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White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
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White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  2,077 ratings  ·  225 reviews
With a new preface and updated chapters, White Like Me is one-part memoir, one-part polemical essay collection. It is a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the daily lives of white Americans in every realm: employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and elsewhere.

Using stories from his own life, Tim Wise demonstrates the ways in which ra...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Soft Skull Press (first published December 21st 2004)
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Michael
It is rare for me to read a book twice. I can count those books on one hand. I have read this book twice, not because I enjoyed it: I didn't. I read it twice because it is important.

Brief autobiographical sketch: growing up in Somerville, MA (way before it was cool to live there), I had many black friends. By the time I went to junior high school, high school, then college, I had none. None of that was on purpose; it's just the way it happened. While I went to college, I learned from my (predict...more
Lina
A few years ago, if someone would have asked me if I had been allowed at birth to decide my race, I would have chosen to be white, the answer would have been a resounding yes. It wasn't that I hated being black, it was just that, up until the last two years of high-school I firmly believed that I would have had a better life it I were white. It wasn't until I grew up--a lot, that I realized that my troubles were not unique to my race, it just seemed that way. I learned to love my blackness and n...more
Anthony Ricardi
Yes, it's important for white people to talk to each other about white privilege and racism. No, I do not think this book is "the most important book of our time". I think it's arrogant of him to talk about how he makes his living doing anti-racist work with not really any discussion about what allows him to make money repeating observances about whiteness that people of color have been sharing for centuries without getting paid to do so. I also think he's such a "dude" that it made it hard for...more
Rebecca
OK, majorly important book here. Let's please take a moment and give Tim Wise the ridiculous amount of respect he deserves for advancing the dialogue on white privilege. I want to give this book 5 stars just for its existence. I settled on 4 because I don't know if it's a brilliant book, but it's without a doubt a provokingly honest book. I hope that readers will come away from it as I did, not guilt-stricken but with a greater sense of empathy and mindfulness.

Grounding an exploration of white p...more
Colin
Aug 13, 2007 Colin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anti-racist folks, white people
Wise has crafted an engaging, personal and at times moving account of the effects of "whiteness" on his family and on "white" people as a whole. I also had several issues with the book.

The book's tone was somewhat uneven, as Wise used random "fuck yous" and sarcasm infrequently enough that it was somewhat jarring when it happened, and occasionally seemed forced and sanctimonious. Even though I usually like that type of writing style (like Inga Muscio, for example) I don't think Wise pulled it o...more
Zeo
Wise is very accessible to many white people. I am not one of those people, and I don't tend to interact in person with too many of those people, and generally find him irritating. He writes like the world is black and white, so when he starts to talk about the experiences of Black and white people he simplifies to make points in a way that tends to deny or disregard the experiences of people who don't fit so easily into that. I've often wondered if the ease of communicating issues of race along...more
Shifra
Accessible, thoughtful, challenging, provocative. Although I have read and thought a lot about race, racism, whiteness and white privilege, Wise's book adds new layers of nuance and texture to the ideas, and spells out how systemic oppression and privilege work, while trying to remain invisible. A really worthwhile read, it is also a memoir, so personal and honest.

Yet I couldn't help struggling with the fact that part of his white privilege is to make a living lecturing, teaching and writing ab...more
M. Aedin
I really wish I could blackmail, bribe, force, or otherwise entice everyone I know to read this book. There are very few people who would not benefit from this honest exploration of white privilege and how it's not only harmful to people of color, but to whites as well.

I had to read it for a Sociology class in school, and I know some of my classmates were annoyed at the conversational style of the book, but I felt that was one of its strengths. It was at all times engaging and easy to read, even...more
Audacia Ray
Wise's book is interesting and useful as an introduction for white people to encourage thinking about race and privilege. That's a good thing, for sure - but it's a safe and white-mediated approach to thinking about race. For real and challenging stuff on race, you should actually be reading writers who are people of color. Case in point: each chapter opens with a relevant quote from James Baldwin's writings - and I recommend that you prioritize reading and listening to Baldwin instead of Wise.

I...more
Ami
I like Tim Wise's essays, so this book is a treat. He links elements of white privilege & racism to his own life throughout the book, and (I would say) very roughly in some sort of chronological order.

