COMMUNITY VOICES | Racial equality or turning a blind eye?

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Tim Wise an American anti-racism activist and writer addressed listeners Tuesday Oct. 1 at the Hamline Methodist Church about the continuing racism plaguing America, and talked about how it is easy for people to ignore  the problems of others in different groups and races because the problems do not directly involve them.  

 As Americans we love to look back at the past, Wise said, just not in the most honest way. Every year on July fourth the country unites for the purpose of looking back, Wise went on.  

  Wise quoted James Baldwin saying, “The past is all that makes the present  coherent.” He continued with saying that white people continue to tell black people to move on from slavery, that it is in the past, all while they continue to look back each year. “We look back as a country but only that which flatters us,” Wise said.  

 Wise also talked about the topic of President Barack Obama. He said that many Americans like to say that racism is a thing of the past because we now have a black president. He compared this thought to the country of Pakistan. Saying, that to say racism is no longer prevalent in the United States because the president is black, is equivalent to saying that women of Pakistan have equal rights because there is a woman as head of state.

 A ridiculous statement, Wise said.  

 Wall Street loses twelve trillion dollars and it gets over looked, Wise said. He continued with saying, if a bunch of black people did that their competency would be in question. Sections in the Hamline Methodist Church erupted with applause at this statement.  

 Drug use, Wise went on to state, does not have a large difference between races. Black and Latino people are five times more likely to be sentenced to a drug offence compared to white people, Wise said. Wise went on to say that “white people will go smoke a joint in the front of buildings knowing they will not get arrested” or confronted by cops, while black people would never do that knowing they would get arrested. Applause erupted from sections of the Hamline Methodist Church.  

 In 1962, 85 percent of white people polled thought black children had the same equal opportunities as white children, Wise said. In 1963, 2/3 of white people polled in America said there was no racial inequality,  Wise said.  

 “Systems allow the dominant culture to remain oblivious,” Wise said. He gave an example of his youth and going to school with many black children. He stated that there were times that he was oblivious to his friends being singled out while he was not. That even he did not notice the discipline differences between races of children, and the placement of white children in higher classes over black children.  

 Wise went on to say that this concept of not seeing problems that do not involve you goes beyond race. Men tend to overlook the problems of women because they do not need to know about them, Wise said. Straight people overlook issues of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender community, and able bodied people overlook the issues of people with disabilities, Wise said.  

 Tim Wise came to the Hamline Methodist Church as part of the annual Commitment to Community Address. This address has taken place since 1997, featuring speakers such as Dr. Cornell West, Helen Zia, Keith Boykin  J.D., and Michelle Alexander J.D.