Racism still part of society, sociology professor says.
By Melissa Luna
White men discriminate against black men, a panel of five professors from Trinity University agreed Tuesday in a series of discussions called “Diversity Dialogue” sponsored by the university’s Diversity Connection and the Black Student Union.
The event drew more than 100 people to the lecture room of Northrup Hall at Trinity.
This was the first discussion in 2015, and the title was “I Can’t Breathe.”
“I can’t breathe” were the last reported words from Eric Garner.
In 2014, officers from the New York City Police Department arrested Garner, a black male, for selling single cigarettes. He was put in a choke hold by officer Daniel Pantaleo, and it resulted in Garner’s death.
Pantaleo, a white male, was not indicted.
Garner’s death was included in a three-minute video by MSNBC correspondent Melissa Harris-Perry about the deaths of nine black men caused by police in the past decade.
Carey Latimore, history professor, and Sarah Beth Kaufman, sociology and anthropology professor, said racism still plays a role in society.
Latimore said events like the beating of Rodney King and the death of Garner occur every 15 to 20 years.
In 1991, King, a black male, was beaten by four white Los Angeles police officers.
All four officers were indicted of charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force but acquitted by a jury.
A year later, a federal jury sent two of the four officers to prison for civil rights violations.
Events like these show “how far we haven’t gone,” Latimore said.
Even though the U.S. elected a black president twice, “racism is still an everyday part of our lives,” Kaufman said.
Police brutality is an international problem as well, panelists said.
Political science Professor Rosa Alosi, who specializes in international human rights and international law, emphasized, “Most human right treaties protecting citizens still violate human rights. And it is doing so at the hands of police officers.”
Alosi referred to articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and codes of conduct of the United Nations Convention.
She emphasized the Convention Against Torture.
According to The Human Rights Web, http://www.hrweb.org, this convention states “no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Political science Professor Keesha Middlemass emphasized the negative image whites have of blacks, which she called “the fear of the black man.”
It is caused by police officers not embedding themselves into the communities they are sworn to protect, which leads to lack of trust,” Middlemass said.
Communications Professor Katie Blevins discussed the role technology plays in the circulation of an event.
Blevin said the mistrust between white officers and black men has resulted in the use of body and dash cameras.
“It is absolutely vital for you guys to attend panels and discussions like this,” she said. “Talk to each other about it. Talk to us about it because you need to understand this is not an easy answer.”
Members of the audience were then encouraged to write questions for the panel to answer.
Among questions submitted were:
“How do you think historians in the future will view modern day police brutality and riots? And how will they compare to incidents of the past?”
Latimore said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same. I think about Rodney King … it’s on video, it was there for everyone to see. The situation hasn’t changed for Eric Garner. I think we’ll be looking back on this and saying, well, there will another one in 10 years.”
The lecture ended with a quote from Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”