‘White Like Me’ film, discussion reveals need for understanding, work in America

| April 23, 2014
Chasiti Falls

Chasiti Falls

By Chasisti Falls

Special to Frost Illustrated

Thanks to Frost Illustrated being so informative, I had the pleasure of attending the “White Like Me” by Tim Wise Community Film Screening and Discussion that was held at the Indiana University South Bend Campus. The event was held April 12, simultaneously in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Muncie via webinar.

People in attendance in South Bend ranged from about six to70 years old, and it was definitely a rainbow coalition.

Who is Tim Wise?

Tim Wise is a Caucasian author. Wise, whom scholar and philosopher Cornel West calls “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (abolitionist) John Brown,” is among the nation’s most prominent antiracist essayists and educators.

Wise began his career as a youth coordinator and associate Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism: the largest of the many groups organized in the early ‘90s to defeat the political candidacies of white supremacist.

Wise is the author of six books, including his highly-acclaimed memoir, “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son,” as well as “Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority” and “Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.” His latest volume, “Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future,” was released in 2014.

“White Like Me: Race, Racism and White Privilege in America” the film, which he co-wrote and co-produced, has been called “A phenomenal educational tool in the struggle against racism,” and “One of the best films made on the unfinished quest for racial justice,” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University, and Robert Jensen of the University of Texas, respectively.

In my opinion, the film is educational, however for those who have been in the struggle there was no new information presented. This was one of the repeated comments in the discussion group I was assigned to.  The movie addressed common dominant society myths and perplexities of the American non-white society.  A major theme was defining privilege in regards to the lifestyle of the dominant society.

I was impressed that the film touched on the fact that the media has attempted to hoodwink us into believing that since Obama is in the highest position of Land that magically and effortlessly the good ‘ol USA is now colorblind. Some see the illusion that the racial problem here has been absolved. One Princeton scholar in the movie stated that America should be “color conscious” not “color blind.”

Concluding the viewing, we were provided lunch and instructed to conduct five different discussion groups that then each group representative would present a summation in front of the entire group.

George, Georgia and Allyson Williams attended the film viewing and discussion as a family. (photo by Chasisiti Falls)

George, Georgia and Allyson Williams attended the film viewing and discussion as a family. (photo by Chasiti Falls)

My group representative Caren Williams who is principal of Jefferson Intermediate Traditional of South Bend expressed that as being a woman and the youngest Principal in the district she felt it necessary to attend the viewing.

Michael Taylor (top left) attended with grandmother Samantha Hill and other grandchildren.

Michael Taylor (top left) attended with grandmother Samantha Hill and other grandchildren. (photo by Chasiti Falls)

Michael Taylor, 11, who was brought by his grandmother Samantha Hill of Osceola, Ind., shared that he doesn’t like people being called racist. He said, “…it is rude, and disrespectful I want it to stop!” He shared with me later that there is a boy in his class that has a habit of calling people racist for no reason. Michael plans to write a report of this disrespectful classmate to get him to change his ways via administration.

I hope Michael was listening to Kenn Hardy, a South Bend School administrator, as he shared his notion that “racism is man-made.”  Prejudice is something taught. No one is born racist it is all a part of their conditioning.

"Rebecca" makes a point during the discussion period.

“Rebecca” makes a point during the discussion period.

As American people, we have to acknowledge that due to our conditioning, we have an “unconscious racial bias” that we have to break the psychological chain to.

This “unconscious racial bias” leads our thought processes. Ms. Williams learned she has to catch herself to automatically trust, and have positive thoughts giving all people the benefit of the doubt, not just when she encounters people of the dominant group.  She wants to be able to look at everyone the same. She reminded the group of 1954’s Brown vs. the Board of Education Doll Test, which ironically was conducted again in 2012 with the same results.

Racism is a global problem and it is not going to be fixed overnight, but I will say for Americans to live amicably at best, we have to develop a Cultural Competence for one another. This means having an understanding of various ways in which culture of origin effects someone’s thinking, beliefs and behaviors. With this in practice we can be more effective in creating working relationships. There is vast diversity here in the U.S. and it should be embraced and understood to manifest a sense of equality.

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