Anti-racism author addresses white privilege

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

With spitfire speech and striking sarcasm, the acclaimed anti-racism author Tim Wise debunked the myth that Barack Obama’s presidential election has ended racism and white privilege in the United States.

Wise addressed the white denial of racial discrimination.

“How could otherwise good people get it so wrong?” he asked, referring to the denial. “You don’t have to know. It’s not on the test. There’s no requirement for white people to know what people of color experience.”

However, Wise said people of color are expected to understand the white point of view because it is institutionalized.

“(Wise) is only one of the most articulate and prominent white, anti-racist scholars of our generation,” said Dhiraj Chand, an intern with the U Center for Ethnic Affairs who organized the address. “I thought it would be useful for our campus, given it’s a predominantly white situation.”

Wise noted the hypocrisy of labeling black literature in a color-blind society.

“White literature8212;yes, I know we don’t call it that,” he said. “What is it when your stuff is the norm against which everyone else’s stuff is compared? It’s literature.”

Wise pointed out that discrimination does not end with racism because inequality occurs because of ability, sex, class, gender, sexual orientation and other personal attributes.

“Men don’t have to know the troubles that women face,” Wise said. “When we’re a dominant group, we have the luxury of being oblivious to the reality that other people face.”

Esther Kim, internal vice president of the U Asian American Student Association, introduced Wise with a description of herself as “a racialized woman on a predominantly white campus.” She thanked Wise for his appearance and said, “When scholars like Wise come on stage, he shows that issues of race are not confined to people of color, but confined to white people and whiteness.”

Wise said the denial of racism is inherited among white people. “The denial was deep and passed down,” he said.

He compared a 1963 Gallup Poll asking white people from the United States if blacks were treated equally in housing, education and employment to a 2009 poll asking the same question. He said that in 1963, two-thirds of white Americans said of course and in 2009, 87 percent of whites said yes.

In 2008, the summer before Obama’s election, a study found only 11 percent of Americans believed racial discrimination still existed in the United States.

“Of course the vast majority of people of color answered in the affirmative,” he said.

Wise compared this study with one in which 12 percent of white people from the United States said they thought Elvis might still be alive.

“Mathematically, this means that white people are more likely to believe that Elvis is still alive than believe what people of color tell us that they experience,” he said. “This is denial so profound as to boggle the imagination.”

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