Tim Wise Speaks to a Crowd of 600 about the Downfalls of Being “Colorblind”


Activist Tim Wise drew over 600 people who spilled into McLaren Hall to listen to his discussion on the racial consequences that lie within wealth distribution, unemployment and healthcare. Community members, professors, and students from USF and the Bay Area scrambled to find a seat, gathering to hear Wise’s talk on Feb. 26.

Wise is one of that nation’s most prominent anti-racist activists and has been regarded by Cornel West as his “vanilla brother.” He is a white man who is a ruthless critic of white privilege.

Wise is the author of six books, one of them being the acclaimed memoir, “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.” In 2010, he was named one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by Utne Reader magazine. Wise has spoken at over 800 college campuses and  discussed a central theme of his 2010 book, “Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.” The book argues for deeper color-consciousness in both public and private practice.

Donning a casual green cargo jacket, Wise opened up his discussion with a few friendly jokes and assured the crowd that he wasn’t going to be mild. He pointed out the light-skinned Jesus that hangs on most crucifixes and then discussed Chris Rock’s controversial tweet from July 4th last year: “Happy White People’s Independence Day! The slaves weren’t free, but I’m sure they enjoyed the fireworks.”

One may think we are well on our way towards a post-racist society, especially after the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.  Some claim to “not see” color and accept everyone as equal and, in turn, many people stay hushed on the subject of racism. Wise said it’s a common misconception to think that talking about race perpetuates racism. He explained this by applying the same silent solution to world hunger. “Imagine if someone were to say to you, ‘Did you know that there are billions of children around the world starving due to lack of food—Shh! Damn fool! Don’t talk about starvation…People will starve.’”

In terms of political colorblindness, Wise demanded we wake up and smell the black coffee. Dripping with sarcasm, he explained that a black president can suggest racism is taken care of — the same way that sexism is magically gone in Pakistan due to their past female prime ministers. Wise said no, asserting that a black president does not warrant people to consider ourselves so vastly superior to the days of slavery that they suddenly have permission to be numb from reality, and assume the “politically correct” position of color-blindness. “Color has had consequences and continues to have consequences,” Wise said, explaining that we cannot be blind to color.

According to Wise, wealth is being disproportionately and unfairly distributed in our country. Because interest exponentially expands wealth, larger socioeconomic gaps are created.  And it is not necessarily income that matters in this country. Accumulated wealth allows people to buy houses, start businesses, and be active participants in this nation.

Wise asserted that a typical white middle class family has 20 times the net worth of their typical African-American and Latino family counterpart — close to $100 thousand more. He said that it is not because they’ve worked harder, nor is it because white men have some “superior investment wisdom.”

“There is an awful lot of money that can be lost by white guys without any help from black people, or Mexicans, whether they are documented or not,” Wise said. He pointed out that there is no way domestic theft by any minority group could possibly amount to the efficiency of the white men on Wall Street, who managed to lose 12 trillion dollars in a matter of 18 months last year.

Wealth distribution is all dependent upon if one can even get a job to begin with, and Wise shared some statistics pertaining to national unemployment. Black people and Latinos are twice as likely to be unemployed than white people with similar skills. In 2009, the white teen unemployment rate hit 25.3 percent, a historic high, and the nation was up in arms. However, what remained unmentioned that year was the black teen unemployment rate, which was 45 percent and had been that way since the early 90s.

Wise jumped from topic to topic like jazz, and as he put it, “not the smooth kind” – another prominent topic being health care. Wise said that the House Health Care and Wellness Committee seems to be utterly bewildered as to why, though these minorities have health care available to them, are still presenting negative outcomes. Health care is related to geography, which is related to race, Wise said.  Everyday experiences of big and small racialized mistreatment has significant physiological consequences, he said.

For no known reason, the mortality rate of infants birthed by employed African-American women with a college degree and health care coverage is double than that of the infants of poorer white women who are less educated and smoke every day of their pregnancy. Wise said that the health of at least 8,500 people are being affected by this racial consequence. The Health Care and Wellness Committee, however, cannot speak of it, because to not see color and to not talk about racism, is the decided “solution.”

Wise closed his talk with the simple plea for race conversation, if even just out of self-consideration as a nation. In 20 years, white people will be the minority — or at the very least, will be sharing the population 50/50 with non-whites, he said.  Race conversation is gravely essential to our country’s future, and Wise suggested that his mere presence on our campus attested to that. Wise said, “I am 44 years old, I am white, I have a bachelor’s degree, and I can come and tell you more about the system of racism and get away with more, than the President of the United States. That’s how not post-racist we are.”

“I think [the talk] provided some really important food for thought in a community that has a lot of racial diversity but not a lot of dialogue about it, and still considers itself progressive,” said Haley Zaremba, a junior media studies student.

When asked for any words of further advice for students, Wise said to start by taking personal inventory. Take a good look at your life and your privileges. “Let it percolate. Let it sink in,” he said.

