Topic: Black Lives Matter protests continue, congress debates police reform legislation, and our experts will discuss issues affecting minorities and how their communities are policed in the U.S., and what changes can be made to increase police accountability and reduce deaths of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement.
Media are invited to participate and ask questions in this Zoom meeting, either on camera or by chat.
When: June 16, 2020, 2PM - 3PM EDT
Where: Newswise Live Zoom Room
- Natalie Kroovand Hipple, Ph.D - Associate Professor, Criminal Justice - Indiana University
- Vesla Weaver, Ph.D - Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology - Johns Hopkins University
- Ersula Ore, Ph.D - Lincoln Professor of Ethics in the School of Social Transformation and assistant professor of African and African American studies and rhetoric Arizona State
- Muniba Saleem, Ph.D - Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media and a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research - University of Michigan
- Julia Robinson Moore, Ph.D - Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies - UNC Charlotte
This live event will also be recorded and transcribed for use by media and communicators after it is concluded.
Thom: Welcome to this Newswise live expert panel. I'm your moderator here at Newswise – Thom Canalichio and we have with us five professors and experts to talk about the Black Lives Matter protest and subject of police reform, and particularly to talk about recent legislation that's being debated on Capitol Hill and calls to defund or reform the police from activists that are staging protests around the nation, in fact around the world.
I would like to quickly introduce our panellists, to start with we have Professor Natalie Hipple– she’s an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University. We also have Professor Muniba Saleem, she's Assistant Professor in the department of Communication and Media and she's also a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan. We have Vesla Weaver, she's the Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at John’s Hopkins University. We have Ersula Ore, she's the Lincoln professor of Ethics in the School of Social Transformation and an Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and Rhetoric at Arizona State University. And we have Julia Robinson Moore, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte.
I’d like to start with professor Hipple, and we have a question I think which is quite up your alley from one of our media attendees, Nellie Paten from Thomson Reuters, asking if you can give any examples of alternate policing methods that have been successful in other countries that could serve as an example for the US in the context of the question about whether to defund and how to reform the police and changing the scope of policing in America. I think that this might be something that you could answer Professor Hipple and maybe any of our other panellists might want to weigh in on it.
Natalie Hipple: I will say that this is a little bit out of my area of expertise, although I think if you broaden the question a little bit more to criminal justice, there are a lot of different things from European countries and Scandinavian countries with regards to prisons and incarceration that we can learn a lot from. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world and so I think looking to other countries towards policing is a great idea, I think what sets us apart from these other countries is our gun violence problem and so thinking about how you translate what other police departments are doing around the world that don’t face the same gun violence issues that we do in the United States, which is clearly related to what we’re talking about now, obviously gun violence tends to occur in these same disadvantaged areas and we talk about black on black violence a lot and so I'm not doing a very good job of answering that particular question, but I think it is something to look towards because we do have good examples in other parts of the criminal justice system.
Thom: Great thank you professor Hipple, I would like to ask Professor Ore – how do you think or what do you think the black lives matter movement means when they call to defund the police and how does that differ from how it’s being portrayed. What are your thoughts about that?
Ersula Ore: Defund the police is really a call to radically reimagine an inactive future that doesn't currently exist now, that can't exist within the white racial framework, within a framework that’s predicated upon a history of policing situated within logics of slavery, capture, confinement. When people make the call for defunding the police – they're really making the call for the reallocation of funds, police funds – specifically the way that the police have been militarised. To be re-acclimated to social services, to community services, to put power back into the psychological, the social, the communal networks and infrastructure that have been divested in. so really when people talk about and call for a defunding of the police, there really is a call for reallocation of funds to social services that the police cannot really provide, but yet in some ways have been expected to service.
Thom: Professor Weaver, can you explain for us – looking at the history of policing since the 1960’s this phenomenon that you refer to as front lash and why policing in America has been on this trajectory as a reaction to racial unrest since those civil rights movements of the 1960s until today and why is that relevant and how can we better understand that?
Vesla Weaver: Thanks for the question Thom. So what I referred to as front lash was the argument that rather than a genuine response to a rise in crime and violence – a group of defeated and formerly segregationist policy makers in the 1960’s upon the passage of the 1964 civil rights act – losers don’t go away right, they remained in very powerful positions in congress, some of them were head of judiciary, head of very important committees and they set about to construct very punitive policy and a much enhanced federal role in crime control, and so what you get is one of the biggest challenges to police power through the black freedom struggle during the 1960’s, ultimately that creates one of the largest bureaucracy’s to fight crime and they are able to successfully shift the political agenda away from civil rights and away from black liberation and towards very strict anti-riot penalties, a massive tripling of police forces in this country under the law enforcement assistance administration which most of us forget about this agency today but it was commanded over half of the entire department of justice’s budget, more than the FBI and so what I've termed front lash was this strategic attempt, a very successful attempt for conservatives to say there's a growing tide of lawlessness, riots and uprisings are not legitimate political grievances about equality, they are criminal acts, they fuse ordinary street crime with protest activity and civil disobedience and they argue that the right of society from the criminal was more imperative than the rights of black Americans to have political equality and freedom and the strategy, the law and order strategy ultimately is emulated by some liberals and moderates who end up arguing for law and order with justice.
