Forum: Where Do We Go From Here?
Peter Levy, PhD
Professor of History and author of The Great Uprising
As a historian who has written extensively on the urban uprisings of the 1960s, the question “where do we go from here?” seems remarkably eerie, because it was the exact question that Martin Luther King pondered in one of his last writings. King rooted the uprisings of the 1960s in America’s history of exploiting African-Americans and treating them like “things.” Put somewhat differently, from the earliest days of our history, when merchants traded Africans like mules, to the knee of Officer Chauvin pressed against George Floyd’s neck, too often whites have failed to treat Blacks as humans. The solution, King asserted, was that America “must be born again.” Unfortunately, this response rings as true today as when King uttered it 50+ years ago.
Erec Smith, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Composition
In the wake of several fatal and apparently race-based incidents of police brutality, an understandable and necessary surge of protests have circled the globe. Sometimes, one must shout the truth for it to be heard, and regarding the history of race in the western world, this is one of those times. However, we must not shout so loudly that attempts for dialogue are not heard. Those shouts can and sometimes should continue within those debates, but the ultimate goal is a generative and concrete strategy for actual progress among racial lines. The mere performance of anger may be cathartic, but if we do not channel that anger into societal energy to collaborate, strategize, and implement change, our sound and fury will have signified nothing.
Amie R. Scheidegger, PhD
Associate Professor, Chair, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Injustice within the criminal justice system is by no means a new problem. Law enforcement, court, and correctional systems must work cooperatively to achieve justice. If the system begins with bias at the level of law enforcement, we can never achieve justice. To put it simply, the wheels of justice cannot turn when the tires are already flat. It is logical to begin criminal justice reform by focusing on law enforcement as an institution while also addressing the criminal behaviors of individual officers and holding them accountable. I believe many people are confused by the idea of “defunding the police,” a movement which I fully support. If we think of the police as “public safety,” rather than “law enforcement,” the focus shifts from fighting crime to helping people. In order to help people, properly trained officers and social services must be available. Therefore, funds earmarked for weapons and tactical gear are far better spent on training and services.