So I read Tim Wise's
essay, "Your Whiteness is Showing," and wondered a coupla wonders: (1) is the phenomenon of (some) feminist Clintonites suddenly considering McCain instead of Obama only about race? (2) What effect does Wise hope to have with his essay?
The first question is an issue I think we all need to ponder. For what it's worth, I think "racist" is a rather simplistic response to the phenomenon. It doesn't explain it for me. Racism, for one thing, is rarely a response to real hurt. And I says it as shouldn't --because I don't particularly believe in the "sexist" charge (some) feminists are trying to make stick to Obama's entire campaign. Yes, I see the sexism rampant in the media, I see Obama failing to respond to the bulk of it, but I can't bring myself to buy into the Guilt by Association thang.
But while I find the charge rather specious, I refuse to pooh pooh the hurt a lot of feminists are feeling right now. I refuse to pretend it's not a real thang. So shoot me.
The second question I thought I'd pose to Mr. Wise. Herewith his response:
Well, of course, writers don't only write for a particular effect. Writers also write their truth because it needs to be said, as with any truth. Effect is derivative and nice, but not always the purpose. Secondly, the effect, as with all of my work is to challenge white racism and those who perpetrate it. That is a value in and of itself, in that it raises awareness among white folks as to what some of our number are doing, or threatening to do, which manifests whiteness, and even if it fails to convince any of the persons to whom it's directed (which is possible), it raises the awareness of other whites as to just how phony some so called white liberals can be on race. That is something that sometimes we as white folks don't see immediately. Already I've heard from many folks who have been stunned to hear their white female friends threatening to vote for McCain, and who didn't really have a conceptual framework to figure out what the hell that was about, and who now sorta get it, having read my piece, and several others that are on the web, framing it in the context of white bonding, etc. So that awareness alone can be helpful for other whites when it comes to making clear the importance of doing antiracism work among white liberal folks.
Notice anything there? Or is it just me, the 47-year-old writer and professor of composition and literature, thinking that the comments "writers don't only write for effect" and "Effect is derivative and nice" are a coupla inaccuracies slathered with a patronizing sauce?
First of all.
write for effect. First.
Even if only to get something off one's chest, the primary purpose of writing is purpose: one narrates; one exemplifies; one describes; one maps out a process; one argues. And for the story, the example, the description, the process, the argument, there is always, almost always uppermost in the writer's mind, an audience, explicit or implicit. And we always write to have an effect upon that audience. That purpose is inherent in any published
writing. One can truthfully claim effect as "derivative" (whatever that means) and "nice" only if one keeps one's writing to one's self.
If racism isn't the entire issue where the Sudden Pro-McClain Feminist Response is concerned (and it isn't), if the response isn't entirely a manifestation of "whiteness" (and it isn't), then "challenging white racism" here is only part of the job, yes? And shouldn't we*, if we're concerned with Writing Our Truth, be concerned with the entire
truth? I mean, even if we can't quite put our fingers on the thang, shouldn't we at least say that we haven't quite put our fingers on the whole thang?
I dunno. Maybe the compassion I feel for my sisters is just my
*meaning Mr. Wise, of course.Dear Jesus, Son of the living God, teach us to love the truth, even when we have to tell it to ourselves.