By Maham Haq –
On Thursday, July 23, more than 200 people from all over Arizona gathered in the Bulpitt Auditorium at Phoenix College to hear one of the nation’s most prominent anti-racism activists, Tim Wise, speak on race, justice, and the future of leadership. Tim Wise has spoken in all 50 states on more than 1,000 college and high school campuses in the past 20 years. He is the author of six books including his most recent, “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America,” and is regularly featured on CNN and MSNBC to discuss issues of race and justice.
The racial inequality in the United States is arguably staggering. The wealthiest 400 white people in this country have the same collective net worth as all of the 41 million black people in this country combined. The wealthiest 500 white people in this country have the same collective net worth as all of the 50 million Latinos in this country combined. These facts indicate that it’s not about who works harder, “it’s about the existence of preexisting advantage, opportunity and systemic inequality,” said Wise.
To kick off the night, Dr. Matthew C. Whitaker, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University, explained that the goal of the center is to help people “understand who we are as people.” This fundamental understanding is what limits the hatred between groups of people who misunderstand each other. “The more people are educated about racial injustice, the less potential there is for people to commit racially unjust crimes,” said Dana Abushanab, an attendee from Peoria.
To help introduce Wise, Dr. Whitaker played a video which accumulated many of Wise’s best moments, one of which included him saying, “We talk worse about black victims than we do white killers.” This summarizes what Tim Wise came all the way from Nashville, Tennessee, to speak about: the extremely increasing racial inequality that can be seen throughout the nation.
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and most recently Sandra Bland are just a few of those who have become household names and whose deaths have been protested by Black Lives Matter. The founder of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza, has explained its philosophy as the following: “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.” This movement is necessary. As Wise reiterates, the Black Lives Matter movement is not the same as All Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter fights for the fact that “certain lives do not count as much as others” in this nation.
“Race is hardly ever a topic of discussion, likely because we are all too sure we are not racist, and it makes us uncomfortable to discuss it. But Tim Wise argued that if we do not fight against racism we are only moving alongside it,” said Abushanab. Movements like these are created to fight against what is believed to be unjust.
Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman, was pulled over by police for failing to signal a lane change and ended up getting arrested on the allegation that she had assaulted the police officer. She was later found dead in her jail cell in Waller County, Texas, and has since become part of the discussion about police brutality in the United States. The interactions these individuals had with the police indicate, according to Wise, that “police in this country are under the impression that they are above the law they are asked to enforce.”
Wise explained that inequality has been deeply ingrained in our roots and events such as his talk promote healthy conversation about race.
“I learned a great deal about the politics and greater inequalities surrounding race in America and it was enlightening to learn about the correlations between the inequalities in American history and the rising racial tensions in America today,” said Amina Aden, an attendee from Tempe.