“Admit that you do not know what you do not know, and then listen to the people who do.” I don’t know about you, but I have a VERY hard time admitting stuff that I don’t know. But Tim Wise does have a good point, how can we as a country fix all the wrong circulating when we wont even admit that there is anything wrong to fix?
This year’s Bridging the Gap event was about income inequality through the prism of race. As Wise said, we won’t have to have this conversation anymore when a woman of color, particularly a working class queer woman of color, can give the same speech he did and be taken just as seriously as he was.
I have to admit when I heard Wise would be speaking, I thought to myself, what is this white, 40-something-year-old man going to tell me about racism and inequality? But I went there with an open mind and I’m glad I did, because everything he said was not only true, but was extremely eye-opening.
Wise said ‘the problem is that if you don’t take the class, you never know.’ If you never take a geometry class, you will never know geometry. So the issue here is that the members of the dominant group never had to take the class. Take me: I’m a 21-year old white female from a middle class family. I grew up in a predominantly white town. Honestly, from kindergarten to my senior year of high school, I probably knew about 15 African American kids. I never had to take the class. I don’t know what it’s like to not be in the dominant group. I don’t know anywhere near the inequality that some people live through every day, and exactly as Wise said, they don’t teach us this stuff in school.
The only inequality I knew from the time I was born until high school was when the boys’ football team wouldn’t let me play with them, even though I was light years better than 80 percent of the team. Yeah, I was upset and felt not good enough, but that doesn’t come close to what some people are dealing with on a day to day basis, and it’s sad that some people are completely oblivious to this.
One of Wise’s points particularly stuck with me: Cheerleading for your country is NOWHERE near the same as CARING for it. So to quote Wise one last time:
“When white folks ask black folks ‘When are ya’ll going to get over slavery?’ I don’t know maybe when ya’ll get over the Fourth of July. Because that shit happened a long time ago. We did not break away from the British last Tuesday; that is some really old stuff. And acting as if something that happened over 230 years ago is something still worth talking about every single year, see we like to remember the stuff that makes us feel good, we just don’t want to deal with the ugly.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Wise was right, and smart, and exactly as his name says, wise. I learned a lot listening to him speak, and I’m ready for that day to come when that queer working class woman of color gives her speech. I’ll be there with my notebook and voice recorder. Will you?
Your friendly neighborhood white kid living in Snapchat Nation