they ever articulated at the top. We lie about it. Now we say with states rights and other nonsense but at the time We were real clear what rights they wanted those states to have the right was the right to continue to hold people in bondage and no other right. Right? So they were open about it but here’s the trick, right? rich people don’t go to war, right? We all know that like, rich people get doctors to write notes and say they have bone spurs in their heels. So they don’t have to go to Vietnam. That’s what rich people do. Right? So the rich didn’t want to fight so they get poor white people to go fight for them. But that’s like weird, right? Like, why the hell would you go fight to hold somebody else’s property? Right? go to fight so they can keep their property when you don’t even know. And if you’re poor, you don’t own anybody. You don’t, you know, you don’t own it. But they tell you if you’re poor, like oh, you better go fight. Because if they get free, they’re gonna take your job. No fool, they already got your job. Right? The slave already has your job because the slave is free and you cost too damn much. Right? If you’re white. You got to charge $1 a day to work on the farm and they can get the black guy to do it for nothing because they own him guess who got the job? the black guy. So actually these poor white folks would have been better off joining with black people overthrowing the Masters take them all their stuff and creating a new society. But they didn’t do that because they were told that they were superior. The same thing going on with immigrations, we can just close this border, right? everything.

So we’re being sold this bill of goods in our history, we would be immune, maybe not immune. But we would have some antibodies, right? That would help us resist it. But because we don’t understand the history, we allow ourselves to get sucked into this vortex of divide and conquer in a way that actually is not to the benefit of anybody. You think white folks are being benefited by this rhetoric around immigration, those jobs are not coming back. Those jobs continue to sleep. You can build a wall tomorrow, the bosses can still send their money, any damn place they want. They can still build that factory in Sri Lanka, they can still build that factory in Honduras, they can still build that factory in El Salvador, and then who will we get mad at? Will get mad at the Salvadorans who supposedly took our jobs. Who get mad at the Sri Lankans who supposedly took our jobs, not the rich white dude and gave the jobs away. He can make more money. That is why we need to understand history, because a lack of historical understanding in dangerous assault. Thank you all so much for being here. I appreciate you so much.