Leading scholar on racism and white privilege to speak at KSU
Author warns against “post-racial America” claims in wake of Obama presidency KENNESAW…
Georgia (Sep 4, 2009) — Author warns against “post-racial America” claims in wake of Obama presidency
KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 9, 2009) -- Anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise says time will tell whether the election of Barack Obama as the first American president of African descent will open or close a chapter on persistent racism and inequity in America.
Described as the foremost white anti-racist intellectual in the nation, Wise will discuss his latest book, “Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama,” on Sept. 9. The forum is sponsored by the Center for African and African Diaspora Studies, the Siegel Institute, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the American Studies Program, the Office of Legal Affairs, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Student Leadership, and Student Life.
“My position is that the election of Obama presents an opening to have an honest conversation about race and to really confront racism,” Wise said in an interview on the City Lights Booksellers and Publishers Web site. “The danger [is] that a lot of folks already are looking at the election as evidence of the nation’s post-raciality — that now the problem is behind us. That’s about as absurd as saying that women and girls in Pakistan, Israel, India and Great Britain, all of which have had female leaders, had somehow conquered sexisim.”
Wise, author of three other books — “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son,” “Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White,”and “Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male.”— has spoken on more than 400 college campuses across the country. He has trained educators and corporate, government, entertainment, military and law enforcement officials on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions and appears frequently on radio and television programs.
The 2008 Oliver L. Brown Distinguished Visiting Scholar for Diversity Issues at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas, Wise says he speaks to anyone who is concerned about persistent, systemic racism and inequities in education, employment, housing, the criminal justice system and health care.
“That’s something we don’t talk a lot about in the mainstream press,” Wise said. “The pundits and talking heads don’t talk about it. It’s something Barack Obama the candidate couldn’t talk about [or] he would have been viewed as playing the race card or pandering to special interests, and he would have been punished at the polls. The fact that he could not speak about [these issues] is all the evidence we need to know that we have not moved beyond race.”
Wise says, however, the book is directed primarily to whites who have false perceptions about racial progress and who deny their responsibility for persistent discriminatory practices. “We take every bit of progress — the emancipation of slaves, when Brown v. the Board of Education abolished segregation in schools, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, voting rights — and assume that it is the final chapter instead of understanding that this is a much longer struggle,” he said.
Wise will discuss many of these views, which are covered in his latest book, a selection of the 2009 Diversity Summer Book Club at KSU. The university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Center for African and African Diaspora Studies also collaborated to organize the book club.
In addition to Wise’s book, a group of faculty, staff and students met weekly to discuss five works on race by author James Baldwin (in dialogue with William F. Buckley and Margaret Mead) and Cornel West, author of “Race Matters.” “Mr. Wise has said that he is greatly influenced by James Baldwin,” said Rosa Bobia, CAADS director and Baldwin scholar. “Knowing our interest and the work of the James Baldwin Society here was instrumental in his decision to accept our invitation to come to KSU.”
In its five-year strategic plan, Kennesaw State established an objective to create a campus culture that assures an appreciation of diversity and ethical behavior as an integral part of the KSU experience.
“Tim Wise’s book creates an opportunity to continue the dialogue and further our conversation about race and ethnicity at KSU,”said Jennifer Wade-Berg, the unversity’s chief diversity officer. “His presentation on campus marks the beginning of a series of scholarly speakers with diverse perspectives that will encourage an on-going, open dialogue at KSU on a myriad of diversity-related issues. What better place is there to engage in such intellectual inquiry than in an institution of higher learning.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.