Tim Wise, an author and anti-racism activist, led a discussion about race and privilege Monday night in Bovard Auditorium.
The event, called “White Like Me: An Honest Discussion About Race and Privilege,” was sponsored by the USC Latino Student Assembly in conjunction with El Centro Chicano, the Black Student Assembly and the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly.
“We thought it would be interesting to have someone who is Caucasian talking about these issues, since it would usually be someone of color,” said Valerie Fernandez, executive director of the Latino Student Assembly.
Wise’s lecture informed students that issues of race should be spoken about more frequently and openly. He discussed how society should be unafraid to look at the systems in which we operate, and analyze how we tackle issues of race.
He placed responsibility to be aware of racism on all members of society, not just people of color. Wise explained the importance of being aware of the issues that people of color face, especially for Caucasian people.
“We’re not intentionally oppressive, but we are often oblivious to the experience of others and this is very dangerous,” he said.
Wise said fighting white supremacy is an issue all people should be concerned with. During the lecture, he spoke of his views regarding how continued racism is a prevalent issue today.
“When you fight white supremacy, you are not doing it to save people of color as a charity. If we don’t make change now, it will destroy our children and our grandchildren,” he said. “This is not charity, but rather self-help.”
Students appreciated the new perspective that Wise gave on issues of race through his experiences as a Caucasian male.
“He was able to talk about issues that are usually only addressed by black people. It really touched me that a person that is not my color skin is willing to help my cause,” said Levi Powell, the student affairs and diversity chair of BSA.
Having these discussions about race is only the first step, Wise said. He told audience members that everyone needs to take these conversations as an impetus for action.
Aneesha Gupta, a freshman majoring in computer science, said that Wise’s words opened her eyes to ways to take action to help defeat racism in society.
“The discussion was really interesting for me since I grew up in a primarily white area,” Gupta said. “The lecture was a nice reality check that these issues exist, and to hear the effects they have on people here,” she said.
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