Recently, Donald Trump’s media-swamped visit to Phoenix fit the national stereotype of the State as angry, conservative and intolerant. Most Americans would be surprised to see who received two standing ovations at Phoenix College on July 23, 2015. Tim Wise, the left-wing radical advocate of diversity, shattered the anti-diversity image of Arizona with his lecture Race, Justice and the Future of Leadership.
“Anytime there is an opportunity to discuss race, we need to talk about it,” said ASU Dean Duane Roen, who cited a study saying six of ten Americans think race relations are getting worse.
The pre-talk buzz in the Bulpitt Auditorium and among hundreds in the overflow room was loud, as the excited crowd of students, business people, and non-profit leaders of all races, religions and sexual orientations, waited for one of the nation’s leading anti-racist authors. Some were curious. “I want to hear what he has to say about the events that have occurred the past few weeks,” said Sam Cox. Others, like RJ Shannon, were anxious to see “one of my heroes.”
Wise, who, despite (or because of) growing up in a segregated Black Tennessee neighborhood, became a college anti-apartheid activist; a leader in the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism; and a New Orleans community organizer. He authored six popular books, including White Like Me, and Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.
Wise did not disappoint. He voiced opinions on all the current issues from the Sandra Bland and other fatal police encounters to the South Carolina murders, “Black Life Matters,” and his desire for global economic order.
Wise blasted everything from Donald Trump to the Confederate flag, plantation tours, unequal legal justice, economic inequity (e.g., top 400 richest whites in America make more than 41 million African-Americans combined), voter suppression (citing there have only been 31 cases of voter fraud in 15 years), campaign financing, and free trade but restricted labor across borders. He chided immigrant-descendant working class whites, who have been duped into supporting rich white men.
Many, who had not seen Wise in person, were shocked, but excited, by his, what Dr Matthew Whitaker of CSRD, called, unapologetic and bold style. He often resembled a preacher on stage. It was disappointing more media did not pay attention to this serious discussion, not just about leadership, but about the future of Arizona.