‘White Like Me’ Author Tim Wise Headlines UMass Amherst Diversity and Social Justice Series

Tim Wise

AMHERST, Mass – Author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise will lead off the Old Chapel Sesquicentennial Series on Diversity and Social Justice at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Wednesday, Sept. 25 with a premier of the Media Education Foundation film, “White Like Me.”

The program begins at 7 p.m. in 104 Thompson Hall with a question-and-answer session and post-screening discussion to follow the film.

Based in part on Wise’s 2004 book, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, the film includes interviews with John Bracey, chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, and psychology department professor Nilanjana Dasgupta. “White Like Me” was produced by the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation, a non-profit founded by UMass Amherst communication professor Sut Jhally, who is also its executive director.

Wise is the director of the Association for White Anti-Racist Education (AWARE) in Nashville. He lectures across the country about the need to combat institutional racism, gender bias and the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S.  From 1999 to 2003, Wise served as an advisor to the Fisk University Race Relations Institute, and his work is taught at hundreds of colleges and has appeared in dozens of popular and professional journals.

Amilcar Shabazz, faculty advisor to the chancellor for diversity and excellence at UMass Amherst, says that Jhally’s MEF “ has once again given us a cutting edge, thought-provoking film that every student, staff and faculty member in the UMass community should watch and intellectually engage.” He notes that while three out of four UMass Amherst students identify as “white,” the community seldom has an opportunity to examine the meaning attached to “whiteness,” and its implications for each member of the community.

“‘White Like Me,’ presents us with an opportunity to do just that and is a fitting way to launch the Chancellor’s Old Chapel Sesquicentennial Series on Diversity and Social Justice,” says Shabazz. 

“The chance to discuss the film with Tim Wise makes this event an even more dynamic program. He has a point of view and I often do not agree with him but that is what higher education is at its best: the testing of our ideas and opinions against others to get closer to the truth about what is going on and how to engender positive, individual and social changes,” adds Shabazz.

Cornel West calls Wise “a vanilla brother in the tradition of John Brown,” while Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree, who is featured in the film, says that “Tim Wise is one of the few people, along with perhaps Frederick Douglass, who has ever really spoken honestly and forcefully to white people about themselves.”

Next in the series, UCLA Higher Education Research Institute director Sylvia Hurtado will deliver the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success’s Civic Discourse and Social Change Distinguished Lecture. Hurtado will discuss “Campus Climate, Diversity, Practice and Student Outcomes” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 in the Campus Center Auditorium.