Tim Wise and activists focus on racism, white privilege at Sally Dickson Lecture

Dickson panel
Participating in this year’s Sally Dickson Lecture were, from left, Tim Wise, Shakti Butler, Aimee Allison, Jeff Chang and Marisa Franco. (Image credit: Angie Chan-Geiger)

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans a dozen years ago, natural forces weren’t the biggest cause of flooding: a misallocation of government resources left the levees unprepared for the rising floodwaters.

People rushed into New Orleans from all over the country, armed with their good intentions. TIM WISE, a prominent voice on racism, inequality and white privilege, remembered seeing them at the airports, arriving in T-shirts that advertised their volunteer activities.

“Why do you need to have a T-shirt?” he mused, noting that the slogans and motivation didn’t match the racial and economic realities they would meet. The media had delivered them to the catastrophe, he recently told a Stanford audience. “All of them were well-intended because they had seen people in desperate pain.”

The mismatch spotlights what Wise calls “the charitable mindset rather than the solidarity mindset.”

Sally Dickson
Sally Dickson

“If you don’t see yourself as bound up with the lives of other people, I’m not sure what kind of help you can be,” he explained.

Wise was the keynote speaker recently for the second annual SALLY DICKSON LECTURE ON DIVERSITY, INCLUSION AND REFLECTION.  The title of the event was “Bridges Over Troubled Waters: Engaging Allies in Times of Crisis.” The event was co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and the Diversity and First-Generation Office.

The Sally Dickson Lecture was created in 2015 by GREG BOARDMAN, vice provost for student affairs, to honor Dickson’s contributions. As the former associate vice provost for student affairs and dean of educational resources, Dickson was dedicated to community-building and engagement among students, faculty and staff.

In his introduction of Wise, Boardman noted that his relationship with Wise dates back 30 years, since the activist was a student at Tulane University, where Boardman was an administrator.

After his keynote, Wise joined a panel discussion with SHAKTI BUTLER, a filmmaker and founder and president of World Trust; JEFF CHANG, executive director of Stanford’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts; and MARISA FRANCO, director of Mijente and of Not1More Deportation. The panel was moderated by AIMEE ALLISON, senior vice president of PowerPAC+ and a Stanford alumna.

Read the full story on the event.