The Black Student Association (BSA) hosted a panel discussion on a variety of systemic issues related to race including redlining, systemic racism in general, and protesting police brutality.
On Monday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m., the (BSA) hosted a panel discussion on race entitled “Story on Repeat” in the Linda and Lee Scott Performance Hall at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. The panel consisted of president of the BSA D’Andre Phillips, professor of psychology and counseling Jamie Wood, patrol officer with the Pittsburg Police Department Quentin Turner, detective with the Pittsburg Police Department Lamour Romine, and secretary of PSU Alpha Phi Alpha chapter Jared Bush. Additionally, the discussion was moderated by community outreach chair for BSA Dana Rae Johnson.
“This year we’ve witnessed the country’s outpour at the wrongful murders of unarmed Black people like Ahmaud Arbery.., Breonna Taylor.., George Floyd.., and Jacob Blake,” Johnson said. “Even though these tragic moments brought attention to injustice, it didn’t start with them… With these stories, it seems that history is repeating itself. There’s a commonality of violence, prejudice, and dehumanization in these cases where Black lives were lost…”
Johnson proposed topics to each of the panelists which included the defining systemic racism, reactions by the panelists at the various atrocities committed by police officers against unarmed Black people in recent times, the solutions to the issues of police brutality, as well as informed takes on both the Black Lives Matter movement and the call to “defund the police.”
“For me, I saw each of those situations (killings by police) with a bit of empathy,” Phillips said. “Although I’m not directly related to anyone within those stories but to see how tragic those were… I see they happen because of miscommunication… There’s something within the way we communicate with one another that we’re not able to really talk to each other as humans and actually get our messages across…”
Romine said that she found the murders by police “so disappointing” and she also added that these incidents are helping to fuel public distrust in police officers.
“I know that’s (killing innocent people) not what we (police officers) stand for as law enforcement,” Romine said. “We stand for the protection of all human life and equality and dignity of another human being…”
Romine also said that because Pittsburg’s Police Department is “community driven” to the degree it is, this helps Pittsburg avoid situations like the murders of Breonna Taylor or George Floyd.
“Sometimes, it’s about talking to them like they’re human,” Romine said. “Law enforcement should not be sitting on this pedestal of ‘We are better than you because we enforce the law.’ We’re human and there are bad humans in every profession… Our police (are) so community-based… because we want any person of any color or sexual orientation to feel that they could come to us with a problem…”
The panel also discussed the role the news media and social media platforms play in dissemination of information about the Black Lives Matter movement, these murders by police officers.
“I’m not trying to throw blame… but to an extent, the way people absorb information through social media and through the news is to blame,” Romine said. “If they’re choosing to paint this picture that says, ‘Black man kills white woman’ instead of if it was a white person, ‘Ted from the neighborhood kills Sally’ and that is part of the problem… It continues to paint the Black person as the criminal… (The media) has a very strong voice. It influences our opinions. It influences our thoughts. That’s where the news comes from… If you have that news that is covered that does the race baiting situation.., it makes you as the Black person have that negative view towards cops… How is that fair for the law enforcement, especially us (Romine and Turner) who are community-based law enforcement..? They (news media) are not doing an equal amount of coverage…”
Romine also claimed that over 90-percent of law enforcement that is “outraged” by recent incidents of police brutality against unarmed Black people, citing that police officers who commit these acts are “bad human beings.”