Activist and author Tim Wise visits RU


Tim Wise

Anti-racism activist and author Tim Wise visited Radford University Oct. 22 to discuss race and privilege with the campus community.

Since 1995, Wise has lectured on more than 600 college campuses across the United States. He has trained teachers, corporate employees, nonprofit organizations and law enforcement officers in methods for addressing and dismantling racism in their institutions.

A small group of faculty joined Wise for his first of two conversations in the Hurlburt Student Center. In an informal atmosphere, participants engaged a range of topics, including prejudice, privilege and hate. They touched on national headlines, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, which are making students even more aware of and anxious about oppression, Wise said.

"You can't look at any debate in this country without seeing the imprint and effect of racial and cultural anxiety," Wise said. "Students are coming into our schools growing up against that backdrop. So, when they think about race, that's what they're hearing and seeing and saying."

Participants agreed it is important, but oftentimes difficult to enter conversations about racial divide with students because of "willful ignorance," a lack of understanding of race and privilege and the necessary "language" to introduce the subject.

They addressed the perception that in some areas of academic study, such as sociology, these conversations are held more frequently, because that is often part of the curriculum. But in other majors, such as science and math, the topic might not seem relevant. Continued discussions about race, they agreed, are crucial to be had throughout the students' entire academic career, because beyond college, they will continue to interact with a diverse group of people.

Following the faculty discussion, hundreds of people gathered in Bondurant Auditorium for Wise's presentation, "White Like Me," in which he discussed privilege and race on a larger scale.

Wise is the author of six books, including his highly-acclaimed memoir, "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son," as well as "Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority" and "Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity." He has contributed chapters or essays to more than 25 additional books and his writings are taught in colleges and universities across the nation.

Wise's visit to RU was sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Scholar-Citizen Initiative, McConnell Library and the Sociology Club.

Oct 29, 2014