Tim Wise

If This Is a Civil War, Pick a Side: Donald Trump, White Nationalism and the Future of America

Sometimes America feels like the movie Groundhog Day: a place where we keep waking up again and again to the same crap, hoping against hope that this time — no really, this time — things will be different.

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Anti-Racism Author Tim Wise: Injustice Is Not a Glitch, It's a Feature: Reflections on the Murder of Philando Castile

If, as the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, then hoping against hope that this time—surely this time—an officer who shot a black man in cold blood would be held to account, is a type of insanity most profound. Or at the very least, evidence of an overactive imagination rivaling that of the most creative screenplay writer. But rest assured, this movie does not have an alternate ending. It has been screen-tested before jury after jury, and it is quite clear by now which conclusion the audience prefers. Expecting anything different is to expect the things that have always happened to stop happening, like believing any day now, hummingbirds will walk and preschoolers take flight.

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Unpacking the Dark and Contradictory Rhetoric of the White Nationalist Current That Ushered Trump to the White House

So now we know: White nationalists have been working more on their wardrobes than on tightening up the rhetoric and logic they use to defend and present their worldview.

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Discovering the Light In Darkness: Fighting Back Against Trump

“One discovers the light in darkness. That is what darkness is for. But everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith…I know we often lose…and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is. The light. The light. One will perish without the light…For nothing is fixed, forever, and forever, and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have…The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. And the moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” —James Baldwin, “Nothing Personal,” 1964

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Millions of White Americans Are Dealing With Economic Pain They Haven't Seen for Decades

The following is an excerpt from the book Under the Affluence by Tim Wise (City Lights Books, 2015): 

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The Casual, Idiotic Racism of Modern American Conservatism

Sometimes racism isn’t about vicious bigotry and hatred towards those with different skin color than your own, let alone a willingness to walk into a church and massacre nine of those others because you think they’re “taking over your country.” Sometimes, racism is manifested in the subtle way a person can dismiss the lived experiences of those racial others as if they were nothing, utterly erasing those experiences, consigning them to the ashbin of history like so much irrelevant refuse.

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Mimicry Is Not Solidarity: Rachel Dolezal and the Creation of Antiracist White Identity

In a country where being black increases your likelihood of being unemployed, poor, rejected for a bank loan, suspected of wrongdoing and profiled as a criminal, being arrested or even shot by police, the mind boggles at Rachel Dolezal's decision some years ago to begin posing as an African American. Yes perhaps blackness helps when you’re looking for a job in an Africana Studies department, selling your own African American portraiture art, or hoping to head up the local NAACP branch—all of which appear to have been the case for Dolezal—but generally speaking, adopting blackness as a personal identity and a substitute for one's actual whiteness is not exactly the path of least resistance in America.

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White America's Greatest Delusion: "They Do Not Know It and They Do Not Want to Know It"

Though perhaps overused, there are few statements that so thoroughly burrow to the heart of the nation's racial condition as the following, written fifty-three years ago by James Baldwin:

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White Americans Have Been Brainwashed About Race: Lies We Tell Ourselves About Black Women

This essay originally appeared at www.timwise.org

In the wake of recent police killings of young black men --- John Crawford, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice most prominently --- there has been much discussion about the way in which large numbers of white Americans, and especially white police, view African American males. The criminalization of the black male body has rarely been as apparent as in the past few months. Regarding Mike Brown, we are told --- and are expected to believe --- that black men are "hulks" and "demons," so irrational as to attack police without provocation, and then after being shot, throw caution to the wind and seek to run through a hail of bullets, as if possessed of superhuman strength. Because apparently it is easier to believe that than to believe a white officer with a history of belligerence, acting out of over-amped fear, prejudice or an authority jones would have killed a black man for talking back to him.

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The Nice White People Who Stick Their Heads in the Sand and Perpetuate Murderous Injustice

This past week, Chris Rock noted in an interview that although racism remained a real and persistent problem, he was glad to see that America is now producing the nicest white people in its history.

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Most White People in America Are Completely Oblivious

I suppose there is no longer much point in debating the facts surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. First, because Officer Darren Wilson has been cleared by a grand jury, and even the collective brilliance of a thousand bloggers pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in his version of events that August day won’t result in a different outcome. And second, because Wilson’s guilt or innocence was always somewhat secondary to the larger issue: namely, the issue of this gigantic national inkblot staring us in the face, and what we see when we look at it—and more to the point, why?

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The Only Real Way to Fix Immigration

Democratic Party leaders recently introduced their latest proposal to reform U.S. immigration policy. The proposal, which is given little chance of passage in a polarized election year, offers carrots and sticks in an attempt to bring some semblance of order to a broken and outdated policy that has left nearly 12 million people in the United States without legal documents.

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What If the Tea Party Were Black?

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

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Working for the Man Every Night and Day

A few weeks ago, a young man approached me after a speech I had given at his college and handed me a small piece of paper with the name of a book he thought I should read. Given that the student and I had previously gotten into a bit of a row over the issue of racial profiling of Arabs, I didn't have high expectations about his recommendation.

I suppose it's a good thing I was prepared for what I got: the name of a book by black conservative Larry Elder, whose only real claim to fame is that he does a bad imitation of Judge Wapner on a pedantic little courtroom reality show called Moral Court.

Oh, and that white folks like the student in question really like him. Which, as it turns out, is all it takes to become a bestselling author in this country.

Elder – like Shelby Steele before him, and Walter Williams before that, and Ken Hamblin before that, and Thomas Sowell before him, and Clarence Thomas always – says the kinds of things that most white folks love to hear: essentially, that blacks are the source of their own problems in life. Black cultural pathology and bad behavior, according to these types, explain everything from black poverty rates to black incarceration rates.

What about racism?, you may ask. What racism? To the Larry Elders of the world – and to the whites who have made them media stars entirely out of proportion to their scholarly credentials (or decided lack thereof) – racism is just an excuse black people use to explain away their own internal shortcomings.

Lately, two of the more popular arguments made by black conservatives and the white people who love them are, first, that blacks spend too much money on luxury items they can't afford, refusing to save money the way responsible white folks do; and second, that blacks place too little value on education, preferring to critique learning as selling out or "acting white," and thereby sabotaging their own achievement.

That the evidence for both of these positions is utterly lacking makes little difference, it seems. After all, when one is saying what the Man wants to hear, the Man requires no footnotes or actual corroboration.

Black Consumption and the Myth of Black Profligacy

Arguments that support the dominant culture easily become popularized myths, bordering on legend, after which point they are almost impossible to assail. Black profligacy has pretty much attained that status, what with the regular portrayal of blacks as obsessed with "bling-bling," within mainstream TV and other media. While it would have been difficult for whites, on their own, to get away with presenting this one-dimensional, supersized cartoon of black spending, they have had help from folks like Yolanda Young. Young, like Elder and all the rest, is an African American who specializes in the kind of self-flagellating drivel that appeals to the sadistic side of white America's racism. We get a taste of her forthcoming book, SPADE: A Critical Look at Black America, in a recent USA Today article.

In her USA Today piece, Young claims that blacks have been spending exorbitant amounts of money lately, despite the tough economic times in which the larger black community finds itself. In other words, instead of rational belt tightening, African Americans have been going on a spending spree: the implication being either that black folks are irresponsible with their money, or at least that they are "motivated by a desire for instant gratification and social acceptance," caring more about their own selfish desires than "our future."

To back up her claims, Young turns to a group called Target Market, a company that tracks spending by black consumers. But a careful glance at the source of her claims makes it apparent that she is either incapable of interpreting basic data or that she deliberately deceives for political effect. In fact, not only do the figures from Target Market not suggest irresponsible spending by blacks in the face of a bad economy, they tend to suggest the opposite.

According to Young, blacks spent nearly $23 billion on clothes in 2002, and this, one presumes, is supposed to signal a level of irresponsible profligacy so obvious as to require no further context or clarification. But, in fact, the very tables on which Young bases her position indicate that from 2000 to 2002 (the period of a slowing economy), black expenditures on clothes fell by 7%, even before accounting for inflation. In other words, as the economy got worse, blacks reined in their consumption.

It's useful to watch how the pros at this dissing game make it work. Young consistently bases her arguments on raw numbers, counting on her readers to marvel at their size, while ignoring the comparative data that makes sense of those numbers. For example, Young tweaks blacks for spending $3.2 billion on consumer electronics, but fails to note that even before inflation, this is down roughly 16% from 2000, when blacks spent $3.8 billion on the same. She chastises her black brothers and sisters for spending $11.6 billion on furniture in 2002, but fails to note that black spending on furniture actually fell by 10%, even before inflation, and by 2002 was only a little higher in current dollars than it had been in 1996.

In other words, blacks did exactly what would make sense in a tightening economy: They spent less on the kinds of presumably frivolous items that Ms. Young claims her people just can't resist. Not so irresponsible after all, it seems.

Next, Young berates blacks for their consumption of cars and liquor, which she labels "our favorite purchases." Unfortunately, the "evidence" she marshals to support such silliness is embarrassingly weak. She notes that although blacks make up only 12% of the population, they account for 30% of the nation's scotch consumption. But what does that prove? It certainly says nothing about overall use of alcohol by blacks, which is actually quite low. Indeed, contrary to Young's claim, liquor is not among the favorite purchases of blacks, ranking instead behind 18 of the 25 categories listed in the tables from Target Market that she relied upon for her article.

In fact, in the past year alone black expenditures on alcoholic beverages fell by almost one-fourth, scotch consumption or no. And, of course, blacks spend far less than whites, per capita, on alcohol, and drink far less often and less heavily than whites according to all the available data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes on Drug Abuse and others.

As for cars, Young's "proof" of black profligacy in this area is limited to the fact that Lincoln had P. Diddy design a limited edition Navigator for them, with DVD players and plasma screens all around. And yet, the amount spent by African Americans (not P. Diddy, mind you, but the other 35 million or so black folks) on various vehicles still amounts to less than that spent, per capita, by whites, whose consumption of such items is roughly 27% higher that of blacks.

Race, Wealth and the Myth of Short-Term Orientation

Next, Young insists that blacks fail to save money the way whites do, the implication being that this – and not racism and unequal access to capital – explains the wealth gap between whites and African Americans.

Young cites the 2003 Black Investor Survey from Ariel Mutual Funds and Charles Schwab to suggest that black households with comparable upper-middle-class income to whites save nearly 20% less than whites for retirement. Furthermore, she notes, blacks are far less likely to invest in the stock market, thereby hindering their own ability to develop wealth. Yet a look at the Ariel/Schwab data – which itself is limited to 500 individuals with upper-level incomes from each racial group – indicates a far different set of conclusions than those reached by Young.

The report does suggest that whites are more likely to have an IRA than blacks. Yet it also reports that overall rates of retirement investment are essentially identical for whites and blacks: While 89% of whites have money in a retirement program, so do 85% of blacks.

As for the amounts of money being saved among this upper-income group, although whites do indeed save more, on average, the difference is not – according to the report itself – statistically significant. Indeed, whites are a third more likely than blacks to be saving nothing for retirement at this time, and roughly two-thirds of both groups are saving at least $100 or more monthly for retirement.

As for investments, while there are small differences between upper-income blacks and whites, the methodology of the Ariel/Schwab study makes it clear that those differences in monthly investments and savings are, once again, not statistically significant: amounting, as they do, to less than $60 per month.

This kind of "behavioral" gap hardly explains the fact that upper-income white households, on average, have about three times the net worth of upper-income black households. Instead, that is the residual effect of generations of racism that restricted the ability of blacks and other people of color to accumulate assets, while whites were allowed, encouraged and even subsidized to do the same.

While it is true that black investment in the stock market lags behind that of whites, the reasons for this can hardly be decoupled from the history of racism. After all, even upper-income blacks tend to have far less wealth to begin with than whites of similar income. As a result, the level of wealth they are willing to put at risk is going to be less than for those with more of it to spare.

Especially in the last few years, the volatility of the stock market has tended to scare away all but the most experienced investors, and certainly those whose assets are limited from the get-go. Surely, this describes much of black America, which has never had the excess wealth available to whites, that would allow them to roll the dice on Wall Street in the same way.

If black savings lag behind white, it is not because of black profligacy; it is because of a legacy of racism that left even well-to-do black families without the assets and resources of white families.

The Myth of Black Anti-Intellectualism

The second myth black conservatives love to promote is that blacks have not gotten ahead in the race of life because they devalue education. From Shelby Steele's early '90s bestseller The Content of Our Character to Berkeley linguist John McWhorter's near-hysterical rant in Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, right-wing black commentators have turned cocktail party chitchat into social science research for the sake of peddling the antiblack myth that blacks devalue education.

The evidence, of course, for those who still care about such things, reveals the duplicity of these hucksters in their crusade to blame blacks for their own academic and economic condition.

First, high school graduation rates for blacks and whites are today roughly equal to one another. In fact, as sociologist Dalton Conley demonstrates in his 1999 book, Being Black, Living in the Red, once family economic background is controlled for, blacks are actually more likely to finish high school than whites, and equally likely to complete college. In other words, whatever differences exist in black and white educational attainment are completely the result of blacks, on average, coming from lower-income families. Comparing whites and blacks of truly similar class status reveals greater or equal educational attainment for blacks.

Although it should hardly have been necessary – after all, the entire history of black America has been the history of attempting to access education even against great odds and laws prohibiting it – there have been a number of recent studies, all of which prove conclusively that blacks value education every bit as much as their white counterparts.

For example, a recent study conducted by the Minority Student Achievement Network looked at 40,000 students in grades seven through 11; it found little if any evidence that blacks placed lesser value on education than their white peers. Instead, they found that black males are more likely than white, Hispanic or Asian males to say that it is "very important" to study hard and get good grades; white males are the least likely to make this claim. The researchers also found that blacks were just as likely to study and work on homework as their white counterparts.

Even in high-poverty schools, disproportionately attended by inner-city students of color, attitudes towards schooling are far more positive than generally believed. Students in high-poverty schools are four-and-a-half times more likely to say they have a "very positive" attitude toward academic achievement than to say they have a "very negative" attitude, and 94% of all students in such schools report a generally positive attitude toward academics.

In their groundbreaking volume The Source of the River, social scientists Douglas Massey, Camille Charles, Garvey Lundy and Mary Fischer examine longitudinal data for students of different races who were enrolled in selective colleges and universities. Among the issues they explore is the degree to which differential performance among black and white students in college, in terms of grades, could be attributed to blacks or their families placing less value on academic performance than their white and Asian counterparts. After all, this claim has been made by some like McWhorter, Steele and a plethora of white reactionaries who seek to explain the persistent GPA gaps between blacks, in particular, and others in college.

What Massey and his colleagues discovered is that the black students had parents who were more likely than white or Asian parents to have helped them with homework growing up, more likely than white or Asian parents to have met with their teachers, equally likely to have pushed them to "do their best" in school, more likely than white parents to enroll their kids in educational camps, and equally or more likely to have participated in the PTA. Black students' parents were also more likely than parents of any other race to regularly check to make sure their kids had completed their homework and to reward their kids for good grades, while Asian parents were the least likely to do either of these.

Likewise, the authors of this study found that black students' peers in high school are more likely than white peers to think studying hard and getting good grades are important, and indeed white peers are the least likely to endorse these notions. Overall, the data suggests that if anything it is white peer culture that is overly dismissive of academic achievement, not black peer culture.

While many of these studies have focused on middle-class-and-above African-American families, and while it is certainly possible that lower-income and poor blacks may occasionally evince a negativity toward academics, this can hardly be considered a racial (as opposed to economic) response, since low-income whites often manifest the same attitudes.

What's more, such a response, though not particularly functional in the long term, is also not particularly surprising, seeing as how young people from low-income backgrounds can see quite clearly the ways in which education so often fails to pay off for persons like themselves.

After all, over the last few decades, black academic achievement has risen, and the gap between whites and blacks on tests of academic "ability" have closed, often quite dramatically. Yet during the same time, the gaps in wages between whites and blacks have often risen, sending a rather blatant message to persons of color that no matter how hard they work, they will remain further and further behind.

In other words, to the extent that blacks, to any real degree, occasionally manifest antieducation attitudes and behaviors, the question remains: Where did they pick up the notion that education was not for them?

Might they have gotten this impression from a curriculum that negates the full history of their people, and gives the impression that everything great, everything worth knowing about, came from white folks?

Might they have gotten this impression from the tracking and sorting systems that placed so many of them, irrespective of talent and promise, in remedial and lower-level classes, because indeed the teachers themselves presumed at some level that education-at least higher-level education-wasn't for them?

Might they have gotten this impression from the workings of the low-wage economy, into which so many of their neighbors and family members have been thrown – even those with a formal education?

Or, better yet, maybe they got this impression from the black conservatives who regularly bash them: people who demonstrate that an education doesn't necessarily make you smart after all.

Busting Up the Black Conservative Hustle

None of this is to say that the black con-artist conservatives are entirely irrational. After all, their hustle has paid enormous dividends. Black conservatives, by dint of their hard work on behalf of institutionalized white domination, have managed to obtain access to the halls of power, and even occasionally positions of power themselves. On the one hand, this kind of step'n fetchit routine can be lucrative and professionally rewarding: for those willing to play the game, or convince themselves of the beneficence of their white cocktail party friends, it can mean foundation grants, endowed chairs at right-wing think tanks, radio shows, syndicated columns and regular appearances on Fox.

But one thing it will likely never bring is acceptance from one's own community, and this self-exiled condition, combined with an eventual recognition that one is being used, can lead to near-complete personal and professional meltdowns.