So that’s what I've termed front lash and I think one of the lessons for today that’s instructive is that today’s protests have sort of drowned out calls for law and order and it will be interesting to see whether we get some conservatives issuing riot penalties in federal legislation, which is a very key tactic across time.
So, I hope I answered your question.
Thom: Yes, thank you Professor Weaver. To professor Moore, there's been a lot said about the systemic racism of policing in America and I’d like to ask for your thoughts, historically and in your study of religion, how overt racism as well as indifference or denial of this kind of systemic racism has become so ingrained for some people that they're unwilling to change their mind when confronted with new information and the reality of what these protests are trying to get across and convince them. Why do you think that is and what does your study of racism and religion tell us and shed light in that area?
Robinson Moore: So let me go back all the way to the days of slavery, and just to build on some of the comments that Dr. Weaver has said, America has had a long history of policing certain groups of people and if I go back to the institution of slavery, you have slave patrols that were created around the 1700’s. these slave patrols were actually elected by the community sort of informally and they were citizens that were allowed to roam slave plantations and different urban areas, particularly in the South and they could go in and get slaves off the street if they didn't have their masters papers – they could go into slave homes and so after the civil war when you have many free people now of colour roaming. You have the same slave patrols now reinstituted in groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the federal military and militia, these are some of the names of those groups and so America has had a long standing history of using citizens that are promoted at will by the community to go in and begin to police black and brown people, till you fast forward – it wasn’t until really the middle of the antebellum period when you had police patrols actually become community funded and actually formerly organised. So, you had this migration from slave patrols to actually police and then of course you have a history of policing in America. So, all of these institutions were crafted around watching black and brown bodies and controlling them and you fast forward to today and you see that the quote about black lives matter and how police brutality is really targeted on people of colour. There's a history to sort of back that up. So individuals that say – well I'm not quite sure that this is actually a reality, all they need to do is actually go back and look at the history, look at the stats, look at who is actually being incarcerated and you know that African Americans make up something around 13% of our population, yet we constitute over 50 or more percent of those who were massively incarcerated throughout the country. So those are those stats as well that they can look at.
Thom: Tell us too then if you will, how systemic racism or racial attitudes function very similarly to religious belief and why that is?
Robinson Moore: So, for me I'm a historian but I'm also in the religious studies department, so I use history to look at ways at which religion is functioning, so I have two disciplines that really let me look at racism in a different way. So, for me racism functions like a religion. Racism has myths, stories, it has rituals, these are enacted stories that are repeated over and over again and it is tied to community and usually that community is established and its identity is rooted and the stories that are repeatedly ritualised over a period of time. So one of those stories is the myths of black people being criminal, illiterate, dangerous to society, we see that repeated ritually over and over again and what we would call state apparatus is the media, the church news, newspapers, even around the dinner table that story is sort of passed down and then communities are sort of given their identity and most predominantly the white communities identity is basically rooted and grounded in those kind of myths. So, whether people know it consciously or unconsciously, America’s racialized culture has been built on the kind of – what I call the myth rituals and sort of communal identity making that function along the same lines as religion.
Thom: Thank you professor and that certainly makes it very challenging to dismantle that, so thank you for helping shed some light on that. I want to go to professor Saleem and professor Saleem – you’ve studied attitudes towards the Muslim community and I want to ask if you can explain a little bit about what your research in those areas can tell us to shed some light on attitudes towards the black lives matter movement and connect those two things.
Muniba Saleem: Yeah in general all the work that we’ve done and even in the overall areas suggest that racial, ethnic minorities in the US tend to be either under or negatively represented across media genres, so television, news, movies, video games even – social media – across platforms we’re seeing these patterns and what also happens is media serves as the primary source of incrimination about racial ethnic minorities for our white Americans. So, if you consider their representation and you consider that they're the primary source, you could finally understand why the negative attitudes are so persistent and so curbasive [blank] media that is being consumed.
Thom: Thank you and what are some of those things that might have portrayed racial and ethnic minorities as a threat that perhaps there can be something done about it.
Muniba Saleem: So in general we see Muslims being represented as terrorists, as violants, we see a lot of African Americans being represented in the context of crime and violence and aggression, and even during hurricane Katrina in the context of looting and we’re seeing that once again and there's a paradigm called the protest paradigm that shows that when racial ethnic minorities are protesting, it tends to be framed under this looting and criminal kind of paradigm, but that’s not the case for other kinds of protests like women's rights or health and environmental concerns. So certainly, as other scholars said, there's a story being told that is painting these racial ethnic minorities in a very negative light.
Thom: Thank you professor Saleem. I want to go to Roselyn Kahn a freelancer who has chatted a question to me and I’d like to go ahead and turn it over to her to ask that.
I'm trying to enable your audio – one second. Go ahead Roselyn.
I'm sorry the audio is very glitch from Roselyn so I’ll go ahead and convey your question. So, Roselyn was asking have there been any successful reforms from the Rodney King era to today? So, I want to toss that up for any of the panellists to jump on that.
Any thoughts, since the early 1990’s the Rodney King verdict leading to urban rebellion in Los Angeles famously. Any thoughts about that? Any sorry about your audio Roselyn if we weren’t able to hear your question, any panellists want to tackle that? Professor Weaver go right ahead.
Vesla Weaver: I think I want to – I get this question a lot and of course there have been jurisdictions that have experimented with more with practices that would enhance procedural justice. There have been jurisdictions that have trained their police office but know this – even the Minneapolis police force was held up as a gold star example of reform efforts and this is the police department that has led to where we are today, and so I think I want to underscore one point that I hope offers something to your question and that is what's been so striking to myself and other scholars of police power and criminal justice in this country, is just how often after these waves of protests, after incipient challenges to police behaviour, how often the nation has doubled down on massive infusions of funds towards the nations police forces. Right, so today the city council in Baltimore has announced a defunding initiative where they have scaled back a 22 million dollar cut to the BPD and yet if you look immediately post the West Baltimore uprising and Freddie Grey, we expanded funds for policing to 511 million a year and so I think the thing to ask is also – what is the pattern that happens again and again and again when calls for reform are lifted up and the pattern that I see and others see is really enhancing police power and not drawing it down. You may get some procedural fixes; you may get more – so Barack Obama had 20 police forces under consent decree to change. There's a nice consent decree that’s overseeing the BPD right now in fact but a broader transformation in the role of policing has not occurred and it’s not occurred for decades and I think that's what makes defund the police so significant, and what they're asking for is not – we need to – now some are asking to do away entirely with police, but what I find so significant that they're asking for is to enlist other actors and institutions in the provision of protection and safety. So why is it that we need armed officers, armed representatives of the state pulling somebody over for selling loose cigarettes? Right? Which is what led to Eric Garner's fatal chokehold. Why is it that we need – I think they're recognising, why is it that police are serving roles and policing social problems when we have so stripped downed the social welfare state, right. The same places where community hospitals and community centres were closed were the places where we were directing and channelling the most policing funds and resources, and so what that’s left us with is jobs that should be handled by the equivalent of meter maids, right. A meter maid can go and ticket somebody for selling loose cigarettes, or for loitering on a corner. We don’t need armed police officers to handle that role and there's no public safety logic to doing that.
Thom: Professor Ore, a question from Roselyn asked about Rodney King and harkening back to the early 90s with that episode and the many, many since then – we can list the names, we have them memorised – Eric Garner, Freddie Grey and now new cases like Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor. These incidents are not new, what do you think is so unique about this moment that’s led to these protests growing so widespread and why we are maybe closer than ever to real reform being enacted?
Ersula Ore: I have two things I want to say – I want to first add one titbit to the ongoing conversation about defund, with regards to professor Weavers statements, as well as professor Moore’s. I'm thinking specifically about how interesting I found the [inaudible 22:25] and the deep seeded angst that in the push back that we’re getting from this notion of defund the police, as if it’s a personal attack upon a particular group to consider the possibility of having a community, having a society that is not policed. It made me very much recognise how committed, how enculturated the notion of – or this predisposition to being policed under the guise of needing to be protected and the assumption is always – protected from whom? We always know who that ‘whom’ is. And so, I just wanted to highlight that titbit. And I think it connects in some regards to your question in the sense of kind of why now – and I think partly for me I think a bit like this. Anti-blackness is the ongoing constant. Right. But Covid in this sense kind of functions as the variable. That’s the one particular difference that has worked to expose the ways that structural oppression, specifically institutional and racist structural forces via labour, healthcare, housing, economics, render the most essential. More often than not the most melanated and I think that it was in this moment of Covid in the time of Covid where we’re literally watching a respiratory disease that has been weaponized, literally weaponized right – through these institutional forces of oppression against black people and people of colour. Specifically want to think about two women – because the increased number of African Americans and people of colour as essential workers, and essential industries and sanitation and transportation and healthcare and education – these frontline workers are predominantly black and brown people of colour, specifically women, who are caught up as a result in these collateral consequences of how the state and how the government wants to respond to providing resources for essential workers in the sense of helping people maintain their housing. You can't have frontline workers assisting the public and be essential to the nation’s survival if they don’t have a place to live. If they don’t have a place to sleep, and if they don’t have food to eat. I apologise cause I'm getting away from your question to a certain extent, for me all of these issues create a kind of amalgamation right and identify the ways that – despite how people identify themselves to be distant and different that I think this moment of Covid created not just simply an opportunity for reflection and deep introspection but also an exhaustion over the inability to actually get breath – to breathe, to move. I think it’s really significant that we find ourselves out in the streets in the moment of – what we kind of identify and understand now as a second wave, which I'm quite sure many of us understood and anticipated it coming, but a second wave of Covid and people are willing to traverse this landscape – right – to forego the possibility of suffocating under this disease and protest against the ways the state and the government – and keep in mind this is not just the nation, this is a global movement. Fight for black liberation is nothing new, nor is it particularly endemic to United States, it just so happens that the confluence of various variables, one of those major variables being Covid created an opportunity for us to sit and watch and pay attention and to be present in ways we historically have not been able to, have not been permitted.
Thom: Thank you professor Ore. I want to go to Professor Hipple and ask you as well to get your thoughts about this argument of whether to defund the police and what that truly means and for example to build on part of Dr. Ore’s comment – in the president’s speech today at the Rose Garden upon signing an executive order with a few provisions and proposals in it – one comment that stood out to me was that police are the only thing standing between law and order and chaos and I want to ask you, in the context of whether or not to defund the police – is that really true and if not, what other kind of agencies, what other kind of organisations...and I have a chat from a freelancer in the audience, Mariel McKinley – “who specifically would be funded to enlist agencies to assisting policing, if we did in fact revise the scope of police responsibility in our country?” What are your thoughts about that?
Natalie Hipple: My first thought is I think what's lost in here a little bit is – I think there are a lot of police officers out there that would support defunding some of what they do, taking money away from what they do and supporting the folks that are trained to do those jobs, specifically working with mentally ill – responding to homeless camps and things where the police have been default responders. There's nothing criminal about being homeless, we know that, people talk about that all the time, yet the default action is to call the police, and why has it come to that? Why did deinstitutionalization come to that? And I think there are police departments – I know there are police departments in the country that have moved towards that corresponding model and support that and so I think some of these questions are – how much money to move, how do you make that work? What kind of partnerships need to be in place? How do you sustain those partnerships and then there is some risk I think that what is the safety precautions to be put in place for those folks that are responding and maybe this change in policing and this shift will kind of – I don’t know if the right words deescalate but – prevent – so if a meter maid goes to write someone a ticket for selling a cigarette, is that going to become violent over the ticket – I don’t think so but we don’t know. So, I think there's some things to think through with that and so I think there is this false narrative as well that when you defund the police, you're talking about abolishing the police, I think there's a purpose for that.
And then – I just lost the second half of your question Thom, I'm sorry.
Thom: No that’s totally okay and you really did get into what we were leading to and essentially talking about the difference between the argument about whether or not to defund – and the freelancer Mariel McKinley in the audience asking about what are the other agencies that would come up and then kind of fill those gaps.
Natalie Hipple: Yeah, I think – I just think that no one agency can do this alone and so part of this as well is establishing these partnerships, these cross-sector partnerships with mental health, with substance abuse, with social services to help create instances. Where those relationships are really strong – where we know through evidence, where those relationships are really strong, the police don’t have a giant presence and so we need to try and figure out how to culture those relationships and allow these communities to police themselves essentially, which is what you see in neighbourhoods that have strong support systems.
Thom: Professor Moore, you’d like to add to this?
Robinson Moore: Yeah, I certainly would, I totally agree with Dr. Hipple and I would also add, there needs to be some kind of community positionality within these kinds of reform measures as well. I think social work, hospitals, mental health, healthcare facilities, they are all needed – but I think there needs to be some kind of community engagement, maybe community leaders that meet regularly with this and feel – what would it look like to have a round table discussion that happened maybe within communities that you have the community, the police, the mental health, the social workers all together strategizing and think tanking because I think then relationships are built and not this sort of objective occasion of positions that really don’t get people really collaboratively thinking together.
Natalie Hipple: Well and I would build on that, in that we also know at least through crime reduction strategies that these communities typically have people come in and say- this is what you need and this is what we’re going to do to you and have the community member voice included at those round tables – I would say ground level folks, not just leaders and representatives but actual voices of folks that live there, so this is part of the procedural justice right, so they're included in this and they feel like they're part of the solution instead of having things come done to them and then people leave, so they come in, they do, they get a grip, they come in, they do this project, and then they leave and there's nothing more to do with it, they’re told what they need and so I think asking that partnership is absolutely key with the folks that live there and experience that life every single day.
Thom: Professor Weaver you'd like to add to that?
Vesla Weaver: Yeah, I just feel the need to bring something to the conversation and that is – I often get asked this question, what are the scalable community based alternatives that we can implement to redirect and reroute some of these safety provisions away from police and to community led initiatives and what would that look like and what agencies would you fund and who would get it? Social workers? Mental health workers? Drug treatment? And I feel the need to say this – part of the reason that we do not as academics have scalable models is that the national and state and local level response has always redirected resources away from small community groups that were very much active in anti-crime initiatives, in citizens patrols, in setting up their own community bail funds, in developing alternatives to surveillant and punitive responses to safety deprivation and many of these during the 70’s, several of my colleagues and I – historians, we’ve studied this and we’ve looked at how there were a number of different anti –gang groups, there were a number of different communal institutions that were providing drug treatment where the city was not, and set up citizens patrols to even patrol the police and stand up for local race class subjugated communities that were being mowed down by police force and violence and they weren’t funded, as a policy response, in this country, we have time and time again channelled resources away from citizen groups, away from these small communal level institutions and towards a more muscular policing apparatus and that’s part of the reason why as scholars we cannot tell you – okay this is an example of a place that instead of investing in the police, it invested in the communal infrastructure that was able to provide safety and protection. This country explicitly through the 1970’s and 80’s as Elizabeth Hinton has shown, redirected those resources away and when John Conyers stood in congress and demanded that the law enforcement and systems administration give just a sliver of funds to citizens groups, to black citizens groups – he was told – yeah, yeah, yeah we’ll do it – and the money went to the citizens group called the International Association of Chiefs of Police. So I want to just emphasise that when I get this question, it’s a but frustrating because we don’t have the models because they’ve never been tried here at a real scale – I can point to you local initiatives that have worked and yet we have social science, good social science by sociologist Patrick Sharkey that shows one of the key indicators of safety, of the places that have the best crime declines, was the density of the non-profit sector in that locality.
Thom: Thank you professor Weaver. We’ve talked about police policy and defunding the police – I want to talk a little bit more about the protest movement and how that’s really gained steam and what are some of the principals and concepts behind how that has taken shape to ask professor Saleem, what has your research shown about how media strategies and communication strategies are successful at enlisting support and solidarity for these kind of movements and what are some of the methods that have worked in recent days regarding this?
Muniba Saleem: Yeah I think it’s important to recognise that there actually is a lot working against racial ethnic minorities when they're seeking racial justice, so the media industry and journalists, they're people too – they have their own biases that go into the stories that they make, it’s a task for racial, ethnic minorities who are seeking racial justice, who are raising their voice - when they talk about the discrimination they face, they are considered to be complaining, when they are asking for support their messages are being perceived in a more unfavourable light as opposed to the same content being presented by a white member. So group dynamics show us that in general the advantage members have a broader reach, their voices have a bigger impact, and so what we really need white audiences to do is to talk to their group, is to speak up and to really talk about the racial injustices that a lot of the folks of colour are talking about and I think it’s also very important to give their voices a platform – so white audiences have a broader reach, their voices are generally considered to be more favourable by other white members, they end up getting more support for these messages than the disadvantaged members do, so I think those are all the things that we have to consider when we’re talking about what can people do to give a voice and to raise awareness about some of these social justice movements.
Thom: Professor Moore, we’ve just heard from Professor Saleem how there's an advantage for white allies to convince other white folks about the severity of these issues. I want to ask you kind of in that same context – what are some of the historical instances of black and brown people being depicted as a threat? What are some of these myths and storytelling that have perpetuated those kind of attitudes, going all the way to the black brute myth of the reconstruction era, to cases like Emmett Till and all the way through today with the Nightly News covering crime with such ferocity and shows like Cops which had been on air for over 20 years and now just in the aftermath of these protests has been cancelled. What are your thoughts about those myths and those stories about the threat of black and brown people?
Robinson Moore: I think the first thing is that many of those myths have been rooted and the ways in which policing in America has developed – remember lets go back to those slave patrols, citizens were picking people to police brown and black bodies because they wanted to keep control of their slaves and their property and then as the civil war ended we have those same groups of people now create citizens to do the same thing afterwards, and even if we just traverse all the way up to the 20th century, we have a president – former president Nixon’s campaign on the war on drugs, we have Reagan’s conversation about drugs as well and so the media has always put black and brown bodies as the symbolic representation of the societal threats and so the brute image has sort of morphed out of the context of those slave patrols that initially developed and policing has sort of followed suit with that. There are other things – even African American women have also been unjustly depicted as criminal as well – so we have usually people harking back to Mammy image which is a docile figure, but in contradistinction to Mammy is the Jezebel image and these other ones and even black women at times have taken on the brute image. I can't remember the article but I think it was the New Yorker, it had a depiction of Obama dressed like Osama bin laden and Michelle Obama –
Thom: The first lady was Angela Davis right –
Robinson Moore: Angela Davis, but look at Angela the way they did her – fatigued and she had a gun, so here again are those brute images recast through gender and so – these images are codified in American cultural consciousness and what I mean by that is that you see it in the media, you see it even in cartoons and story books, if you do your research, you even see it throughout movies and Hollywood and Hollywood constantly plays upon some of these stereotypes. So, If you grow up in America you’ve been constantly seeing these images and even if you watch the news for any amount of time, you're going to see those images again and again and so to come full circle to today, it’s so important that we take stock of the history of the ways in which people of colour have been depicted so that they can be dismantled and reframed and I think to doctor Saleem’s point, it’s very important to have white people come to the table and begin to point these things out as well because this is not just a black and brown people issue, this is an American issue and white people should be just as much involved with their voices as any other race or group.
Thom: I'm reminded by part of what you said regarding even black women being subject to the black brute myth, I was reminded of the outcry and backlash to Beyoncé’s super bowl performance a few years ago where she invoked images of the black power movement and black panthers and there was a very vociferous outcry from some segments of our culture claiming that to be inappropriate for some reason, I'm not sure why still to this day – but with that I want to pivot to Dr. Ore and ask – how do some of these myths that we’ve talked about with Dr. Moore, play into opposition rhetoric that kind of polices and gatekeeps just the manner of protest? Not only what you hope to achieve in terms of real policy or reform but the actual manner of protest such as Colin Kaepernick taking the knee during the national anthem and the protests now happening all over the country from black lives matter and the clamp down that we’ve seen in some of those cities. How does that change people’s perception of the substance of those grievances and what do you have to say about that kind of policing of the manner of protests?
Ersula Ore: It’s a common practice that whenever protesting against or challenging a status quo, that the challengers character will be attacked and the way that this happened in the manner of protests we can think about is that redirecting the attention from the actual substance of the grievance to the actual form that the grievance takes, redirects attention from the actual problem to this notion or form. I think a good example of this would be – and to keep with the understanding that black women find themselves – at the hands of police violence in ways that we don’t nationally address and acknowledge and with that said I want to call – cause she's always with us – I want to call Sandra Bland – because I'm thinking specifically about how her manner of protest – her manner of simply asking very logical, rational questions, questions that demonstrated that she wasn’t overly aggressive, which is what she was cast as, as a result of asking questions. Questions that demonstrated that she wasn’t uncivil or uncivilised or disrespectful or violent, but that she was simply a woman demanding answers, in the need to secure her safety and her well-being. That she was not your average citizen, in the sense that she understood what her rights were, and a simple fact that she enacted those rights is what was criminalised or used to criminalise her by public officials and more specifically members of law enforcement. Members of law enforcement identified and ridiculed Sandra Bland by saying that the violence that was enacted against her by officer Encinia was warranted because she was rude, uncivil and disrespectful.
How many times have we heard this larger narrative of the uncivil, unruly black woman? You have her in the – and this is very much goes back to the larger conversation, this is what Dr. Moore was touching upon to a certain extent, where she talked about the genderised form of the brute and the depiction of Michelle Obama as this black radical, gun toning militarised black woman, in the oval office – that we should fear because she's going to take over America along with her Muslim husband.
These images ultimately criminalise black agency, right? And this specific case of Sandra Bland – a black woman’s capacity to articulate the wrong to demand the right and to seek out justice. We typically see that kind of counter argument being levelled against individuals who protest and I just think that Sandra Bland is a primary example of how that functions both in an independent situation as well as a situation where we have numbers of peaceful protestors out in the streets carrying signs, demanding attention to injustice, no matter – I mean Carlos Smith taught us that you can't raise a fist without catching flak and then Kaep told us that you can't take a knee – that these forms of peaceful, respectful, civilised protests won’t be acknowledged, they are just as threatening, just as violent and must be put down with equal lethal force.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Ore. Dr. Moore you'd like you add to this?
Robinson Moore: Just one more thing, I really appreciate Dr. Ore’s comments and you talked about the ways in which people are protesting, I think it’s very interesting that the voices of African American women who have died at the hands of the police have not been just as front and centre as the males that have died, right. And so, what we have with Breonna Taylor’s death is that she actually was sandwiched between Aubrey’s death and George Floyd, and because of that she is now able to have this voice. So, the other thing that we need to sort – the other thing we need to attend to is the ways in which masculinity sometimes overrides the atrocities and the criminalisation of women, especially African – American women. So as we move forward – for those of you who are going to continue to protest - cause I have to leave in a couple of minutes – I have to get this in – for those of you who are going to move forward and protest – to begin to think about the ways in which black women - [inaudible 48:34] for example, all of these women have also – their voices and their stories have not been made just as central as the black males that have died at the hands of police and I just wanted to give a shout out to them and a shout out to protestors to say that – if you're going to protest against police brutality, you want to make sure that you include the brutality of everyone that’s experiencing dehumanisation, and that includes African American women as well.
