Tag Archives: Tim Wise

Tim Wise: Cultural Provocateur by Guy A. Sims

Tim Wise

Tim Wise

Tim Wise began his comments at Virginia Tech with a caveat…a bit of clarification…perhaps even a spoonful of keepin’ it realism.  No surprise…what he came to deliver was not anything different from the messages people of color have been sharing, promoting, explaining, and demanding in classrooms, boardrooms, cubicles, and neighborhoods.  Only this time it was presented in a package a little more palatable than what may have been the norm.  It was akin to a parent no longer giving their child Castor Oil in a spoon but now it is in a gelcap.  Same medicine…just easily swallowed.  The goal, to massage the words of Malcolm X, was to administer the medicine by any means necessary.

Mr. Wise, if you’re not familiar, is an anti-racism activist, an author, lecturer, and cultural provocateur (I added that one myself, we’ll get to that one later).  His books, White Like Me, Dear White America, and (hold on for this one) Speaking Treason Fluently Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male speak to address, illuminate, and dismantle structures of white privilege, cultural mis-education, false notions of power, and the head-on challenge of having serious and action-oriented conversations on equity and diversity.

On this evening, like many of his presentations, Tim Wise was speaking primarily to his white brethren and sisterens.  A deep rooted son of the south, Tim peeled back the onion of history, of Americana mythology, of institutional practices of divisiveness, and the mental shackles that bind us all.  His peeling, slow and easy, doesn’t produce tears.  His delivery, complete with self and cultural-effacing humor and rife with majority-generated information for the data-driven doubter, brought a paced and steady rise of discomfort for many in the audience.  Tuned in observers may have noticed that numbers of people of color present served as the choir, offering their call and response to this guest preacher in the House of Diversity & Equity Elevation.

Tim Wise challenged misrepresented rhetoric presented in the form of mainstream logic when addressing Black Lives Matter, immigration issues, and deadly police interactions with people of color.  He challenged those unable to connect racialized issues of today as another troubled link in the history of race relations in the United States. He challenged the very core of belief systems that define how people view their place as human beings.

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

As a cultural provocateur, Mr. Wise stirred the senses and notions of those in attendance.  At times it was uneasy to laugh, to agree, to look at your neighbor, or even at yourself.  I asked him at the conclusion of his visit did he feel he was getting any traction with his message.  He said on the grand scale, maybe not.  But individually, people who say their lives and thinking have been changed…yes.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  The journey of a better world begins with one person.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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The Case for White History Month by Guy A. Sims

WHM

Note: This has been updated as things haven’t changed.

It’s almost February 2016 and I didn’t have to wait long.  Every year inevitably there is a post or a tweet or blog asking the question, “So when is White History Month?”  Grant me the leeway to be naive and receive this inquiry at face value. I will even go as far as to set aside the response that Every month is White History Month for the sake of argument.  I strongly believe that each and every one of us have the inalienable right to have our interests, culture, and perspectives heard and recognized. That is what makes this country, the United States of America, great.  In addition, to Black History Month there are Women’s History Month, Hispanic-Latino Awareness Month, Asian-Pacific Month, and other cultural recognitions.  We also have Irish-American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, and Italian-American Heritage and Cultural Month.  To add more dates to recognize on the calendar there is a veritable cornucopia of days highlighting everything from popcorn to dentists to grandparents to encouraging smoking cessation.  If we have room on the calendar to celebrate all of these, why not a White History Month?

 A White History Month could be a wonderful compliment to the diverse ingredients that make up the Great American Melting Pot.  Of course, it goes without saying, White History Month has to be more than a collection of trivial facts and happenings but a comprehensive look at the history and the impact on history through the Caucasian/white lens.  The time should be set aside to recognize trailblazers, those who sacrificed in the face of adversity as they worked to move the culture forward, as well as events serving as milestones of pride and motivation.

 My recommendation for the formulation of a White History Month is to draw from the Black History Month blueprint.  In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week as a reaction to the lack of recognition of Negro history and accomplishments in most of the textbooks at that time.  Dr. Woodson promoted the idea of Negro History Week which quickly caught on and was soon celebrated around the United States.  Fast forward, the year 1976 was central to the advancement of this body of cultural knowledge.  The country was celebrating its bicentennial and it was the 50th anniversary of Negro History Week.  It was decided that Negro History Week was to be expanded to Black History Month.  I don’t propose to begin with a White History Week although it might be a good place to start–as a way for it to catch on.  A new cultural recognition often takes time to gain popularity–consider Kwanzaa as an example.  It’s still a hard sell for some African Americans.

 The month of February was selected by Dr. Woodson because two important men in Negro history were born during that month: Frederick Douglas (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). It would be important to identify the month with individuals who best represent the lives, culture, and philosophies of White Americans.  My recommendation would be the month of October.  October is the birth month of President John Adams (Oct. 3) and Bill Gates (Oct. 28).  President Adams was a statesman, diplomat, and a leading advocate advancing independence from Great Britain.  Adams was also opposed to slavery and never owned any (he gets a vote from me).  Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, not only changed the world technologically, he also represents the philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibility with his Millennial Scholarship (another vote from me) and his world-wide philanthropies.  These two individual could serve as the anchors for this period of recognition.

One of the most challenging but equally important aspects of White History Month will be the programs and activities highlighting the month. These programs should be designed to uncover and highlight the trials, the accomplishments, the trailblazers, and unsung heroes and heroines of the struggle.  This is an opportune time to bolster pride in children who feel they have not been recognized, negatively portrayed, or simply absent in history, literature, the sciences, the arts, politics, or merely as citizens.  It is a time to invite dynamic speakers to articulate the connection between the hardships of the past with contemporary issues and the hope for the future.  Moreover, while there may not be a White National Anthem it would be appropriate to conclude your activities with a song while crossing arms (right over left) and holding hands with your neighbor to visually exemplify the struggle, perseverance, and the cultural connection.  As you select the song please remember that the National Anthem belongs to everyone and (for the few who might suggest) Dixie was written by black men from Ohio.  One additional programming note: dismiss the feeling that your programs are not successful if people from outside your culture do not attend or it feels like you’re preaching to the choir.  Remember, others may feel uncomfortable, may not have a white friend to go with, or may not feel the program has anything to do with them.  It’s okay.  Have the program and know there’s more food on the reception table to go around.  You can even wrap some up and take it home (just an insider’s tip).

 Need more of a reason for an attempt at a legitimate White History Month?  A recent tweet gave President George Washington credit for significant work with peanuts, not George Washington Carver.  This is such a slight for all that George Washington has done for the United States.  A White History Month would serve well to provide opportunities to learn so that historical faux pas such as this can be avoided.

I look forward to participating in White History Month activities with my friends who get it and learn an interesting thing or two by the month’s end.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  BCEPressworks.com

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