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Essay on ”Race, Class, Violence and Denial: Mass Murder and the Pathologies of Privilege” by Tim Wise Essay

Often when racial inequality and discrimination is being discussed, we get to think of terms such as “white privilege” and American history with the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But we think of it, mainly as history. And that, according to Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist and American writer, is the biggest self-deception of the modern American world. Throughout an article posted on his own webpage, concerning school shootings, Tim Wise discusses the general American attitude towards this relatively new phenomenon in American society. With the use of especially pathos Wise argues that the most concerning thing about these events is how society is handling them afterwards.

The problem is, according to Wise, that white people tell themselves ‘white lies’, and therefore never think that such actions could be taking place in their communities. He claims that there’s a reason why this happens in the outwardly ordinary societies. It’s because the people, trying to maintain at certain surface of innocence, refuse to see the signs of trouble, even when it’s going on before their very eyes. He wants us to take responsibility and stop excluding some parts of society from the “danger-zone” just because they look bucolic and normal on the outside and almost in the form of a provocative scolding he explains what damages these ‘white lies’ can do – not only to people of color, but to white people as well.

Tim Wise wrote this article 3 days after the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, where the 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 20 pupils and 6 staff members. Without any further explanation Wise starts out his article, and from the very beginning he makes sure that the reader is attentive: “The senselessness alone would have been sufficient”(p.8 l. 7). We immediately sense the dramatic tone just as we also quite quickly understand the author’s profound personal concern about this issue.

The title indicates what is to come; yet it is not very specific and it does not deal with school shootings as an issue at all. It gives us an idea of the author’s personal fight against racism which is also reflected in the article and probably all of his writing. Wise uses heavy vocabulary in the title and he continues to do so in the rest of the article. His ethos is strengthened by his use of language.

The language is rather difficult, and the fact that he leaves out almost all explanatory references, “For the right, it’s the culture of poverty, or perhaps some specific aspect of “black culture”(…)(p.11.l138) shows that he expects his readers to have a certain amount of knowledge about politics and society. Even though the language contains many complex sentences and has many intellectual references, it still maintains a natural and easy-to-read flow.

As mentioned before, he uses pathos a lot in his argumentation. When attempting to persuade the reader, he is mainly focusing his arguments on emotions. But he is no pleaser, though. He tries to speak to our guilty conscience, and it becomes clear which reaction he wants. “There is dysfunction and pathology and general awfulness where some of the beautiful people too reside? Yes precious, yes indeed.”(p.9 ll.47-48) His tone is extremely provocative and ironic, but we never doubt the seriousness of this matter to him.

Actually this only indicates the importance of the subject and the author’s character appears very passionate. Maybe to the extent that he fails to remain objective – but then again, was that ever his purpose? His use of irony gives him more options too. It makes it easier for the reader to accept some of his quite exaggerated statements.

The fact that the article is published on Wise’s own webpage called: www.timwise.org is quite crucial to the way it appears. The author has created the webpage for himself and the purpose of it is to be the platform for his views on different matters. The ones who visit his webpage and read his articles have this in mind from the beginning. Also they must be interested in him in some way or another.

His main claim, that the school shootings is a result of the surroundings, works absolutely fine. When he refers to the general weapon availability in the United States, he backs up his ground with facts for the first time in his article, “(…)we should know by now that with 280 million guns in circulation, they can’t all be tucked into the waistbands of young black men who reside somewhere else(…)(s.9 ll.61-62) He is surprised that people act surprised.

Also, he criticizes white people for thinking that the only ones who can’t control weapons are the poor and colored ones. He uses the topic “School shootings” to raise a debate about a still ongoing racial discrimination in the US. It seems intelligent of him to choose this topic, since the horror of it is something almost everyone more or less agree on, since it is something everyone wants to end.

He claims that the only way to ever set a stop to this madness is for the communities to take responsibility. All these arguments connect in a fine way, but his use of rebuttal does almost not exist. If the article had been for at newspaper or anything else with more critical readers of more dissimilar opinions, he would need that to seem less subjective.

Wise has a clear purpose with this article. And at most points, he succeeds in persuading the reader. He wants us to wake up. He wants society to wake up from its conscious sleep and take some responsibility. So, who are the enemies? And who can be the heroes? According to Tim Wise we as a society plays both of the parts.

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