Consider Glenn Loury, formerly a shining light in the black conservative firmament, who eventually came to the conclusion that his friends and supporters really didn't like black folks much. After all, the same conservatives at the Bradley Foundation who hawk vouchers in public school so as to "save black children" also helped fund the writing of The Bell Curve, which says, among other things, that there's pretty much nothing that can be done for black folks, due to their congenital predisposition to ignorance, sloth and crime. Enough of those contradictions, and even the most hardened black conservative may come around.

Or maybe not. But luckily there are antidotes to the hustle emanating forcefully from the black community, such as the hard-hitting commentary and exposes at the Black Commentator, which have skewered not only the voucher con, but also the individual players from Powell to Rice to lesser-known but rising figures on the black right. What they and the bulk of black America knows well, and what the rest of us must learn, is that the propaganda dispensed by black conservatives is not only poisonous in its implications, but it is based on utterly false analysis, distorted data and the hope on the part of its purveyors that the rest of us will never wise up to their game.

The Content of His Character

One thing can be said for conservatives: they are nothing if not unoriginal.

This truism was driven home yet again recently when I found myself embroiled in a debate over affirmative action with a loyal Bush supporter, who insisted that folks like me, by virtue of our support for the concept, had abandoned the vision of Martin Luther King Jr.

King, I was assured for the 2,345th time (give or take a few), would have staunchly opposed affirmative action, what my friend called “racial preferences,� because, after all, he believed that people should be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

Faced with yet another person claiming to be the ideological soul mate of a man they probably despised when he was actually breathing, I decided to gloss over the fact that King actually endorsed the concept of affirmative action as early as 1961, and again in 1963, 1965 and 1967. And I also opted not to belabor the point that affirmative action doesn’t actually judge anyone on the basis of skin color, but simply seeks to ensure that persons of color who otherwise might be overlooked for educational and job opportunities (despite their qualifications) get a chance to prove themselves.

Instead, I decided to debate the issue on the grounds favored by the right, including its representative before me, who so seemed to covet the “content of their character� line. So I asked him plainly: What do the “merit� standards he endorses, and which people like him would prefer to see in place of so-called racial preferences -- such as standardized test scores for college admissions -- have to do with character?

Since racial score gaps on these tests are taken as proof that blacks are less qualified than whites to attend selective colleges, and since critics of affirmative action insist we should return to the notion of merit admissions, based largely on these test results, was he honestly suggesting that SATs, ACTs, LSATs and MCATs say something about a person’s character or lack thereof? More to the point, was he of the opinion that whites, by virtue of our higher average scores, are of superior character to black students?

It was obvious that no one had ever asked him that before. Worse, I had never thought to ask it before either. It was almost as if we had both accepted the notion that persons who score 1400 on the SAT are of better character than those who score 1100, and that they, in turn, are of greater character than those who score 900, and so on. Even the idea that standardized test scores are good predictors of academic ability is questionable enough; but to think there is a correlation between such scores and character seems absurd on the face of it.

According to Webster‚s Dictionary, the relevant definition of character is “moral strength, self-discipline, fortitude.�

That says nothing about academic performance, or even intelligence itself, however defined. Indeed, how could it? The Nazis were led by men who probably would have scored highly on the SAT; so too those who designed Napalm, or sanctioned the slaughter of America‚s indigenous populations. So too Ted Bundy, or the young white man with the 1350 on his SATs and a slot in the freshman class at Berkeley, who murdered a young black girl in the bathroom of a Nevada casino a few years ago.

So which is it? Should we judge people on the basis of character, or rather on the basis of previous academic achievement -- no minor question, since the two have no necessary correlation to one another?

I for one vote for character, but I doubt those who have misappropriated the concept from King would like where the notion leads, especially in terms of its impact on admissions.

Because you see, when it comes to which students have exhibited the most fortitude, one of the key elements of character, defined as “the strength to bear misfortune and pain patiently and calmly,� there can be little doubt that students of color and poor folks of all colors (who tend to do worse on the so-called merit indicia favored by the right) would come out on top. That strength, truth be told, fairly defines the black experience in America.

Which students, after all, have had to persevere against the odds more often: rich kids who attended the best schools, and whose parents could afford tutors, test prep classes and all forms of enrichment materials? Or poor and working class kids whose schools had substandard resources, less experienced teachers, and whose parents struggled to make ends meet?

Which students have had to bear the most pain? Whites whose membership in the nation‚s dominant racial majority allows them to go through life fairly oblivious to their own race and the role it plays in their everyday experience? Or students of color, whose minority status often reminds them that they are seen by many as outsiders, and who know of the negative stereotypes often held about their group by the general public, usually by the time they are eight or nine years of age?

To ask the questions is to answer them.

For students who have faced obstacles of race and class to even partially overcome those obstacles and score perhaps a 1000 on their SAT says something rather amazing about their character. Despite having the odds stacked against them they refused to give up, they strove for excellence, and though they finished the K-12 race still behind their more privileged competition, they closed the gap nonetheless.

A score of 1000, 1050, or 1100, for many kids is far more impressive than a 1350 or 1400 when the latter was attained by someone who had all the breaks and opportunities going his or her way. This is especially true when one considers that black students who apply to elite schools come from families that, on average, have half the income of their white counterparts, and are far more likely to have attended resource-poor schools.

If one starts a race three laps behind and finishes only two laps behind, is it not obvious that such a runner is indeed objectively better than the one who hit the tape ahead of them? Didn’t they run faster, harder, with more determination? Didn’t they demonstrate character? Or do we simply reward the one who finished ahead, even though their ability to do so was largely the result of a pre-existing advantage, and would have obtained even in the absence of character altogether?

And what of self-discipline, that other aspect of character to which Webster’s refers? Could it be that blacks would here too bump white students from their desired slots in elite colleges and universities, if indeed the criteria for acceptance were the content of one’s character? Quite possibly. After all, blacks show far more restraint and self-control than their white peers when it comes to things like drug and alcohol abuse: the latter of which, in particular, is a serious problem on American college campuses.

As for drugs, although black youth and young adults are more likely than whites to have been approached by a drug dealer in the past month, they are less likely than whites to have used drugs in the past thirty days. Every year, white rates of drug use for youth ages 12-17 and 18-26 is higher than for blacks or Latinos. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control, white high school students have higher rates of drug use for all drug categories than blacks, while blacks have the lowest rates. In fact, black students from the poorest neighborhoods, in schools where most students live in public housing, show lower levels of drug use than whites of the same age and grade.

Examining alcohol, whites drink more often and heavier than blacks, especially when it comes to youth. White youth 12-17 are nearly twice as likely as blacks that age to ever consume alcohol, 2.5 times more likely to have engaged in binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks at one time) and six times more likely to binge drink on a regular basis. Among young adults 18-25, whites are nearly 80 percent more likely to binge drink than blacks and more than three times as likely to do so on a regular basis.

Since drinking under 21 is illegal, and since one might consider law-breaking indicative of one‚s character, it is also instructive to examine the degree to which whites and blacks illegally consume alcohol. According to federal data, whites are 70 percent more likely than blacks to drink underage, more than twice as likely to binge drink underage, and four times as likely to binge drink regularly.

In fact, while 23 percent of whites between the ages of 12-20 occasionally binge drink, only 19 percent of blacks that age ever consume alcohol, let alone five or more drinks at once. In other words, whites are more likely to binge drink underage than blacks are to drink underage at all.

Whereas 1 in 12 whites between 12 and 20 years of age is a heavy drinker who consumes five or more drinks at a time at least five times per month, only one in 50 black youth fit this description. Among college students in 2001, whites were 2.3 times more likely than blacks to binge drink and as of 1999 they were four times more likely to do so regularly.

Perhaps this is why a recent study from Harvard found that schools with higher percentages of students of color tend to have less binge drinking, and those that are overwhelmingly white tend to have the most serious problems with alcohol abuse. Apparently, despite higher test scores and so-called „merit,‰ whites on these campuses lack that self-discipline so central to the definition of character.

One more reason to support affirmative action then: not only can it promote greater levels of racial equity, but now it appears as though diversity enhancement might also boost the net sum of character on a campus as well. Such a conclusion is made all the more reasonable when one considers the dozens of riots on college campuses in the past decade: almost completely white events, and over such earth-shattering matters as crackdowns on underage drinking or the outcome of a football game.

So by all means, let’s encourage schools to judge students on the content of their character. Doing so would be a great way to promote diversity and racial equity at the same time, along with cutting down on substance abuse and mass violence related to that abuse. Perhaps over time, whites would even learn to assimilate to the black norm of hard work and sobriety, and begin to “act black,� which certainly couldn’t hurt their academic careers or our nation. After all, we would all reap the benefits of character-based standards, and an end to the damage done by smart but pathological members of the dominant majority.

Tim Wise is an antiracist essayist, activist and father. Footnotes for this article are available from him at timjwise@msn.com

Anywhere But Here

Imagine that in Germany, government officials and teachers decided to develop a special curriculum for schools that would seek to instill in their students an understanding of the horrors of racism and intolerance.

Now imagine that this curriculum never mentioned the Holocaust of European Jewry, or Germany's persecution of Romany, Slavs, homosexuals, persons with disabilities, or any of the other groups singled out by the Nazi regime. Instead, this curriculum focused on the legacy of racism and oppression in the United States. Slavery, Indian removal, Asian exclusion and Jim Crow laws, all of it presented in clear and convincing detail, but nary a mention of anything even remotely similar done by the German republic itself.

This, of course, would be absurd. How, after all, can a nation possibly instill an anti-racist consciousness in its citizens if it refuses to look at its own culpability and focuses only on the crimes of others?

How indeed?

Yet apparently studying racism in other nations, while resisting any mention of the same in your own country, is completely appropriate when the teachers and students are Americans. Here, it is acceptable to teach of the European Holocaust (and it alone) as evidence of man's inhumanity to man.

At least this appears to be the case in Tennessee, where the state has developed an adult education curriculum to foster "appreciation for diversity," to be taught to persons seeking their high school equivalency degree. The only example of intolerance mentioned is the Holocaust.

Please don't misunderstand. As a Jew, I can viscerally appreciate the importance of studying the European Holocaust, and I have no doubt about its ability to teach certain universal lessons about how low-level prejudice can develop over time into widespread persecution and even genocide.

But these lessons can also be taught by discussing any of a number of this nation's own crimes: crimes which go undiscussed in the new course, "Learning the Holocaust." So far as Tennessee is concerned -- and the U.S. Holocaust Museum which endorses the curriculum -- there is nothing to be learned from chattel slavery; nothing to be learned from the Trail of Tears, which began on the very territory where the Holocaust will be taught as if it were unique in human history. Indeed, the author of Indian removal, Andrew Jackson, made his home not fifteen minutes drive from the offices of Tennessee's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which has promoted the new study of Nazi terror so as to, in their words, "foster an appreciation for diversity, as more and more immigrants and refugees move to Tennessee."

Which begs the obvious question. How can learning about the mistreatment of Jews and other European sub-groups have any effect on the attitudes that people in Tennessee have towards those new immigrants, almost none of whom are European, but who are mostly Latino or Asian?

After all, despite ongoing prejudice occasionally flung our way, Jews are, for all intent and purpose (at least in the U.S.) seen as whites, accepted as part of the grand schema of European civilization; viewed as intelligent, hard-working and successful. People of color, on the other hand, are still typified as lazy, unintelligent, and prone to crime. Making students acknowledge the humanity of a group of white people -- however much this group may differ from most of them in terms of religion and certain cultural traditions -- is a far cry from convincing them of the rights of non-white immigrants, who don't look like them, who might not speak the same language, and who are routinely viewed as taking white jobs and soaking up welfare dollars.

Put simply, inter-ethnic discrimination and oppression is different from racism. In the former, a common or similar skin tone allows all within that group to become convinced, if they were not already, of their common bond with others of that skin tone. But racism, by prioritizing certain outward characteristics as paramount to categorization, makes such recognition infinitely more difficult.

That the students being subjected to this highly-selective curriculum include a large number of immigrants learning English for the first time, and poor women coming off welfare (enrolled in the state's Families First program) is especially ironic. After all, those students could teach a class on intolerance and discrimination without any help from their teachers, to say nothing of having to dig back to the Second World War.

These students, a disproportionate number of whom will be of color, might think it odd that the only bigotry the state feels like addressing is that done by folks a half-a-globe and a half-century ago. I guess there is nothing to be learned from these students, who have faced English-only legislation, anti-immigrant crackdowns, and welfare cutbacks thanks to widespread stereotypes and a constant drumbeat of rhetoric against the so-called underclass.

According to those teaching the course, they want students to think about how people could have stopped the Holocaust. Such a discussion is historically interesting to be sure, and could even be helpful in the present if linked explicitly to existing discrimination in the U.S. and how present-day residents of this country might intervene to prevent oppression here. But of course no such bridge between the past and present or between the European and American experience is deemed necessary.

Though it is too soon to determine whether or not this course will ultimately usher in a new era of tolerance among the good people of Tennessee (or other states, which are looking to copy the model), early evidence indicates that the program is serving what are likely the real interests of its designers: namely to reinforce the notion of American exceptionalism. As one graduate of the program recently explained, the class had made her more grateful than ever to "live in the land of the free."

I guess in this land we only wonder in amazement at how truly awful some of this planet's other inhabitants can behave. We are shocked, simply shocked to learn of such things.

Tim Wise is an antiracist essayist, activist and father. He can be reached at timjwise@msn.com

A Shot in the Arm for Racial Equity

I felt great relief and some surprise when I heard about the Supreme Court's decisions in the two affirmative action cases from the University of Michigan. Although something of a mixed bag for supporters of affirmative action, the rulings must be considered a victory within the current political climate.

Despite the efforts of the Bush Administration and the clamoring of conservative talk-show hosts and think tanks, the Court in a 5-4 vote upheld the Law School's affirmative action efforts, saying that the attempt by the school to enroll a "critical mass" of students of color was perfectly legitimate, and did not amount to a violation of white students' equal protection rights.

On the other hand, the Court struck down Michigan's undergraduate policy, which also sought to enroll a critical mass of students of color, but did so by establishing a point system, whereby members of the under-represented groups would receive 20 extra points, on a 150-point scale, similar to the 20 points offered to all low-income students (including white ones), and the 16 points offered to students from Michigan's mostly white Upper Peninsula, among others.

I was not surprised to see the point system invalidated by the Court. Yes, the points for students of color paled in comparison to the points available mostly to whites (such as those for AP courses, having attended "highly competitive" high schools, having a parent who attended the University, and the Upper Peninsula points referenced previously); nonetheless, the fact remained that this Court was always likely to view the point system as an indirect quota, while conveniently ignoring the overwhelming whiteness of the other preferences.

Although in one sense this part of the ruling could be seen as a defeat, supporters of affirmative action should see it as less a setback than a new opportunity to promote racial equity.

First off, the only schools impacted by the undergrad ruling should be large, highly selective state institutions, for they are typically the only ones who occasionally resort to point systems to boost enrollment of students of color. Smaller schools and private institutions rarely go this route, preferring a more individualized method of evaluation. Those schools need not worry that their current efforts are now going to be challenged, as they more likely to mirror the Michigan Law School's policy rather than the undergrad system.

As for large schools that do use point systems, frankly, as much as I support them, these types of instruments were always about institutional laziness. After all, when a school gets 25,000 applications for only 5,000 slots, they seek to make their jobs easier in terms of paring down the possible pool of admittees. Since they don't have enough admissions officers to scrutinze each applicant and learn what kinds of barriers and obstacles they had to overcome to attain a decent GPA and SAT score, they devise things like point systems, which assume that any person from an underrepresented group likely has overcome race and possibly class bias, and thus should receive a slight preference.

Don't get me wrong, I happen to think this is a very fair assumption -- and certainly more rational than its opposite, which is that everyone has had equal opportunity and thus should be evaluated identically -- but nonetheless, having an explicit numerical value assigned to minority status has always been more about making life easier for the school, rather than making opportunity broader for such students.

If these schools could properly train admissions staff as to the vagaries of institutional inequity in our nation's K-12 educational system, which in turn is effected by racial bias in housing markets, these officers would be able to evaluate applicants more holistically and take into consideration what it means for a black or Latino or Indian student to achieve, let's say, an 1100 on the SAT, whereas the white median might be 150 points higher.

As several studies have indicated, students of color often underperform whites on standardized tests even when their grades and academic abilities are identical or even greater than their white counterparts. Black students, for example, with identical grades at identical schools, having taken the same coursework as whites, will generally score well below white students on standardized tests.

The reasons for this are myriad, from possible cultural test biases, to what researchers have termed "stereotype threat," which refers to the fear that persons from socially stigmatized groups often experience when taking a test that they know will be viewed by the dominant culture as indicative of their intelligence. If admissions officers were taught to understand the way that stereotype threat has been documented to drive down the SAT scores of highly qualified students of color, they would be able to consider that as they evaluate such students.

If they were trained as to the racist impact of so-called ability tracking in primary and secondary schools -- whereby black and Latino students, and all low-income students are far more likely to be placed in remedial classes and far less likely to be placed in honors and AP classes, even when their previous grades and scores would justify being tracked high -- then they could implicitly adjust for this fact as they evaluated the academic performance of certain applicants.

If they were trained to recognize merit and qualifications as contextual and relative terms -- in other words, people must be evaluated based on how much they have accomplished relative to where they started -- then they could easily justify the admission of large numbers of students of color who have shown amazing potential and academic drive, even though they might not have done as well on some supposedly "objective" indicator of ability.

