Racial Justice in Our Time: A Conversation with Activist Scholars

September 10, 2020

Watch the inaugural event of President Melvin L. Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative which seeks to embed the study of racial violence and justice throughout our campus and curriculum. The full transcript is available below.

Activist scholars joined together in a discussion of police violence and racial justice in the 21st century.

  • Transcript - Racial Justice in Our Time- A Conversation with Activist Scholars

    President Melvin Oliver: Good afternoon. I’m Melvin Oliver, president Pitzer College. And I would like to welcome all of the faculty, students, staff and guests to our inaugural event in our Racial Justice Initiative. This event, a conversation among scholar activists, who have been on the frontlines of social justice surrounding police abuse and racial inequality, begins a three-year initiative in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, among others, that has sparked the protests that began on May 26.

    This is an effort to support productive discussion, analysis and activism around issues of social justice. This is not a one-time event or a one-meeting effort, but a sustained commitment over a multi-year period, to transform our campus and community in a deep and abiding way. We hope to accomplish this through three courses of action. First, through curricular transformation, embedding racial justice in our courses and curriculum. Second, co-curricular transformation, bringing speakers to campus, creating opportunities to spark new conversations, empowering our affinity groups, and using art and the humanities in ways that allow us to reimagine our world anew. Finally, structural transformation. What are the structural changes we can make on campus that enable us to be more racially just? Together, these are designed to deepen student, staff and faculty knowledge and action around moving Pitzer towards not just a diverse community, but a racially just community.

    In future events, we hope to explore the themes of race violence, inequality and anti-Black racism that have dominated our attention since the outbreak of mass protest. I hope all of you can continue to join us as we explore these things.

    The origins of the idea for this initiative came about because of my frustration with these, when these protests began. My first impression was one of, “Oh, here we go again.” In many ways, this is a context we know all too well. Police brutality against the Black community has been a constant in US history. And the history of racial protests and violence has often been precipitated by instances of police brutality. Think of the Watts Riots in ‘65 to the LA rebellions in 1992. These events generated property damage, injuries and deaths. But they did not, as the protest of the past three months have, create a laser focus on the larger set of issues surrounding systemic racism that lays at the heart of these problems.

    To help us understand our current situation and the prospects for social change going forward, we have three outstanding panelists. Let me introduce them briefly. First, Andrea Ritchie, lawyer, activist and author of the report “Say Her Name,” police violence against Black women and women of color with Kimberly Crenshaw on the African American policy forum. Andrea is currently a researcher-in-residence on race, gender, sexuality and criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. john a. powell is professor of law and professor of African American Studies and ethnic studies and director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California Berkeley. His most recent book is Racing to Justice, an instant classic. And finally, but not least, Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity and a professor of African American Studies and psychology at Yale University. I want to welcome and thank you in advance for your participation.

    Now, as I tried to understand the distinctiveness of the moment, I’m struck by three things. First, these protests are occurring in the midst of a pandemic, where the structural disadvantage of being a person of color has been exacerbated by the multiple ways that the pandemic has affected Black, Brown and Native American communities, disproportionately victimizing the by infections and deaths and economically devastating them further, as already struggling communities. Second, the success of the Black Lives Matter movement in breaking through to a wide range of people, different sectors of society, sports, and even the corporate world to recognize the humanity of Black folks, given the inhumanity of the deaths that just keep on coming at the hands of the police. Third, the discipline of the protest movements. While there’s been violence, the international organizations monitoring protests around the world have calculated that 93% of the protests across the USA were non-violent. Much of the violence that has occurred was precipitated by police responses. Now, this implies to me that the pandemic, in many ways, is helping to ensure that protests can last longer. Think of Minneapolis where there have been 104 nights continuously of protests. The visibility of disparities in the pandemic and the work of Black Lives Matter has also enabled the issue of systemic racism to be surfaced in so many places, by employees and workplaces, from small business to corporate settings, colleges and universities, and sports where athletes, especially but not exclusively, Black athletes, have found their voice for social justice. Not only Black athletes, what about NASCAR? That’s pretty amazing. That gives me a sense of optimism for this moment.

    So, I want to begin the panel by asking you, what’s your sense of the distinctiveness of these protests, especially compared to other periods in which we’ve had racial conflict and violence as a consequence of police abuse? To what extent is this a moment in history when opportunities are created to advance racial justice? You can think of the era of reconstruction and the 1960s civil rights era as times in which we had that opportunity. Is there an opportunity now for meaningful change? If so, why? If not, why not? john, let me ask you first.


    john a. powell: So again, I was saying first of all, it’s good to be here in cyberspace with such a great panel; good friend Phil, and my old long term friend, Melvin and I follow your work so I appreciate being in your company. These are actually complex questions. And actually, I sort of resist sometimes referring to it as a moment. I think it’s more than a moment. We think of the pandemic, I mean, part of the problem, that we’re still sort of semi-lock down, is that we did think of it as a moment or a month or two months. And now we’re talking about half-years and years and a reoccurrence cycle.

