He spoke to a diverse audience in San Francisco yesterday at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco.
“None of us actually thinks its fun to talk about race,” said Wise. “People of color don’t like to have this conversation about race when there’s white folks around. When they raise this issue we raise the race card which we as white folk have come up with to minimize their concerns.
” We too as white folks are afraid we’re going to say the wrong thing.”
The key, said Wise, is to not run away from these discussions, but to engage.
Wise is the author if six books including White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son and Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama,
He talked about among other things what researchers have called the Stereotype Threat. Studies have found when we feel pressure not to reinforce a stereotype are performance drops. When you take a high stake test and you feel pressure not to conform to a stereotype you do worse than if you’re just told, don’t worry about it. This test doesn’t count. It’s only practice. He cited a recent study in which Whites were paired in the same room as Asian American for a math test. One group was told this test will show just how good you are at math. Under that scenario, whites underperformed when compared to the Asian Americans taking the same test in the same room.
But in another group, everyone was told the test wouldn’t count. Guess what. Without the anxiety, whites did just as well as Asian Americans on the math test.
You can read a lot more about Tim Wise on his web site.