Wise explains that he was a national-circuit debate team member, and his persuasive style makes it clear that he must have been pretty good. I appreciated that he smashes apart white folks' most common points of resistance to white privilege in the introduction, so we can acknowledge and accep...more
Jesse
At first I was annoyed with Wise's habit of writing everything as if meant to be underlined by undergraduate sociology students, as well as his tendency to reiterate points as if it's assumed that it wouldn't be grasped the first time around. But I stuck with it, for not only was it pointed out that maybe I'm just lucky that some of these things aren't completely new for me (and yes, Jane, you can take most of the credit there), but because Wise has a formidable talent for using personal anecdot...more
Mel
I have been meaning to read this for such a long time that I think it was built up in my head in many ways that were impossible to fulfill. I didn't realize how autobiographical it would be, and at times I found my mind wandering as Wise described the nuances of various campaigns he worked on as a young activist in New Orleans and beyond. However, the weaving of his life with the thesis of this book, that his experiences are by nature, White experiences, was compelling. I consider myself fairly...more
Molly
White privilege is something I didn't understand very well until I became a public school teacher. I think I understand better after reading this book. I certainly had a few moments of resistance and/or shame while reading, as I think many readers would. It's hard for anyone to recognize their own privilege, to buy into the idea that they *are* privileged, when they don't feel so in other ways. We all believe we're struggling.

This book is entirely anecdotal, which might make it easy for some to...more
Elizabeth
Of the three books we read for my Race & Ethnicity course, this was by far my favorite. Wise's writing style is approachable yet provocative. The heaviness of the material is in no way clouded by the witty, sardonic anecdotes Wise delivers so well. This is a must read for anyone, especially those who consider themselves "liberal" or "antiracist" because chances are, you still have a thing or two to learn. Often people will refer to the underprivileged, but it is extremely rare for someone to...more
Tiffany
I don't even know where to begin. As a public health major, this book was intriguing from the start. As a person of color, many of the issues Wise discussed was obvious to me, but it was incredible to read it from a white person's perspective. What was even more enlightening for me is reading about his work with lower income/under-served populations. I grew up in a middle class family and went to mostly white schools, so even though a lot of the topics discussed were obvious to me, there were st...more
m.
Tim Wise uses a good portion of this book to discuss personal history, and personal experiences, which I think make it important in terms of understanding his passion for anti-racism. That being said, I think some of the experiences he mentions which relate to everyday happenings hinge on speculation. My problem became when he used those anecdotes as truths to justify certain arguments. Tim appears to promote individual or personal challenges on racism, but feels that the stronger method is in t...more
Scott
Discusses the role that white privilege plays in perpetuating systems of inequality. I read this book during the week that Shirley Sherrod lost her job with the Department of Agriculture, that a small town in Illinois decided to make English as its official language (supporters held up signs saying, "We are all Arizonians now") and the local paper ran the front page story of a murder in Rosemount, including a picture of the alleged murderer (who was black) and a picture of the victim (who was wh...more
Matthew Leroy
I would have rated this 4.5 stars if I could have. The book is accessible, and discusses excellent points about white privilege. One of my favorite parts of this analysis is the need for white people to want to change racism not patriarchally for people of color, but instead for ourselves. Existing in a sociopolitical situation that marginalizes many to empower a few hurts all of us, by manipulating our experience of reality. Wise is an excellent storyteller, and creates clear images about how t...more
Chris
Someone I know gave up on teaching this book to her students in the urban off-campus program of an affluent Christian college, because it upset them so much. I can't think of a better recommendation, but I'll post a few excerpts as I work through the book.

If you're not a person of color, and you live in the US, please at least consider reading this book. I'd love to hear from you if you do, whether you agree with it, find it outrageous, or anything in between.
Charlotte
I finished this book a long time ago, but it stays with me. Tim Wise is brilliant. If you have the opportunity to hear him speak--do so. While most white folks are taught by example to say nothing about race or white privilege, Tim speaks the truth. He is witty, courageous, and scathingly honest. His work was a great wake up call to me about seven years ago when I first heard him speak. Videos do not do him justice, so I highly recommend this book.
Andrea Devinney
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a couple years now and then decided that the time had finally come to read it. Most of my research that I did in my undergrad revolved around race and race relations and I was hoping this book would inspire me even further.