Thom: And the officers in that Breonna Taylor case still have not been charged with anything and the investigation is still kind of open ended and that’s certainly a call for action to a lot of people out there in the streets. Thank you very much Dr. Moore, I think that's probably the last question we’ll have for you, cause I know you have a hard out in just a few minutes, so I want to thank you for joining and for any media on the panel, when we send you information about the video and transcript, you'll be able to access the contact information to get in touch with Dr. Moore if you have any further follow up questions or would like to interview her. So, thank you Dr. Moore.
Robinson Moore: And thank you to everyone else too, thank you.
Thom: From the chat we have a question from Alistair Gee from The Garden. We often hear of the same small number of places that have taken action on defunding and abolishing the police, such as Camden, New Jersey. Are there other PD’s that you would look to that have done this, that are doing a good job – I guess is kind of the jist of his question. I wonder if Dr. Hipple if you can answer that, can you talk about the events of disbanding the police department in Camden, New Jersey or other examples of something like that?
Natalie Hipple: I don’t know that there are other examples like Camden, I think that was a really – they made everybody reapply for their jobs there and I think it was a complete reformation for that police department. I think there are a lot of police departments that are doing a good job, I will say that I've worked with a lot of police departments over the years and I think there are a lot of them doing really good jobs, does that mean that things don’t need to change? Absolutely not. There are clearly lots of things that need to change in policing. I think – I’d point to places, when you're talking about defunding the police, I think I would point to places like – there's many examples of this but the one I'm most familiar with is Indianapolis, the Indianapolis metropolitan police department, they have a unit there that specifically all they do is work with the homeless, and I don’t say – they're not policing the homeless, they're working with the homeless. They have a sergeant and four officers; they have a mental health clinician from the local level I county hospital that goes out with them regularly to work with these folks. They work with – humane society works with them to go out and work with these folks. So I think there's examples – this isn’t defunding by any ways shape or form, because the hospital is picking up the tab for the clinician, there's also some social service agencies that are there to help do the case work, but they’ve created this partnership and so the issue is – the hospitals given up a body that they need at our level I trauma centre – and so can they afford to do that in the world where we have very limited mental health clinicians that are available to go out to work with folks and they need them at the hospital? So, I think you can point to different agencies that do those – it’s called a corresponding model where they respond together and they do respond to calls for service, for people that call 911 – or the non-emergency numbers, but this unit in Indianapolis is specifically a – they don’t respond to calls for service in the traditional sense, they get to know these folks, they're working with them all the time to keep them out of the system and to get them where they need to be, and the best place for them. So, it’s its own example and it was clearly not very popular for a while but I think people are seeing the good that it can do as well.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Hipple, Allister I hope that helps point you in the right direction talking about Indianapolis as maybe an example of a police department that’s doing some good things in those areas. I want to get one more question here for Dr. Ore and that question is with legislation being debated on the Hill and the president's executive order, what's to stop officials from passing legislation that’s merely symbolic as a way to appease protestors, and what in your opinion would real and meaningful legislation include and more so – why is it so important for it to be more than just performative?
Ersula Ore: That’s a lot in one minute and I'm going to do my best to try to address it –
Thom: Give us a tease and then any media who are on here can follow up with you and talk to you for an hour about it later.
