Anti-racist author speaks at Carlson Theater

Photograph by Amy Leong

On March 8, hundreds of students gathered in the Carlson Theater, overflowing into the N building screenings rooms. They came to hear the famous anti-racist author and activist, Tim Wise, speak for a two-hour session about racism in modern America.
The event was sponsored by a huge campus collaboration, with The Office of Equity and Pluralism, Student Services, Associated Student Government, MCS, Human Resources, the Disability Resource Center, and Student Programs all coming together to bring this speaker to campus.
The talk was received uniquely among the student population: “[The talk was] smart, intriguing, and pushed me to look at current issues in a whole new light. Not a speech I’ll forget anytime soon,” said Masha Jouravleva, a Bellevue College student who attended this talk with a political science class.
Brandon Carlson, another student, said, “I liked his anecdote about moving into a house with a bunch of friends after high school, because that’s exactly what I’ve done and he hit everything spot on. As far as everything else, he did a really profound job enlightening his viewers about the existence of white supremacy and how it’s still so dominant.”
Joshua Shen, however, another student, didn’t agree with that point of view. “I am quite surprised and somewhat disappointed with Mr. Tim Wise’s talk. As a civil activist, Mr. Wise should know the true meaning of anti-racism. However, during his speech he frequently attacked his own race—white, which surprised me.” Shen went on to clarify, “I, as a ethnic minority [Shen is Asian], believe that everyone deserves respect. An attack on whites, the majority, is still considered racism.”
He disclaimed, “I’m not saying that we should wipe out this country’s darkest history, such as slavery. Any practice and anyone that treats a person differently because of his or her race should be banned and punished. However, if we continue to use race as a factor in our daily life, it will get us nowhere.”
The focus of Wise’s speech was on the silent existence of racial judgement, which he told through anecdotes, startling statements, statistics and studies, as well as through comparing and contrasting historical stories versus modern stories. He cited many sources in popular media, university studies, and factual logic. His main point was trying to raise awareness and get people to open up the issue for discussion. Wise said, “When you are a member of a dominant group, you must tell yourself to listen.”
Wise is well thought of in the educational community: He sites quotes on his website from teachers across the US. Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School professor said, “Tim Wise is one of the few people, along with perhaps Frederick Douglass, who has ever really spoken honestly and forcefully to white people about themselves…”
Wise is an anti-racism writer and advocate who has traveled throughout the United States. He has written six books about racism, including “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son” and “Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority.” Wise has spoken in over 800 college and high school campuses across the United States. He has also spoken in Canada and Bermuda. He has also written numerous essays. In 2001, he received the British Diversity Award for best feature essay on race issues.
That same year, Wise trained journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida how to eliminate racial bias in reporting. In 2005, he co-taught a Master’s level class on racism at the Smith College School for Social Work in Northampton, Massachusetts. Wise graduated from Tulane University in 1990 with a B.A. in Political Science, then remained in New Orleans to receive anti-racism training at the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.