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Black History Month: Tim Wise Presentation

Monday, February 20, 2012

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  • Photo Credit: Kamala Srinivasan

    Photo Credit: Kamala Srinivasan

As part of Black History Month, a presentation was held at UC 103 on February 14th 2012. A talk by Tim Wise was screened at the presentation. The speaker, Tim Wise aka Timothy Jacob Wise, is a well-known anti-racist activist and writer. He has lectured in many colleges and universities about racism. He has also trained teachers, corporate employees and law enforcement officials in addressing and tackling racism in their respective fields.

In this lecture, Tim spoke about multicultarism and racism in the modern world. Being a white American, he personally never felt racially discriminated; however he was always aware of others’ feelings. By citing several funny anecdotes and personal experiences, he tried to prove that people of colour still feel less privileged than their white counterparts. He recollected an incident from his youth where he was late for his final examination in college, but was allowed to appear for the exam after pleading with his teacher. His teacher was considerate enough to excuse his apparent mistake, and would definitely have pardoned a non-white student too. But later, when Tim told his friends (people of colour) about this episode, they thought they could never have mustered the courage to ask the professor for pardon, in the fear that they would not get any sympathy, especially given their non-white background. This made Tim realise that his intelligent, talented friends still felt somewhat inferior to white people.

Furthermore, Tim notes that historically, whites have been prejudiced or indifferent towards people of colour. In fact, indifference to people, in Tim’s view, is one of the major causes of recent global recession. He explains his viewpoint by saying that for 30-40 years, banks and financial institutions in America consistently ignored the less-financially privileged pockets of society. People of colour were not offered loans and were deprived of capital or financial help. Then slowly over the years, loans became more accessible, albeit at high interest rates. The financial market was not being regulated and this caused an unnatural inflation, which in turn brought about the global crisis.

Tim personally feels that racism prevails in almost all countries of the world, but is more pronounced or more obvious in countries where peoples’ colour differences are stark. He believes people in advanced nations may unconsciously feel superior to others. Though they talk about racial tolerance, they might not want to give up their privileged status. Racist bias, which was overt or explicit in the past, has become more subtle now; although it still exists. It should be noted that around 30% of people are people of colour: most people in the world are non-white. We could have ignored colour if we were non-interconnected. However, in this highly globalized and multicultural world, we cannot afford to overlook people of colour. Allowing racial favouritism will certainly make an advanced country dysfunctional.

Tim went on to state many more facts and opinions throughout his speech. According to me, the talk was informative, enriching and pertinent to the current state of affairs of the world. What was disappointing about the presentation was the turnout. Very few people attended the screening, though the event and the Black History month in general were well-publicized. Mid-terms might have been a reason for the poor response, but in my view, such a serious issue deserves equally strong participation. I sign off this article with the hope that many people show their support by attending such events on a regular basis.

Kamala Srinivasan is a student at the University of Guelph and a dedicated volunteer at thecannon.ca.

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