White Like Me

White Like Me was a segment done by anti-racism scholar Tim Wise. He addresses white privilege, the criminal justice system and mass incarceration, and the misconceptions that racism is over, there is such thing as reverse racism, and that colorblindness is the solution. This video connected really well with the Race: The Power of an Illusion documentary. It discussed the policies of the Depression and post WWII and the institutionalized racism that was enacted through these policies.

I was in middle school when Obama was elected. I was very naïve to politics and wasn’t really aware of the discourse around his election (something I had the privilege to be oblivious to), other than that he was the first black president. Watching the clips from the news at the time, and being more informed now, I was shocked and angry that so much of the country thought racism was over and a thing of the past once Obama was elected. This event made people think any black person could pick themselves up by the bootstraps, like we talked about with our last documentary, despite the statistics at the time indicating otherwise. There were still severe disparities in wealth, health and resources.

The segment about the Tea Party was scarily familiar. It was just like MAGA, they want to “take our country back” and go back to the “real America”. Under the guise of wanting lower taxes and less government, their message is a very racial one. The Tea Party and Trump supporters want “Make America Great Again”, referring to going back to a time of white supremacy, and a time where government policies and programs benefitted only certain people- whites. These movements are racist and disillusioned.

Programs are supported based on what bodies they are protecting and serving. Tea Party and MAGA supporters want to go back to a time when programs only benefitted white bodies. Now that programs like welfare are attempting to help all bodies (although mostly still white bodies), they are viewed as black programs for “lazy” and “underserving citizens”. This is similar to how emerging infectious diseases are viewed. Diseases are only considered to be “emerging” and in the public eye if they are affecting the “important” bodies, or the white ones. Along the same vein, when disease affects certain marginalized bodies, for example syphilis in African Americans, it is viewed as a disease for people who are immoral and promiscuous. It’s all about who is benefitting or suffering, and is framed accordingly and racially.

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2 thoughts on “White Like Me

  1. I share the same naivety about the presidential election of Barack Obama. I and others in my family were excited for the first black president but none of us were aware of the social implications of such a decision. We knew it was a milestone for African Americans throughout the nation but it did not occur to us that people would interpret the news as racism was over and that because one minority individual made it to the top that all minorities could just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It was ignoring the institutionalised racism that kept many minorities down and not addressing the reasons for racial disparities. After learning this from the video, I was angered by the ignorance of those who believed that such a deep-rooted issue with a long historical past could be eradicated with the achievements of only one person. While President Obama should be commemorated for his time in office, one person alone is not enough to erase years of injustice.

  2. I thought it was really interesting how you connected the video to Obama’s presidency. As you mentioned, after he was elected as president a portion of Americans thought that racism was over. There was the idea that anyone could “pick themselves” up by their bootstraps and be successful, exemplified by Obama, as he overcame many obstacles as an African American politician. It is astonishing to me that people can actually believe in this idea, just because there is an example of a black man becoming president. Obama’s successes does not justify the idea that people of minority status no longer face barriers and inequalities.

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