This is a response to the op-ed written in the Sept. 19 edition of the Quad, written by Bill Hanrahan, entitled “Tim Wise is wrong to connect race with attitude.”
In the article this is in response to, Bill Hanrahan said “skin color never tells us anything about an individual other than how much pigment he or she may have.” This statement is true to a certain degree. It is true that there are no biological differences between races.
As Hanrahan also writes correctly there is a variety of political positions that people of color can have. But what Hanrahan fails to recognize in his analysis of Tim Wise’s speech is the material conditions that people who are not privileged with white skin have and how those conditions affect people’s lives.
We will begin with the discussion about “9/11,” because Hanrahan was so obsessed with Tim Wise’s brief mentioning of the topic. It is not only a white privilege, but also a privilege of those who live in the U.S.A., that the date Sept. 11 brings to thought a tragedy that happened in New York City. For those in the global south, Sept. 11 is the date that reminds them of the CIA coup in Chile, which established the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who killed at least the same number of those killed in the attacks in New York (not counting the thousands of people who “disappeared” under his regime).
But to go down this road would only lead us to what seems to be an endless list of illegal military actions, genocidal practices, and war crimes that the US military and CIA have done. I would like to further elaborate on this history, but I do not wish to waste any more space to what is easily accessible with a Google search or a trip to the campus library.
I wish instead to focus the rest of this response to the realities of racism, something that Hanrahan seems to not know about.
Another point that Hanrahan misses reality on is when he states that it is “insulting and demeaning toward every black American that does not baselessly suspect every white person who doesn’t see the need to talk about race as a racist.” White folks need to get over their guilt and realize that racism is real and they directly benefit from it. Just as all women have reason to worry about a male stranger following them in an alley, so do black folks need to worry when they encounter white folk. There is a long history of racial violence that continues to this day. We can see this violence in the history of lynching, the racial bias in the death penalty, the racial bias in the prison system, the police murders of black men, and the silence from the white community on these issues.
Ignoring your white privilege will not make racism go away. Ignoring racism will not make it go away. White folks who claim they are in the struggle against racism need to show it by demanding the end to white people’s complacency in racism.
I wish for a day, not only when we can see each other as we are, but when we understand the realities of white supremacy on people. It’s not only about seeing each other on “the content of one’s character” but seeing the systematic and institutional racism that white folks blissfully ignore.
Nicholas Silveri-Hiller is a student att WCU. He can be reached at NS660747@wcupa.edu.