Alumni Posts

Night at the (History) Museum.

by Alumni Posts on March 3, 2010

in Uncategorized

You know you’re a geek when you’re excited to spend your Tuesday night at the history museum.  But you know you’re not alone in that geekiness, when the place is packed to the gills.  That’s when, if you’re me, you realize you might actually be in for a treat.

But let me explain just how thoroughly claustrophobic this place was Tuesday night.  I used to live by the HisMo, before I moved on-campus, and back then, I passed through it several times a week, to grab some water during my walks through the park.  In all that time, the place never seemed anything less than collassal.  Tuesday night, however, I started worrying about fire codes and oxygen supplies.  I can’t even estimate the number of people there, but suffice it to say, we were packed tighter than cars on the Fontbonne parking lot.  I’ll admit it; I thought more than once about bailing.  …But after you’re handed your “overflow” ticket (because apparently 1 1/2 hours beforehand is not early enough to arrive), and herded downstairs to the room with the live feed… you start to wonder if leaving might mean missing something.  …Something, dare I say, historic.

So, I stayed.  Mainly because the handful of other Fontbonnites with whom I’d come refused to take me up on my multiple offers to dart for the stairs.  And finally, the man of the hour — prominent anti-racist activist Tim Wise — took to the stage (and, in doing so, took to our video screen. as well.)

If it’s not obvious, by this time, I was pretty thoroughly not in the mood to be at the history museum.  I’d long-passed my personal quota for being hot, crowded, and surrounded by chaos — and I could feel a migraine brewing.  The fact that Wise — with a delivery that lands somewhere between a preacher’s and a slam poet’s – managed, in spite of that, to thoroughly entertain, inspire, and impress me for over an hour, still feels downright miraculous.  By the time I got out of that basement, I’d not only sidestepped the migraine, I’d forgotten about the sore throat I’d been fighting for the previous three days.  Talk about power.

It’s possible, of course, that Tim Wise does not actually have crazy healing powers.   If we’re being honest, I think it’s probably more likely that Tim Wise is “just” a powerful and funny speaker, who managed to talk to me about my own privilege in a way that left me feeling empowered instead of merely guilty.  To state the obvious, racism and privilege aren’t usually easy topics for most of us to discuss, and as Mr. Wise noted, it’s perhaps harder than ever now, when the election of President Obama makes it all-too-easy to claim we live in a “post-racial” society, where things like skin color don’t matter, simply because they shouldn’t.  These are easy topics to ignore, especially for those of us with the pale-skinned privilege — and they’re hard topics not to get defensive about.  But recognizing privilege, when Wise talks about it, becomes a serious form of activism, a way of taking action, rather than simply feeling paralyzed by guilt.  I find that invigorating.

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