Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, Black Student Union and Students Against Social Injustice held a discussion about police brutality on Sept. 25 in Newton Hall. The discussion began with video clips about Eric Garner and Michael Brown and their experience and death as a result of police brutality, cases which have touched many students and faculty across the nation.
After the clips were shown, associate professor of history Justin Behrend started with a presentation in which he recalled instances of injustices occurring against African-Americans and other minority communities in Miami, Florida in 1980 and in Rochester in 1964 and how these influenced the riots that we are currently seeing today.
Behrend referred to these as “continuities” and asked students to “think about the place and why racial profiling still occurs.”
Behrend continued his presentation with background history of Ferguson, Missouri. While showing a photo from a 1915 United Welfare Association postcard, he explained that St. Louis was a segregated city that had zoned communities. Ferguson, being a suburb, was a location where many blacks had lived just north of St. Louis.
Behrend questioned if the location of these communities effects the treatment of minorities today and closed his presentation by talking about the small-scale situations in which African-Americans and other minorities face police brutality.
“The ‘ticky-tacky’ issues and interactions with locals and government officials were used to gain money and fund the government,” he said.
According to Behrend, this promoted the recursive cycle of police brutality. With the installation of dashboard cameras, police brutality is being recognized all over the country but the problem still persists.
Associate professor of history Catherine Adams then took to the stage, speaking about the struggle that African-Americans face on a daily basis, which W.E.B. DuBois proposed as “double consciousness.”
Adams said there is a constant struggle in being proud to be an American but also being intolerant to the prejudices. To this day, the issues minorities face with police brutality revolve around the color line.
“Maybe we are in a new civil rights movement and we are able to make a change,” Adams said. “I hope you will take this conversation forward to people who may not be willing to hear you or who are ready to hear you. Remember that any progress––though we may not see it now––is better than nothing.”
After the presentations, discussion was open to the audience. Many shared personal experiences and others brought up their beliefs as to why police brutality exists in minority communities.
“A lot of police brutality is based on the way police are trained as well as their background,” senior Simone Grey said. “They need to understand the cultures of the minorities better.”
“Not all police receive the same training from the academy; those who participate are the ones to understand that the injustices they impose are wrong,” junior Ashley Ramos said.
“I am tired of having to choose between the two extremes,” senior Amanda Spence said. “Having to choose between being my own person and being what society wants so I don’t have to deal with the injustice.”
The heated debate came to a close after BSU president senior Christopher Bland gave some final words. “Black people believe there is no middle ground––you can’t wear baggy pants because you will treated like a thug, you can’t talk slag without being assumed you are ignorant. The treatment is truly disheartening,” he said.
The discussion concluded with students and faculty lighting candles on the College Green and holding a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives due to police brutality.