Tim Wise’s feature-length documentary film, “White Like Me” explores his personal biography and political analysis, and is scheduled for release this April.

The event was sponsored by the USF Office of Diversity and Community Outreach.

31 thoughts on “Tim Wise Speaks to a Crowd of 600 about the Downfalls of Being “Colorblind”

  1. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  2. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from
    somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your theme.

  3. Tim Wise propagates resentment and racism. HE IS A RACIST and ADMITTED WHITE SUPREMACIST, you cannot really argue this. Everything is a generalizing race-based statistic to him. Wealth disparities obviously come from our racist past as a country, and eventually they will work themselves out because we don’t have laws that bar or discriminate based on race. It will take time, but THERE IS NO MONOPOLY ON INTELLIGENCE, so prove yourself no matter what color skin, eyes, hair, or fingernails you have; and stop bitching because if someone discriminates against you on the basis of your race, guess what, you can take them to court and win some money in a settlement.

    “There is an awful lot of money that can be lost by white guys without any help from black people, or Mexicans, whether they are documented or not,” Wise said. He pointed out that there is no way domestic theft by any minority group could possibly amount to the efficiency of the white men on Wall Street, who managed to lose 12 trillion dollars in a matter of 18 months last year.
    – are you serious…this is racist crap. Wise is assigning the Wall Street financial meltdown to white people and domestic theft to back and hispanic people. ANY color of person could have caused the financial meltdown – it was due to immorality, injustice, and greed. What exactly is he implying? that a race beside white people would not have cause such an event? POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY, regardless of their race those men are responsible for their actions alone, not their skin color. I’m not going to bother responding to the second half of his point because it is plain offensive and plays completely on racial stereotypes.

    Wise points out the fact that we do notice the color of a person as soon as we see them. That does not mean we have to make assumptions about who they are, what their intellectual capacities are, what kind of financial background they come from, what they are capable of, whether they are dangerous or not, whether they need help or not, or whether they belong to any other race beside the human race. I find it morally despicable that Tim Wise is standing up saying that if you see a black person, you should think – “hey what can this country do to help that person and their race, he/she must be behind/below/poorer than the white person they are walking next too…thanks for helping me to see that Tim Wise.” It so happens that in this country we do actually have black, mexican, and asian people that are much richer, have more opportunities, and more privileges than white people (ever been to a trailer park?). In order to fix the social inequalities of our time, we would have to treat people unequally. Should we really make everything a race based issue, thus throwing members of each race at each other’s necks and creating a hostile and resentful environment – is that just?

    We should strive for a colorblind society on a moral basis.

  4. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was good. I do not know who you are but certainly
    you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t
    already 😉 Cheers!

  5. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

  6. Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine
    Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  7. After looking into a few of the blog posts on your site,
    I really appreciate your technique of writing a blog.
    I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in
    the near future. Please check out my web site as well and let me know your opinion.

  8. Very good site you have here but I was wanting to know if you
    knew of any community forums that cover the same topics
    talked about here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

  9. As the fee is non-refundable, it is important to make sure that one fills in tthe information completely.
    Waiters, cashiers or otheer service providers may capture
    the card details as they take the card away to swipe. Of the handful of particular categories,
    they need to be the most widely conducted.

  10. I don’t even understand how I finished up right here, however I
    thought this put up was great. I don’t understand who you are however
    certainly you are going to a well-known blogger if you happen to aren’t already.

  11. Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to help
    with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good
    success. If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!

  12. If you are looking at moving houses in Auckland, then you surely will be needing a furniture removals company.
    What better company than the Moving Squad for the job. They carry
    out packing and moving and their services also include home and office removals.

    Their rates are very compettive and the moving team
    is highly experienced with excellent customer testimonials.
    You can speak to the customer services team on phone 0800 086 683 about your house or office
    moving requirements. They can also carry out dismantling, re-assembly of furniture as well as packing waste removal.
    Their staff are highly trained and possibly the best moving
    team in Auckland. If you want a damage free move,
    then call the Moving Squad now!

  13. He’s a giant Jewish douchebag who lives in an ALL WHITE neighborhood. Oh ya his house is VALUED AT OVER $690,000+ dollars. Bashing white Europeans is very profitable as he rakes in a $5000 fee for his anti-white hate speeches.

  14. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post.
    Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  15. But it will definitely require formal education and exercise routine.
    Another route is to use online job classifieds (such as Workopolis and
    Monster) to assist you build your resume. You will need some education,
    but not much.

  16. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more
    than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all.
    But think about if you added some great images or videos to give your posts
    more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and video clips,
    this site could certainly be one of the best in its niche. Superb blog!

  17. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search
    Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good
    results. If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  18. It’s vital that you consult a healthcare professional thazt youu know and trust.
    So in such instances, you may wish to search for professional help as soon as possible.
    Visit our website to-day for moe information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.