After all, our educational system is much like a relay race. Certain runners have had a significant head start, and others have been held back through no fault of their own. Surely no one would think it fair to expect the runner who started out four laps behind in an eight-leg race to hit the finish tape ahead of someone who started out with such a huge lead. Nor should we refuse to acknowledge that the student who started out behind but closed the gap dramatically with their more favored counterparts, might actually be the better student.

In other words, now comes the hard part, in which schools are challenged to really consider the effects of racism on the quality of education received by the students applying to their institutions: both for people of color, who will often appear to be less qualified, and for whites, who may seem more so, even when neither assumption is true.

How many admissions officers realize just how miserable the SAT is at predicting likely success in college? According to a battery of studies, the SAT can predict, at best, perhaps 16 percent of the difference between any two students in terms of their freshman grades, and has virtually no independent relationship to overall four-year grades or graduation rates.

How many admissions officers realize that even at highly selective schools, students who score as low as 1000 on the SAT (well below the median at such colleges) have an 85 percent chance of graduating, on average, roughly the same as their higher scoring counterparts?

How many admissions officers know that black college graduation rates are identical to white rates once family economic status is controlled for? In other words, if blacks tend to graduate at a lower rate than their white counterparts, this has nothing to do with ability, as measured by test scores, but rather is a function of their family's economic ability to pay for college, among other non-merit factors.

Bottom line: Today's Supreme Court ruling has validated not only the notion that campus diversity is a positive good in its own right, but the underlying premise of all affirmative action efforts: Not everyone has had the same opportunity to obtain certain outcomes, like a high test score, or a high G.P.A in challenging advanced classes (since the latter are one-third as likely to even be offered at schools serving mostly kids of color). As such, it is appropriate for colleges to consider these kinds of factors and to offer "preferences" on that basis. But these are not racial preferences as much as "racism preferences" -- preferences predicated on an understanding of how racism operates to skew opportunity.

If America's colleges and universities remember that basic premise, affirmative action can become more effective than it ever was before, without extra points, and without any ability of the conservative right to do a thing about it.

Tim Wise is an antiracist essayist and activist. He can be reached at timjwise@msn.com.

Lamont in the White House

Sometimes an argument gets made with such regularity that no matter how silly, it nonetheless requires an answer. Indeed the more often it gets made, the more often it calls for rebuttal, since its repetition indicates someone just is not getting it. Such is the case with the oft-repeated claim, usually by whites, that affirmative action stigmatizes blacks and other persons of color who benefit from its presumed generosity. As such, they note--and owing to their deep concern for the psychological well-being of their dark-skinned brothers and sisters--the elimination of such programs would be in the best interest of those persons they were meant to help.

By casting their opposition to affirmative action in such seemingly altruistic terms, critics seek to avoid the impression that they are motivated by racial resentment at the opening up of opportunities to long-marginalized groups. See, they seem to be saying, we don't mind black folks. Heck we love black folks, and just want what's best for them. And what's best for them, presumably, is no more 'upreferential treatment' in college admissions, jobs, or contracting.

Putting aside the simple reality that all of this so-called preferential treatment has hardly put a dent in the edifice of white domination--white men still get 93% of all government contract dollars, hold over 90% of top jobs and 85% of tenured professorships--the notion that affirmative action stigmatizes beneficiaries and therefore should be scrapped for the sake of black and brown mental health is disingenuous and even racist on several levels.

First, since affirmative action has opened up opportunities that would otherwise have remained off-limits to people of color--and few deny this, despite the above data which indicates that white men are still large and in charge--such arguments seem to imply that people of color would have been better off not to have gotten the jobs, college slots or contracts they received. We are asked to believe that they would have been better off with, say, one percent, instead of three percent of federal contract dollars; or perhaps half-a-percent, instead of four percent of tenured faculty positions.

In other words, we are to believe that less opportunity to demonstrate their abilities would have been better for black and brown self-esteem, while more opportunity thanks to affirmative action was harmful. That few people of color would trade the added opportunities they have received for the sake of their self-image attests to how utterly asinine such an argument really is.

Secondly, this feigned white concern--occasionally echoed by black conservatives--seems especially hypocritical when one considers that the same folks making this argument said nothing when The Bell Curve was published and greeted merrily by the conservative right. After all, here was a book that said blacks were genetically less intelligent than whites, predisposed to crime, out-of-wedlock childbirth, and all forms of social pathology. If the right believes that affirmative action creates self-doubt, or implies that people of color are less capable and need special help to succeed, then how much more harmful must a book like The Bell Curve be, which doesn't imply that such persons are less capable but rather screams it quite openly?

Yet, not only did many not condemn this volume upon its publication (and no prominent conservative said a critical word, while several like William Bennett praised it openly), but indeed white consumers made it a best-seller within weeks and its primary author, Charles Murray, became a media star. Such is white concern for black people's self-esteem.

Thirdly, the fact that black people overwhelmingly support affirmative action leaves proponents of the stigma argument with only one of two possible beliefs from which to choose: either that blacks are too stupid to intuit their own interests and too dim-witted to see how badly they are being damaged by affirmative action, or alternately that blacks are so gullible (and thus also stupid) as to be deceived into supporting affirmative action by scheming civil rights activists. Either way, this argument requires a belief in the ignorance of black people, and their utter inability to think rationally. Such a position is of course flatly racist not to mention utterly vapid.

Additionally, whatever stigma could theoretically attach to benefiting from affirmative action surely dissipates once one has to prove themselves on the job or in school. Indeed, persons of color know well that they will likely have to work twice as hard to get half as far or be considered half as good as whites; and they have known that since long before affirmative action came around. But at least with affirmative action they get the chance to work twice as hard and demonstrate their capabilities.

And, apparently, once given that chance, persons of color rise to the occasion. A comprehensive analysis of over 200 studies on the work performance of affirmative action beneficiaries, published a few years ago in the Journal of Economic Literature, found that said beneficiaries performed just as well and often better than their white male counterparts. So much for stigma. If these workers were given to doubting their own abilities due to having received a bump from affirmative action, surely this self-doubt would have translated to weakened job performance. Furthermore, to the extent such beneficiaries perform equal to or better than white men on the job, any lingering biases on the part of whites, such as beliefs that blacks are less capable and qualified, can hardly be blamed on affirmative action, but are rather the fault of white ignorance and racism itself.

As for college performance the same is true. Yes, students of color fail to graduate from colleges at the same rate as their white counterparts, but this hardly indicates that they were less qualified and thus came to doubt their abilities once admitted to schools that were 'above their level' thanks to affirmative action. After all, at several top colleges, including all of the Ivy League schools, black and white graduation rates hardly differ.

Furthermore, even when the rates of matriculation differ widely there is no reason to suspect stigma or that these students of color were over their head academically. For example, even black students with SAT scores of 1400 or better (out of 1600)--academically 'qualified' to attend any school--fail to graduate from their chosen colleges at rates that are up to nine times higher than their white counterparts. Since they were clearly capable students, other factors must be to blame, among them, hostile racial climates or feelings of isolation on mostly white campuses (both of which have been documented by years of studies), and financial concerns that are more common for people of color.

Indeed, as Dalton Conley documents in his groundbreaking book, Being Black, Living in the Red, once family economic status, including wealth and asset background, is controlled for (and thus, only truly similar black and white students compared), there is no racial difference between blacks and whites in terms of college graduation rates. So whatever graduation gaps do exist can be explained by economics, not stigma associated with affirmative action.

And finally, one has to wonder why no similar concern arises over white self-esteem? After all, the history of white America has been a history of affirmative action; one in which we received non-stop preferential treatment and continue to do so. Yet do those who shed crocodile tears over the stigmatizing effects of affirmative action for people of color likewise argue that whites who benefit from preferences, or have done so in the past, have been stigmatized?

Is George W. Bush stigmatized because his daddy got him into Yale? Are the white baby-boomers who are currently inheriting nearly $10 trillion of property and wealth from their parents--wealth that was accumulated under conditions of formal apartheid with its attendant preference for whites--stigmatized by receipt of said wealth? If so, when are they going to relinquish the wealth in the name of their mental health, and if not, why not, if 'upreference'u is inherently stigmatizing? Will these conservatives now seek to raise the inheritance tax, perhaps to 100 percent, so as to save trust fund kids years of expensive therapy for their damaged self-esteems?

Bottom line: if black and brown folks are being stigmatized by affirmative action, whites must be the most self-hating bunch around. Years of racial privilege must surely have brought us to the point of near paralysis, such that it quite literally boggles the mind to contemplate how we manage to persist in our daily routines at all.

But luckily there is a solution--a way for whites to safeguard our self-images, made evident by a recent study, which found that job applicants with white-sounding names are fifty percent more likely to be called in for an interview than those with black-sounding names, even when the applicants are of identical qualifications. Given the unfair preference for those who appear to be white, and the stigma that must therefore assault every Biff, Skyler or Chloe, forced to wonder if they got their jobs due to their lily-white names, perhaps the critics of racial preferences should start a campaign for whites to change our names to Tamika, Shamika, Andre and Tyrone, just to even things out a bit and avoid the damage that would otherwise come from an unfair head start.

Lamont W. Bush. Yeah, that ought to do it.

Tim Wise is an essayist, activist and father. He can be reached at timjwise@msn.com

Whites Swim in Racial Preference

Ask a fish what water is and you'll get no answer. Even if fish were capable of speech, they would likely have no explanation for the element they swim in every minute of every day of their lives. Water simply is. Fish take it for granted.

So too with this thing we hear so much about, "racial preference." While many whites seem to think the notion originated with affirmative action programs, intended to expand opportunities for historically marginalized people of color, racial preference has actually had a long and very white history.

Affirmative action for whites was embodied in the abolition of European indentured servitude, which left black (and occasionally indigenous) slaves as the only unfree labor in the colonies that would become the U.S.

Affirmative action for whites was the essence of the 1790 Naturalization Act, which allowed virtually any European immigrant to become a full citizen, even while blacks, Asians and American Indians could not.

Affirmative action for whites was the guiding principle of segregation, Asian exclusion laws, and the theft of half of Mexico for the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny.

In recent history, affirmative action for whites motivated racially restrictive housing policies that helped 15 million white families procure homes with FHA loans from the 1930s to the '60s, while people of color were mostly excluded from the same programs.

In other words, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that white America is the biggest collective recipient of racial preference in the history of the cosmos. It has skewed our laws, shaped our public policy and helped create the glaring inequalities with which we still live.

White families, on average, have a net worth that is 11 times the net worth of black families, according to a recent study; and this gap remains substantial even when only comparing families of like size, composition, education and income status.

A full-time black male worker in 2003, makes less in real dollar terms than similar white men were earning in 1967. Such realities are not merely indicative of the disadvantages faced by blacks, but indeed are evidence of the preferences afforded whites--a demarcation of privilege that is the necessary flipside of discrimination.

Indeed, the value of preferences to whites over the years is so enormous that the current baby-boomer generation of whites is currently in the process of inheriting between $7-10 trillion in assets from their parents and grandparents--property handed down by those who were able to accumulate assets at a time when people of color by and large couldn't. To place this in the proper perspective we should note that this amount of money is more than all the outstanding mortgage debt, all the credit card debt, all the savings account assets, all the money in IRAs and 401k retirement plans, all the annual profits for U.S. manufacturers, and our entire merchandise trade deficit combined.

Yet few whites have ever thought of our position as resulting from racial preferences. Indeed, we pride ourselves on our hard work and ambition, as if somehow we invented the concepts.

As if we have worked harder than the folks who were forced to pick cotton and build levies for free; harder than the Latino immigrants who spend 10 hours a day in fields picking strawberries or tomatoes; harder than the (mostly) women of color who clean hotel rooms or change bedpans in hospitals, or the (mostly) men of color who collect our garbage.

We strike the pose of self-sufficiency while ignoring the advantages we have been afforded in every realm of activity: housing, education, employment, criminal justice, politics, banking and business. We ignore the fact that at most every turn, our hard work has been met with access to an opportunity structure to which millions of others have been denied similar access. Privilege, to us, is like water to the fish: invisible precisely because we cannot imagine life without it.

It is that context that best explains the duplicity of the President's recent criticisms of affirmative action at the University of Michigan. President Bush, himself a lifelong recipient of affirmative action--the kind set aside for the rich and mediocre--recently proclaimed that the school's policies were examples of unfair racial preference. Yet in doing so he not only showed a profound ignorance of the Michigan policy, but made clear the inability of yet another white person to grasp the magnitude of white privilege still in operation.

The President attacked Michigan's policy of awarding 20 points (on a 150-point evaluation scale) to undergraduate applicants who are members of underrepresented minorities (which at U of M means blacks, Latinos and American Indians). To many whites such a "preference" is blatantly discriminatory.

Yet what Bush failed to mention were the greater numbers of points awarded for other things, and which have the effect of preferencing whites to the exclusion of people of color.

For example, Michigan awards 20 points to any student from a low-income background, regardless of race. Since these points cannot be combined with those for minority status (in other words poor blacks don't get 40 points), in effect this is a preference for poor whites.

Then Michigan awards 16 points to students who hail from the Upper Peninsula of the state: a rural, largely isolated, and almost completely white area.

Of course both preferences are fair, based as they are on the recognition that economic status and even geography (as with race) can have a profound effect on the quality of K-12 schooling that one receives, and that no one should be punished for such things that are beyond their control. But note that such preferences--though disproportionately awarded to whites--remain uncriticized, while preferences for people of color become the target for reactionary anger. Once again, white preference remains hidden because it is more subtle, more ingrained, and isn't called white preference, even if that's the effect.

But that's not all. Ten points are awarded to students who attended top-notch high schools, and another eight points are given to students who took an especially demanding AP and honors curriculum.

As with points for those from the Upper Peninsula, these preferences may be race-neutral in theory, but in practice they are anything but. Because of intense racial isolation (and Michigan's schools are the most segregated in America for blacks according to research by the Harvard Civil Rights Project), students of color will rarely attend the "best" schools, and on average, schools serving mostly black and Latino students offer only a third as many AP and honors courses as schools serving mostly whites.

So even truly talented students of color will be unable to access those extra points simply because of where they live, their economic status and ultimately their race, which is intertwined with both.

Four more points are awarded to students who have a parent who attended the U of M: a kind of affirmative action with which the President is intimately familiar, and which almost exclusively goes to whites. Ironically, while alumni preference could work toward the interest of diversity if combined with aggressive race-based affirmative action (by creating a larger number of black and brown alums), the rollback of the latter, combined with the almost guaranteed retention of the former will only further perpetuate white preference.

So the U of M offers 20 "extra" points to the typical black, Latino or indigenous applicant, while offering various combinations worth up to 58 extra points for students who will almost all be white. But while the first of these are seen as examples of racial preferences, the second are not, hidden as they are behind the structure of social inequities that limit where people live, where they go to school, and the kinds of opportunities they have been afforded. White preferences, by being the result of the normal workings of a racist society, can remain out of sight and out of mind, while the power of the state is turned against the paltry preferences meant to offset them.

Very telling is the oft-heard comment by whites, "If I had only been black I would have gotten into my first-choice college."

Such a statement not only ignores the fact that whites are more likely than members of any other group--even with affirmative action in place--to get into their first-choice school, but it also presumes, as anti-racist activist Paul Marcus explains, "that if these whites were black, everything else about their life would have remained the same." In other words, that it would have made no negative difference as to where they went to school, what their family income was, or anything else.

The ability to believe that being black would have made no difference (other than a beneficial one when it came time for college), and that being white has made no positive difference, is rooted in privilege itself: the privilege that allows one to not have to think about race on a daily basis; to not have one's intelligence questioned by best-selling books; to not have to worry about being viewed as a "out of place" when driving, shopping, buying a home, or for that matter, attending the University of Michigan.

Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, essayist and lecturer. Send email to timjwise@msn.com.

Misreading the Dream

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that someone as oft-quoted as Martin Luther King Jr., might occasionally have his words misinterpreted, misunderstood, or taken out of context. King's status as something of a secular saint only magnifies the willingness and desire of writers, academics, political commentators, and elected officials to expropriate King's words to advance one or another agenda.

Nowhere is the tendency to "play the King card" more apparent than in the claim by dozens of contemporary writers and theorists that King's principal goal was "color-blindness" and that he viewed the development of such a legally codified visual disability as the avenue by which racism would best be attacked.

To support this view, these writers rely principally on one line, from one speech--and it's not only the most famous line delivered by King, but also one of the few most folks have probably heard: namely, the one from the 1963 March on Washington, wherein King proclaimed his "dream" that one day persons "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

For many, this is proof that King, were he alive today, would oppose race-conscious policies like affirmative action, since, after all, such efforts require targeted outreach, recruitment, and hiring goals for people of color previously locked out of opportunity in education, employment, and contracting.

Shelby Steele, in his 1990 best-seller "The Content of Our Character" presents a harsh critique of affirmative action efforts, claiming they have "done more harm than good" and implying that King would agree. Steele seeks to prove this not only with reference to the Dream speech, but also by recounting a 1964 presentation in which King implored black youth to "run faster" to get ahead: the implication being that King was an apostle of self-help and hostile to special efforts to provide full opportunities to people of color.

Clint Bolick--one of the leading critics of affirmative action--writes in his 1996 book, "The Affirmative Action Fraud," that King did not seek "special treatment" for blacks, and, as with Steele, mentions the "content of their character" remark as justification for his position. Tamar Jacoby, in her 1998 offering "Someone Else's House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration," says King's "dream" was color-blindness. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, in "America in Black and White," make the same claim as part of their critique of race-conscious programs, as do Terry Eastland, in "Ending Affirmative Action," and Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines, in "Reaching Beyond Race," who say "the civil rights movement...took as its ideal a truly colorblind society, where, as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, our children would be judged..." by you know what.

