Writer Tim Wise on Racial Inequalities in the U.S.

By John Stran

The dauntless voice of anti-racist writer, Tim Wise, spoke to students and citizens of Youngstown about racial disparities of the past and present on Sept. 14.

The event was hosted by the Centofanti Symposium at Youngstown State University, but the director of the organization, Joseph Mosca, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, credits YSU’s Black Student Union for selecting the speaker.

Jaylin Archie, president of the Black Student Union, said the group chose Wise because they believe his words would teach a valuable lesson to students and staff.

Wise’s seven books include “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son,” and his latest “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.”

Wise is also part of the podcast “Speak Out.”

Levi Antonosanti, a freshman engineering major, attended the lecture and described Wise as an influential writer who tackles social issues at a great angle.

Photo by John Stran/The Jambar

During the lecture, Wise touched on ever-present issues affecting all minorities but focused mostly on the white perception of the black struggle.

“Some white people think they know when racism is happening better than black people,” Wise said. “This is like thinking you know something and never even taking a class on it.”

Wise delved into black and white issues and pointed blame at blatant racists, those who believe racism doesn’t exist and white liberals who claim they aren’t racist saying accepting it is the best way to remove it.

Wise expressed concern about the level someone has to hurdle to prove they’re not racist.

“As long as you’re not a white nationalist, you’re not racist,” Wise said. “And some people have proven to have a hard time even crossing that threshold.”

Wise said he believes that people who have a hard time proving they aren’t racist are just a symptom of a disease that is the history of the U.S.

Disrespecting someone based on their skin tone is rooted in the country’s past and reversing history is impossible; the solution may be a difficult one to reach. Wise said that’s why it’s important to understand we’re living in history.

“We have to make sure the time we’re living in doesn’t become a part of misremembered history,” he said. “What’s happening now has happened in the past.”

When the crowd had a chance to ask questions and voice their opinions, one woman questioned the usefulness of Wise’s speech if action isn’t taken.

“With all due respect, this event means nothing if nothing changes,” said Valley resident Deaudra Edgerson. “So what has to be done to bridge this gap?”

Although Wise was uncertain, he quoted Derrick Bell, the first African-American law professor at Harvard, saying racism would be permanent, never to be fully conquered and there’s redemption in the struggle for justice.

Wise said a start to bridging the gap would be to question core ideologies that have conditioned white people to be racist and black people to have an inner racism toward themselves.