Measures of Equity

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That one place may be preferable to another in terms of opportunity says little about whether that first place is as equitable as it should be.

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

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Social Justice and Human Pain

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“People never hurt others in moments of strength and bravery, or when we’re feeling good about ourselves. If we spent all of our time in places such as that, then fighting for social justice would be redundant—we would simply have social justice and be done with it, and we could all go swimming, or dancing, or whatever people do. But it is because we spend so much of our time in that other place—a place of diminished capacity and wavering commitment—that we have to be careful.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Power of Parental Support

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“It’s hard to put into words the degree of entitlement that comes from knowing even at the age of five that your parents have your back, and that if some authority figure gets out of line, your mom and dad will support you.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Racism In The Air

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“Racism, even if it is not your own but merely circulates in the air, changes you; it allows you to think and feel things that make you less than you were meant to be. My mother, by proving her own weakness and exhibiting her own conditioning, taught me that one can never be too careful, can never enjoy the luxury of being too smug, of believing oneself so together, so liberal, so down with the cause of liberation that it becomes impossible to be sucked in, to be transformed.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Does Civilization Require Wealth?

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“We use the word “civilization” to mean “materially wealthy” and technologically advanced, even though material wealth and technology are often used for uncivilized, unethical ends, he explained. It is the only lesson from junior high that I remember.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Convenient History

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“We love the past so long as it venerates us. We want to be stuck there, and many would even like to return…It is only when those who were the targets for destruction challenge the dominant narrative that the past becomes conveniently irrelevant, a trifle not worth dwelling upon.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Responsibility for Residue

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“It is surely not my fault that I was born, as with so many others, into a social status over which I had little control. But this is hardly the point, and regardless of our own direct culpability for the system, or lack thereof, the simple and incontestable fact is that we all have to deal with the residue of past actions.”

“Just as a house or farm left to you upon the death of a parent is an asset that you get to use, so too is racial privilege; and if you get to use an asset, you have to pay the debt accumulated, which allowed the asset to exist in the first place.”

“The notion of utilizing assets but not paying debts is irresponsible, to say nothing of unethical. Those who reap the benefits of past actions—and the privileges that have come from whiteness are certainly among those—have an obligation to take responsibility for our use of those benefits.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

No Excuses for Slavery

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“But no excuses, no time-bound rationalizations, and no paeans to our ancestors’ kind and generous natures or how they “loved their slaves as though they were family” can make it right. Our unwillingness to hold our people and ourselves to a higher moral standard—a standard in place at least since the time of Moses, for it was he to whom God supposedly gave those commandments including the two about stealing and killing—brings shame to us today. It compounds the crime by constituting a new one: the crime of innocence claimed, against all visible evidence to the contrary.”

“In truth, even those family members who didn’t own other human beings had been implicated in the nation’s historic crimes…In 1753, Tennessee passed its Patrol Act, which required whites to search slave quarters four times each year for guns or other contraband. By the turn of the century…these searches had been made into monthly affairs. By 1806, most all white men were serving on regular slave patrols for which they were paid a dollar per shift, and five dollars as a bonus for each runaway slave they managed to catch.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Past Becomes Present

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“Good or bad, the past is a fact, and it often holds the keys to who we are in the present, and who we’re likely to become in the future.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

Power of Self-Determination

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“…think how meaningful it can be to learn early on that people have a right to self-determination, to define their own reality, to claim their own identity—and that you have no right to impose your judgment of them, on them.”

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise