University News

Teach-in addresses racial implications of policing practices

In the wake of Ray Kelly’s canceled lecture, five faculty members examine issues like stop-and-frisk

By
University News Editor
Friday, November 1, 2013

The panel delved into the historical context of stop-and-frisk in hopes of fostering productive discussion within the community.

Racial impacts on policing practices was the focus of a teach-in held in a packed Salomon 101 Thursday in the wake of the cancellation of New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s lecture Tuesday.

The teach-in featured a panel of five faculty members who addressed the history and social context of race’s role in shaping law enforcement policies, including the controversial “stop-and-frisk” New York Police Department policing policy Kelly has enforced. The discussion was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and moderated by one of the panelists, the CSREA Director and Professor of Africana Studies Tricia Rose.

The panel was organized after student and community protestors effectively shut down a lecture Kelly was scheduled to give Tuesday. Administrators ended the event after about half an hour of unsuccessfully trying to persuade protestors to let Kelly speak.

The panel was meant to go beyond rehashing the debate over Kelly’s lecture to contextualize stop-and-frisk policies within a historical-social framework, Rose said.

The policy emerged as part of a “complex and deep mode of criminalization” of black and Latino people in the United States, Rose said, highlighting NYPD statistics that show a stark racial discrepancy among those detained by police officers.

Fifty-three percent of individuals stopped by the NYPD in 2011 were black, while 32 percent were Latino and 9 percent were white, Rose said. In contrast, 33 percent of city residents are white, 29 percent are Latino and 23 percent are black, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

This discrepancy stems from efforts to criminalize minorities “as a class of people,” Rose said, so that structural problems like joblessness and generational poverty are overlooked and “racialized character flaws” are artificially created.

Stop-and-frisk policies divide law enforcement officials and communities and undermine trust within a community, Rose said, adding that a communal failure to speak out against racialized policing only perpetuates it.

Fear tactics and “activation of deep-seated racial bias” lead some to believe stop-and-frisk reduces crime, a notion Rose criticized. She pointed to more substantial crime reduction rates over the past decade in cities that did not employ stop-and-frisk as evidence that the practice is ineffective.

“It’s extremely important to look for alternative models” of law enforcement to challenge the “myth-based” racial profiling of a stop-and-frisk approach, Rose said.

Panelists discussed their own experiences with race in the criminal justice system.

Richard Tyson Smith, visiting assistant professor of sociology, described his inability as a young, white college student to understand the significance of the 1992 police beating of Rodney King, a black man, in Los Angeles, Calif., as he watched news coverage of its fallout.

Smith said his “naive response” reflected a fundamental disconnect between white middle-class youths and racial issues related to law enforcement.

“We just simply didn’t know this was such a powerful American phenomenon with such deep roots,” Smith said.

Stefano Bloch, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities, said he experienced systemic abuse and repeated silencing by police officers as a Hispanic youth.

Bloch said he was “incredibly proud” of protestors when they told Kelly to “shut his (expletive) mouth” Tuesday. He added that he disagreed with President Christina Paxson’s statement that the shutdown of Kelly’s lecture was “a sad day for Brown,” a remark that received widespread applause.

The protestors’ action also received praise from panelist Linda Quiquivix, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities.

“We all recognize that the shutting down part was important because it wouldn’t have received as much publicity and as much news if it had just been a protest,” Quiquivix said.

“Acting out and speaking out is very important” to ending racialized policing practices like stop-and-frisk, Bloch said. He voiced support for U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling in August that the NYPD policy was unconstitutional, adding that he agreed with Scheindlin that subjective criteria such as “furtive movements” could not be used to justify the disproportionate detention of racial minorities.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stayed Schleindlin’s decision and removed her from the case, ruling that the judge had given “an appearance of partiality” in the case, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.

“I got my most important political upbringing out on the streets,” Quiquivix said, urging audience members to reach out to the Providence community more frequently in order to understand social differences. She added that “a lot of learning” can happen beyond the College Hill “bubble” if students and faculty members are willing to engage with the broader community.

Stop-and-frisk was not the only target of panelists’ criticisms for the NYPD. The force’s surveillance tactics employed in relation to Muslim communities since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks drew a sharp denunciation from Nancy Khalek, assistant professor of the humanities for religious studies.

