On Tuesday, I attended Tim Wise’s discussion on race, privilege, and politics in the United States, free for CU students in Macky Auditorium. Mr. Wise is an advocate for racial equality in the U.S., and he was informative, intriguing, and extremely partisan. As a speaker, he was extremely charismatic and passionate about race and privilege in our country. I really liked his stance on the current sense of awkwardness that surrounds many discussions about race in the U.S. From personal experience, it is very true that whites, blacks, Hispanics, and people from races of all kinds do not typically talk about race privilege in a truly honest fashion. As Mr. Wise pointed out, in 35 years our demography will be split between white and minority citizens. It is crucial, then, to learn as a society to have productive, sincere conversations about race privilege now, before we reach a tipping point in the future. I strongly agree with Mr. Wise on his charges that the founding of our nation and the history that has unfolded since the Revolutionary War has conditioned America to cater to whites, providing them with both seen and unseen advantages in their lives. It is not a coincidence that minorities have lower rates of education, income, and life expectancy. I agree with Mr. Wise that starting off, minorities have fewer chances to go to college and make a successful life for themselves; whites and blacks do not start off on an equal platform.
However, while Mr. Wise’s views on race privilege in the U.S., in my view, were spot on, the manner in which he presented his material was inappropriate on a political level. He constantly criticized and demonized Republicans of all shapes and sizes, and made broad generalizations regarding their political and social views. Again, while I may not have disagreed with the claims he was making, the way in which he chastised the right and blamed conservatives for our country’s social inequities completely voided most of the credibility he had as a speaker. When speaking on highly charged, controversial political and social issues, it is necessary to present facts and opinions drawn from facts in as respectful a way as possible. Tim Wise had no problem rallying a crowd of mostly liberal Boulderites who shared his same views, but to affect real change, he needs to be able to convince people who either disagree with him or are unaware of the current status quo regarding racial privilege in the U.S. He has the potential to be a truly transcendent speaker, given his highly educated and cutting critique on societal functions that exist today. He is extremely funny and relatable to a crowd of many different groups, and exhibits a large, exciting persona when speaking. The way in which he bashes the political right, however, makes him as much as an extremist as the Tea Party members he rages against. I enjoyed the talk, and he furthered my position on racial issues that I had already considered to be very important, given my volunteer work with the Hispanic community, but I was turned off by his crusading, accusatory delivery.
As a policial science major, I try to see both sides of every issue. Tim Wise was a very good speaker, and the auditorium was packed, but he presented a very racy and controversial talk. However, I am very fortunate to have been able to see such an interesting speaker for free - CU offers many of these events weekly for students.
Until next time,