August 14, 2020

A culture of cruelty and inequality in America

An anti-racist essayist, author and educator spoke Oct. 6 about the long shadow of history that creates a culture of cruelty in America.

Tim Wise joined an audience of students, faculty and staff in the Lipkin Theater to speak out against inequality of all forms.

“Inequality is hard to get used to when you’ve never had to share,” said Wise, delivering this year’s Cohen Lecture, part of the annual Peace Conference sponsored by the NCC Forum on Peace, Justice and Conflict Resolution.

“People must understand where inequality comes from,” Wise said, explaining that we are where we are today because of history.

“There are no accidents, only precedents,” he said.

Wise rebutted the idea that inequality is due directly to people’s lack of effort.

On the subject of sexism, Wise said he tries to educate his daughters about this because not to would be like “sending them down a dark alley with an electric fence at the end and not telling them because (he didn’t) want to make them neurotic.”

Wise spoke about how the history of police involvement in slavery and how history’s Jim Crow laws affect the clash with police today.

Wise said that it is possible for dominant group members in our culture not to sweat inequality because dominance “let’s us be oblivious.”

People tend to blame others, Wise said.

Americans tend to blame Mexicans for taking their jobs, but that isn’t necessarily true because Mexicans aren’t qualified to take high-paying jobs, Wise said. “Mexicans didn’t crash Wall Street. Smart, rich, white men did.”

Wise spoke about problems with Donald Trump’s proposed wall between Mexico and the United States, including the belief that capital will continue flowing across the border even when the flow of labor stops.

“We aren’t going to make America great again,” Wise said, referring to Trump’s popular catchphrase. “We’re going to make it great for the first time.”

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