Last night, a few dozen gathered to listen to Cornell William Brooks, the President of the NAACP deliver a lecture entitled “Born Suspect: Tragedies of Racial Profiling.”
Brooks made it clear that the problem is not the police, and the problem is not communities of people of color, the problem is us all. Until we are not bunched up as stakeholder groups of special interests, each viewing the “other” as “other” rather than neighbor AND until we stop viewing our neighbors and fellow humankind from such a distance, using shields and body armor and military weapons and thick tinted glass windows and shades and suspicion, until such a time, there will be profiling and stereotyping and the repetition of the resulting tragedies.
Brooks characterized different decades in our U.S. history according to the habitual distance between the neighborhood pedestrian and government authorities. The answers, he suggests, are not in top down policies, but in local and state level hearts and habits.
I thought about a dear friend, a police officer, who joined the police on the inspiration of his childhood experience growing up on the South Side of Chicago. The police who walked the sidewalks knew him, talked to him, reprimanded him, coached him, encouraged him. Does that still happen today? Brooks mentioned a program of the NAACP partnering with police training academies. I wonder if there exists funds, enough manpower, enough willpower to track such programs to measure whether those departments experience less violent encounters on the streets than do similar departments without the program? Every management expert knows that what is important to a society gets measured and managed.
Whether we agree on everything or nothing, what are we DOING to serve our neighborhood, our town, our city, our county, our state, our country, our world? One thing is sure, if we try nothing at all, we have zero chance to succeed in problem solving.
Anyway, here are a few pictures from the event at the University of Houston Law Center.
The people featured are Cornell William Brooks, Professors Laura Oren and Ellen Marrus, Elwyn Lee, Dean Leonard Baynes, and others.