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Wise Addresses Privilege

Sarane '15 / Staff Photographer Tim Wise speaks to the school staff about race and stereotypes.
Sarane ’15 / Staff Photographer
Tim Wise speaks to the school staff about race and stereotypes.

On Feb. 25, civil rights activist and writer Tim Wise visited Marlborough to talk about diversity and privilege with students at an All-School Meeting in Caswell Hall and with faculty and staff after School in the Academic Resource Center (ARC).

Wise has visited over 800 high schools and colleges to talk about diversity and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC Live and ABC’s 20/20 to talk about white privilege and racism in America.

The idea for Wise’s visit came from English instructor Chris Thompson and performing arts instructor Mpambo Wina, who head the School’s Diversity Committee. According to Wina, the motto for the 2012-2013 school year is Getting Past Awkward (GPA), which faculty and staff have discussed at a few employee meetings this year. Wina and Thompson aim to empower students with the skills to approach and talk about difficult subjects.

Currently, the most open conversations students experience about diversity happen at an annual retreat called Face-It, which began seven years ago. Led by Diane Flinn, a facilitator from the National Conference for Community and Justice, the girls who attend discuss topics such as race, gender, appearance and class.

“Making ourselves vulnerable about things that hurt us or things that we believe in kind of encompasses the GPA,” Wina said.

Wise’s main focus will be privilege and how some groups of people—namely white men—have advantages over others due to gender and race.

Wise has written six books, including White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son; Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White and Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male.

Wise argues that integrated community-building in a diverse world should be important to everyone, not only to minorities. He also talks about how in a diverse community, dominant cultures have advantages that are invisible to them but apparent to others.

Sydney ’14, who attended Face-It VII in September 2012, said she believes that having diversity speakers and events like Face-It provide good opportunities for girls to approach topics that can make some people uncomfortable, such as race or gender.

“I think that Face-It is a really good place for the girls that go, but I think that it is important that they talk to other girls about their experiences and what they learned,” Sydney said. “I think that [these events] can be helpful for Getting Past Awkward because [they] can make girls talk about stuff they wouldn’t normally talk about.”