Tim Wise, prominent anti-racist writer, gives speech on BC campus

Tim Wise, a prominent anti-racist writer in the U.S., gave a talk on campus to celebrate the last day of Black History Month. Wise is the author of seven books, has obtained anti-racism training from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and received a heartfelt introduction from Jerry Weber, the administrative president of Bellevue College.  

Wise started his speech by acknowledging his role as a white man advocating for black history: “I am the translator of [black] wisdom, which we apparently still need in this country because we are too afraid to hear the truth from black people and brown people.”

The emphasis of the hour-long speech was on how history affects the world now, and the world in the future. “Without history, it would be impossible to find out where you come from and where you’ll be tomorrow,” he says. “I support accurate history; our current issues flow directly from our historical ignorance,”

After the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ surfaced to public attention. The statement is used to empower those in the racial minority, but is often countered with the statement, ‘All Lives Matter.’ Wise comments on this relationship, arguing that “’All Lives Matter’ doesn’t make sense because we’ve been saying it all these years, but we didn’t mean it. Everyone knows white lives matter, and nobody questions it; we take that for granted. It’s not about special treatment; it’s about acknowledging humanity that was ignored.”

At the end of the talk, Wise stayed for an hour to answer questions. The majority of the questions asked were on Wise’s opinion of support for the ‘other side.’

Wise opened the discussion with the question, “Why would white people want to give up their advantages?” Wise’s theory on this correlates with the idea that, ‘the bigger you are, the harder you fall.’ During the recession in 2008, there was a large spike in suicides, and according to Wise’s statistics, most of the suicides were of middle-aged, white men.

“When we have systems of profound inequality, it sets [privileged] people up. The system is made for them. But when the economy shifts, that upsets their mentality,” said Wise. “They are least prepared for setback, and they don’t know what to do.”

In closing, there was a question about the people’s reaction when Trump was elected President. Wise stated that, though many white and privileged people across the country were surprised, the minority was not; “The Obama years was the intermission. Now that Trump is in office, it just means that we’re back to our regularly scheduled program.”