By Kevin Hayes
Tim Wise is an anti-racism educator, philosopher, and author of “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.” First and foremost, he is one of the most eloquent and powerful speakers I have had the privilege of listening to. Among the topics he touched on was how discrimination was viewed through the eyes of a white person vs. a black person, the recent and on-going backlash against Muslims, the Economy, and even a nice reference to how our lives can be compared to the movie, “The Matrix.”
At CCSU’s Bridging the Gap: A Dream Deferred event on Dec. 10, Wise touched on the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests that have arisen in recent months in the wake of police shootings against young black men. These demonstrations are the culmination, a “perfect storm,” if you will, of years of police misconduct and racial disparity. For example, when Wise discussed racial profiling among police officers towards minorities, I could sense from many folks in the room that they had experienced this at some point in their lives. Of course, there has been a backlash against the “Black Lives Matter” protests, mostly from white folks. They have responded with their own protests stating “All Lives Matter,” and that there shouldn’t be a disconnect between Black people and the rest of the population. But, as Wise pointed out, the majority of people against the movement have never experienced the level of discrimination or hatred that Black folks have faced.
Wise also mentioned the ongoing mistrust and hatred toward Muslims in the wake of the Paris attacks. This issue has only been antagonized by folks like Donald Trump. He has publicly stated that we should no longer allow Muslims into our country for fear that similar attacks will occur in the U.S. So he is essentially making a grand assumption that all Muslims could potentially be terrorists and therefore, don’t deserve the right to freedom from their persecution and disparity from their war-torn country.
If this isn’t discrimination on a grand scale, I don’t know what is. Wise related this way of thinking to the Civil Rights movement, where the advocates against the movement thought that Blacks were inferior to whites and therefore didn’t deserve the same rights and privileges as they received. Does separate water fountains/bathrooms ring a bell? This kind of rhetoric has no place in our society.
He also touched on how the U.S. Eeonomy is predicated on low wages, and is essentially rigged for the few, against the many. A good example of this is how Walmart profits from the low wages they provide their employees. This company that is worth billions, can’t even pay their employees a living wage. Most employees have to rely on food stamps to subsidize their income. And on top of paying them meager wages, Walmart again gets to profit from their food stamp utilization at the store (12 million a year).
That’s another example of a greedy corporation getting rich off of the suffering of others.
Finally, he made a comparison to how most of us live our lives like the movie, “The Matrix.” We like to stay within our safe “bubbles” in our own lives and fear venturing out of these self-made safety nets out of fear of experiencing and witnessing the true suffering and disparity that many face. This equates to taking the blue pill and going about our daily lives, happily oblivious. He challenges us to have the courage to take the red pill and see what’s really going on in our world. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Volunteer at a soup kitchen; donate clothes to a local thrift shop…it doesn’t take much to make a difference in this world. Truer words were never spoken.