As a female anti racist, this book was nothing new to me. White Like Me never put me into a deep trance of thought. There were actually a couple times where I disagreed with the author, though those times were rare. I believe...more
Richard
Flipping John Howard Griffin's classic Black Like Me, and extending Noel Ignatiev's How The Irish Became White into the present-day, Wise explores the meanings and consequences of "whiteness," and discusses the ways in which racial privilege can harm not just people of color, but also whites. Using stories instead of stale statistics, Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and yet scholarly; analytical and yet accessible.
Gabe Schwartz
White Like Me is a revolutionary little book. It is both candid and carefully crafted, a series of conversational essays about the ubiquitous of race and racism and the subtle fires of privilege American whites have too long left burning. Passionate without seeming heavy handed, Wise manages to be convincing and inspiring without lowering himself to self-obsession or pedagogy. An elegant, shaking read.
June
This was an interesting book. It's not easy reading books on racism. Racism makes me angry and sad at the same time. Systematic racism definitely exist where I live. I was not born "privileged", but, thank God, I was created equal in eyes of God. I think this book would be a great resource for schools.
Feisty Harriet
This third edition of "White Like Me" has been completely reworked, adding 100 pages from the second version and reorganizing from a topic-based book on different themes in race and racism to a memoir-type feel. Honestly, I think I would have preferred the former, I felt this book was too long and didn't quite know if it was trying to be a memoir or a political statement on racism. Also, it made our book club discussion frustrating as half of the attendees read one version and the others a compl...more
Christian
This is one white man's perspective on race relations in the United States. I can see why he received death threats from right wingers and racists. The book looks at white privilege as it manifests itself socially, economically, politically, religiously and historically. Wise makes some interesting points that could lead to discussion. I would recommend this book be taught starting in high school and that it be mandatory reading in university and in the teaching profession. This is a book that d...more
Amanda
Tim Wise isn't perfect and the way he tells some of the autobiographical stories (phrases like "my black friends") can be grating. Further, depending on where you are at in your journey can feel preachy. All that being said I definitely think this is worth a read.

I had read excerpts from this but decided to finally sit down and read it cover to cover, I will say that this whole is better than its parts and I felt like Wise really tied the total package together well. As a person of color, it wa...more
Wesley
Essential reading. A sensitive but reason important topic/concept to get our brains around.
Talena
No stars. I agree that there is a white privilege problem in America, but this is not a scholarly publication. I felt like I was reading the poorly written diary of a whiny teenager. Tim Wise is pretentious and condescending. His writing is so full of cliches I don't think he knows what half of them mean. Plus all the typos and grammar mistakes? Did an editor look at this? I don't think so.

There has to be a better book written about this subject. If there is any other book written about white p...more
Erica
Great collection of stories and reflections on white privilege. Partly I wish the book were billed as what it is - a white man's memoir written specifically to interrogate privilege. It could have included reflection questions, journaling prompts, and discussing ideas for the white readers. I love that it got me thinking of my family history in compliance with slavery and racism. I love that his stories are encouraging me to articulate my stories of white privilege.

On the other hand, I also wish...more
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50787
Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., and has been called the foremost white anti-racist intellectual in the nation, having spoken in 46 states, and on over 300 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, Cal Tech and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia, Michigan, and Vanderbilt.

From 1999 to 2003, Wise served as an advisor to the Fisk University Race...more
More about Tim Wise...
Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White

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“The power of resistance is to set an example: not necessarily to change the person with whom you disagree, but to empower the one who is watching and whose growth is not yet completed, whose path is not at all clear, whose direction is still very much up in the proverbial air.” 33 likes
“And let's just be honest, there is no such place called 'justice,' if by that we envision a finish line, or a point at which the battle is won and the need to continue the struggle over with. After all, even when you succeed in obtaining a measure of justice, you're always forced to mobilize to defend that which you've won. There is no looming vacation. But there is redemption in struggle.” 16 likes
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