Even writers not particularly hostile to affirmative action often make the same argument. Consider John David Skrentny's historical survey of race-conscious programs, "The Ironies of Affirmative Action," in which the author writes: "Martin Luther King believed in color-blindness and...also sensed that affirmative action would be counterproductive to the long-range goals of civil rights groups."

Similarly, Richard Kahlenberg--whose book "The Remedy" calls for a reorientation of affirmative action from a race to a class focus--argues the move to race-conscious affirmative action was a "changed direction" by the civil rights movement, after King's assassination, and that this shift has pushed America "further than ever from King's vision of a color-blind society."

Perhaps the most extensive articulation of the notion that the modern civil rights movement has betrayed King by supporting affirmative action comes from Dinesh D'Souza in his 1995 book "The End of Racism."

D'Souza says affirmative action "seems to be a repudiation of King's vision, in that it involves a celebration and affirmation of group identity." He then claims "black leaders are the strongest opponents of King's principles," which he defines as the doctrine that "race should be ignored and we should be judged on our merits as persons." Oddly enough, despite the faint praise for King's "vision," as he understands it, D'Souza then calls for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguably the crowning legislative achievement of the movement King led.

Yet, despite the wealth of literature claiming that Dr. King principally sought color-blindness and would have opposed affirmative action, an examination of his writings makes such a position difficult to maintain. From the beginning, King placed responsibility for the nation's racial inequality squarely on whites.

In a 1956 article, collected in James Washington's superbly edited collection, "Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.," King said that whites had "rejected the very center of their own ethical professions...and so they rationalized" the conditions under which they had forced blacks to live.

And in his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963), King specifically criticized white ministers and white moderates, who he faulted for being "more devoted to 'order' than to justice," and whom he said were perhaps more of a barrier to true freedom for blacks than the Klan.

In short, King was hardly color-blind. He was clear as to who the victims, and who the chief perpetrators of racism were, and he said so forcefully.

King was even more clear on so-called "preferential treatment"--what we now typically refer to as affirmative action. Although it is true that King called for universal programs of economic and educational opportunity for all the poor, regardless of race, he also saw the need for programs targeted at the victims of American racial apartheid.

In 1961, after visiting India, King praised that nation's "preferential" policies that had been put in place to provide opportunity to those at the bottom of the caste system, and in a 1963 article in Newsweek, published the very month of the "I Have a Dream" speech, King actually suggested it might be necessary to have something akin to "discrimination in reverse" as a form of national "atonement" for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. The most direct articulation of his views on the subject is found in his 1963 classic "Why We Can't Wait," in which King noted:

"Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up."

In his 1967 volume, "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?," King was even more explicit when he said "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis."

In a 1965 Playboy interview, King spelled out what "something special" might entail, and it was far more substantive than affirmative action. In fact, King stated his support for an aid package for black America in the amount of $50 billion. As King explained:

"...for two centuries the Negro was enslaved and robbed of any wages--potential accrued wealth which would have been the legacy of his descendants. All of America's wealth today could not adequately compensate its Negroes for his centuries of exploitation and humiliation."

Although some might consider the differing interpretations of King's views regarding affirmative action or color-blindness to be mere debate, the fact is that the claims of King's hostility to any race-conscious effort--claims which are evidently counter to his true beliefs--have had an impact on public policy and the national debate over affirmative action. For example, during the ultimately successful campaign in California to eliminate racial "preferences," supporters of Proposition 209 conjured the image of King repeatedly and, until criticized by the King family, had been planning to air a TV spot showing the "content of their character" segment of King's "Dream" speech.

According to Lydia Chavez, in "The Color-Bind: California's Battle to End Affirmative Action," the voiceover for the ad said: "Martin Luther King was right. Bill Clinton is wrong to oppose Proposition 209. Let's get rid of all preferences."

Similarly, Louisiana Governor Mike Foster eliminated certain affirmative action programs in that state upon taking office in 1996. According to Ellis Cose in "Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World," as Foster signed the legislation outlawing a handful of race-conscious programs, he noted: "This just says we've got to be color-blind...Dr. King believed all men should be judged by their character, not by the color of their skin."

Foster went so far as to say that he "could find nothing in King's writing" that would indicate King would have disagreed with his actions that day, leading one to wonder just how much of King's work the governor had actually read.

Of course, in the end, how people feel about affirmative action or other race-conscious efforts to remedy the legacy and ongoing problem of discrimination is up to them. No one should assume that simply because Dr. King appears to have supported such efforts that this necessarily makes King, and those who support affirmative action today, correct. But it is telling that so many feel the need to link their views to King in an attempt to roll back such programs; to claim the mantle of moral authority provided by the words of this particular individual. It is an indication of how powerful a figure King remains, even 35 years after his death. But at the very least, regardless of the debate over the legitimacy of affirmative action, it seems only fair to insist that we present King's views honestly and completely and not attempt to use his words for purposes he would have found unacceptable.

Tim Wise is an antiracist essayist, lecturer and activist. He can be reached at timjwise@msn.com.

Affirmative Inaction

The war on drugs never came to my college dorm. Not because of insufficient enemies in sight -- for indeed there were plenty -- but rather because the drug war has rarely ever made its way to the cloistered residences of mostly white, well-off private school co-eds. Too busy busting the black and brown in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, I guess, to make a stop Uptown, where the Tulane freshmen on the 8th floor of Monroe Hall were busy filling up two foot bong chambers with pot smoke, and then inhaling until our eyes rolled back in our heads.

It's not like the drug warriors didn't know we were there. They've seen the studies on college drug use; they know what's going on in the dorms, in the frat houses, and in the cramped college apartments. The campus cops know, the Administration knows, and the city police know too. They know but they don't care; for the white and economically-advantaged, drugs have been essentially decriminalized for a long time.

Back in high school even, weekend parties at the homes of fellow white brethren would be routinely visited by police who had received a noise complaint. Although I find it hard to believe that they could have missed either the underage drinking or the smell of pot smoke hanging in the air, never once did they search anyone, raid the house, or make a bust. They would ask us politely to turn down the music, hop in their cruisers, and head down to the 'hood to arrest some folks who had made the mistake of doing their drugs somewhere other than our party.

Or on the road following the Grateful Dead in 1990 (don't ask): a traveling pharmaceutical warehouse if ever there was one. Everyone knew that the falafel stand was a front; that there was hash in the brownies; that nobody dances like that who isn't dosed out of their mind. But when I slid quietly into the beat-up Chevy in the parking lot to purchase my daily supply of psilocybin (hallucinogenic mushrooms, for those who don't know), I never worried about whether the dealer was a cop. After all, it was the Grateful Dead and the crowd was white; surely there had to be some black folks in Louisville to shake down; maybe a LL Cool J show to bust up.

Oh sure, I know there are some white college kids who have been busted in drug raids; and yes, some have even done time. I know one of these folks myself actually; arrested at a different University than my own for selling acid -- lots of it. And yes he went to prison; and now he's out; and he's the President of a company just five years after his release from the joint. Note to self: if I ever decide to sell drugs, make sure to be rich first, so I can have a nice range of opportunities waiting for me upon my release. I'm already white, so I figure I'm halfway home.

This is all to say that if we're going to understand the implications of the war on drugs, we have to go beyond the standard analysis. It's one thing, after all, to note the costs of this war to people of color -- and many writers have done a marvelous job of that, including Silja Talvi in this issue -- but it's quite another to recognize the flipside of that cost: that for every black or Latino or American Indian casualty in the drug war, there are thousands, or indeed millions of white folks who broke the same laws, did the same drugs, sold the same merchandise, and yet the closest they've been to a prison cell is watching OZ on a flat-screen TV.

Even in the midst of the insanity that is the war on drugs, there is white privilege. Not just class privilege -- for there are plenty of middle class black and brown folks wearing prison blues and plenty of poor and working class whites whose indulgence of narcotics gets ignored -- but race privilege. The kind of privilege that keeps one from being suspected (despite the studies that show whites are equally or more likely to use drugs than blacks and Latinos); keeps us from getting searched (despite the fact that according to the Department of Justice, whites are twice as likely as blacks to have drugs in our cars when we are searched); keeps us from getting arrested; and keeps us from going to jail. At the worst, it's off to rehab: 28 days and out; and then it's back to that two-foot bong; back to poppin' X at the club; back to makin' pipes out of Pepsi cans -- anything to get high. Crazy shit. And everyone knows it and looks the other way.

White privilege: the same privilege that makes Amsterdam a hip, bohemian, cosmopolitan hangout for world travelers looking for a good high; but renders South Central L.A. -- where you can also score some pretty good shit -- a place that white folks are afraid to even look at on a map. Not hip, not cool, and definitely not a tourist destination.

White privilege: the same privilege that renders low-income black folks "crackheads" in the eyes of much of white America while characterizing low-income whites as innocuous "Joe Six-packs" -- a reference to a nice, legal drug -- no matter how much of the hard stuff these folks ingest.

Not that I'm suggesting a new front for the drug war, of course. It's just that so long as we allow a public policy to criminalize entire generations of youth of color, while ignoring the equally illegal proclivities of their pale-skinned counterparts, we not only guarantee that the war on drugs can never succeed (since it's tough to win a war when you ignore 76% of the folks whose behavior classifies them technically as the adversary), but we also further entrench racial inequity and de facto apartheid in the criminal justice system. Indeed, this apartheid extends far beyond the justice system, since a drug conviction severely diminishes a person's prospects for future employment, stable families, and even a person's ability to participate in civic life as a voter.

It's important to quantify this kind of thing. Anecdotes are nice, of course: they illustrate points, and I've got lots of 'em. Like the fact that I saw more drugs on the high school competitive debate circuit in one month than I ever saw in an entire year, working in public housing as a community organizer.

But anecdotes can't make points of their own accord. So it's more effective, in some ways, to take a look at the statistics on who gets arrested for drugs, and compare that to the available data on who actually uses drugs, or sells them. By doing so, we can not only gain insight into the devastation wrought upon people of color by the drug warriors, but can also begin to quantify the numbers of whites whose presence in the free world, and without an arrest record, is merely a matter of racial preference: affirmative inaction, if you will, on the part of law enforcement.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 6.4% of whites and 6.4% of blacks, age twelve and older, are current drug users; so, too, for 5.3% of Latinos that age. This translates into approximately 10.7 million whites, 1.9 million blacks, and 1.3 million Latinos who have used drugs in the past month. Whites are 76% of current users, while blacks are 13.5% and Latino/as are 9.2% of current drug users. Combined, these people of color comprise less than 23% of all drug users, but over the past several years, have come to represent 90% of all persons sent to jail or prison for a drug possession charge.

Beyond percentages, what does this mean? Look at it this way. In 2000, there were a little more than one million arrests for drugs in the United States. Most of these arrests resulted in state or local drug charges, although there were also about 33,000 federal drug arrests. While the federal arrests were almost all for distribution and manufacture, the state and local level cases were overwhelmingly for mere possession. Indeed, roughly 75% of all drug arrests annually are possession arrests. This means that in 2000, there were essentially 750,000 arrests for possession alone.

Of the total, thirty-five percent of those arrested (roughly 350,000) were African American. If seventy-five percent of these were for possession, this means that approximately 263,000 blacks were arrested in 2000 for possession alone; this, despite being less than 14% of users (and thus, possessors of narcotics at any given moment).

In that same year, data tells us that whites were a little over 64% of all persons arrested for drugs. But there's a problem: namely, those the government classifies as "Hispanic" are rolled in with the white folks. Furthermore, given what we know from federal drug arrest data (where Hispanics arrested are looked at separately), the percentage of Latinos arrested for drugs is well above their share of the racially-"white" population, and well above their share of actual drug offenders. Even if we assume that Latinos are only arrested for drugs at a rate that is double their share of the population (a conservative guess given federal data where they comprise nearly half of all arrests), this would mean that at roughly eleven percent of the 12-and-over "white" population, Latino "whites" would represent at least twenty-two percent of drug arrests: roughly 220,000. Of these, at least three-quarters (or 165,000) would be for possession alone.

This would leave approximately 447,000 drug arrests of non-Hispanic whites, or 43% of the total arrests for drugs in 2000. Of these, 335,000 or so would be for possession alone. In other words, the group that comprises 76% of all drug users would represent well under half of all possession arrests.

If we assume that the various law enforcement agencies have the resources to arrest 750,000 people each year for drug possession, calculating the privilege of being a white user isn't very difficult. If enforcement followed relative rates of violation, more than three-quarters of those busted would be white. That would mean 570,000 white folks arrested each year for drug possession, as opposed to the 335,000 currently arrested: a difference of 235,000 whites every year, not being arrested, not getting a record, not being prosecuted, and not facing jail time, irrespective of their actions. By the same token, there would be only a little more than 100,000 blacks busted for possession each year: a number that is less than four-tenths as large as the 263,000 African Americans actually getting popped for possession. For Latinos, enforcement based on rates of violation would bring less than 70,000 possession arrests annually, as opposed to the low-ball estimate of 165,000 for 2000.

Imagine what this kind of reality would do for the complexion of the burgeoning jail and prison industry; what impact it would have on common stereotypes of criminality and drug use in particular.

Even among drug dealers, evidence suggests that blacks are only 16% of persons who sell drugs, while whites (including Hispanics) are 82%. Even if we make the absurdly high estimation that half of that white total is ethnically Hispanic, this would still mean that around four in ten dealers are Caucasian. Yet, at the federal level, where most of the distribution arrests are made, only one-fourth of those busted are white. Over the course of the last decade, that would mean that tens of thousands of whites who sold drugs escaped notice, arrest and long-term confinement.

Over the course of the nearly two-decades-long war on drugs, it is no exaggeration then to suggest that a few million white people have benefited directly from the racially-selective prosecution of said war. That is the measure of white privilege: a measure that has allowed those millions to continue to lead their lives, make money, get educations, start families and maintain them, vote for candidates for political office who will pass laws relating to drug policy, and generally escape the stigma that comes with a mug shot and prison ID number.

That's millions of white people, every bit as guilty as those of color, but who by virtue of their freedom -- a gift from a justice system that ignores their wrongdoing -- have been able to make hundreds of millions of dollars in income, and accumulate wealth, property, and additional advantages, relative to the equally substantial million or so who are black and brown and have been unable to accumulate the same because they instead have been labeled drug felons.

Indeed, much of white America owes damn near everything we have to the existence of racism as the framework for the War on Drugs. Without it, we'd be doing time.

That said, does white America really want to end institutional racism? Are we really prepared to give up the advantages to which we have grown accustomed? Do we really want to be treated as merely individuals? Or do we deep down want to be treated like members of a group -- so long as the group is the one being afforded the free pass?

Are we prepared for what ending the war on drugs would mean, including forcing us to actually compete for jobs and college slots, and homes with an awful lot of people who up to now have been viewed as surplus, and written off? After all, a hundred thousand or so less blacks carted off to jail each year is a hundred thousand or so who will suddenly become available to move next door or date your daughter. And we know how most white folks feel about that.

And if it's too much to think about, we can always just pop another nitrous oxide canister, or hook up a gas mask to the two-foot bong (because two feet, after all, just isn't enough) and bake ourselves into oblivion. Who's going to stop us, after all?

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based writer, lecturer and antiracism activist. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

Israeli Repression and the Language of Liars

Webster�s New World Dictionary defines democracy as, among other things, �the principle of equality of rights, opportunity and treatment, or the practice of this principle.� Keep this in mind, as we�ll be coming back to it shortly.

Now, imagine that the United States abolished our Constitution, or perhaps had never had one to begin with. No Bill of Rights. No guarantees of things like free speech, freedom of assembly and due process of law.

And imagine if Congress passed a law stating that the U.S. was from this point forward to be legally defined as a Christian nation. As such, Christians would be given special privileges for jobs, loans, and land ownership, and Christians from anywhere in the world would be given preference in immigration, extended automatic citizenship upon coming to America.

Furthermore, political candidates espousing certain beliefs -- especially those who might argue that we should be a nation with equal rights for all, and not a �Christian nation� -- were no longer allowed to hold office, or even run for election.

And imagine that next month, laws were passed that had the effect of restricting certain ethnic and religious groups from acquiring land in particular parts of the country, and made it virtually impossible for members of ethnic minorities to live in particular communities.

And imagine that in response to perceived threats to our nation�s internal security, new laws sailed through the House and Senate, providing for torture of those detained for suspected subversion. This, on top of still other laws providing for the detention of such suspects for long periods of time without trial or even a formal charge against them.

In such a scenario, would anyone with an appreciation of the English language, and with the above definition in mind, dare suggest that we would be justified in calling ourselves a democracy?

Of course not: and yet the term is repeatedly used to describe Israel -- as in �the only democracy in the Middle East.� This, despite the fact that Israel has no constitution; despite the fact that Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, providing special rights and privileges to anyone in the world who is Jewish and seeks to live there, over and above longtime Arab residents. This, despite the fact that Israel bars any candidate from holding office who thinks the country should be a secular, democratic state with equal rights for all. This, despite the fact that non-Jews are restricted in terms of how much land they can own, and in which places they can own land at all, thanks to laws granting preferential treatment to Jewish residents. This, despite that fact that even the Israeli Supreme Court has acknowledged the use of torture against suspected �terrorists� and other �enemies� of the Jewish state.

For some, it is apparently sufficient that Israel has an electoral system, and that Arabs have the right to vote in those elections (though just how equally this right is protected is of course a different matter). The fact that one can�t vote for a candidate who questions the special Jewish nature of the state, because such candidates can�t run for or hold office, strikes most as irrelevant: hardly enough to call into question their democratic credentials.

