Students learn about modern-day racism in assembly

Last week was WCU’s 13th Annual Diversity Week and the university was honored with a presentation from speaker Tim Wise entitled “Racism in America: How far we have come, and how far are we going?”

Wise has been an anti-racism speaker and activist since he graduated Tulane University in New Orleans, and has published two books and numerous essays on racism and white privilege.

Naturally, such a controversial topic drew quite an audience. The A.K. Hinds University Center Grand Room was packed, and not just by students attending for extra credit.

“I went to the racism event to get a perspective on how a white person feels about the injustices of African Americans,” said Marquis Emmerson, assistant news editor for WCJ. “I also wanted to see the types of people who would be in attendance to hear about this important issue.”

Using humor to draw in the audience, Wise began with stories from his days in college, relating a tale about unattended rotting food in his shared apartment to unattended issues of racism existing even in modern society. Wise pointed out that even if you do not make a mess, it is your duty to help clean it up.

After obtaining the audience’s attention, Wise began to lay down surprising statistics such as the reality that half of the American population will be multi-racial in the next 30 to 35 years.

The assembly audibly gasped when Tim Wise stated that people receive a pat on the back for teaching or working in a minority district, as if they are doing a good deed, but when a minority person attempts to work in a classically suburban area he or she is looked at negatively.

Wise evoked the strongest reaction when he related the problems of present-day racism to those of sexism or even LGBT discrimination. Suddenly everyone in the audience could directly relate to the speech.

Wise was very well-received and obtained a standing ovation after his closing statements, although his strong Democratic leanings did not go unnoticed by the audience.

“It did bother me how political he got,” said attendee John Chaffin. “Although I may have agreed with him, he seemed to attack the conservative media more than necessary. Not that they don’t deserve to be attacked, because they do, but they had no place in the conversation. Well, they did, but not as much (place in the conversation) as he (Wise) made it out to be.”

Kelly Kinnear also felt that Wise focused on modern day politics slightly too much. “I think he was right in a lot of what he said, but instead of blaming one side over the other, he could have related more to the students at Western and suggested what we could do to end the racism at our university,” she said.

Nevertheless, it was undeniably refreshing to hear such a passionate speaker, and the WCU community thanks Tim Wise for his eye-opening presentation.