Why Is Tim Wise Stamping the Anti-Racist Ghetto Passes at Teach For America

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Tim Wise specializes in talking to white people about racism. Teach For America is a major player in the elitist and racist scam to privatize public education, supplying mostly white grads of elite colleges as ghetto teacher temps. Is this a match made in heaven, or in hell?

Why Is Tim Wise Stamping the Anti-Racist Ghetto Passes at Teach For America

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Tim Wise has made a career as an author and speaker lecturing white Americans on racism. We suppose that's a good thing and that somebody's gotta do it. Mr. Wise is speaking at a major Teach For America event on July 19. How do we reconcile that with a stand against racism? We can't, and unless TFA is gonna pay Mr. Wise to tell them their entire practice and premise is elitist, evil and yes, racist, we're pretty sure he can't reconcile it either.

Teach For America is part of an elite bipartisan scam to privatize public education, starting, and perhaps ending with the inner city. TFA replaces qualified, experienced mostly black teachers who live in the communities they serve with mostly white temps, graduated from a 5 week course who will move on to Wall Street and other lucrative careers after only a couple seasons in the classroom.

Closing public schools and replacing experienced teachers with Ivy League missionary temps isn't something that's being done to wealthy white suburban public schools. It's only the prescribed remedy for school districts full of black and brown youth, and black and brown teachers. President Obama's signature education program, Race To The Top advances the privatization agenda in many ways, and one of these is by encouraging, really forcing, school districts to lay off, fire or reject new applications from experienced teachers and graduates of real teaching programs by the thousands in favor of the mostly white temps from elite schools that Teach For America and similar outfits provide.

There's no proof that TFA's missionaries improve ghetto schools. The truth is it takes years to become a competent teacher. TFA's purpose is to change the teacher workforce to temps not connected to students, their families or communities as a prelude to privatization. The last thing a school privatizer wants is a school full of qualified, experienced teachers deeply connected to the communities they serve with a tradition of collective action (that's what a union -- a real union – is) and who know how to run the joint themselves.

In perspective, it was Teach For America that gave us Michelle Rhee, as well as the current DC schools chancellor Henderson, who used to be Rhee's boss at TFA.

Selectively sabotaging the education of black children, dispersing experienced workforces of organized black teachers connected to their communities sounds like an indisputably racist policy on its face. Chicago teachers sued in federal court on that point and won. Apparently Teach For America needs somebody to stamp the anti-racist ghetto passes of it missionary workforce as they pass through the ghetto, so they've put an “anti-racism” educator and trainer on retainer.

So between now and July 18, we'll be carrying a petition, asking anti-racism educator Tim Wise NOT to stamp the ghetto passes of Teach For America. You can find it on our web site at www.blackagendareport.com/tfa.

We hope you will forward the petition widely and aggressively to all your friends and associates, lest Mr.Wise imagine that is just another unsurprising evil that black folks put up with, like pervasive surveillance. We promise not to share your information with any third parties absent your permission, and we will forward the signers list to Mr. Wise on the 18th.

If this is how “anti-racism education” works – giving cover to organizations and policies that hurt people of color more than anybody else, it might be time to re-think that whole contraption as well.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.



Same debate and characters we had 100 years ago

100 years ago this same debate went on between W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Both amazing men beyond reproach. Washington thought securing a vocational education for the poor and minority was the first step out of poverty, because that is what raised him up. He provided perfect cover for the industrialists who no longer had free labor, but still wanted cheap labor who wouldn't as critical questions. Washington was the palatable in front of corporate reform back then.   

DuBois knew that if you limited a mans education to his economic  worth you truly limited his human potential. 

Washington and the industrialists won back then, and we have been paying for it ever since. While the next generations curriculum writers, lears, politicians, etc were getting a holistic education in critical thinking, the underprivileged were getting a vocational education. 

The system has perpetuated itself ever since. The privileged class has continued to write the curriculum for the underprivileged ever since, and designed systems for them that are much different than the systems they got. 

It is repeating itself all over again, but Rhee, this guy, and other "good" liberals are the new palatable face on corporate education.

To believe modern education reform is looking out for minorities, you have to believe that all of a sudden, the Walton's, Gates, Koch's and A.L.E.C. All have th best interests of poor people in mind, when they have taken advantage of them in every other single realm of society. 

Heck, the number one thing the Walton's and Wal Mart could do for education reform is pay the parents of our kids a living wage with decent benefits. That might indicate they actually cared.

Give parents more leisure time

Yes, pay people a living wage and stop with all the "productivity" garbage.  IWW fought for more leisure time not higher wages.  That's why they are hated by the elites and almost eliminated.  In leisure is when people get to think for themselves.  Some of the most profound thinkers have been farmers who spend time looking aroun them and philosophising.  If parents had a lot of free time they could spend it with their children.  Most things can be learned outside the cages that we call schools.  It's not about shoveling even more kids into cells whether public or private.  It's giving them quality time with thoughtful people without anybody worrying about indebtedness.