    Also, in terms of the uprisings themselves. First of all, if you think about the Kerner Commission, the Kerner Commission written in 1968, in part responding to the incredible range of uprisings and riots in 1967, including Detroit in Newark, I think was 170, somewhere in that number. We’ve already had over 2000 in the United States alone, we’ve had at least 4000 across the globe, just the scale. And remember, the Kerner Commission was writing about this huge uprising, 170. And we’re talking about thousands. So it is different. And I think sometimes we’re reluctant to see difference. Now, when you mentioned about it’s led appropriately by Black activists, Black organizers, Black community, but it is a multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-sector involvement in a way that we’ve never seen. And so it’s been interesting because we have the country embracing from the White House, from the president, from his cabinet, embracing White supremacy, refusing to acknowledge that they’re a problem. It’s those who oppose White supremacy that have a problem in his eyes. He just announced that you can’t teach anti-racism anymore. You know, he’s actually talked about some other things that are even more crazy like making it a law to say corporations can’t include concern about the environment in their programming while the country is burning, while the country is flooding, hurricanes are stirring in the Gulf.

    So, there’s something more pernicious and it’s happening. So, we have the pandemic, we have climate change, we have the uprisings, all converging at the same time. And we have a complete void in leadership from the national level, from the White House. And it’s a global phenomenon. There was a period of time when half the world was locked down, sheltered in place; half the world, over 3 billion people. That’s never happened in history, in humankind, it didn’t happen in the midst of World War One and World War Two. So the crisis, a lot of people refer to it as an inflection point. An inflection point is you notice when the curvature of our work, of our lives, takes a sharp turn. And at that time, at that space it’s call for new innovation, a call for new vocabularies, it’s call for new and transformative thought. And oftentimes, we’re not ready, because we’re still stuck in our old ways. And it will take years to know if we’re ready. But at some point, things will ossify again, and we’ll start moving at a slow pace. But we had a transformation; we’re not going back to where we were. Where we might go may be worse. We’re not going back to where we were.

    And so this is different. And I think it’s important to understand that it’s not just about a police, it’s about the whole structure. It’s about the whole system. And that’s both good and bad because we actually, as a society, have a hard time looking at and understanding structures and systems, we tend to reduce everything to individuals. And so how do we fix this bad apple? How do we fix this racist, as opposed to what’s going on in our entire society, what’s going on in our world? We’re living in a world now. We’re not talking about conservative versus liberal. We’re talking about authoritarian, White nationalists in the White House. And this phenomena is happening in many expressions all over the world. So yes, there’s something going on. And it’s not clear if we will get out of this. But it is clear we will not go back to where we were. So this is more than a moment. Things may settle down in some respects. But those fires in California are not going away. We have the largest fires in history in Australia last year. We have the rain forest constantly being on fire, we have the polar caps melting, and that’s not going to go away.

    And it’s going to have implications in terms of more marginalized people living in the lowlands. Last thing I’ll say is that no, you mentioned that this pandemic is disproportionately impacting people. And we know that when our friends Gerald Torres and Lani Guinier wrote a book The Miner’s Canary. What they reminded us was the metaphor of the miner’s canary is that the canary is in the mind, in part, because the canary is sensitive to air. And so what the canary actually pretends is, is the air bad? That canary is way of diagnosing the system of the air. And you may want to save the canary, and you may not. But when the canary is sick, it’s saying the structure is sick, that everybody is about to get sick. And to some extent, well, that’s what we’re saying. So the pandemic is saying, Yeah, if you’re Black, if you’re Latino, if you’re Native American, if you’re an essential worker, if you’re an immigrant, if you have disabilities, if you’ve been marginalized, if you’ve been violated, if you’ve been exploited by society, it’s about to happen again. And that’s what we’re seeing with the pandemic. It’s like the canary in the mine; it’s exposing all those places, all those people, all those populations that we’ve been exploiting and marginalizing for decades. And so I think it’s important to realize that it’s a diagnostic and the structure has to be fixed, not just the individual thing and it takes all have us to really do that.

    President Melvin Oliver: Phil or Andrea, would you like to chime in?


    Andrea Ritchie: I mean, I can chime in to say that I’m totally in agreement with everything both of you have said. I’ve been thinking about it as a triple pandemic. Certainly, Coronavirus has laid bare what has always been true; there’s not a moment that structural inequality has always been deadly. We only need to look at health indicators across the board in terms of Black people’s experiences of health and disability in this country and being disabled by structural racism. And that the pandemic is just sort of made, shown a glaring light on it and made it impossible to ignore, and raised it to a scale, alarming scale, even more alarming than regular maternal mortality rates for Black women for instance, or regular rates of cancer diagnosis for Black folks. And then that has precipitated one of the biggest economic crises of our generation, which I don’t think also we are fully clear on the impact of that, that it’s only really beginning. And we’ve already seen more unemployment in this country than ever before. There’s been $1200 sent to people over a six-month period facing massive economic crisis. We’re facing a massive addiction crisis, and homelessness crisis and so on, and heading into winter.

