Cornell faculty speak at a "Freedom Interrupted" lecture in Klarman Atrium on Wednesday.

Lily Croskey-Englert / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell faculty speak at a "Freedom Interrupted" lecture in Klarman Atrium on Wednesday.

September 18, 2016

Panelists Cultivate Discussion on Targeted Violence in Police Practices

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Correction appended

“We live in a very dangerous time, more dangerous than any other time in history,” said Prof. Hector Velez, Latina/o studies, at a Wednesday panel examining the relationship between race, gender and policing.

Velez and seven Cornell faculty members — spanning departments from Africana Studies and Research Center to American Indian and Indigenous Studies — collaborated to create a year-long series to discuss the topic, according to the University.

The series aims to call attention to the escalation of violence in policing practices towards groups including the African American, Indigenous and LGBT communities, according to Prof. Noliwe Rooks, Africana studies.

Prof. Kathleen Long, Romance studies, suggested that violence is targeted toward certain communities because of their perceived differences.

“Those who do not fall in the very narrow definition of normative are readily seen as a threat,” she said.

“Goal-oriented” education — which focuses on equipping students for jobs — can be considered a root cause of this problem, because it teaches students to think of education as “job training,” according to Prof. Judith Peraino, music.

Peraino said she believes academic programs have the power to educate and  “humanize” students by teaching them how to welcome differences and understand complex situations. She cast this goal of academic training as distinct from considering education simply as a vehicle to a job.

“Without a moral or spiritual value simply a means to an ends and that ends being primarily to make money,” she said. “So it seems to me that one of the provinces that if we think about education as job training what we end up doing is training trigger fingers; we train reflexes, we don’t train to think and process and react to difference in complex ways.”

Condemning unnecessarily aggressive police practices, Long added that she believes attempted compensation for violence cannot redeem the act itself.

“There can be no justification for committing wrongful deaths — as citizens this should not be acceptable to us,” she said.

At the panel’s conclusion, Rooks encouraged attendees to conduct further research on the topics of discussion. Velez agreed, adding that he believes students have the potential to begin a conversation that changes violent policing.

“Peace, national and international, begins locally,” he said. “And this conversation is a healthy starting point. This could be the beginning of a movement.”

A previous version of this article misattributed a quote about the impossibility of compensation for acts of violence to Prof. Prof. Carol Warrior. In fact, Prof. Kathleen Long made this statement. 

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