It’s no surprise that the left’s go-to “anti-racist activist” Tim Wise’s reaction (see below) to the Netroots Nation Sanders incident completely ignores the context in which the disruption occurred. Namely, the Clinton campaign having laid the foundation for the Sanders-as-racist smear, it has now been given new life, with the result that the one presidential candidate committed to policies which will help rather than destroy black lives, will be endlessly hounded by a media looking for any opportunity to take Sanders down. Based on his record of cluelessness or cynicism, it would be absurd to expect to Wise recognize this or the indications that this was not a spontaneous, grassroots protest of Sanders’s positions, but quite possible a planned hit, protestors having been provided “talking” points, by “handlers”, in the words of journalist Dave Weigel’s on the scene report.
In particular, it makes sense that Wise would have little interest in discussing these since he himself has willingly circulated DLC talking points. One instance, worth reviewing, is documented here, where Wise circulated smears of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, something he has never apologized for-needless to say.
Also worth noting is Wise’s flogging in his Facebook bio of the endorsement of his work by Michael Eric Dyson, now the official spokesman for a White House and Democratic Party whose contempt for black lives has one of the major, albeit ignored, themes of the Obama years. Dyson is doing yeoman service to make sure this reality will be suppressed, as is Wise himself-two peas in a pod.
Whether Wise is a fool or a cynic is a longstanding question. I tend toward the latter though will grant the explanatory adequacy of the former as well.
Wise is seen by many as merely a clown and not worth discussing, The problem is that the attitudes he expresses here are in widespread circulation among certain supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In particular, there is the assumption that any attempt to ask questions or even to criticize the wisdom of Black Lives Matter is out of bounds. We should, according to them, “respect black leadership”-even when it makes decisions which are actively destructive of black lives. As two previous postings have addressed, the capitulation of the left when confronted with reactionary black leadership defines the history of the Obama administration and was what made it a profoundly effective servant of neoliberal capital. We should have learned by now. The zombie like attitudes of Wise and his followers should by now be received with the ridicule they deserve.
Tim Wise (from Facebook)
15 hrs ·
Regardless of how one feels about the “disruption” of Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders’ sessions at Netroots Nation by Black Lives Matter activists (i.e., whether you agree with the strategy of it, or whether you think the timing was bad, or whether you like either or both of these guys’ policy stances on various issues), please understand why it was important, and why their handling of it was problematic. First, it is important that white liberals, progressives and leftists are kept honest when it comes to their commitment to racial justice. Many white folks on the left who have very strong stances on economics or the environment or militarism, for instance, don’t come out of a racial justice frame and oftentimes take those issues for granted, or think racial equity will follow from economic populism or reigning in the 1% (even though this is entirely wrong). So making sure they keep these issues front and center is important, in that it signals their understanding of the foundational element of racial justice to any truly progressive future for the country. As such, Sanders’ history from the 60s, or O’Malley’s comments about Baltimore police (who, it should be remembered, he once empowered to do exactly what they are now being rightly critiqued for) is inadequate.
And it isn’t enough to say the right things about the one issue that even Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich and the Koch Brothers are willing to speak on (mass incarceration and its dispro impact on POC) in order to be considered “down.” Racial justice is about doing something to close the unemployment gaps between POC and white folks; to end racialized tracking in schools, to end educational policies that promote the firing of veteran teachers of color and the use of standardized tests on students facing profoundly unstandardized conditions and challenges. It’s about community CONTROL of police forces, not just body cams and diversity training. It’s about stopping the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, cracking down on housing discrimination, illegalizing predatory lending, banning all racial profiling, closing the wealth gaps between whites and POC with substantive and systemic reparations (along the lines of the Marshall Plan, Homestead Act or GI Bill ). Candidates don’t have to be perfect on all these things. But to not have any real focus on them at all is not leadership in these times. It is cowardice. And it’s disrespectful. And to get pissy and defensive at the protesters rather than acknowledge their frustration, applaud it and commend them for their passion and determination and bravery is saddening beyond belief. If the white left cannot do better than this, the prospects for truly multiracial left coalitions will be nil. We cannot keep asking POC to wait, or to trust us, or to make their issues secondary to the ones we are more comfortable with. That day is done.