Just who is Tim Wise? Distinguished professor Michael Eric Dyson called him, “one of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation.” Joe Feagin, Graduate Research Professor of Sociology, Texas A&M called him, “One of those rare ‘public intellectuals’ that numerous authors have suggested are becoming extinct in this society”. But what makes Tim Wise a rarity in today’s society is his outspoken views on anti-racism from a White Man’s point of view. Wise has written five books on the issues concerning anti-racism in American including the highly acclaimed “Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama”.
Wise’s book tackles issues ranging from the Civil Rights struggle, to Dr. King’s dream, to Barack Obama’s election. In speaking about what he feels about President Obama, Wise said, “I think a lot of what Barack has done deserves fairly significant criticism. There are two things going on. Some people who voted for the president who seem to think we can’t criticize him because it undermines him and we have to sort of defend him no matter what. And then there are those of us who believe that although we understand the concerns and the fears around that issue that in fact remaining silent in the face of what our truly conservative policy decisions by this administrative really involve only the right. The only pressure he gets is from the right, he gets no pressure from the left. By definition he moves right. I’m sure he is getting a lot of flack from people. And some of the flack is absolutely race driven. But, there are a whole lot of us who are critical of the president’s approach. Not only are the decisions his administrative are making flawed in terms of their impact but they are not good politics.
“Illuminated individualism: provides an alternative frame work for dealing with racism. The right wing, their way of dealing with it is we shouldn’t talk about racism at all we should just treat everyone as an individual. For liberals, their approach isn’t as outrageous as the conservative approach but its not much better. They think we are all in this together. We’re one United States of America we have to talk about what brings us together and not what drives us apart. That is just as unrealistic. Illuminated individualism says we have to take account for everything that does drive us apart. We have to recognize that color has consequences and as long as it has consequences we need to take that into account.” Wise added.
“When I was in college I was involved in anti-racism and a lot of different activist work. In the end the anti-racism worked. It was what I cared about, it was what I believed in. I didn’t want to just go into some traditional field where I wouldn’t be able to work on the value of the things I cared about. For me, it was about working on the things I believed in and the things I was good at”. Wise says about why he decided to become a anti-racist advocate while attending Tulane University in the mid- 1980’s. Wise first came to public attention when he served as an anti-apartheid leader in 1988, when South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu declined a honorary degree from Tulane, after Tutu was informed of the school’s ongoing investments there, by Wise’s group. He would later go on to fight against David Duke’s campaign when Duke ran for U.S. Senate and Governor of Louisiana in 1990 and 1991. Wise also served as adviser to Fisk University’s Race Relations Institute between 1999 and 2003, and would receive 2001 British Diversity Award, for best feature essay on race and diversity issues.
Wise also practices what he preaches at home in instilling anti-racist values within his two children, saying “My children are very aware of what I do. We have conversations about racial issues. They have the basic ideas of the work I do and what it means to be an anti-racist. Their personal interactions (dance and school) are multi-racial interactions. Which I think for young kids is pretty important. To have people of authority and mentors to be of color, when you are a white kid and early on, is really critical.”