Recently at dinner a friend asked what I thought of Tim Wise. I knew he had gotten into trouble for his reaction to critics who questioned his speaking at a Teach for America event. The arguments he made pretty much sounded like he was saying, I'm on your side so I can do what I want.

After this dinner, another friend shared this:, a Black Girl Dangerous blog from September which mentions Tim Wise in an argument about "allies" being problematic. Included in the post is a link to a Facebook conversation Tim Wise had, in which he again, pretty much responds to criticism by saying he is doing good work and so shouldn't be questioned. This argument highlights something problematic I have run into often in arguments by white people who are aware that we still do have a problem with race in this country, but are not willing to critically look at their actions within this structure (usually because they are acting with good intentions, but good intentions are not any good if their impact is not positive). Yes, I agree that identifying we have a problem is the first step in being part of the solution. I also agree that working to address racism and using one's leverage and access to resources to do this is honorable, but if one is not willing to enter into this struggle honestly, holistically and open to changing direction this is where a problem arises. Tim Wise because he is a white man still has access to speaking engagements and audiences that many black and brown people do not. This is a result of institutionalized racism. Tim Wise cannot change this single-handedly and he should of course continue to speak against racism in whatever setting he chooses. To be truly fighting against structural and internalized racism however, he must be willing to hear critics and admit that he is working in a flawed system and still has unfair advantage in this system. Using that advantage is not a problem if Wise critically thinks about his actions, is willing to engage in critical dialogue about some of the problematic circumstances he finds himself in (they will arise so long as we are struggling for justice) and admit his privilege when indeed it has provided this access. Finding ways to open the platform that he finds himself having access to is another way to support the fight against racism. What if Tim Wise demanded that he have a person of color speak with him whenever he was asked to speak about white privilege and race?

This work is stressful. Talking about race, especially when one comes from a background where race was not spoken about (because we as a society were trying to go beyond it without actually dismantling racist structures) is difficult. Taking care within this struggle is one of the keys to being able to be reflective and honest, being open to criticism. The friend that initially asked about Tim Wise stated that he thinks his heart is in the right place. He may be right, but what I read in the defensive attitude that Wise has taken in the face of criticism is that even if his heart is in the right place, it may not be open enough to hear where his energy may be best used. This makes his struggle more difficult, puts him on the defensive and causes the reactionary statements that then create more criticism. Of course there will always be haters, who are criticizing to exacerbate rather than make circumstances better and maybe these are the critics that Tim Wise is reacting to, but this does not matter. Tim Wise has the responsibility to respond thoughtfully and critically instead of with the argument that he is doing good so he can do what he wants.

All we can do is look honestly at where we are at, honestly at what we do, take criticism seriously and thoughtfully, continue to do our best to have the greatest impact and be willing to change and grow. If we do have the power to gain platforms for our own opinions and social justice is important to us, how do we then find ways to share this platform with people that do not have the same opportunity?