Panel talks social policy, justice

Published on Mc Donough Voice, by Lainie Steelman, April 27, 2012.

… The panel discussion, “A Broader Critique of Social Policy, of Legislation, of Social Justice, and of Media Influence,” was moderated by Associate Professor Pearlie Strother-Adams, Department of English and Journalism, and Dr. Anthony McBride, Department of Law Enforcement and Justice. Panelists were Dr. Mohammad Siddiqi, Department of English and Journalism; Dr. Peter Cole, Department of History; Dr. C.S. West, Department of Women’s Studies; Dr. Oswald Warner, Department of Sociology; and Dr. Audrey Watkins, Department of African-American Studies.  

Moderators and panelists each spoke briefly about broader social issues surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin before the discussion was opened up to the crowd of about 75 in attendance.

Several panelists linked the Trayvon Martin case to that of racially-motived crimes, such as the death of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy who was killed in 1955 Mississippi after supposedly flirting with a white woman, and the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Siddiqi said the Trayvon Martin case is just one sign that racism exists and is on the rise, not on the decline, in today’s society.

“We do not recognize racism is a problem in a our communities, in our schools, in our departments, in our university,” he said. “Somehow we are able to ignore this issue.”

McBride and Cole each discussed the controversial stand-your-ground laws, which states a person may use force in self-defense if there is a reasonable belief of threat, without an obligation to retreat first.

According to McBride, 18 states have a stand-your-ground law, including Florida.
Cole discussed at length how the U.S. government’s “war on drugs” has lead to the criminalization of minorities, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, noting of the 2.2 million currently in jail or prison, 60 percent of them are minorities that make up only 30 percent of the U.S. population.

“Because of the war on drugs, we have this population of too many men of color jail or prison,” Cole said. “We spend more money on the war on drugs than we do on higher education, if that puts it in perspective.”

Cole said the stigma of minorities resulting from the war on drugs has helped lead to the “widespread criminalization” of African-American youth.

“These are the new patterns of racism of in America,” Cole concluded, “not Jim Crow. If we want to end the war on black youth we have to end the war on drugs.”
West said it was “assumptions” that lead to the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and encouraged those in attendance to think before they make assumptions about any human being based on race, sex or other superficial characteristic.

“You have a profound responsibility to that you do not assume,” she said. “It was assumption that killed Trayvon Martin. Be the humanity you would like to see” … (full text).

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