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Monday December 11th 2017

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Wise, White, and Witty – Tim Wise had it all

By Gustav Hollnagel–
Tim Wise spoke about the fallacy of having overcome post-racial conceptions. White supremacy is still guiding and tearing on America like an invisible hand.

About 150 students listened both quietly and enthusiastically to Wise’s speech in the Yockey Room. Wise started around 7.30 P.M. and ended shortly before the ninth hour.

At first the atmosphere was very easy, humorous and relaxed. But very soon, Wise would pitch a more serious and passionate tone of verbal communication. He remained calm, though intense and with a focused direction.

Morningside student Anastasia Ott said, “It was a laid back atmosphere for sure. It could have been structured better, but I think though that people got a lot out of it as you knew they were paying attention.”

The occasional “black” humor input or self-deprecation about a fever Wise said he brought to Morningside lightened up the crowd. However, Wise always remained concentrated on what he came to talk about.

Fellow Morningside student James Nitz said, “Tim was very conversational. He appealed to me in that way because I find it easy to connect with such types of people rather than a speaker that spits out facts.

Nitz also thought that Wise “did well in terms of connecting to the audience, using humor and personal stories. The humor was well received by the audience, so I really liked that.”

Wise finished with a 30-minute Q-&-A session, in which he really went into depth on the questions that were raised.

The Event was sponsored mainly by Leadership Academy on Campus, but also the office of the president, who wants to further educate students on such issues.

Wise started out with a personal story of housing with nine other roommates after college, hinting at the messes and fates of shared living. He later reconnected those to the issue of coming together as a society on whatever matter, if you will.

Wise said, “It didn’t matter whether I’d made the mess. The only thing mattered was living in it. The residue of past actions was affecting me.”

Backing up his talk with a lot of research and facts, Wise transitioned to the issue at hand. In 35 years, about half the population of the U.S. will be of color.

The speaker’s voice tumbled when he noted that, ostensibly, people who are white and retired in the South (Arizona being his example), who “are on average about 137 years old”, scream the loudest when it comes to helping the colored minorities. Wise’s response? “In the case of Arizona, we just have to be patient.”

Wise also said, “The white American narrative changed at the very moment when the color of the beneficiaries changed.” He was referring to debates about cutting social welfare programs and benefits for everyone. That would include many lower-class African-American and Latino workers, but ironically poorly situated white families as well.

He became really passionate about the topic and addressed the power distance Americans associate with standards of living. He also elaborated on the white people’s legacy and “misery”, and on the difference between guilt and responsibility of being a citizen.

President Obama’s name was dropped quite a few times. Wise explained that Obama’s presidency does not put us past the age of racial discrimination and inequity after all.

In one of his fairly recently published essays, Wise wrote: To the extent those whites are rewarding him [Obama] in large measure for not talking about race, and to the extent they would abandon him in droves were he to begin talking much about racism–for he would be seen at that point as playing the race card, or appealing to “special interests” and suffer the consequences–we should view Obama’s success, given what has been required to make it possible, as confirmation of the ongoing salience of race in American life.”

According to Wise, we have the “luxury of remaining oblivious to other (colored) people’s stuff”, because it doesn’t affect or influence the average person’s life in any way.

Those words Wise muttered close to the end of his speech. Thereafter, he gave the audience the opportunity to ask questions. Some hands eventually rose and Wise made sure to take his time for each of them.

“He was a good speaker who used a lot of research to back up his speech and ideas,” Ott said after the event. “This was definitely one of the best speaking performances I’ve encountered here at Morningside, him being very charismatic and genuine when he presented his answer, which didn’t seem rehearsed at all.”

Rehearse? A strange word to Tim Wise. He’s been around the country for 16 years, speaking to students, teachers, and families. He has also provided anti-racism training to educators and social workers, conducted training with medical staff, professionals and physicians to offer a solution on how to combat racial inequities in health care, and much more.

This man assumedly doesn’t need much preparation, and in fact, all he brought with him on Tuesday night was his coat and some sheets filled with statistical research.