Ethnicity

Tim Wise at Beloit College

By Amani Edwards
CONTRIBUTOR

It was the end of spring semester 2011 that I began to talk with Cecil Youngblood, assistant dean of students and director of intercultural affairs, about bringing Tim Wise to campus. I had not heard much about him, but just speaking with Cecil made me want to learn more. By September, I was in daily conversation with Tim’s agent, and other clubs and sponsors to talk about funding and a possible date for the lecture. It wasn’t until the BelFast (thank you all!) proposal went through that I realized the impact this man has had on so many individuals, especially college students. Wilson Theater on October 27 was packed, and for a Thursday night, this was extraordinary. By 6:50 p.m., the seats were filled and everyone was anticipating the start of the lecture. And then it began.

I laughed, applauded, almost cried at his topics. Everything that he was saying was true –it was as if he had studied the story of my life. Tim, being a white male, did not just simply list historical facts and statistics, he eloquently presented a speech from a point of view that not many speakers are willing to address – the white privileged male. Happenings such as the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and current events such as Occupy Wall Street were discussed in his lecture. Why do these events, though they may show a change that is occurring in society, still hold no meaning for ethnic minorities in America? What does Occupy Wall Street have to do with the ethnic minority groups in America who have been struggling for centuries?

I find it hard for others to understand my point of view, an experience I’ve had since sixth grade when I first started learning in a predominantly white setting. It’s difficult to explain why I only need to wash my hair once a week, or why I pronounce my “I’s” like “A’s”; why am I always “loud” in the cafeteria, or why I am only allowed to pledge historically black sororities. I have found that people are not satisfied with the simple but true answer of “Because it’s my culture, this is the way I grew up.” But Tim understood me, and he understood why many African-Americans like me find it hard to relate to certain topics such as Occupy Wall Street or environmental movements – on top of the concerns of America, we have our own which have hindered us for centuries, but no one but our own people wants to listen. Tim brought these issues to the light, but I feel as though many at the college took nothing away from his speech. As a senior, I don’t worry about myself, but about the other students – freshmen, sophomores, juniors – who will face these problems until they graduate. Until then, we as students need to stop jumping to conclusions and speaking; we must first stop to listen.

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