Peace Action Geneseo invited Adam Ricardo and Ream Kidane to converse with students about police accountability and Ferguson, Missouri on Monday Oct. 27 in the College Union. A Rochester activist for equal rights and police accountability, Ricardo attended the protests in Ferguson after a white police officer shot and killed African-American teenager Michael Brown. He spoke about personal accounts of racial profiling, as well as of his experiences in Ferguson.
The essence of his conversation revolved around a lack of accountability within the policing system.
“We need the police, but we need to get rid of the bad apples,” Ricardo said. “The system that we have set up now doesn’t leave any room to do that.”
These “bad apples” refer to the police using profiling tactics to target innocent African-Americans, demonstrating racism throughout the system.
“It’s bigger than any one police station,” Ricardo said. “We can’t pretend that this is not an issue.”
As an African-American, Ricardo has experienced instances of police profiling due to the color of his skin. He has developed techniques in order to adapt to these situations.
“If I’m stopping at a store late at night, I’m immediately pulling out my wallet to show people that I have money,” he said. “I’m pulling it out before I have even decided what to buy just to calm everybody down.”
Ricardo explained that the African-Americans involved in Ferguson protests adapted to their situation as well, learning tactics to physically withstand substances like tear gas from Palestinian activists, who experienced the gas themselves in the Gaza strip.
In his opinion, however, no progress has been made towards police accountability in Ferguson. Organizer and activist from the Rochester branch of the International Socialist Organization Kidane agreed with Ricardo.
“The killing at Ferguson was not a unique situation,” Kidane said. “Police harassment, brutality and even murder are not out of the ordinary. What has been unique is the response to the event, the demonstrations and the occupying.”
“It’s the young people that are making an effective difference,” Ricardo said. “They advocate in a way my older generation cannot compete with.”
Peace Action brought these speakers to campus in order to convey this message to the younger generation here at Geneseo.
“It is important to be aware of what is happening from someone first hand,” President of Peace Action senior Tiba Fatli said. “Our generation wants to act, but it can be difficult to start. This is why we need to have these conversations.”
Ricardo encouraged the younger generation of not only African-Americans, but also whites, to use their abilities to advocate for real changes in regard to racism and police accountability.
“We need to acknowledge that white privilege is real,” he said. “I want people to embrace it, and use white privilege to challenge things like racism and profiling, because [the police] will listen to you.”