Ersula Ore: Fantastic. I will say this, I can't really – I have to wash my mouth, I can't really consider to think how to stop government officials from passing the legislation that’s really symbolic, I'm not at the table, that’s all I can say. I'm not at the table and I don’t know what will keep individuals within legislation, feeling as though the best way to move when it comes to working to develop impactful legislation is to always keep white fragility in mind, as long as we keep white fragility at the forefront, we’re going to continue to produce legislation that doesn't work towards any kind of ethical change, and I think about this with regard to the anti-lynching legislation, it was passed by the house but it’s getting caught up in the senate, because Paul Rand wants to make some ridiculous amendments to it, so that it’s as capacious of a definition as it currently is, according to Paul Rand – problematically so. Something like a Mark Arbery would be identified as a lynching under the anti-lynching legislation, which is not something that he would like to see happen. Which I personally find problematic in the sense that, it should be very much that kind of legislation that has taken over 200+ attempts for passage and recognition right, over a 100+ years to get this work done, to simply be held up in a moment in a time of immense anti blackness against – I said before that anti blackness is the constant right, Covid is the variable and so how common, how ironic, how in step with the arc of history do we find ourselves – when we find ourselves facing Rand Paul. Rand Paul in capacity to allow this legislation to pass, or not simply to allow the legislation to pass, because the thing about it is that even though it is very much symbolic, falling after the 205 senate apology, which also fell in the 50th anniversary of Emmet Till’s lynching that the effort to bring this piece of legislation to pass for the possibility of attaching it to another piece of legislation – perhaps – I don’t know. Current police reform legislation that would do the real work of stitching together the historical – allowing us to see the historical continuity between Americans history of anti-blackness and its manifestation of slavery right, and the production – the creation of slave patrols – as many scholars on this talk have identified and historicized for us, but that history between slave secrecy, policing, slave patrolling and the incentivising of citizens to also function as police. We can think about this again – taking it back to Ahmaud Arbery – how ironic, how interesting is it that a previous law enforcer happens to be the private citizen that instructs his son to murder this black man who is out for a run during a time where we are just finally getting a chance to breathe. To attempt to breathe. For me I think that if we were to take into consideration the amalgamation of black pain, against the need to insulate insecure white fragility I think we might produce legislation that is more impactful and gets us closer to what we say we want. Right. Which is actually the practice of American democracy rather than the perpetuation of this kind of hypocrisy.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Ore – and you mentioned lynching and there have been some disturbing cases of suspected lynching’s in Southern California that were not mentioned, that this very much is still an issue and we are seeing legislators fighting legislating real laws to put an end to that. Thank you so much for your thoughts, I know that you have a hard out as well, I have just one final question that I want to direct to another panellist, thank you to Dr. Ore from Arizona State and one final question – for media who are on the call, if you have any final questions go ahead and get them into the chat, we’ll see if we can squeeze it in, but our panellists don’t have too much more time. I want to ask Dr. Weaver, what does the research show – let’s bring this back to the research and basing this in some principals there and what the numbers show us, the question is – the correlation of contact with police and the committing of crime, do those things correlate well or is there a disconnect there?
Vesla Weaver: Thanks for the question Thom. So, I want everybody to imagine a 2x2 – so on the one hand you have contact with police, so were you arrested? Yes or no. and on the other Axis you have self-described criminal behaviour. So, you engaged in an offence- yes or no? And, one of the things that we should assume as criminal justice scholars is that most Americans should fall in two quadrants. Yes, I did a crime, yes, I was arrested or conversely – no I didn't do a crime, no I wasn’t arrested. And what we found by looking at longitudinal surveys of youth overtime that track people that came of age around the late 1970s and those who came of age around the 2000’s was that exposure to arrest is conditioned less on patterns of behaviour than in prior generations, so our system in a sense slipped from one where criminal justice involvement was a relatively good proxy for offending to one where a larger and larger share of Americans, were falling into the yes I've been arrested, but no I haven’t engaged in offending.
And so we argued that – and also the share of Americans growing, coming into those quadrants became very racially inflected over time, so more and more white Americans were falling in the – yes I’ve done a crime, I've sold drugs, I've driven a car that was stolen, I've shoplifted, I've driven while drunk, but no I haven’t been arrested – and a greater share of black Americans were falling in the no I haven’t engaged in offending, but I have experienced an arrest.
So, just to give you the numbers on that, in 1979 one has a close to zero probability of arrest if you’ve committed few to no crimes. By 2002 it jumped to a 20% probability, and so one of the things we’ve been trying to show over time is that this isn’t a story of just growing exposure of all Americans and all adolescents to policing, it’s also a decoupling in a sense. Right. Policing – having contact with police is being decoupled from actual criminal offending and that transformation in the relationship, a basic relationship between crime and contact – any scholar, any police official will tell you – yes. There should be a very strong empirical correlation between offending and having exposure to police and that’s changed dramatically and it changed dramatically in the course of one generation, and so one of the things I think we need to talk more about – when you hear these calls about police violence and about – what will happen if we do away with or we radically re-envision policing in this country – what about crime? What about violence? Tends to not take into account the fact that we have already delinked crime and police contact and we need to do more as a country to bring that tight correlation back together.
Thom: Thank you Dr. Weaver, very eye-opening information there and I think that helps to sum up the basis of a lot of these issues for us and thank you all panellists for your comments and time today. For media on the call, just a reminder – we’ll have a video and a transcript, if you registered for the event you're on the list automatically, If you didn't register and you want that – send us an email to [email protected] and we’ll get you on the list to get that video and transcript. With that I’ll go ahead and close and say thank you to Dr. Hipple at Indiana, Dr Weaver at John’s Hopkins and Dr. Saleem at University of Michigan and Dr. Ore and Dr. Moore who’ve already had to depart. Thank you all very much, stay healthy, stay safe and good luck!