The Soviet Union also had elections, of a sort. And in those elections, most people could vote, though candidates who espoused an end to the communist system were barred from participation. Voters got to choose between communists. In Israel, voters get to choose between Zionists. In the former case, we recognize such truncated freedom as authoritarianism. In the latter case, we call it democracy.

If giving names like "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Just Cause" to deadly military offensives is not sufficient to indicate that the English language is dead, this should pretty well prove the point. If what we see in Israel is indeed democracy, then what does fascism look like?

I�m sorry, but I am over it. As a Jew, I am over it. And if my language seems too harsh here, that�s tough. Because it�s nothing compared to the sickening things said by Israeli leaders throughout the years. Like Menachem Begin, former Prime Minister who told the Knesset in 1982 that the Palestinians were �beasts walking on two legs.� Or former P.M. Ehud Barak, who offered a more precise form of dehumanization when he referred to the Palestinians as �crocodiles.�

Speaking of Barak, for more confirmation on the death of language, one should examine his April 14 op-ed in the New York Times. Therein, Barak insisted that democracy in Israel could be �maintained," so long as the Jewish state was willing to set up security fences to separate itself from the Palestinians, and keep the Palestinians in their place. Calling the process �unilateral disengagement,� Barak opined that limiting access by Arabs to Israel is the key to maintaining a Jewish majority, and thus the Jewish nature of the state. That the Jewish nature of the state is inimical to democracy as defined by every dictionary in the world matters not, one supposes.

Barak even went so far as to warn that in the absence of such security fences, Israel might actually become an apartheid state. Imagine that: unless they institute separation they might become an apartheid state. The irony of such a statement is nearly perfect, and once again signals that words no longer have meaning.

Interestingly, amidst the subterfuge, other elements of Barak�s essay struck me as surprisingly honest -- much more honest, in fact, than anything he had said while Prime Minister, during which time he supposedly made that �generous offer� to Arafat about which we keep hearing. You know, the one that would have allowed the maintenance of most Jewish settlements in the territories, and would have restricted the Palestinian state to the worst land, devoid of its own water supply, and cutoff at numerous chokepoints by Israeli security. Yeah that one. The one that has been described variously (without any acknowledgement of the inconsistency) as having offered the Palestinians either 93 percent, or is it 95 percent or maybe 96 percent or perhaps 98 percent of the West Bank and Gaza.

In the Times piece, Barak finally came clean, admitting that Israel would need to erect the fences in such a manner as to incorporate at least one-quarter of the territories into Israel, so as to subsume the settlements. So not 93 percent, or 96 or 98, but at best 75 percent, and still on the worst land. Furthermore, the fences would slice up Jerusalem and restrict Arab access to the Holy Basin and the Old City: a direct swipe at Muslims who seek access on a par with their fellow descendants of Abraham.

That this was Barak�s idea all along should surprise no one. And that such a �solution� would mean the final loss for the Palestinians of all but 17 percent of their pre-Israel territory will likely not strike many in the U.S. media or political elite as being terribly unfair. If anything, we will continue to hear about the intransigence of the Arabs, and their unwillingness to accept these �generous offers,� which can only be seen as generous to a people who have become so inured to human suffering that their very souls are in jeopardy.

Or to those who have never consulted a dictionary -- which defines generous as: �willing to give or share; unselfish; large; ample; rich in yield; fertile.� In a world such as this, where words have lost all meaning, we might as well just burn all the dictionaries.

Sometimes, the linguistic obfuscation goes beyond single words and begins to encompass entire phrases. One such example is the oft-repeated statement to the effect that �Jews should be able to live anywhere in the world, and to say otherwise is to endorse anti-Semitism.� Thus, it is asked, why shouldn�t Jews be able to settle in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem?

Whoever says such a thing must know of its absurdity beforehand. The right to live wherever one chooses has never included the right to live in someone else�s house, after taking it by force or fraud. Nor does it include the right to set up house in territories that are conquered and occupied as the result of military conflict: indeed, international law expressly forbids such a thing. And furthermore, those who insist on the right of Jews to live wherever they choose, by definition deny the same right to Palestinians, who cannot live in the place of their choosing, or even in the homes that were once theirs.

Needless to say, many Palestinians would like to live inside Israel�s pre-1948 borders, and exercise a right of return in order to do so. But don�t expect those who demand the right for Jews to plant stakes anywhere we choose to offer the same right to Arabs. Many of these are among the voices that insist Jordan is �the Palestinian state,� and thus, Palestinians should be perfectly happy living there. Since Palestinians are Semites, one could properly call such an attitude �anti-Semitic� -- seeing as how it limits the rights of Semitic peoples to live wherever they wish -- but given the transmogrification of the term �anti-Semitism� into something that can only apply to Jew-hatred, such a usage would seem bizarre to many.

The rhetorical shenanigans even extend to the world of statistics. Witness the full-page advertisement in the New York Times placed by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which ran the same day as the Barak op-ed. Therein, these supposed spokespersons for American Judaism stated their unyielding support for Israel, and claimed that the 450 Israeli deaths caused by terrorism since the beginning of the second intifada, were equal to 21,000 deaths in the U.S. from terrorism, as a comparable percentage of each nation�s overall population. Playing upon fears and outrage over the attacks of 9/11, the intent was quite transparent: get U.S. readers to envision 9/11 all over again, only with seven times more casualties!

Of course, if one were at all concerned with honesty, one might point out that the numbers of Palestinian non-combatant (that is to say civilian) deaths, at the hands of Israel in that same time period, is much higher, and indeed would be �equal to� far more than 21,000 in the U.S., as a comparable share of respective populations. To be honest to a fault would be to note that the 900 or so Palestinians slaughtered with Israeli support in the Sabra and Shatilla camps during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, would be equal to over 40,000 Americans. Even more, the 17,500 Arabs killed overall by Israel during that invasion would be roughly equivalent to over 800,000 Americans today: the size of many large cities.

In a world where words still had meaning, such things might even be considered "terrorism."

Ariel Sharon once said, �A lie should be tried in a place where it will attract the attention of the world.� And so it has been: throughout the media and the U.S. political scene, on CNN in the personage of Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the pages of the New York Times.

And in my Hebrew School, where we were taught that Jews were to be �a light unto the nations,� instead of this dim bulb, this flickering nightlight, this barely visible spark whose radiance is only sufficient to make visible the death-rattle of the more noble aspects of the Jewish tradition. Unless we who are Jews insist on a return to honest language, and an end to the hijacking of our culture and faith by madmen, racists and liars, I fear that the light may be extinguished forever.

Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, educator and writer. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

The Invisible Whiteness of the Olympic Beer Riot

So what's the deal with white folks and beer? I mean, I love a good Nut Brown Ale, and have been known to sample at least a couple of the local brews in each town I visit. But really now, is maintaining a buzz so central to one's existence that being denied the opportunity should result in violence?

Case in point: Salt Lake City, where in the waning hours of the Winter Olympics, white folks who were turned away from a local "beer garden" decided to take out their frustrations on cars, cops and each other.

That the coverage of the Olympic "beer riot" was decidedly different than that for any riot ever led by people of color goes without saying. News reports of the events in the land of Mormon discussed the violence in a whimsical, bemused fashion, on a sort of "gee, don't they have anything better to do" kind of tip -- as opposed to the preachy and scared shitless tone reserved for black and brown folks who act up in such a fashion. And of course the mere labeling of the phenomenon as a "beer riot" in the first place is instructive. With apologies to the National Rifle Association, beer doesn't riot, people riot. Specifically, people who are desperate for beer riot -- white people, to be precise.

Naturally, the racial identity of the Salt Lake rioters passed without mention in the press, and probably without notice by most Americans, in a way it most assuredly would not have -- in fact never does -- when the shoe is on a darker foot. When "they" tear things up and attack police we call them thugs and animals. But when we do it, we're just "hooligans," or perhaps "out of control youth," caught up in the moment. But lest one think otherwise, it should be noted that this latest incident is but another in the never-ending string of riots by my pale-skinned brethren, upset by our inability to procure cheap highs when we want, where we want.

Since the mid-'90s, white riots have occurred on more than twenty college campuses, mostly as the result of crackdowns on underage drinking or earlier closing times for local bars. Whites also have taken to rioting as the result of college football or basketball games. Unlike people of color, who at least choose important issues to raise hell over -- like police brutality, poverty and racism -- we whites lose our minds over the twin oppressions of cover charges and midnight last-calls. And you think blacks have it rough?

Funny thing is, white folks have been rioting over beer for a long time; indeed, this is pathology with a pedigree.

In 1715, two warring political factions in England brawled in the streets, during what became known as the Mug-House Riots, named for the Taverns at which loyalists to the House of Hanover -- the opposition to King James II -- would gather to drink. When the King's minions made the mistake of congregating at the same pub, all hell broke loose.

In Germany, frequent riots occurred between 1844 and 1910, in response to attempts by the brewmeisters to fix prices for their potions. The worst of these occurred in Munich in 1848, and the Bavarian riots of 1844 were so renowned that Freidrich Engels -- Marx's esteemed colleague -- made them the subject of an article he penned as a correspondent for The Northern Star.

In Chicago, the election of reactionary Mayor Levi Boone in 1855 led to the biggest beer riots in the U.S. during that period. Boone was rabidly anti-German and anti-Irish, viewing both as foreign parasites, and drunken ones at that, in the body politic. His decision to raise liquor license fees by 600 percent and to ban drinking on Sundays touched off protests and then all out street-warfare. A similar "Lager Riot" that year took place in Indianapolis.

More recently, there were the Cleveland beer riots of 1974, as well as the multiple campus beer riots at places like Colorado, the University of Oregon, Washington State University, Southern Illinois University, and Penn State among others in the last few years. While people of color have been keeping things relatively calm, with flare-ups only in a few cities like Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, or Los Angeles, whites are rioting somewhere in America every three to four months. But of course no one notices, as we become conveniently color-blind in the face of dysfunctional behavior by members of the dominant group.

Or more to the point, we are quick to downplay its significance or even excuse it. In the wake of riots at Michigan State and Colorado University, neighbors in the riot zone and local police sought to "reach out," to attempt to "understand their frustrations," referring to the students who had just trashed their streets.

Students at the University of Oregon claim that the "iron fist" of campus police (presumably being applied to them in a fashion no different from that experienced by Blacks and Latinos in South Central L.A.) is the main cause of the riots. Sharing a level of frustration that must rival that experienced by Rodney King, one white male victim of police abuse exclaimed, "The police just roll around in their squad cars looking for parties to break up." One female student there recently called campus police "a box of shit," which one supposes is just the white middle class version of rap group NWA's "Fuck Tha' Police." Make way for KWA: Kappa Kappa Gammas With Attitude.

In 1999, one columnist for the University of Idaho student newspaper explained that beer riots were understandable. After all, "We look at the two parties running the country and see little difference. We don't feel like political involvement is worth the trouble. So when we have problems with the system, they fester until something snaps." In other words, unless Ralph Nader builds that mass movement pretty quick, thereby breaking the two-party duopoly as he calls it, look out America -- more beer riots are on the way!

The columnist then likens the crackdown on his campus peers to the criminalization of black and brown youth in inner city America, and concludes, "Sometimes we drink to excess, it's true ... (and) there are definitely better ways to handle our problems with the cops than rioting. But with politics inaccessible to most of us, we have few options ... As long as cops keep up their crackdown on youth, beer riots will continue."

By that logic, the public housing projects of this country -- which are home to many youth being cracked down upon by police (and sent to prison, as opposed to merely having their kegger disrupted) -- should be aflame with Colt 45 Malt Liquor mayhem. Were that logic expressed by a black man or Latino, it would be heard as a dangerous call for permanent insurrection, instead of a merely laughable rationalization for decidedly apolitical violence.

And taking the white-college-student-as-victim trip to truly dizzying, orgiastic heights of inanity, Julian Heicklen (a State College, Pennsylvania candidate for Jury Commissioner) explained in a campaign speech at Penn State last fall that because of campus police, "Centre County has become Mississippi of the 1950's. Penn State students are its niggers." From limited campus parking to efforts to curb drinking and drug use, the university had created a virtual police state, to hear Heicklen tell it. Imagine: they actually arrested him for smoking pot at a PSU football game, after he announced that he was doing it over a battery-powered bullhorn! Surely anyone can see the similarities between his treatment and that of Emmett Till. Mississippi indeed.

But at least help is on the way. To deal with the problem of binge drinking at colleges -- a behavior engaged in nearly three times as often by white students as others -- the Feds have been throwing around grant money for anti-binging education campaigns. At Michigan State, home to the largest and probably drunkest campus riot of recent memory, over $150,000 was distributed for such efforts. And who will be in charge of the money and the program? Why, the University's fraternities and sororities, of course! Which is sort of like giving the CIA millions of more dollars for the purpose of combating terrorism. Which we also just finished doing.

It's enough to drive you to drink, or perhaps to even drive drunk! Which is also mostly a white thing (over 80 percent of all drunk drivers are melanin deprived). By the logic of racial profiling, any day now we should see roadblocks leading into white suburbs and checkpoints for white college students returning to the school parking lot after a hard night of Fuzzy Navels at the "Drink or Drown" party.

Then again, don't count on it. For whites, drinking and rioting are merely two more things we can do without facing the risk or stigma encountered by people of color who might do the same things. Two more indicia of privileges in a sea of daily advantage to which we have grown accustomed and can now afford to take for granted. Yes, even our good time is an indication of the inequalities that beset our nation; even our partying is implicitly political, wrapped up in symbolic meaning, power differentials and blindness to both.


Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, educator and writer. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com

Selective Indignation over bin Laden Video

The reviews came in quickly. And to no one's surprise, the verdict was "two thumbs down."

"Can you believe how ruthless this man is? How cold blooded?"

"That monster has no regard for human life."

"What kind of person laughs about the deaths of thousands of innocent people?"

These are but a few of the righteously indignant comments heard over the course of the last two weeks: the reactions of journalists, U.S. political leaders, and everyday folks to the recently aired Osama bin Laden tape. Therein, bin Laden appears to take credit for the atrocities of 9/11 and to cavalierly dismiss any moral concerns about the loss of life involved.

To the extent the tape is an accurate translation, it is certainly a disgusting display of ethical depravity. But really now, did we need grainy VHS footage to demonstrate that Osama bin Laden was a thug? Or was its dissemination primarily for the purpose of re-inflaming the American public?

Of course there is nothing so true about indignation as the simple fact that it's usually applied in a highly selective fashion. So it was easy to condemn the horrific rationalizations for brutality offered up by Soviet Commissars or their proxies during the cold war, for example, but much more difficult to apply the same moral calculus to the statements of America's allies: often brutal dictators whose regimes we supported no matter how many innocent civilians they butchered, tortured or "disappeared."

Certainly there is little reason to doubt that if someone had trained a video camera on U.S. clients like Duvalier, Marcos, Somoza, Pinochet or Suharto, we would have had the chance to be regaled with dismissive rationalizations of murder from them as well. Inhumanity, cruelty and barbarity, as it turns out, have never been deal-breakers for gaining the support of the United States government, after all.

What is of course interesting -- or at least would be to a nation insistent on something so mundane as consistency -- is how Americans react with horror to the cold, calculating comments of bin Laden, and yet brush aside (or better yet, fail to even learn about) the equally cold, calculating ways in which their elected officials and other U.S. spokespersons have regularly dispensed with human life, absent so much as a twinge of remorse.

After all, are the things bin Laden said really any more morally troublesome than the comments of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright? Remember, it was Albright who explained, also on camera, that even though roughly half-a-million children in Iraq had died from U.S. sanctions and bombing, ultimately, this cost was "worth it."

In fact, the calculation that civilian deaths are "worth it" has a healthy pedigree, even extending to the Bush family itself. While George W. might become apoplectic at the dismissive manner in which Osama bin Laden shrugs off innocent lives, one doubts that he has ever lectured his father about the same thing. This, despite the fact that when Poppa Bush was asked whether capturing Manuel Noriega had been worth the deaths of the thousands of innocent Panamanians killed by U.S. forces in 1989, he responded that while "every human life is precious," ultimately "yes, it has been worth it."

Are we to suppose that merely mouthing the words "every human life is precious," somehow makes the acceptance of mass killing less objectionable? More decent? Or instead, might not such a schism between what we say and what we do be even more disconcerting than similar pap spewing from the lips of bin Laden? At least Osama isn't a phony.

As we bask in our rage over the bloodthirsty ruminations of our current Public Enemy Number One, perhaps we should also be willing to roll the tape, so to speak, on any number of equally disturbing comments by red, white and blue Americans.

Like the U.S. soldiers who bombed Iraqi forces even after they had surrendered on the field of battle in Operation Desert Storm -- a certifiable war crime -- and laughed about their actions, calling the strafing "a turkey shoot," and likening it to "shooting fish in a barrel." As one of America's finest put it: "It's the biggest Fourth of July show you've ever seen. And to see those tanks just �boom,' and more stuff keeps spewing out of them ... it's wonderful."

Or how about Ed Korry, Ambassador to Chile in 1973, when the U.S. sponsored the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, and replaced it with one of the most brutal dictatorships in the hemisphere's history? Prior to Allende's victory, Korry was on record as saying: "Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty."

Or what of former Undersecretary of State, U. Alexis Johnson? In 1971, as the U.S. seared the Laotian countryside with phosphorous bombs and napalm, killing tens of thousands of civilians, Johnson described the slaughter as "something of which we can be proud as Americans." He explained further that, "what we are getting for our money there is, I think, to use the old phrase, very cost effective."

