On 8th April, Tim Wise gave a lecture at Loyola University New Orleans. The talk was called “Don’t Call Me A Racist” and focused on anti-racism and white privilege. Wise is an American anti-racism activist and writer who lectured at over 600 college campuses. One of my tutors advised that our class attend the lecture. She saw him talk when she was a student at university and claimed that he was inspirational – she wasn’t wrong!
Tim Wise opened his lecture by stating that everything he learned on these topics was taught to him by people of colour. This seemed like a wise way to begin (sorry – that’s the last pun I’ll make in this blog, I promise!) Some people may be wondering what authority a middle class white man has when discussing race. Wise argued that he would rather use his position to educate other white people about racism and privilege, even if this meant making mistakes that he would have to learn from, rather than silently standing by. Unfortunately, Wise acknowledged that he would be taken more seriously in society than a person of colour who may be trying to say exactly the same things as him.
Wise commented that we should not be nostalgic about the things we have achieved so far in terms of race as it is vital to look forward and we still have a very long way to go for equality. Twenty-five years ago, Wise went to Tulane University. One of the fraternities at Tulane accepted their first black student. A burning cross was soon found outside the frat house. Today, there is still discrimination against people of colour, in terms of employment and of course the criminal justice system.
Last semester I took a class entitled Race, Media and Culture. We watched a video in class about putting cameras on cops. At the time I thought that this was a great idea, which should be implemented immediately. However, Tim Wise mentioned several incidents where black men were shot and killed by police officers, recorded on camera, and still not indicted. There was video evidence in the cases of Eric Garner, John Crawford, and many more. It seems impossible to deny video evidence, however the police are still getting away with brutality, and murder of people of colour. Tim Wise also gave examples of the many cases where white criminals have pointed guns at police officers and children, and have not been shot. Or even if officers shot them, the officers did not shoot to kill, merely to injure. This is surely a sign of white privilege.
I feel fortunate enough to attend a school like Loyola, where we have classes on race and anti-racism lectures and rallies. However, it seems unfortunate that more white people do not take these classes and do not attend these lectures. White people need to be educated on white privilege. We are the ones who are least educated about it and least willing to accept it. We need to learn how to do what we can against institutionalised racism.