What: Tim Wise, an author and activist who deals with the subjects of racism and anti-racism, will discuss his 2009 book, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. The event is free and open to the public.
When: Wednesday, January 29 at 7 p.m.
Where: The Washington Room, Mather Hall on the Trinity campus, 300 Summit Street.
Background: In his book on Barack Obama and racism, Wise explores how Obama’s emergence as a political force has taken the race debate to new levels. According to Wise, for many white people, Obama’s rise signified the end of racism as a pervasive social force; they point to Obama not only as a validation of the American ideology that anyone can make it if they work hard, but also as an example of how institutional barriers against people of color have all but vanished.
But Wise asks: Is this true? And does a reinforced white belief in color-blind meritocracy potentially make it harder to address ongoing institutional racism? In housing, employment, the justice system, and education, there is evidence that white privilege and discrimination against people of color are still operative and actively thwarting opportunities, despite the success of individuals like Obama.
Wise also examines the questions: Is black success making it harder for whites to see the problem of racism, thereby further straining race relations, or will it challenge anti-black stereotypes to such an extent that racism will diminish and race relations improve? Will blacks in power continue to be seen as an “exception” in white eyes? Is Obama “acceptable” because he seems “different from most blacks,” who are still viewed too often as the dangerous and inferior “other?”
Wise is considered by some experts to be among the nation’s most prominent anti-racist essayists and educators. He has spoken to audiences in all 50 states over the past 20 years – on high school and college campuses, at professional and academic conferences and to community groups. Wise has lectured internationally and has trained corporate, government, law enforcement and health professionals on methods to eliminate racism at their institutions.
Wise began his career as a youth coordinator and associate director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism – the largest of the groups organized in the early ‘90s to defeat the political candidacies of white supremacist David Duke. Thereafter, he became a community organizer in New Orleans’ public housing, and a policy analyst for a children’s advocacy group focused on combatting poverty and economic inequality.
The author of six books, they include 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 Equality. His latest book, Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future, will be released this year.
Wise has been featured in several documentaries, including the 2013 Media Education Foundation release, White Like Me: Race, Racism and White Privilege in America. The film, which White co-wrote and co-produced, was called “a phenomenal educational tool in the struggle against racism,” and “one of the best films made on the unfinished quest for racial justice,” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University and Robert Jensen of the University of Texas, respectively.
Wise has appeared on CNN and MSNBC to discuss issues of race and was featured in a 2007 segment on ABC’s 20/20.
The event is sponsored by the Student Government Association; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the mathematics, anthropology, political science, psychology, international studies, sociology, and history departments; and the human rights program.