Or how about Robert Martens, who served in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at the time of the Indonesian coup that brought Suharto to power in 1965, and resulted in the mass murder of roughly 500,000 people? In discussing how the CIA provided the Indonesian military with a list of suspected subversives to assassinate, Martens noted: "It really was a big help to the Army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment." Little doubt that the head of al-Qaeda would second that emotion.

Then there's Fred Sherwood, a former CIA pilot who was involved in the U.S.-led coup that overthrew the elected government of Guatemala in 1954. Later he took up residence in the country and became President of the American Chamber of Commerce there. In the late 1970's, as the United States continued its two-decade long support of death squads and military dictators, Sherwood could think of nothing wrong with their murderous deeds: "Why should we be worried about the death squads? They're bumping off the commies, our enemies. I'd give them more power ... The death squad -- I'm for it ... Shit!"

And last but not least, what should we make of Dan Mitrione? Mitrione was the former head of the U.S. Office of Public Safety in Uruguay. In that capacity, Mitrione's job appears to have been instructing Uruguayan police and military officials on how to torture their political enemies more effectively. His favorite slogan, according to those with whom he worked, was "the precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect." Since torturers need to practice their craft, Mitrione would instruct his students to kidnap homeless beggars off the streets, so that he could test out all manner of torture devices on them, including electric shock to the genitals. Once he was finished with these torture models, they were routinely murdered.

And yet in 1970, when Mitrione was himself kidnapped and killed by an Uruguayan rebel group, Secretary of State William Rogers attended his funeral, as did Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis, who staged a benefit for the family. White House Spokesman Ron Ziegler said of Mitrione, that his "devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world will remain as an example to free men everywhere."

Yes indeed, the willingness to snuff out human life with absolutely no remorse or sense of guilt goes back a long way. At the risk of spoiling the patriotic mood, one might recall that the founding of this nation was dependent on the butchering of millions of indigenous people, who were typically dispatched gleefully by those "settlers" and pioneers who saw fit to steal their land. So too were we dependent on the stuffing of black bodies into the cramped bowels of slave ships, utterly indifferent as to how many would die on the long trip from Africa to the Americas. And millions did, while others laughed about it.

Ruthless? Cold-blooded? No regard for human life? To be sure, these statements describe Osama bin Laden, and on that we can all agree. But so too do they describe far too many of our own leaders, our own political and military elites. Unless and until we show as much interest in condemning this kind of bloodthirsty rhetoric from all quarters, and not just those defined for the moment as our adversaries, we will continue to stand as hypocrites to the rest of the world. We will continue to be seen as a people who don't mean what we say. Or rather, as a nation that applies one standard of morality to ourselves, and a completely different standard to everyone else. And still we wonder, "why do they hate us?"

Tim Wise is a writer, lecturer and antiracist activist. He can be reached and footnotes for this article can be procured from him at tjwise@mindspring.com.

The Validity of Anti-War Criticism

Imagine the following. You live in a community that has been experiencing a serious upsurge in crime. The possibility of being victimized is an ever-present reality, and previous attempts to solve the crime problem in the neighborhood have failed. Frustrated by this fact, local officials announce that beginning tomorrow, police will have permission to shoot anyone they suspect of criminal activity, on sight. No questions, and no arrest necessary. No need to even present proof of guilt to a magistrate -- mere suspicion or circumstantial evidence will do. Sure, some innocent people might be killed, but if so, that would be an accident. Hopefully, say the local officials, this response will deter criminals and return the neighborhood to safety.

And let's say that you find this new policy to be wrongheaded to the point of absurdity. Yet, let us also assume that you aren't really sure what needs to be done to stem the crime problem. You feel certain that shooting people at the drop of a hat won't work, but frankly aren't prepared to offer an alternative to this newly announced "Dirty Harry" approach. In such a situation, would it be inappropriate for you to object? To say that such a plan is not only morally repugnant, but guaranteed not to work, and perhaps to even make things worse, by reducing overall respect for the rule of law? Must you maintain your silence unless and until you have a "better idea?" Or if you do issue a critique, should it be taken less seriously just because you don't yet know exactly what might work better?

I would suspect that most would say no to all of the above questions. Despite not being sure how best to solve the crime problem, it would be perfectly appropriate, and indeed incumbent upon you as a concerned citizen, to say "stop" to a proposal that you found ethically and practically indefensible. Though it would be good, as a practical matter, for you and others to sit down and attempt to devise a workable anti-crime plan, doing so should certainly not be viewed -- nor would it likely be viewed -- as a prerequisite to criticizing other plans with which you disagree.

Likewise, if you were rushed to the emergency room with dangerously elevated blood pressure, and the attendant physician pulled out a canister of leeches to administer a bloodletting treatment, it would be fine for you to object, even though, never having been to medical school, you really couldn't say what the appropriate treatment might be.

Yet, despite how readily most would agree with the above propositions, it appears the same logic is not understood when it comes to discussing the bombing of Afghanistan. Repeatedly, since first writing in opposition to the extant war -- both on moral and practical grounds -- I have heard from persons who insist that unless I have a better plan to address the problem of terrorism, my criticisms of the current strategy are ipso facto invalid. Even if my detractors agree with the futility of the Administration's approach, they seem to think that "doing something," even if it might be wrong, is better than doing nothing. And they seem to feel that we haven't the time to actually think things through, deliberate, gather better intelligence, and only then, take action.

What's more, now that these same folks can point to the fall of the Taliban and the death of one of bin Laden's henchmen as positive outcomes of bombing, they feel especially emboldened to criticize anyone who has opposed the war, especially if they feel such persons to have offered no alternative methods to achieve such presumably splendid results as these.

Truth be told, of course, there actually have been alternatives to bombing and war proposed by those of us in opposition to such approaches. That the persons demanding that we provide such alternatives haven't seen them can only be the result of having not looked very hard. From the outset we have been calling for an international law approach that would involve presenting evidence of responsibility to the UN Security Council, a concerted global crackdown on terrorist financial networks and, if necessary, approval of limited but targeted police action, involving special forces, designed to go in, find the guilty parties and capture them. Such actions would be an international version of what the U.S. itself did in bringing the 1993 Trade Center bombers to trial, as well as those involved in the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Additionally, there are any number of better security measures we could adopt, none of which would require the sweeping impositions on civil liberties that are part and parcel of the new anti-terrorism bill. Air marshals, reinforced cockpit doors, and improved screening and oversight of airport security would all make a difference, and indeed would have prevented the events of 9-11 from happening in the first place. Additional measures, including comprehensive access to health care services as protection against bio-terrorism, and the elimination of vulnerable and dangerous nuclear power facilities would also boost security.

But the mere mention of one's opposition to bombing sends more than a few into fits of apoplexy. As for the international law approach alluded to above -- which has been fleshed out in greater detail on any number of antiwar websites -- those who have bought into the Bush/Blair solution to terrorism merely shrug. Surely you can't be serious, they say. How would that possibly work? What authority does the UN have?

Of course in some ways they're right. The UN's authority and ability to act is limited, in no small part because the U.S. has consistently eschewed using it as a vehicle to enforce international norms of behavior. We have done this, of course, because to accede to UN authority would require that we follow international law. And that's something we've never been too good at: from mining Nicaragua's harbors, to bombing Libya, to supporting Israel's occupation of the West Bank in total opposition to UN resolutions for the past thirty-plus years.

But no matter how imperfect an internationalist approach might be, there is simply no reason to think it would be any less effective than carpet-bombing. Especially when one considers the likely backlash the latter approach could engender, as compared to the almost non-existent risk of it in the former case. That such an approach hasn't been tried is not because it couldn't work to catch terrorists. Rather, it is because catching terrorists is not the point of Operation Enduring Freedom. Its point is to project U.S. military power, to demonstrate our willingness to use such power and to make clear that, as the current President's father once said, "What we say goes."

In fact, the nightmare scenario for George W. would have been for the Taliban to have captured and turned over each member of Al Qaeda (assuming this was something they could have done in the first place) before the first shot was fired. We rejected their offer to turn over bin Laden to a third country, not because we thought they were bluffing, but because we were afraid they weren't. Trying him in a court of law wouldn't rank high enough on the bad-ass-ometer that seems to matter so much to the President, with his "dead or alive" rhetoric and "let's roll" punch lines. It wouldn't satisfy the "nuke the bastards" contingent. In short, it wouldn't do much for Georgie's re-election chances.

Now some would say that we simply didn't have the luxury of this more peaceful but also more time consuming approach. With other terrorists likely planning imminent attacks on our shores, we had to act quickly, decisively, immediately.

But consider the illogic of such a statement. If indeed there are additional confederates of bin Laden planning imminent attacks, there is little reason to think they would still be in Afghanistan, if in fact they were ever there. They would most likely already be in the U.S., or hiding out some place until they could sneak into the country. So bombing the Taliban into the Pleistocene couldn't possibly do anything to minimize the risk of an actual pending attack, already far along in the planning process.

And if, on the other hand, there were no ongoing and imminent plots underway, there would be no reason to rush into military action; or at least, no reason to do so if the real goal of such action was to diminish the threat of terrorism.

Much as the U.S. was able to wait several months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and carefully plan our response, without diminishing our security or "inviting" another attack -- the fear so many have today -- so too could we have deliberated, planned and carefully honed our response in the instant case. That we didn't has nothing to do with strategy and everything to do with a culture that has become far less patient over the past half-century. In a nation of channel-surfers and short attention-spans, where "Just Do It" is more a national mantra than mere shoe-marketing slogan, anything that takes time is considered unworthy of the support of folks locked into a fast-food and microwave mentality.

So the decision to bomb Afghanistan, while definitely "doing something," hardly amounts to doing something that is related to the goal most Americans have in mind. And none of those who have lambasted me for opposing it has been able to offer one shred of logic, to say nothing of evidence indicating that the Al Qaeda would be significantly damaged by pummeling that particular nation. They haven't even tried, in fact.

The fear that understandably has gripped so many in the U.S. since 9-11 has prompted them to latch onto anything, any remedy for terrorism, no matter how hollow, no matter how unlikely to work it may be. Not willing to seek out alternatives, or think critically about better methods for addressing the problems themselves, they rush to support anything that is offered by those in power; those whom they sincerely believe to have their best interests at heart. So when some of us criticize the methods of those the people trust, we become the targets of personal attack. We become appeasers and supporters of terrorism. We become the enemy.

The simple truth is, even if we who oppose bombing and war didn't have any alternative suggestions about how best to handle terrorism, our critiques would still be legitimate and worthy of consideration. Bad policy is bad policy, and should be resisted. Good alternatives are important to develop, but one should not have to wait until one has thought of such a policy, before raising one's voice to oppose that what one finds objectionable. Bad policy unquestioned could result in the deaths of tens of thousands, if not millions of people.

Perhaps instead of criticizing those who critique the war, those who feel the U.S. must do "something," should spend a little less time watching CNN or Fox News, and a little more time Web surfing to discover what war critics actually believe. That they won't likely do this is not because discovering such views is particularly difficult, but rather, because doing so would require acknowledgement that the war hasn't actually made them safer, and that safety will require thought-out solutions to terrorism, long-term and short-term policy changes, and diplomacy. Since it's so much easier to drop explosives, many Americans would rather not hear this. We want the solution that is easy and quick. But as H.L. Mencken once said, the solutions that are short and simple are also invariably wrong.

Tim Wise is a writer, lecturer and antiracism activist. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

Playing the WWII Card

Traveling through airports, as I often do, can prove to be quite an educational experience. Therein, one can engage in people watching, examine the culinary habits of corporate types and tourists, and occasionally gain insight into the mindset of one's fellow citizens -- or at least some of them. This one can do in any number of ways: eavesdropping on conversations is among my favorites, followed closely by the far less intrusive practice of examining the reading materials of other passengers, or noting which books are on the racks in the bookstores and newsstands that litter America's concourses.

Since the events of Sept. 11, entirely new dimensions have been added to the already fascinating ritual of commercial air travel. Longer lines, men with guns in camouflage, and almost constant discussion of airline safety, terrorism, and the war currently underway have become standard fare.

Perhaps it was like this even before 9/11, but lately it seems as though every guy in every plane I' ve been on is reading either a Tom Clancy novel, or one or another book by flag-waving historian, Stephen Ambrose. The hot sellers at the airport bookstores, and indeed bookstores in general, are tales of wartime heroism, with retrospectives on World War Two and the so-called "Greatest Generation" leading the pack.

This bodes well for the Bush Administration, which needs the public to continue thinking about victory and the triumph of good over evil (a constant in Ambrose's history offerings and Clancy's provincial spy stories), especially as the war on Afghanistan drags out, and weeks go by with no terrorists "brought to justice."

Listening to commentators and everyday folks discuss the current war in Central Asia, one gets the distinct impression that Americans are in fact desperate for another "greatest generation." And naturally, when the search for a new "greatest generation" swings into full gear, as it seems to have done recently, said search almost invariably focuses on military heroism. Having been fed the tales of wartime glory ever since middle school history classes, most Americans have a hard time imagining greatness decoupled from soldiering. Still reeling from the debacle of Vietnam, and not convinced that our outing in Iraq was such a great idea, many seem genuinely relieved to see their nation fighting what to them appears to be the first "just war" since World War Two.

That many are going out of their way to conjure up the justness of World War Two so as to propel the extant battle raging in Afghanistan is readily apparent. Within the first few hours after the 9/11 attacks, commentators were likening them to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Since then, Ambrose has been among the most sought after "experts" to offer analysis on network news programs, despite the fact that he has no background in the area of terrorism. And ever since writing my first criticism of the current bombardment, my email has been inundated by folks who insist that massive retaliation can work. As proof they offer up what else but World War Two: after all, it sure humbled Japan and Germany now didn't it? And whatever bombing doesn't accomplish can, according to others, be vouchsafed by way of a reconstruction of the nation after we're done strafing it, a la the Marshall Plan efforts expended to rebuild Europe after, you guessed it, World War Two.

But in truth, the world and the current situation in which we find ourselves are quite different than in the 1940's.

As for the Pearl Harbor analogy, it fails on many levels. The bombing on Dec. 7 was an act of aggression by one nation against another, with an instigator whose assets were identifiable, and whose targets for retaliation were easily located. Not so with the attackers of Sept. 11, whose identity and connections are murky, though we know that none of them were from the nation we are now pummeling, nor did most apparently spend any real time there.

Secondly, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the U.S. as well, thereby making clear another sworn enemy. But this time, no nations -- including those that have previously sponsored Islamic terrorism and that despise the U.S. -- have declared war on us or made common cause with Osama bin Laden. Nor are they likely to do so.

This alone makes overuse of the Pearl Harbor analogy flawed and dangerous: after all, if we are to truly view 9/11 as analogous to that prior incident of infamy, then should we also be willing to do what was done in the wake of that attack: namely, incinerate hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians as was done in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And would we be willing to do this, even though this time around the enemy targets are not to be found merely or even mostly in the place we are attacking?

And there are further flaws in the comparisons made between this war and the fight against the Nazis and Japanese. Back in the day, our force was applied against national governments. Once crushed, they were out of commission, and victory could be assured. But today, the adversary is a pan-Islamic, transnational network. Destroying Afghanistan might prevent that nation from attacking the U.S. But as they never had done so in the first place, this hardly seems an outcome for which we should be willing to kill even one innocent civilian. Meanwhile, the current bombing cannot logically be expected to have much effect on reducing the danger posed by al-Qaeda, few of whose members actually live in Afghanistan, and who hardly need that nation's particular support for terrorist training camps in order to continue operations.

Unlike Japan and Germany, al-Qaeda could rebuild camps in any number of the other 63 countries where they have operatives, many of which have harbored their members every bit as much as has the Taliban. For that matter, they could continue hanging out in Afghanistan after the Taliban is crushed, especially if our pals the Northern Alliance come to power. After all, the last time the Alliance was in control of the country, its leader granted Afghan citizenship to a number of al-Qaeda operatives with ties to bin Laden.

In fact, with information technology spreading so rapidly, they could plan and plot future attacks via the internet, without even having to set up base camps in remote mountain passes. And their steady stream of recruits would only be likely to increase the longer we continue to bomb Muslims, contributing to the refugee crisis, and "accidentally" killing entire families as has already been done, even by State Department admission.

As for the promises of reconstruction after the bombing stops -- a favorite of liberals who seek to justify Operation Enduring Freedom by supporting a new "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan -- there are any number of reasons why such a promise is empty.

First off, there has been no such promise made, nor is one likely. With budgets tightening, it is doubtful that voters will be happy with the idea of writing the kinds of checks to the post-war regime that we would have to write if we were serious about true reconstruction.

Secondly, we haven't the cultural attachment to Central Asia that we had to Europe in the wake of World War Two. The American public -- white folks in particular -- wanted to rebuild Europe because that was where they were from. But the dominant majority in the U.S. has neither the cultural, racial or religious affinity for Afghans that we had and still have for Europeans.

Most importantly, the adversary in this so-called war on terrorism operates in about one third of the nations on Earth, and heavily so in more than a dozen. Thus, to successfully reconstruct a truly vanquished enemy we would have to first destroy that enemy completely -- as was done in World War Two -- and that would require more or less leveling a number of those nations: something we aren't going to do even if we could. Furthermore, by crushing (or re-crushing) Afghanistan, and then rebuilding it, we might please the Afghan people enough to keep them from attacking us, but again, they never did so to begin with. And why would al-Qaeda members, who are mostly Saudi, Egyptian, Sudanese and Pakistani, give a rat's ass about our rebuilding of a nation where they don't live anyway?

