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Tim Wise’s Argument on Illuminated Individualism

Tim Wise argues that the American government ought to bring more focus, particularly monetary focus, to the American communities of color, and leave it to those communities to use and disburse by their own volition (Wise 1). Apparently, there should not be any problem related to this issue. However, unfortunately, there is. Furthermore, this is a major piece of the puzzle in repairing our forgotten cities. In the following study, there would be evaluation of the problem and the underlying cause of the problem and possible solution to it.

Intervention by the government, as per Tim Wise, is extremely needed as the fundamental problem is the lack of fund for welfare in the hands of the African American community. In the article “‘Probing the reasons’ by Rev. James E. Jones published in Los Angeles Sentinel in August 19, 1963” (Halperin 489-495), the level of citizenship that is ascribed to the African-American population of Los Angeles is extremely low. The author enumerates the dismal level of life of the African-American population with profound humane approach. The author investigates the reason of marginalization of the African-American population in the context citizenship and indicates several reasons with poverty being the major driving force. The author indicates the low facility of fundamental rights like education and employment. The underemployment results in low payment such as 75c an hour leading to low income and dismal situation in life that leads to low level of the citizenship in context of standard and facilities. The article also reports that there are several complaints regarding the issue but the authorities are yet to take any positive action making the African-American population cocooned in a subculture that is detrimental to citizenship and this leads to anti-social activities like riots. The author, Rev. James E. Jones, suggests that with humane perspective the problem can be solved (Halperin 489-495) much like the though process of Tim Wise.

Again, in the articles ‘Racial Unrest Laid To Negro Family Failure’ (Halperin 489-495) by Thomas J. Foley and ‘Scene of Rioting is Substandard District’ (Halperin 489-495) by Stuff correspondent, both published in Los Angeles Times in August 13, 1965, look into the parameters of rioting by the African-American population. Both the articles indicate substandard livelihood and low income of the African-American population. They specifically mention the lack of civil space in the African-American concentrated areas in Los Angeles due to over population and low income. Both the articles indicate that the level of citizenship is substandard and the reasons behind the problem lie in the parameters of antisocial activities, subculture motives, family disintegration and unemployment. They report instances of riots and criminal activities and the number of legal offenders. The entire approach of the articles is not analytical but more in the mode of report that suggests the low citizenship levels (Halperin 489-495). Thus, government fund is needed to retrieve the forgotten cities and this is in complete alignment with the thoughts put forward Tim Wise.

In his book Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Colonial Politics and the Retreat of Racial Equity (Wise 1), Tim Rose has shown how divorced reality is from the mouthing of politicians. Wise observed in the book that the most telling lines of Obama’s speech when he came into the limelight in 2004 summer was that the country was neither black nor white, nor was it Hispanic or Asian but it was just the USA. It was not a plea for equality but it was presented as a fact in the present tense. In that same year MIT research noted that among those applying for jobs with white names had 50% greater chances to be called for interview than others – even if all other eligibility points were the same. Even while Obama “the new upstart from Chicago poured forth rhetoric professing national unity it should have been apparent that Obama was engaged in political science fiction rather than the description of sociological truth” (Wise 1).

The difference between pre-racial and post-racial liberalism was the commitment towards lowering racial disparities through non-racial means. Obama has been a strong advocate of this race-neutral approach. Even when he was confronted with reality of stark figures he insisted that the rising tide of the stimulus measure would lift up all the boats. The colorblind policies cannot solve the persisting inequalities among the races. At the root of these discrepancies is racial discrimination – not just as leftovers from the past but the ongoing policies being currently followed.

For instance the companies that lay hands on the stimulus funds for running construction work will prefer giving the jobs to the whites than to others. The same treatment will be meted out by doctors to patients and by schools to students. Physicians nurse a discriminatory attitude towards people of color. The death rates of the colored are also higher because of such bias penetrating colored society. Thus by not talking about these disparities the dust has been merely swept under the carpet. It is easier to think that it does not exist. Even a little child can see the blatant differences in living quarters, neighborhoods, schools and jobs. If this is not focused on then the next generation will grow up taking these things for granted. Tim Wise aptly sums up the situation by writing, “Post-racial liberalism in the name of colorblindness can enhance racially-biased thinking: the ultimate irony” (Wise 1).

Wise suggests “illuminated individualism” (Wise 1) as a solution. It is based on the precept that group identities shape the identities and perceptions of the individual. To treat a person as an individual, the life they actually lead has to be taken into account; that means understanding the role racism plays in America today. Recognizing the problem will lead to taking deliberate efforts to correct the inequality. Thus the approach has to be race-conscious and not race-neutral. Those working towards discovery of racism deep rooted in society need their voices to be heard if racism is to be uprooted.

However, it is easier said than done. Government interventions and thereby managing fund is a specialized job and it can be stated that there is a serious lack of local black leadership to handle it and this model of belief completely denies Tim Wise’s approach and suggests that the forgotten cities are fundamentally results of lack of African-American civil society and the government, as indicated by Wise, has nothing to do with this condition. Disagreement of Wise indicates that urban African-American population has only two types of leaders. One type like Cory Booker is extremely romantic in nature and finds optimism in every aspect of political life and the other type like Sharpe James who considers them to be victimized and thus tend to retaliate. On both the occasions, the individuals are situated far from reality and thus are unable to deal with the present and practical requirements. Under such parameters, both the parties are practically incapable to hold serious and responsible positions such as administrative office of the mayor. These forms of political approaches can easily be termed as immature. Even in an interview Booker commented that, “And people don’t realize that the overt racism that was being exacted upon the population here.” (Moyers 1) No wonder that in view of Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, it can be stated, “Both Sharpe James and Cory Booker represent different sides of the same impoverished coin” (Sekou 1). Thus, according to this theory the approach of Tim Wise has no chance of any practical implication.

In a complete disagreement with Tim Wise, it can be stated that the racially prejudiced urban political leadership of the African-American population is fundamentally directionally incorrect rather than erroneous generational approach. It is true that during recent time, it is seen that the fundamentalist conservative approach of African-American population leadership is changing but there are much space to be covered because Obama as a charismatic leader is not enough given the grave situation. It is essential to have more colored leaders like him, otherwise Tim Wise and his approach cannot be agreed upon.


Halperin, Edward. “The poor, the Black, and the marginalized as the source of cadavers.” Clinical Anatomy 20.5 (2007): 489-495.

Moyers, Bill. “Mayor Cory Booker of Newark.” Public Affairs Television. 2008

Sekou, Osagyefo U. “Beyond the Generation Gap: Reflections on the Crisis in Black Political Leadership.” American Documentary. 2005. Web.

Wise, Tim. “Colorblind Ambition: The Rise Of Post Racial Politics And The Retreat From Racial Equity.” Red Room Omnimedia Corporation. 2010. Web.


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