Bruce, I think TW will be

Bruce, I think TW will be able to respond to this particular issue in a standard sort of way, as in "why shouldn't I talk to these people so as to influence them...?" (the whole "speaking truth to power" thing, rightly called out as a waste of time by Noam Chomsky).  He'll have a coherent and semi-defensible argument on this that will of course delete a different underlying story, which is (a) that he is endeavoring  to get himself and his family paid and (b) the way he does that ---- let's be honest --- is this whole slick white-guy's-highly-personal- and-passionate-struggle-against-racism hustle he's got going with institutions that have money. Now God knows the guy has the right to try to get paid, and savage white racism is alive and well in the USA and needs its clever and eloquent young white denouncers.  The problem is that he loses his soul ---- no matter how he protests to the contrary --- when he gets in bed (for what he mistakenly takes to be potntially progressive discussion) with dominant institutions (like TFA and the Democratic Party and the Pentagon and corporate America) and elites (God knows he got between the political sheets with the ostensibly black empire's new clothes Barack Obama and the Dems in a very unappealing way in 2008 and after that...witness his highly personal attacks on the heroic civil libertarian Obama critic Glenn Greenwald as recently as last year).  Now, I know the dilemmas involved pretty well. I was able to pay for my son's college tuition by being a white guy working as the research director basically documenting and denouncing every aspect of metropolitan racism I could discover (inspired in part by Tim's mentor the legendary white anti-racist sociologist Joel Feagin) at no-less-bourgeois an institution than the Chicago Urban League (CUL), with a whole slew of corporate ruling class directors and a CEO who lunched with corporatist Mayor Daley on a regular basis. It was a hustle, one that came with a righteous moment or two (especially the publication of The Vicious Circle, which among other things inspired Dr. Alexander's brilliant if somewhat mis-titled/mis-argued The New Jim Crow) In the end, however, I could not stand getting paid that way and I could not tolerate the insidious and clear corporatism and military imperialism and "American exceptionalism" and (curiously enough) white supremacism and patriarchalism of the major party and Wall Street-sponsored (and CUL-adored) Obama phenomenon (clear to BAR, myself and numerous actual and serious radicals from day one), to which leading PFA ("Progressives for Obama") member Tim Wise (a vociferous critic of Obama's left critics, myself included --- all of who have been born out twice over in our early take on the fake-progressive president) was willing to turn something of a blind eye...in ways that have tarnished his reputation on the left.  I think that comes in part from having no good history with the left Marxist and anti-capitalist traditions and that that is in part generational, sadly enough. My experience (and my reading of social and political history going way back) tells me it’s much better not to get paid that way, even if it means not getting paid at all. It’s better to take off the suit and tie and get with Occupy, so to speak.  When those checks stop rolling in from the powers that be, it hurts, no doubt about it, but that puts you in closer experiential contact with the folks you purport to represent, which makes you a more authentic and radical voice for the kind of hope and change that wouldn’t be “vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal” (Adolph Reed Jr. on young state Senator Obama in 1996) and “deeply conservative” (journalist Larissa MacFarquhar on Obama in spring 2007) and racism-whitewashing bullshit.  BTW I recommend Tim Wise’s piece on Obama’s insulting speech to the graduates at Morehouse last June: http://www.timwise.org/2013/05/bullying-pulpit-racism-barack-obama-and-t..., yes, that's the shit-head-of-state-to-be I started warning folks who could get past the identity politics fog about in the summer of 2004 and whom you and  Glen Ford started calling out in 2002 and 2003.

Letter to Tim Wise on Teach for America

I sent this note to Tim Wise after reading Bruce Dixon's article in Black Agenda Report and Tim Wise's response which is posted on his website.

Sean Ahern


Dear Mr Wise,

I have read Bruce Dixon’s article and your response. I gather you will not be canceling your speaking engagement with Teach For America on July 27.  What’s next?


What are you going to say to Teach for America about Teach for America? Some internal reflection there  might at least cause some defections.


Here are a few suggestions for what you might say (By the way I am a NYC public school teacher who hopes that everyone with a heart and a brain who hasn’t already cut their ties to TFA will do so shortly):

1) Michelle Rhee cheats on tests and lies about it afterwards.


2) Rhee engaged in a witch hunt against Black teachers while she was in charge of the DC school system.


3) According to an internal United Federation of Teachers (UFT) report, TFA has contributed to the decline in the hiring of Black and Latino teachers in NYC schools under the Bloomberg school dictatorship.


4) Teach for America is part of the corporate led assault on public education in the large urban centers where the majority of students negatively affected are Black and Latino.


