- Self-described “antiracist essayist”
- Views the United States as a nation rife with white racism
- Lectures across the United States about the need to “combat institutional racism, gender bias, and the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S.”
Tim Wise is a self-described “antiracist essayist” whose
career is devoted to condemning the “white racism” and “white privilege”
which, in his view, infest America. He also serves as a Board of Advisors member for Grassroots International.
was born in Nashville, Tennessee in October 1968. He attended Tulane
University, where he served as a leader of the campus’ anti-apartheid
movement, pressuring the school to divest its assets from U.S. companies
that conducted any business with the South African government. When
Tulane failed to comply, Wise in 1988 persuaded Archbishop Desmond Tutu
to turn down an honorary degree which the university was planning to
award him. Wise graduated in 1990 with a B.A. in Political Science and a
minor in Latin American Studies.
In the early 1990s, Wise
received training as an antiracist activist from the New Orleans-based
People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISB). Challenging its
trainees “to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder social equity,” PISB contends that racism “is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change.”
first job in the field came as the youth coordinator for the Louisiana
Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, which was originally founded to
help defeat the political ambitions of Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, David
Duke. From 1999 to 2003, Wise served as an advisor to the Fisk
University Race Relations Institute.
In January 2002, Wise endorsed War Times,
an anti-Iraq War newspaper produced by a group of San Francisco
leftists, most of whom were affiliated with the radical organizations STORM and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). At a CCDS national convention six months later, Wise spoke on the topic os "Racism in the Present Era."
Though he held no graduate degree of any kind, in 2005 Wise served as an
adjunct faculty member at the Smith College School for Social Work,
where he co-taught a Master's-level class on racism in the United States.
is the founder and director of the Association for White Anti-Racist
Education (AWARE). Based in Brentwood, Tennessee, AWARE’s mission
is “to educate white Americans about ongoing institutional racism in
society; to raise awareness among whites to the harmful effects racism
has on people of color and themselves; and to provide the tools for
whites to support equity and justice.”
Wise has parlayed his
racial angst into a speaking career that has included stops at more than
350 college campuses across the United States, where he lectures about
the need to “combat institutional racism, gender bias, and the growing
gap between rich and poor in the U.S.” Viewing America as a nation
overrun by white racists ever-eager to ambush blacks and other
minorities, Wise defines the American experience as an exercise in white
privilege which can be countered only by an enlightened vanguard of
antiracist whites such as himself.
Regularly posting his columns and opinion pieces on Z-Mag,
Wise claims that the ever-increasing prosperity of the black middle
class since the 1980s is essentially a meaningless statistical trick,
and that blacks should receive preferential treatment in employment and
Wise charges that U.S. troops in Iraq are in violation
of Article 54 of the Geneva Convention, by which “[i]t is prohibited to
attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the
survival of the civilian population,” such as food, water, or livestock.
has made evident his rabid anti-Catholicism, manifest in sardonic
criticisms of the pope, of the Church’s position on abortion, and of the
pedophilia scandal that rocked the Church.
Wise has compared America’s founding fathers to the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan
is an incessant critic of Israel, which he views as a racist colonizer
of Palestine; he alleges that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons
should be considered no more acceptable than the potential acquisition
of such an arsenal by the mullahs of Iran.
capitalism; he finds the U.S. prison system racist; he urges a complete
overhaul of the criminal-justice system; and he advocates reparations
not only to the descendants of slaves, but to all “people of color.”
Preceding the 2004 presidential election, Wise was a signatory to “Bush Can Be Stopped: A Letter to the Left,”
which aimed to prevent the re-election of George W. Bush. The letter
also appealed for public support for such organizations as MoveOn, U.S. Labor Against War, United for Peace and Justice, and Win Without War. Wise's fellow signers included Leslie Cagan, Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Carl Davidson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Manning Marable, Robert Meeropol, Michael Ratner, and Pete Seeger.
Wise characterized the American government’s allegedly slow response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the heavily black city of New Orleans in 2005, as follows:
“...[I]n the wake of Hurricane Katrina, government at all levels and across party lines
has engaged in ethnic cleansing in New Orleans, failing to provide
rental assistance to the mostly black tenant base for over a year,
plotting to tear down 5,000 perfectly usable units of public housing,
failing to restart the city's public health care infrastructure, and
even ordering the Red Cross not to provide relief in the first few days
after the city flooded in September 2005, so as to force evacuation and
empty out the city …”
In 2008, Wise maintained that the nomination of Senator Barack Obama as the Democrat
presidential candidate could not be interpreted as evidence that
America had become a land of opportunity for blacks as well as whites.
Rather, pointing to the fact that Obama had largely avoided focusing on
race-related issues in his campaign, Wise concluded that racism was in
fact more prevalent than ever. In a March 2008 essay titled “Uh-Obama:
Racism, White Voters and the Myth of Color-Blindness,” Wise wrote:
“Surely, that Obama is constrained in his ability to focus any real
attention on these matters, suggests that whatever his success may say
about America and race, one thing it utterly fails to say is that we
have conquered the racial demons that have so long bedeviled us. And to
the extent he must remain relatively silent about these issues, lest he
find his political ascent headed in a decidedly different direction, it
is true, however ironic, that his success actually confirms the
salience of white power. If, in order to be elected, a man of color has
to pander to white folks, in ways that no white politician would ever
have to do to people who were black or brown, then white privilege and
white power remain operative realities ... His success, far from
disproving white power and privilege, confirms it with a vengeance.”
In an October 11, 2008 blog entry, Wise warned that an age of fascism would arise if Republican candidate John McCain were to be elected President in the upcoming election. Wrote Wise:
In 2009, Wise was affiliated with Progressives for Obama, which later changed its name to Progressive America Rising.
“If fascism comes, it will spring from the soil of middle America,
from people known as values voters but whose values are toxic, from
simple folk whose simplicity, far from being admirable, is better
labeled ignorance, from ‘all-American’ types whose patriotism is a
dagger pointed at the very heart of the national interest ... If fascism
comes, it will be ushered in by tailgaters at the big football game, by
Joe Six Pack ... If fascism comes it will dress like a hockey mom, or a
NASCAR dad ... If fascism comes it will have a pajama party at Ann
Coulter's house, pop pills with Rush Limbaugh, and go gay-bashing with
Michael Savage, all in the same weekend.”
Wise is the author of three books: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (2005); Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (2005); and Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male (2008). He has also contributed to an anthology titled White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism (2001).
Wise received the 2001 British Diversity Award and the 2002 National Youth Advocacy Coalition’s Social Justice Impact Award. Michael Eric Dyson has called him “one of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation.”