It's interesting to hear war supporters hearken back to World War Two so as to justify the current operations in Afghanistan. On the one hand, the President says this is a "new war," that will be fought with "new weapons," and that will be unlike any previous conflict in which the U.S. has found itself. And yet on the other hand, those pushing for the prosecution of this "new war," are falling back not only on the usual weapons (cluster bombs and cruise missiles -- very original), but the usual rhetoric as well: Pearl Harbor, massive retaliation, reconstruction.

So desperate are we as a nation for a "good" war -- one that will make us feel happy to wave the flag again -- that we are willing to overlook the obvious differences between this conflict and the last one that most folks consider truly just. So desirous are we of a new "Greatest Generation," that we seem willing to rush into military action no matter the consequences; no matter the likely anger such actions will engender, thereby increasing, not reducing terrorism; no matter the innocent civilians we will snuff out in the process.

We say we want safety. But really, what we seem to want is a rejuvenated patriotism that can paper over our fears, even as it does nothing to make us safe. Perhaps if we had instilled the idea that greatness could come from peacemaking, diplomacy, and international cooperation -- instead of merely "kicking ass," as many prefer -- we wouldn't have come to such a pathetic point in our history, where projecting power is more important than increasing security. Where image is more important than reality. Where we think we can sell anyone on anything if we just put the right package together. And where in the U.S., at least so far, we have.

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based writer, lecturer and antiracist activist. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

The Racism of American Warmongering

Well, it looks as if the good people of the rural U.S. should be breathing a sigh of relief right about now. After all, with the President and most Americans itching to bomb any place where terrorists might be hiding, one can only imagine the kind of wrath that would have been brought down upon the heads of folks in Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming or Mississippi had the guilty parties been white boys with crew-cuts, like Tim McVeigh.

All this talk of "Kill the Arabs," "carpet bomb 'em back into the stone age," or "get the ragheads" would have to have been replaced with "Kill the Crackers," "bomb 'em back to the 'Dust Bowl,'" and "get the trailer trash."

But the fact is, we all know that such a scenario would never have transpired, and not because white boys aren't capable of inflicting mass death. They certainly are. McVeigh proved that, if for some folks Hitler, Stalin, Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson and Dick Nixon weren't sufficient to make the case. But rather, because the folks who are so quick to collectivize the responsibility and the payback when the perps are dark-skinned or "foreign," are just as quick not to do so when white boys are the ones committing mass murder or engaging in terroristic activities. In the wake of Oklahoma City, none of the people who are now calling for war against Afghanistan even suggested targeting white supremacist groups and militias for destruction, let alone bombing the cornfields of "middle America" in the hopes of taking out a few anti-government types.

Bottom line: enemies who look different, speak a different language, or practice a different religion are lots easier to view as the "other." As somehow cutoff from the common humanity of which we consider ourselves a part. And so we speak now of killing Arabs indiscriminately, of not differentiating between the guilty and the innocent (ironically, the precise mentality of whomever carried out last week's attacks), and winning a war, which we claim has been officially engaged. But we would have said none of these things had the perpetrators been internal extremists. We said none of these things about those who fit the descriptions of Tim McVeigh, or Terry Nichols. We would never have heard columnists calling for profiling of white men, the way that reactionary crank and wanna-be pin-up girl of the right, Ann Coulter, called for the same against Arabs and Muslims this week.

Actually, that wasn't all she said: she also opined that it should be the role of the United States to invade "their" countries, kill "their" leaders, and "convert them to Christianity." If these were the words of an Imam, calling for the forced conversion of Southern Baptists to Islam, we would call them the fanatical ramblings of a jihad-happy madman. But when the fashion-conscious and attractive (though clearly Snickers-deprived) Coulter says it, she finds mass support for her nuttiness, gets her call for a new round of Crusades published on the website of the National Review, and will remain a regular commentator for such paragons of journalistic virtue as Fox News.

So too Jerry Falwell, who for some unknown reason people still take seriously despite his penchant for committing random acts of serial stupidity. His latest? Laying the blame for the attacks on New York and DC at the feet of the ACLU (for "throwing God out of the schools"), "the abortionists" ("because God will not be mocked"), as well as "pagans," "feminists," and "the gays and lesbians." After offering this truly maniacal glob of pedantic crap, Falwell's partner in fundamentalist lunacy, Pat Robertson, chimed in to blame "pornography on the internet," abortion, and the removal of the ten commandments from courthouses. God, according to these twin towers of intellectual mendacity and biblically bankrupt spirituality, is "lifting his protection from us," as our comeuppance for secular humanism.

It makes me think back to what Barry Goldwater said about Falwell in 1981, when the rotund little preacher asked all "good Americans" to rise up in opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court (since, after all, the Court was no place for a lady). "All good Americans,' Goldwater intoned, 'should rise up and give Jerry Falwell a kick in the ass." Precisely, and now two decades overdue.

Funny how all the discussion of religious fanaticism among certain followers of Islam has led us to overlook the fanaticism of certain Christians who are now calling for blood. One has to imagine that if Jesus was here today they would call him a pussy for all that "turn the other cheek" stuff. And while I can't answer the question that so many self-proclaimed followers of Christ ask when they wear their "What Would Jesus Do?" armbands, I feel pretty confident that I know what he wouldn't do. He wouldn't be saying things like: "let's shove a couple dozen cruise missiles up their ass," or going out and spraypainting "Fuck Islam" on mosques, or screaming about the "sand niggers" while guzzling beer at some sports bar. And for that matter, he wouldn't be standing around chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A." at a memorial service, in an attempt to turn it into a jingoistic pep rally.

The events of the past week have brought out the best in people and the worst: on the one hand, the rescue workers, diligently seeking for any signs of life amidst perhaps a million tons of rubble; yet, on the other, the cacophony of voices calling for revenge. Oh sure, they insist it isn't about that, but rather, "justice." They insist they want more than merely the continued spilling of blood, and that striking back has more purpose than merely proving how tough we are. But ask them what that purpose is, and how they think massive military retaliation can actually make us more safe, to say nothing of the safety of others the world over, and their faces go blank, or become contorted with anger, as they shout: "well, we have to do something. We can't just sit here and let them get away with it!"

But "doing something" is not a valid pretext for unleashing war. And justice requires that we carefully consider the difference between responsible parties and innocent ones. Just as one would not think it "just" to level an entire neighborhood in search of one serial killer who might be living in the area, so too is it unjust to speak of turning much of the Arab world into a parking lot, in search of the few persons actually behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Not only would such a disproportionate response be morally suspect, it would be irresponsible from a security perspective as well. It would leave us all less safe, as millions more in the Arab world came to see the U.S. as a bully, unconcerned about innocent lives, Muslim holy sites, or world peace. And ten years hence, or maybe less, they would understandably retaliate in kind. What is most ironic about all of this, is that such a scenario -- the West and Islam locked in mortal combat -- is exactly what the Osama bin Ladens of the world have always wanted. It is a trap. A trap rejected by the vast majority of Arabs, and of Muslims wherever they may be, but one in which they too will be caught up if we take the bait.

It's really quite simple: we couldn't kill all of "them" even if doing so was ethically acceptable, which of course it isn't. And those who don't die, who would look around and see their nations leveled, their houses gone, their family members incinerated, would at that point most certainly feel that they had nothing to lose by getting even. And there is no more dangerous member of any society than the one who thinks he has nothing to lose. Desperation doesn't make for very sound judgment, whether the desperation of the immiserated in the so-called third world, or that of the most powerful, and yet often least original people on the planet.

And so what does that leave us with? The fact is, I don't know. And neither do you. And why we can't just say that, admit our frailties and uncertainties and ignorance, is beyond me. That we demand quick and easy answers is indicative of our cultural attachment to instant gratification: got a headache, take an aspirin; overweight, get liposuction; upset about something, take Prozac. Don't think, don't analyze, just do it. It is Nike slogan as national mantra. And it is the prelude to international slaughter.

No wonder so much of the world looks at America with contempt and at Americans as spoiled children. First, we train terrorists the world over, including bin Laden, because we had to "get the commies" at all costs, even if it meant supporting dictators, fundamentalists, and murderers. Then we support corrupt and brutal regimes that trample the rights of their citizens. Then we fund and support an illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and contribute to the deaths of a million or more in Iraq from bombing and sanctions. Then, we exhibit our arrogance by withdrawing from international treaties and forums when the going gets tough or issues get raised that we don't want to discuss.

This is not to say that any of these things, no matter how irresponsible or even criminal warrant an act the likes of what we saw September 11th. But there is something to be said for understanding why no one likes you. If all the other kids in the sandbox think you're a thug and a bully, then after a while you'd best stop trying to beat them all into submission, or thinking that they are the problem, and instead, begin to turn some of that analysis inward. That's what you would do, anyway, if you wanted to actually get to the bottom of the conflict on the playground. If, on the other hand, your main concern were showing what a badass you were, then maybe this wouldn't matter much to you at all. And in that case, you would set out to show those other kids who was boss, who was king of the hill. You would continue to provoke them, to attack them, and then act shocked when they hit back.

That kind of behavior is unbecoming enough when children engage in it. When adults with explosives do it, the immature becomes deadly. This is no game. There is no "winner" despite the blustery rhetoric of our frat-boy-in-chief. And unless we begin to fundamentally alter the way we as a nation operate around the world, we are in for many years of violence, and counterviolence, and empty platitudes, and flag waving, and body bags. And if that happens, it won't merely be the fault of those who attack us from outside, but also the fault of those who were the enemies of justice, equality, and peace on the inside of the American empire. There will be more than enough blame to go around.

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based writer, lecturer and activist. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

Reflections on Zionism from a Dissident Jew

So it's official. The U.S. has withdrawn from the World Conference on Racism, being held in Durban, South Africa.

Though the cynical and historically observant might suspect that this decision was merely in keeping with our longstanding unwillingness to deal with the legacy of racism on a global scale, the official reason is more circumscribed. Namely, the mid-conference pullout was intended to register displeasure at various delegates who are pushing resolutions condemning Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and Zionism itself: the ideology of Jewish nationalism that led to the founding of Israel in 1948. As the conference speeds towards a no doubt controversial conclusion, perhaps it would be worthwhile to ask just what all the fuss is about?

Although one can argue with the claim made by some that Zionism and racism are synonymous -- especially given the amorphous definition of "race" which makes such a position forever and always a matter of semantics -- it is difficult to deny that Zionism, in practice if not theory, amounts to ethnic chauvinism, colonial ethnocentrism, and national oppression.

For saying this, I can expect to be called everything but a child of God by many in the Jewish community. "Self-hating" will be the term of choice for most, I suspect: the typical Pavlovian response to one who is Jewish, as I am, and yet dares to criticize Israel or the ideology underlying its national existence.

"Anti-Semite" will be the other label offered me, despite the fact that Zionism has led to the oppression of Semitic peoples -- namely the mostly Semitic Palestinians -- and is also rooted in a deep antipathy even for Jews. Though Zionism proclaims itself a movement of a strong and proud people, in fact it is an ideology that has been brimming with self-hatred from the beginning. Indeed, early Zionists believed, as a key premise of the movement, that Jews were responsible for the oppression we had faced over the years, and that such oppression was inevitable and impossible to overcome, thus, the need for our own country.

Having never read the words of Theodore Herzl -- the founder of modern Zionism -- or other Zionist leaders, most will find this claim hard to believe. But before attacking me, perhaps they should ask who it was that said anti-Semitism, "is an understandable reaction to Jewish defects," or that, "each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews, if she doesn't want disorders in her stomach. Germany has already too many Jews."

While one might be inclined to attribute either or both statements to Adolph Hitler, as they are surely worthy of his venomous pen, they are actually comments made by Herzl and Chaim Weizmann, eventual president of Israel, and -- at the time he made the second statement -- head of the World Zionist Organization. So in the pantheon of self-hating Jews, it appears criticism, for Zionists, should perhaps begin at home.

Going back to my days in Hebrew school, I never understood the dialysis-machine-like bond that most of my peers felt for Israel. On the one hand, we were told God had given that land to our people, as part of His covenant with Abraham. This we knew because Scripture told us so. But this never carried much weight with me. After all, many Christians -- with whom I had more than a passing acquaintance growing up in the South -- were all-too-willing to point out that the Scriptures also said (in their opinions) that I was going to hell, Abraham notwithstanding.

As such, accepting Zionism because of what God did or didn't say seemed dicey from the get-go. What's more, this was the same God who ostensibly told the ancient Hebrews never to wear clothes woven with two different fabrics, and who insisted we burn the entrails of animals we consume on an alter to create a pleasing smell. Having been known to sport a wrinkle-free poly-cotton blend, and having not the fortitude to disembowel my supper and incinerate its lower intestines, I had long since resolved to withhold judgment on what God did and didn't want, until such time as the Almighty decided to whisper said desires in my ear personally. The Rabbi's word wasn't going to cut it.

On the other hand, we were told we needed a homeland so as to prevent another Holocaust. Only a strong, independent Jewish state could provide the kind of unity and protection required of a people who had suffered so much, and had lost six million souls to the Nazi terror.

Yet this too seemed suspect to me. After all, one could argue that getting all the Jews together in one place -- especially a piece of real estate as small as Palestine -- would be a Jew-hater's dream come true. It would make finishing the job Hitler started that much easier. Better, it seemed then and still does, to have vibrant Jewish communities throughout the world, than to put all our dreidels in one basket, by pulling up stakes and heading to a place where others already lived, hoping they wouldn't mind too terribly if we kicked them out of their homes.

In the final analysis, accepting Israel as a Jewish state for Biblical reasons made no more sense to me than to accept a self-identified Christian or Islamic nation: two configurations that understandably raise fears of theocracy in the heart of any Jew. And to in-gather the Jews to Israel for the sake of safety made no sense whatsoever. The only logic to Zionism then, seemed to be the "logic" of raw power: that of the settler, or colonizer. We wanted the land, and getting it would provide an ally for European and American foreign and economic policy. So with pressure applied and force unleashed, it became ours.

Nearly 800,000 Palestinians would be displaced so as to allow for the creation of Israel: around 600,000 of whom, according to internal documents of the Israeli Defense Force, were expelled forcibly from their homes. At the time, these Palestinians, most of whose families had been living on the land for centuries, constituted two-thirds of the population and owned 90% of the land. Though some Zionists claim Palestine was a largely uninhabited wilderness prior to Jewish arrival, early settlers were far more honest. As Ahad Ha'am acknowledged in 1891:

"We ... are used to believing that Israel is almost totally desolate. But ... this is not the case. Throughout the country it is difficult to find fields that are not sowed."

Indeed, the large presence of Palestinians led many Zionists to openly advocate their removal. The head of the Jewish Agency's colonization department stated: "there is no room for both peoples together in this country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries, to transfer all of them: not one village, not one tribe, should be left."

Herzl himself conceded that Zionism was "something colonial," indicating again that we were not discovering or founding anything. We were taking it, and for reasons we would never accept from others. As Shimon Peres -- seen as one of the most peace-loving Israeli leaders in memory -- said in 1985: "The Bible is the decisive document in determining the fate of our land." Such is the stuff of fanaticism, and we would say as much were a fundamentalist Christian to make the same statement about the fate of the U.S., or anywhere else for that matter.

That most Jews have never examined the founding principles of this ideology to which they cleave is unfortunate. For if they were to do so, they might be shocked at how anti-Jewish Zionism really is. Time and again, Zionists have even collaborated with open Jew-haters for the sake of political power.

Consider Herzl: a man who believed Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, and thus, only by fleeing for Palestine could we be safe. In The Jewish State, he wrote:

"Every nation in whose midst Jews live is, either covertly or openly, anti-Semitic ... its immediate cause is our excessive production of mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet downwards or upwards. When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat. When we rise, there also rises our terrible power of the purse."

He went on to say, "The Jews are carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America." Were a non-Jew to suggest that Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, our community would be rightly outraged. But the same words from the father of Zionism pass without comment.

Worse still, early in Hitler's reign the Zionist Federation of Germany wrote the new Chancellor, noting their willingness to "adapt our community to these new structures" (namely, the Nuremberg Laws that limited Jewish freedom), as they "give the Jewish minority ... its own cultural life, its own national life."

Far from resisting Nazi genocide, some Zionists collaborated with it. When the British devised a plan to allow thousands of German Jewish children to enter the U.K. and be saved from the Holocaust, David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel's first Prime Minister balked, explaining:

"If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to (Israel) then I would opt for the second alternative."

Later, Israeli Zionists would again make alliances with anti-Jewish extremists. In the 1970's, Israel hosted South African Prime Minister John Vorster, and cultivated economic and military ties with the apartheid state, even though Vorster had been locked up as a Nazi collaborator during World War II. And Israel supplied military aid to the Galtieri regime in Argentina, even while the Generals were known to harbor ex-Nazis in the country, and had targeted Argentine Jews for torture and death.

Indeed, the argument that Zionism is racism finds some support in statements of Zionists themselves, many of whom have long concurred with the Hitlerian doctrine that Judaism is a racial identity as much as a religious and cultural one. In 1934, German Zionist Joachim Prinz, who would later head the American Jewish Congress, noted:

"We want assimilation to be replaced by a new law: the declaration of belonging to the Jewish nation and Jewish race. A state built upon the principle of the purity of nation and race can only be honored and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind."

Years later, David Ben-Gurion acknowledged that Israeli leader Menachem Begin could be branded racist, but that doing so would require one to "put on trial the entire Zionist movement, which is founded on the principle of a purely Jewish entity in Palestine."