5) There is no “crisis of education” in the US and replacing “bad” teachers with “good” teachers is a toxic “remedy” for an already false diagnosis.


6) Contrary to what Michelle Rhee says, Unions for school workers are good things and should be expanded to include independent  parent and student unions so that schools rule themselves and  may dispense with unaccountable overseers, mayoral dictatorships and condescending saviors.

Even a bad union has benefits. For example, my own union The UFT is the largest teacher union local in the USA and it has  a terrible history of siding with administration in defending white privilege to the detriment of their members and the communities served.  In spite of this negative self destructive history the union leadership, to date at least, has not yet given up the city wide seniority system (last in first out) with regards to layoffs.  This provision, a legacy from the Shanker era, has slowed the disappearing of Black and Latino teachers in NYC and offered some protection from the Chicago scenario where city wide seniority was not in the CTU contract and school closings in Black and Latino communities have resulted in a precipitous loss of jobs for Black and Latino teachers, school aides and janitors.  Unfortunately this provision offers no protection to the students in the schools being closed who are just shuttled around to the next closing school.


Here are two suggestions for what you might do before July 27:


1)  Ask a leader of the CTU (Karen Lewis is a great speaker and former stand up comedian) to accompany you to the TFA meeting and inform them ahead of time that a CTU leader will be part of your presentation.


2)  If the CTU can’t or won’t join you, inform the TFA that you will donate your speaking fee to the CTU strike benefit fund.


By now you get the gist.  I wish you had declined the offer on the 27th but second best would be for the TFA to cancel your engagement once they are apprised of your resolve to speak frankly. In any case, TFA is a sinking ship.  Just hope you are not on board.



Sean Ahern

Tim Wise needs to pay reparations

 Until Tim Wise uses his profits that he makes off the backs of oppressed people to pay reparations to African people, I can only view him as the worst example of the white left. He contributes greatly to the violence of the so-called progressive voice in this country that holds that a country founded on slavery and genocide can actually be reformed. Reform is impossible. peace and prosperity for us whites at the expense of most of the peoples of the world is a shaky and untenable peace.

In his rambling, whiny and defensive response, (apparently Tim Wise does not subscribe to the proper use of criticism and self-criticism) he clearly cannot see that "harm reduction" is simply a tactic to ensure that revolution won't occur.  And to legitimize his attendance because he was asked by "people of color" is ridiculous; there are a lot of "people of color" who subscribe to white power and imperialism, just like Obama (and WEB deBois who helped bring down Marcus Garvey). Clearly these were the type of "people of color" who invited him. There was so much wrong in his response that it is not worth to recount each instance.

Mr. Wise, you can begin making reparations payments by going to https://www.wepay.com/donations/33805. Take the Pledge of Solidarity with African People and show your support by taking a CONCRETE step of MATERIAL support to overturn the conditions faced by African and oppressed people. In fact, join at the Omali Yeshitela level of support at $10,000+ a year; you certainly pimp a hundred times over that amount in your "antiracist" work.  This is simply fact, not an attack.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is an organization of whites who work under the direct leadership of Chairman Omali Yeshitela and the African People's Socialist Party and take a PRINCIPLED STAND of solidarity with African people.

Antiracism work is a way for us white folks to feel good about ourselves without doing much of anything to create true change. But taking a true anti-imperialist stance, which means a REVOLUTIONARY stance, forces action and discipline and committing to the leadership of African people.  It defines our work as white people as that of reparations and turning back the resources that we stole and continue to steal. This our role in the liberation of African people; nothing more and nothing less.


Halle's essay and additional comments

Bruce - John Halle's piece on Wise in Left Business Observer is very good and contains links to some of Tim's more terrible attacks on Obama's left critics: John Halle, "Tim Wise's Game," posted by Doug Henwood, LBO (July 12, 2013), http://lbo-news.com/2013/07/12/1938/. It's not a pretty story.  "When those who raised concerns-soon borne out-of the potential of objectively reactionary governance from the Obama administration enabled and aggravated by its deadening effect on mass movements," Halle notes, "they were described by Wise as having 'become such an encumbrance as to render (them) all but useless to the liberation movement' and as prospective recipients of 'a burning they will richly deserve.'” Halle goes on to note Wise's attacks on Glenn Greenwald and Eric Snowden.  I myself have fallen under attack from Wise for being a "barbituate left" critic of Obama.  Curiously enough Wise has not had the guts to attack Glen (who goes curiously unmentioned in in response to you) or you or Margaret, all of whom are every bit as harshly radical in their longstanding crtique of Obama as I've ever been.


The system has perpetuated

The system has perpetuated itself ever since. The privileged class has continued to write the curriculum for the underprivileged ever since, and designed systems for them that are much different than the systems they got. rightandroid