Police surveillance of Muslim community centers, schools and mosques plays into a “long history” of U.S. law enforcement officials’ targeting of minority communities due to a “gap between reality and myth” when it comes to identifying public safety threats, Khalek said.

The panelists fielded a host of questions from audience members on community members’ rights to be heard during polarizing discussions such as Kelly’s lecture.

“I’m not entirely sure there’s a one-size-fits-all way for determining what constitutes free speech,” Khalek said.

Some attendees said they appreciated the panel’s grappling with the complex issues of race and policing that underlay the cancellation of Kelly’s lecture.

“Overall, I’m really proud of the faculty who came here,” said Hayward Leach ’14. “I think they addressed the question of identity in a constructive way.”

“This is a nuanced issue and there’s no one way to approach it,” said Liam Dean-Johnson ’16.

 

A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Stefano Bloch as saying he was “incredibly proud” of protestors when they told Kelly to “shut his (expletive) mouth.” In fact, Bloch said he was “incredibly proud” of protestors when they told Kelly to “shut his expletive mouth.”

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  • tushma gush

    How about implications for having incompetent University president and deans, picked by incompetent Larry Tisch?

    • reguru

      do you realize that Larry Tisch is dead and the Chancellor is Tom Tisch?

  • LarrySingleton

    Oh, this must be the “approved” guest panel. Read The Forsaken by Tim Tzoulidis and Disinformation by Pacipa and Rychlak. It’s all going according to plan. Just not the Soviet’s plan.

  • marx_and_hitler_were_losers

    If stop and frisk is ended these ‘academics’ need to leave the Ivy covered granite buildings of Brown, visit the funeral parlors and explain why it was important to end stop and frisk to family members attending funerals of loved ones killed by criminals with weapons. You folks really need to leave the ivory tower once in a while.

    • Student

      It would great if you knew what you were talking about before you spoke. Alot of the protestors were people of color who grew up in these types of communities that are affected by stop and frisk mentalities. Just because someone goes to an ivy league doesn’t mean they are spoiled or naive. A lot of us are on scholarships and experienced more of the real word than I am sure you couldnt even comprehend. It would be great for you to read the research that there is nothing that proves stop and frisk has reduced crime or murder. In fact 80% of the stops conducted dont actually find anything.

      • marx_and_hitler_were_losers

        I know you feel bad for the innocent that are stopped and frisked.
        I feel bad for those who end up in funeral parlors thanks to criminal coddling worshipers like yourself.
        Lived in NYC during the height of the Dinkins murder era spree and it was a LIVING HELL for all New Yorkers.

  • Mark Moran

    It’s bad enough that Ray Kelly was not permitted to speak. That a panel was quickly convened to condemn his life’s work in his absence is pathetic, in a frightening way. If the Brown community was unwilling to engage in a full, frank and balanced discussion about this topic, its reputation would have been better served if it didn’t have one at all.

    • Student 15′

      This was organized before the shutdown of his speech, because his LECTURE not forum was intended to have only him speak. It was one-sided so they set this up before hand to have the otherside.

      • Mr. Softee

        And then they ended up only having ONE side. They couldn’t even bring in experts in law, law enforcement, criminal justice, public policy, etc. It was all just the usually grievance studies people.

  • Libby Tardell

    Ray Kelly should have showed up and shouted like a big, idiot liberal loser so as not to have let any of the panelists speak.

  • gaspie

    The blind leading the blind. It’s now known as the Chris Paxson spectacle. (Imagine people gasping for air if it had been called the Ruth Simmons spectacle.)

  • Donald Higdon

    Despite what Brown’s own official black person says, Stop and Frisk is not an “effort to criminalize minorities ‘as a class of people,’ so that structural problems like joblessness and generational poverty are overlooked and ‘racialized character flaws’ are artificially created.”

    Growing up in Harlem, Tricia Rose knows full well that the majority of crimes committed against blacks are committed by other blacks.

    “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” – Jesse Jackson

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1961: “Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that.”
    I guess Rose will now accuse me of being sexist.
    Donald Higdon ’58