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Updated 4:00 PM January 24, 2007




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Affirmative action champion to close MLK Symposium

Tim Wise is a white man who speaks eloquently on the side of affirmative action and minority rights—and that makes some people mad.

In his essay "Profit and Loss: The Ups and Downs of White Privilege, Wise wrote that Blacks "are "twice as likely to have their cars stopped and searched for drugs, even though whites, when searched, are twice as likely to actually have drugs in our possession."
(Photo courtesy Tim Wise)

When he gets racist e-mails exhorting him to "walk through the ghetto and see how long you last," Wise responds: "How many bad experiences with other whites are such folks forgetting, which didn't lead them to generalize about white folks as a group? But I would never think of holding that fact against whites as whites, because their whiteness had nothing to do with it."

Wise, known as one of the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., presents the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 20th annual Symposium Closing Lecture at noon Jan. 23 in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union.

Michael Eric Dyson, best-selling author, National Public Radio commentator and University of Pennsylvania professor, says Wise is "One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation."

Wise has spoken in 48 states and on more than 400 college campuses. He has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has conducted trainings with physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care.

He also has trained corporate, government, military and law enforcement officials on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions, and has served as a consultant for plaintiff's attorneys in federal discrimination cases in New York and Washington state.

"I guess I would consider myself one part social critic, one part anti-racist organizer," Wise says. "My job, as it were, is to educate others—particularly other whites—about the damage done by racism, not only to persons of color, but to whites as well, spiritually, economically, and culturally."

Wise is the author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son," and "Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White." He has contributed essays to 15 books and is featured in "White Men Challenging Racism: Thirty-Five Personal Stories."

Dyson says of Wise, "His considerable rhetorical skills, his fluid literary gifts and his relentless search for the truth make him a critical ally in the fight against racism and a true soldier in the war for social justice. His writing and thinking constitute a bulwark of common sense, and uncommon wisdom, on the subject of race, politics and culture. He is a national treasure."

"(Wise's) work is revolutionary, and those who react negatively are simply afraid of hearing the truth," says Robin Kelley, author and University of Southern California history professor,.

Wise's appearance is sponsored by the 2007 MLK Symposium Planning Committee and the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

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