Police Brutality Debated at BSU

Photo by Nicole Williams

Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland: these are a just a few of the many victims who have lost their lives due to police brutality. Professor Jillian Weiss, professor of law and society at Ramapo College, led a discussion entitled “Cases Exposed” in the Black Student Union office last week. Weiss touched on these cases of police brutality and the topic of racial tensions in America.

“We live in a racist society," said Weiss. "We need to learn how to guard ourselves."

Some of the students who attended the discussion were not very receptive to this statement, however Professor Weiss tried to explain why it is so important to guard oneself and to respect police. Weiss said that “tone policing” is one way to guard oneself when it comes to police.

“Tone policing” is a tactic that refers to changing the tone of an argument, instead of the argument itself.

“My advice to you, as an older person who wants to see you alive, is to be very careful with these dangerous, dangerous people. Not all police officers are like this, but be careful, because they are empowered, legally, to beat you and to shoot you and to explain it afterwards as their reason to believe that you are dangerous,” said Weiss.

Along with discussing “tone policing,” Weiss touched on a few cases that involve racial profiling and police brutality. Tamir Rice, a 12 year-old boy, was shot in a park while playing with a toy gun. The officers reported that, as they arrived at the park, Rice reached towards a gun in his waistband. He died the next day as a result of his wounds.

“If it were me, a white woman in that same park, would the same thing have happened to me? No,” said Weiss.

The students that attended this discussion were able to voice their opinions about racism and racial profiling. Students shared their experiences with racial profiling – from being stopped by several police cars for speeding to being overly questioned by police for no apparent reason.

The perception that many people hold of cops has changed recently because of these tragic cases of police brutality.

“I think that the media has changed the way that the police are perceived. Now, because of social media and videophones, we are seeing first-hand the racism and brutality that is going on,” said sophomore Jina Crawford.

“What you will begin to see is that people of color and black people will be in more positions of electoral office, more positions of appointed offices, judges, police officers and so on,” said Weiss. “And that's when the tide will really begin to turn.”