Thursday, May 26, 2011

An enlightening evening with Angela Davis and Tim Wise

On Friday May 13, I went to my hometown of Oakland on an SSU Residential Life trip to see Angela Davis and Tim Wise in Conversation at the First Congregational Church. Upon arrival it was clear that the attendance would be in the hundreds, as there were throngs of people going into the church. It was a very diverse audience with a large number of African American people, which makes sense considering the subject matter was race. Angela Davis is a well known activist/communist/fugitive/retired professor whose recent work has focused on, among other things, how capitalism and the prison industrial complex relate to race. Tim Wise is a prominent antiracist speaker and writer who I first saw at SSU speaking about his piece titled "Between Barack and a Hard Place," and I have since read a lot of his online writings.

The conversation addressed many realities regarding race, many of which I have already developed some awareness of as someone interested in social justice. But it also helped to further open my eyes to both past and contemporary issues regarding race. They discussed several subtopics, including the influence of capitalism and private prisons in keeping racism alive, white animosity toward discussion of white privilege (the "I work hard, so why shouldn't I be able to keep my rewards" mentality), and a tendency among working class racially resentful whites to vote against their own interests to punish people of color they feel don't deserve the same interests. That last point addresses something which I have thought and worried about a lot lately, due to its negative effect on democracy serving the interests of the people. Despite the seriousness of the topic, the speakers were able humorously spice up their discussion often.

The evening was a very productive experience for me and the presenters offered a lot of hope for solving the modern-day issues of race being discussed. It also made it ever more obvious that you are never done learning about an issue. I would definitely recommend these kind of events to others, especially considering that while we have come a long way on race, we still have a long way to go, and we should never ignore the topic.

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