Tuesday night in the Student Union Multipurpose Room, Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist and writer, came to speak to SRU students, faculty and community members.
Wise revolved his speech on racism and racial justice in US history and white privilege in the US. Wise has spent the last 20 years of his life traveling nationally and internationally to speak to over 1,000 college campuses on racism and how we can learn to embrace diversity. Wise was named one of “25 Visionaries who are Changing Your World” by Utune Reader and is author of many books and essays.
“To understand racism, you must understand white privilege,” Wise said. “I want you to understand the concept of what white privilege is, and have a better understanding of what’s not happening in the world rather than what is happening,” Wise said.
Some people may fear the change that a world without racism will have, Wise explained. Sometimes, people can’t help but think that putting other people down elevates their own self. However, Wise said we must focus on the benefits of the change which we may disguise as losses.
“What do you think it is that people are afraid of?” Wise asked.
People have been afraid of bringing up race for a long time and it is nothing new, Wise said. In his career, ever since the beginning until now, people admit that they fear talking about race because they find it awkward. Some people fear they may be perceived as racist if they ask questions about diversity.
Wise explained this is not the case. Wise shared a study done that showed people actually perceive people who are silent about the subject of race to be racist.
“The most important thing is to understand people will have different lenses through which they see the world,” Wise said. “Let’s ask less of ‘Are you racist?’ and more of ‘Are you doing things to perpetuate race?’”
Some fears of a world without racism people may have are the changes they will see. White people may become a minority, which they aren’t used to and aren’t comfortable with, Wise explained. The more privilege someone has, the less in life they have dealt with change and the more uncomfortable they will be with change,” Wise said.
SRU President Cheryl Norton explained how it is easy to be blind to your privilege. Norton grew up having to work hard for everything she has achieved, but has realized that she had a leg up by being white she was not even aware of.
Wise wanted to share that we need to get to a place where everyone is educated about race, and where everyone knows the benefits of equality for everyone.
“If we are going to have equity and justice, some people will have to give up some things like ability to take privilege for granted, the mindset of being the norm and the privilege of unearned advantage,” Wise said. He sees these changes as gains.
Race affects everyone, Wise said. Student activism is one of the best ways to talk about issues and make a difference for the next generation.
“Figure out for yourself how it affects you when the target is someone else,” Wise said. “Whether you are a woman, a man, heterosexual, homosexual, poor, rich, white or black, it affects you.”
“We need to have the difficult conversations. It is okay to say something wrong so we can have a real conversation,” Tina Moser, SRU faculty member said.