Interest Convergence in a Time of Pandemic and Police Brutality:
How COVID and Growing Authoritarianism Provide an Opening for Solidarity
In this presentation, Wise explores the dangers and opportunities of the current pandemic moment, combined with the burgeoning movement for racial justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. As the nation’s lackluster response to COVID signaled an indifference to those affected — disproportionately Black and Brown folks — so too has the brutal reaction to the brewing rebellion made it clear: we are living in a nation whose leaders have announced for all to hear that so far as they are concerned, Black lives do not matter. And yet, precisely because of the pandemic, millions of Americans (including millions of whites), have been able to stop and actually see what people of color have long known. The relative quiet provided by quarantine has opened up people to the world around them — a world they cannot easily ignore as they often do when going about the normal routine of their pre-pandemic lives. How might we take advantage of this opening? How might we make use of the pandemic moment, and the vulnerabilities it has laid bare, to build empathy across lines of race? After all, because of COVID, for the first time millions of whites are having to ask questions like: Is it safe to go to the store? To go for a walk or jog around the neighborhood? But these are questions Black and Brown folks have had to ask always, with or without a global health emergency. And as we can see from the actions of police, it’s a question they have to ask still, because racism too is a type of virus, for which we have no vaccine or herd immunity. Building on the concepts of “interest convergence” long articulated by the late great legal scholar, Derrick Bell, Wise will examine the various points of potential common ground between whites and folks of color made visible in this moment, and how they can be utilized to grow the movement for justice.
Not Giving Up: Maintaining Our Commitment to Justice in Unjust Times
In this new and exciting presentation, Tim Wise explores the importance of staying strong in difficult times, and committing to the struggle for justice, even when justice seems far away. Weaving social movement history with contemporary analysis, humor and storytelling, Wise provides practical tools for movement building, self-care, how to build effective coalitions, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that occasionally befall organizers and activists in every generation. In this talk, Wise also examines the ups and downs of social media as a tool for movement building; the importance (and potential blind spots) of movement allies; and understanding the difference between systems of oppression and individuals who occasionally act in oppressive ways, and how to stay focused principally on the former, as a way to lessen the harms of both. Additionally, he explores the importance of "radical humility,” in movement work: recognizing our own mistakes, our own (often slow) process of becoming aware of injustices, and the recognition that we still have much to learn from one another. This presentation is a great primer for movement building and effective activism, which will help boost the resilience of those seeking a more just and equitable world, but who find themselves frustrated by the slow—and often backwards—pace of change.
STEM is Not Enough: Equity and the Importance of MESH Education (Media Literacy, Ethics, Sociology, and History)
In this bold new presentation, Tim Wise explores the current push for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), both in general and for students of color and women, and critiques the single minded focus on these subjects at the expense of comprehensive civics education. As he explains, science and technical skills, absent an understanding of history, group power dynamics (which are explored in sociology), ethics and media literacy will produce a society of coders and engineers but very few people who have what it takes to build and maintain a multicultural, pluralistic democracy. Equity and democracy, after all, don’t come with phone Apps or simple mathematical equations. They require an informed citizenry with the historical memory and ethical grounding needed to produce justice. In fact, even the STEM disciplines need a MESH filter, given the way in which science and technology have been weaponized in history against marginalized populations. In this presentation, Wise examines the problems with STEM, the necessity of MESH, and how schools can ensure a proper balance between them, for the benefit of all.
Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America
In this speech, drawn from his book, Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Jeopardizing the Future of America, Tim Wise examines the ways in which American politics and culture serve to rationalize inequalities on the basis of class and race. From the myth of “rugged individualism” to the racialized attacks on the nation’s poor, American ideology has long served to explain away inequity as a natural outcome of differential talent, effort or cultural attributes. But as Wise shows in this presentation, to believe that the poor and unemployed are to blame for their own plight, or that the rich deserve their positions and wealth is to believe in a pernicious and destructive lie that threatens the very heart of democracy and true equal opportunity. By exploring the way that racism has been central to the development and perpetuation of the nation’s class system, Wise demonstrates the importance of undermining the dominant white racial narrative not solely to fight racism itself, but larger economic and social injustice as well.
Beyond Diversity: Steps for Uprooting Racism, Privilege and Institutional Inequity
[Note: This can be done as a workshop or as a lecture presentation followed by Q & A.]
In this session, Tim will explore the causes -- both formal and informal -- for institutional racial inequities. By examining the various policies, practices, and procedures that exist within educational, employment, and organizational settings -- and which often inadvertently perpetuate unequal opportunity and treatment -- participants can develop strategies for shifting their institutional cultures in the direction of greater parity. This session can be tailored specifically for educators (at the primary, secondary or higher ed level), businesses, non-profits, government agencies, or religious bodies, as desired. Among the topics that can be explored in this session are:
• The difference between individual bias and institutional bias
• The sources of internalized supremacy/oppression and how these can manifest in all of us
• Privilege as the flipside of oppression
• Stereotype Vulnerability and Racial Performance Gaps - The Hidden Key to Disparities
• The harms of inequity for all members of an institution, including dominant group members
• Strategies for creating equity in the classroom, workspace, and throughout our institutions
Tim Wise can also tailor presentations to focus on topics like race and education, race and health care, race and the legal system, among others.
Contact SpeakOut for details.