Laws granting special privileges to Jewish immigrants from anywhere in the world, over Palestinians whose families had been on the land for generations, and measures that set aside most land for exclusive Jewish ownership and use, are but two examples of discriminatory legislation underlying the Zionist experiment. As the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination makes clear, racial discrimination is:

"any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national and ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

Given this internationally recognized definition, we ought not be surprised that at a World Conference on Racism, some might suggest that the policies of our people in the land of Palestine had earned a place on the agenda. As such, we should take this opportunity to begin an honest dialogue, not only with Palestinians, but also with ourselves. Neither the chauvinism so integral to Zionism, nor the ironic self-hatred that has gone along with it are becoming of a strong and vital people. Just as a dialysis machine is no substitute for a healthy and functioning kidney, neither is Zionism an adequate substitute for a healthy and vibrant Judaism. Surely it is not for this ignoble end, that six million died.

Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, writer and lecturer.

Why Whites Think Blacks Have No Problems

Just a few years ago, a public opinion poll indicated that only 6 percent of whites in the U.S. believed racism was still a "very serious" problem facing African Americans. While larger percentages believed racism to be somewhat of a problem, only this anemic share of the white community saw it as an issue of great importance.

When you consider that twice that number -- or as many as 12 percent -- have told pollsters they believe Elvis Presley is still alive, it becomes apparent that delusion has taken on a whole new meaning among the dominant racial majority. Apparently, it is easier for whites to believe that a pill-popping, washed-up lounge singer faked his own death and is playing midnight gigs at some tropical resort, than to believe what black folks say they experience every day.

It makes me think that if ignorance is indeed bliss, then my fellow whites must be among the happiest folks on the planet.

So it was no surprise to read that once again a poll has been released, indicating that whites by and large don't think racial discrimination remains a big problem, and that whites and blacks continue to view issues of racial equality far differently.

According to the recent Gallup Survey on "Black-White Relations," seven out of ten whites believe that blacks are treated equally in their communities: an optimism with which only 40 percent of blacks agree. Eight in ten whites say blacks receive equal educational opportunities, and 83 percent say blacks receive equal housing opportunities in their communities. Only a third of whites believe blacks face racial bias from police in their areas.

Despite the fact that half of all blacks say they have experienced discrimination in the past 30 days, whites persist in believing that we know their realities better than they do, and that black complaints of racism are the rantings of oversensitive racial hypochondriacs. Blacks, we seem to believe, make mountains out of molehills, for Lord knows we would never make a molehill out of a mountain!

That white perceptions of the extent of racial bias are rooted in a stupendous miasma of ignorance is made clear by a number of salient facts. First, as will be shown below, there is the statistical evidence indicating that equal opportunity is the stuff of fiction, not documentary; and secondly, the simple truth that white perceptions of racism's salience have always been splendidly naive. Indeed, as far back as 1963, before there was a Civil Rights Act to outlaw even the most blatant racial discrimination, 60 percent of whites said that blacks were treated equally in their communities. In 1962, only 8 years after the Brown decision outlawed segregation in the nation's schools (but well before schools had actually moved to integrate their classrooms), a stunning 84 percent of whites were convinced that blacks had equal educational opportunity. In other words, white denial of the racism problem is nothing new: it was firmly entrenched even when this nation operated under a formal system of apartheid.

Of course, this ignorance of the lived realities of black people is no surprise. Rather it is in large part the result of our isolation from African Americans in daily life.

More than 80 percent of whites live in virtually all-white neighborhoods, and nearly nine in ten white suburbanites live in communities with less than 1 percent black populations. What's more, only 12 percent of whites in law school today -- who by historical standards have had more opportunity to mix with people of color than any generation before them -- say they had significant interaction with blacks while growing up.

One can only expect this degree of isolation to lead to a skewed perception of what other people experience. After all, if one doesn't know many blacks, or personally witness discrimination, it is all the more likely that one will find the notion of widespread mistreatment hard to digest. Especially when one has been socialized to give more credence to what members of one's own group say, than what the racial "other" tells us is true.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that every time a black person says they have been discriminated against that they are, in fact, correct. Individuals, after all, can misperceive certain situations. But the reality of individual misperception should not lead to the widespread white belief in mass black delusion, which is virtually the only way one can read the Gallup figures.

For so many whites to believe that blacks have equal opportunity, is not only to discount a few claims of discrimination that may be without merit: rather, it is to reject the broad swath of claims that virtually every African American can bring forth from their personal mental rolodex. Fact is, if even one-tenth of the black claims of discrimination were accurate, this would translate into well over 1.75 million instances of anti-black racial bias every single month, based on survey data. Unfortunately, it is doubtful the numbers are this small.

Though the Gallup survey didn't address racial discrimination in the labor market, there is little question that when whites say blacks are treated equally, they are also assuming this to be true for the world of work. But what is the reality? According to a recent study by the Russell Sage Foundation, even though blacks search for work longer and often more aggressively than whites, they are between 36-44 percent less likely to be hired for jobs in mostly white suburbs, even when their experience and qualifications are equal to their white counterparts. White males with a high school diploma are just as likely to have a job, and tend to earn just as much as black males with college degrees, and on average, even when age, experience, education and other relevant factors are considered, blacks average at least 10 percent less pay than similar whites.

As for education, the picture is much the same. Although formal segregation is illegal, de facto segregation remains a reality thanks to "ability tracking," which has less to do with actual ability, and more to do with racial and class bias against children of color and those from low-income families. Beginning as early as kindergarten, teachers and counselors separate students based on so-called cognitive skill levels, despite evidence that the tests used to determine these skill levels are inaccurate predictors of ability and terribly biased against students from non-dominant cultural backgrounds.

Even when black students show potential that is equal to or above that of whites, they are 40 percent less likely to be placed in advanced or accelerated classes, according to the head of the College Board. Despite evidence of ability, blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be placed in remedial or low-track classes, where they will typically be taught by the least qualified teachers, be given less challenging material to learn, and receive on average nearly 40 hours less actual instruction annually.

So too is educational inequity fostered by unequal discipline, meted out in a racially disparate manner. Even though black and white rates of school rule infractions are roughly equal, black students are twice as likely as whites to be suspended or expelled. Blacks are half of all students suspended or expelled for weapons violations, even though self-report surveys indicate whites are just as likely to bring weapons to school, and white males are actually twice as likely as black males to do so. Since blacks are more likely to be suspected -- thanks to common stereotypes about violence and delinquency -- they are the ones who get searched and caught, but this hardly means they break the rules more often.

According to studies by the Applied Research Center, the disproportionate rate of black suspensions is the result of greater punishment given for subjective infractions like "defying authority," or "attitude problems," both of which are perceived as more threatening when coming from black students than whites.

As for housing, white confidence in equal opportunity makes for nice wishful thinking, but hardly comports with reality. Virtually every study on housing bias in rental and mortgage markets for the past three decades has found evidence of substantial ongoing discrimination. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there may be as many as 2 million instances of racial housing bias each year, and as many as half of all blacks may face discrimination when trying to rent an apartment or purchase a home.

According to the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, blacks are 56 percent more likely than whites to be rejected for a mortgage loan, even after controlling for 38 factors that could explain higher rejection rates for blacks -- including issues of credit history, collateral, and income. Nationwide, mortgage loan rejection rates for the highest income group of blacks is roughly the same as the rejection rates for the lowest income whites.

Finally, white protestations that blacks receive equal treatment from police in their communities, is nothing short of laughable. A look at police prosecution of the war on drugs alone gives the lie to white claims of equal law enforcement. Though blacks are only 14 percent of illegal drug users, they are 35 percent of those arrested for possession. In many communities, including some of the ones where whites claim there is no bias in policing, blacks face arrest rates for drugs that are five, ten, even twenty times higher than the rates for whites, despite roughly equal rates of drug usage.

Though a slim majority of whites admit that racial profiling -- one clear example of unequal treatment -- does happen, apparently few believe it happens where they live. Yet in state after state, studies have found a disproportionate rate of highway and surface street stops of vehicles driven by blacks, and searches of cars driven by blacks, above and beyond the rates of black traffic infractions, which otherwise might create reasonable cause.

In New York City, from 1997-1998, the NYPD's Street Crimes Unit stopped and frisked 135,000 people: 85 percent of whom were people of color. Only 4500 persons were ultimately arrested and prosecuted, meaning that over 95 percent of those harassed were innocent. Interestingly, whites who were stopped were significantly more likely to be found with drugs or other contraband, indicating that not only was this policy of racial stops and searches a biased one, but it failed the test as valid crime control on its own merits as well.

Of course, I hardly expect the facts to matter much, as an awful lot of white folks seem impervious to them. When it comes to racial realities, the levels of ignorance are so ingrained as to be almost laughable. Perhaps that's why 12 percent of whites actually say blacks are a majority of the nation's population, and why most whites believe blacks are a third of the nation's population, instead of the thirteen percent they actually represent. We seem to see black people everywhere, and apparently we see them doing quite well.

Apparently, we even see them as our buddies. 75 percent of whites in one recent poll indicated that they had multiple close black friends. Sounds great, until you realize that 75 percent of white Americans represents about 145 million people. 145 million who say they have multiple black friends, despite the fact that there are only 35 million black people to go around.

Which means one of two things: either whites are clueless about black people, friendships, or both; or black folks are mighty damned busy, running from white house to white house to white house, being our friends. In which case, we can put away all that nonsense about blacks "taking our jobs." After all, how could blacks have time to work at all, what with all the backyard barbecues they're attending at the houses of their white pals? Hell, maybe Elvis will even invite them all to Graceland when he makes his triumphant return to Memphis.

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based writer, lecturer and antiracism activist. He can be reached at tjwise@mindspring.com.

Fear and Loathing in Suburbia

If intellectual gymnastics were an Olympic sport, we white folks would be the team to beat. Especially whites from the suburbs, who go to amazing lengths to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that their wish to steer clear of blacks in the cities isn't the least bit racist.

And the stars of the team would have to be those south suburb Chicagoans who recently voted to keep a black parish school from participating in their Catholic league athletic conference. By the time you read this, the decision in question may have been reversed, due to bad publicity. Nevertheless, there is little question that the initial vote more accurately represented the gut feelings of the persons involved.

Oh sure, there were the usual assurances that the decision wasn't racial, but based only on concern for the "safety" of white kids and moms who would have to travel to the black community of Auburn-Gresham, on Chicago's south side for games. You know how those people can be, after all: just waiting to jump Miss Daisy and Peppermint Patty as they pull up in their Jeep Cherokee.

Yet the protestations of innocence rising from the manicured lawns of the outer ring are dubious to say the least. Many of these white families are merely maintaining the tradition started by their parents three and four decades ago: whites who moved from the city as soon as blacks began moving in. Now, these second-generation refugees from post-segregation America are looking to move even farther away; to avoid even the middle-class and above blacks moving into what they consider nice, safe (read: white) communities. For most, their hang-up isn't class and it isn't crime. It's race.

Just listen to them. One caller to a Chicago columnist put it this way: "If they want to change the way white people view them, they have to clean up their own act first. Get rid of the gang-bangers, the drug dealers, and reduce the crime rates in their own neighborhoods."

The fact that black crime in the cities, including Chicago, is down dramatically in the past ten years hardly matters it seems, and has certainly not been met with a corresponding reduction in white fear.

That whites in Chicago are two-to-three times more likely to be violently victimized by another white person than by a black person apparently matters even less.

And the fact that those black drug dealers are staying in business in large part due to the drug habits of some of these suburban whites themselves -- well, that's the truth that dare not speak its name.

Or consider the musings of one white suburban mom, terrified at the thought of her freckle-faced young'uns venturing into the city: "I'm not worried about the kids we'd be playing against," she said, "But the people around the school, who knows what they would do."

Why, impale you with poison-tipped spears and eat you of course. Don't these silly people know anything?

This same mom then explained: "There are black people and then there are black people."

True enough. And by the same token, there are white people, and then there's John Wayne Gacy.

Gacy, you'll recall, was a white Chicago suburbanite who lured dozens of young white men to their deaths while their white parents were probably patting themselves on the back for getting out of the shadow of Comiskey Park, in the "dangerous" part of town.

Oh -- and not to put too fine a point on it -- but while Windy City white folk have been hyperventilating about would-be black predators on the South side, word is out that a fine, upstanding product of the mostly-white Chicago suburb of Oak Forest killed at least a half dozen women from 1995-1997.

That's right, yet another white male serial killer. And in keeping with the proud heritage of crazy white men for whom killing one person is just not enough, Paul Runge apparently fancied dismembering his victims and scattering their body parts across two states. Nice.

It makes one wonder if perhaps the black parents from Auburn-Gresham should rethink their attempts to join this league. After all, some flesh-eating, body-burying-under-the-house wingnut might be cruising the ball fields of Pleasantville. Better to stay in the 'hood, where you normally have to really piss someone off before they kill you; where no one hears voices telling them to make a soufflé out of their parents or sacrifice small woodland creatures to Satan; and where someone might notice if their child was building three dozen bombs in the house, or planning to shoot up the school.

Truth be told, racists have always found excuses for their prejudices, and not surprisingly, they have usually involved fear of black violence.

In slave times, defenders of chattel ownership insisted that white domination was needed to prevent blacks from raping white women and running wild.

Jim Crow laws too, were often rationalized as a necessary mechanism for controlling black impulses -- sexual and violent ones first and foremost.

And whites who resisted desegregation almost always conjured up images of blacks with switchblades attacking little Susie and Johnny as part of some insatiable Negro bloodlust. Yet, all would have sworn they weren't racists. They were just being "realistic." After all, "those people" really do have higher crime rates, don't they?

Well yes, if by "crime" you mean the traditional interpretation of the term: violence or property offenses committed on the street or in the home, which are punished as crimes by the justice system. Since these kinds of offenses are highly correlated with low socioeconomic status, there will be a higher rate of offending in communities of color, which thanks to the interplay of race and economic marginalization will tend to be poorer.

Then again, if we thought of crime as any behaviors that result in unnecessary death, injury and illness (like the manufacturing of faulty consumer products, as well as corporate pollution, which contributes to occupational disease and death at three times the rate of homicides), then the answer would be no. But we don't think of it that way, so we stay focused on the violence of the dark and poor, over that of the white and wealthy.

And even regular old violence and dysfunction ain't just for black people anymore (of course, it never really was, as the Crusades, lynching, Indian genocide, the theft of Mexico and a certain German dictator all pretty well demonstrated). Evidence from around the nation makes it quite clear: white folks can break the law and do damage with the best of 'em.

In California, even as felony arrests for black and brown youth have plummeted by a third since the 1970's, the rate for white adults over 30 has gone up 171 percent. There are now twice as many such whites being arrested for felonies each year in California, as there are youth of color: a complete flip-flop over the course of two decades.

Nationally, whites commit about 56 percent of all violent crime. Whites are about twice as likely as blacks to be involved in child sexual molestation (so who is the real threat to these white suburban children?) White youth are more than twice as likely as black youth to kill their own parents. White youth are more likely than black youth to use drugs, (and whites generally are far more likely to be heavy users). Whites are nearly twice as likely to drive drunk. White males are more likely to bring a weapon to school with them than black males are. And rates of criminal victimization are actually slightly higher in suburban schools than in urban ones.

(For those who think I'm making these facts up, or for those who just want more details, my email is at the bottom, and I've got a fresh set of footnotes waiting for you)

On a personal note, I attended college in one of the "blackest" cities in the U.S. -- demographically and culturally -- (New Orleans), and worked in virtually all-black public housing projects, including developments that were at that time considered the "worst" and most dangerous in the country. And I saw fewer drugs in those communities in a year than I saw in one week in my freshman dorm at Tulane University: lots of them, as it turns out, being taken and sold by guys from the Chicago suburbs.

On the other hand, when my mostly black baseball team went to a rural area outside of Nashville to play a scrimmage when I was eleven, we were surrounded by a dozen pre-pubescent, tobacco chewing shit-kickers, who threatened to beat us up. But that didn't make me judge everyone in little Joelton, Tennessee as a racist or potential assailant, any more than whites outside Chicago should make such judgments about inner city residents.

God knows: if I were going to use personal experience as a way to justify engaging in "rational discrimination," I'd be in real trouble. After all, in my lifetime, I have been held up by a black man, had my apartment broken into by two white men, been shot at from a passing vehicle in which there was a white and black man, and had my car vandalized by a veritable rainbow coalition: according to police, a team of one white, one black, and one Hispanic.

So by the logic of suburban whites around Chicago, I should be scared of damned near everyone, and should either live in Chinatown, or never leave my house.

Don't get me wrong: thanks to the steady misrepresentation of crime and violence as a black and brown thing, there have been times when I too have responded in stereotypical fashion to a person of color: with fear and insecurity. But I was also taught to think, and to separate logic from foolishness and lazy mental categorizing. Maybe that's the difference. I was taught to resist those thoughts, to combat them. Most of all, to admit that they are wrong.

Perhaps one day, whites will see black people as something other than an undifferentiated mass of social pathology. Perhaps we'll begin to think about the message we send -- not only to blacks but to our own children -- when we imply that the places where some people live are forbidden, God-forsaken, beyond the pale (pun intended) hell-holes, where it is alright for "them" to live, but not even good enough for us to visit. Perhaps we'll come to realize that the harm we do by sending that message is far more pernicious and long lasting than any threat of being carjacked in the "ghetto." In other words, perhaps one day we'll grow up.

Tim Wise is a Nashville-based antiracist activist, writer and lecturer. He can be reached at (and footnotes can be procured from) tjwise@mindspring.com. This piece was originally written for www.zmag.org.

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