Tim Wise: “Dominant group to talk less and listen more” to discuss race

Tim Wise, talking to a full room of WCU students and community members on Sept. 15, 2016. Photo by Rachel Plouse.

Tim Wise, talking to a full room of WCU students and community members on Sept. 15. Photo by Rachel Plouse.

“I’m here to tell you, if we’re going to have an honest discussion about issues of race or gender or sexuality or class or any other form of identity, the first order of business is for those who find ourselves in the dominate group to talk less and listen more,” said Wise to Western Carolina University students on Thursday, Sept. 15.

According to the UC Guest Services desk, the UC Grand Room was packed on Thursday evening with 500 chairs filled and 200 others watching the live stream of the event from the UC Theater.

The event was organized by the Western Carolina University Department of Intercultural Affairs and the Department of Campus Activities to address the question of equality that was raised after racist posts on social media circulated around campus early in the spring semester.

Tim Wise is an anti-racism activist and the author of several books and essays about the racial divide in the United States of America. According to his website, Wise’s most recent book “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America” talks about economic inequality and the demonization of those in need.

Wise visited the Western Carolina University campus, just like he has done at over 1000 other college campuses around the country. He shed some light on white privilege and the uncomfortableness that surrounds the topic of race in the United States.

“We get to remain oblivious to black and brown reality so that even if we’re really good, caring, compassionate people we have the luxury, indeed, the privilege, of being oblivious,” said Tim Wise .

Hear what Wise said on the ability of the dominate group to be oblivious to racism in 1963 and 2016.

Wise addressed particularly uncomfortable topics which other speakers may be unwilling to tackle but, as racial tensions are running high both on and off campus, many students still want to hear.

“I think that the campus needs more things like this. Many students on campus have opposing views and we need to come together and have a conversation. Events like this is how that can happen,” said WCU student Victoria Blunt.

A question and answer session followed the event where many students had the same question – what can we do as a college campus and as a generation to change the way race is handled in this country? To Wise the answer was simple – encourage conversations both within racial silos and across racial silos.

The university has been working on a solution to diversity on campus and this event has certainly made progress towards that goal.

“I already considered myself a Black Lives Matter ally, but after hearing Tim Wise speak, I feel like I’m more prepared and more qualified to label myself as that,” said student Drue Stinnett.