    And so then that has come on top of the ongoing epidemic of police violence and that the White supremacist resurgence and sort of surfacing that Professor powell was just talking about has also unmasked the White supremacist nature of police. And so, and just how deeply embedded White supremacy is in police departments and in policing and police leadership. And so, I think, and then, of course, there’s the fourth one; climate catastrophe that I guess one could call a fourth pandemic. And I think the combination of that is what’s produced difference. I think people are seeing that Black communities, Black people, are being left to die, forced to go back to work, forced into dangerous and unhealthy and deadly situations, and are facing deadly violence from the state, and that we’re pouring tons of money into what’s killing us and taking money away in an economic crisis from what we need to survive this pandemic.

    One of the first things Governor Cuomo did in the pandemic, within a week of the pandemic being declared, was cut Medicare, and we saw a New York City Police Department budget of $6 billion that was going to stay the same or even increase. And I think it’s just at a scale now where people can’t, can no longer turn away or feel that there’s a point in tinkering. I think also, we, the movement has been building since the Kerner Commission, right? That people have been engaged in a process of reform almost since policing was first established and of trying to reduce harms, tweak, adjust, fix, put a different face on policing, put a different, you know, there’s been the professionalization era, the community policing era, and movement post-Ferguson, that has been highlighting the failures of that. And the movement post-Ferguson, also that I think engaged in good faith effort to see, were there any reforms that could reduce the harm of this system? We see cities like Minneapolis that had enacted all of the gold standard best practices, many other cities have done the same on paper. And then we saw a video that revealed to us in very stark detail, the inadequacy of reform or the impossibility of reform to mitigate or prevent Black deaths at the hands of the state.

    And I think people are at an inflection point of saying that we’re not going to continue on the path that we were on before. There’s been a Kerner Commission, this commission or that commission, and we’re done. We’re just done. And that what we’re doing in this moment is we’re trying to imagine that world that’s ahead of us, the one in which we all survive, the one in which Black communities and Black people exist and survive and thrive and are joyous. And it’s not one where we’re pouring 100 billion dollars a year into policing that is doing very little to prevent or interrupt the violence in our communities. And is perpetrating a great deal of violence in our communities, and is losing resources from the things that we need always, and even more so in this moment to survive. And so that is what is driving, I think, the persistence of protest and what gives me hope in terms of the radical imagination that’s being opened up, where we’re really as a society saying, what actually keeps us safe? What do we actually need to survive the conditions that are unavoidable in the orangeness of the sky and in the 250 people killed by police since George Floyd was killed, even as we’re protesting police killings in the streets every day in the thousands? And I think there’s two visions that can come through this portal. There’s the one that first Professor powell is describing, the White supremacists, you know, a future that is being put on us. And then there’s the one that we are demanding in the streets and building in the streets. And I think that is what is different about this moment and is building on previous moments, is building on the post-Ferguson movement for Black Lives, is building on the movements in the 60s that demanded radical change at the time of the Kerner Commission. It’s building on generations of Black radical tradition. And we’re just at a point where things are being pushed forward rapidly by the acceleration of all of these pandemics, simultaneously.


    President Oliver: Phil, you’ve done a lot of work with the police. How do you fit into this discussion?

    Phillip Atiba Goff: First, thanks for having me. I fit into this discussion next to my friends who we’ve been doing this work in parallel, in asynchronous. Before, that was the thing that we learned from Zoom. But I think it’s really important for folks to hear around this context that the folks who’ve been working inside of policing to make things different are at least as disgusted as the folks who’ve been working on the outside. One of the things that I think, the first time I wrote down, maybe it was it was 2009 to 2010. One of the things that I’ve been coming back to is talking about the need to abolish the mission of policing. Most states in the United States had no such thing as formalized law enforcement until there were a critical mass of property that can learn to read and write. And even if that’s not true of a particular city, when there were formally racist laws on the books even more than there are today, it was always law enforcement’s job to enforce racist laws. And at no point in time in the nation’s history, do we say, “That was jacked up, we should stop doing that and do something different.” So one of the things I want people to stop being afraid of, and I think  it needs the people who’ve been institutionalist, who have been inside doing the saying, is we shouldn’t be afraid of the word abolition. Because the mission needs to be, that mission needs to be abolished. And by the way, I can get my friends in law enforcement to say the same thing.

    Right, your question was, you know, how do we characterize this and some version of what’s possible right now. So I think it’s important to sort of fit this work of Andrea, I appreciate you framing it this way. If some of the stuff has been just tinkering, which would be nice if we could do it at scale, but like you can’t, some of it has been real harm reduction. And I think it’s important that that doesn’t get thrown all the way out. But it should be taking not just a backseat, but it should be in several cars behind the much more aggressive versions and visions of the future. But to the question of what’s possible now in this movement, in this moment, at this juncture with the accumulated frustrations and rage, and indignities and silencing and erasers of particularly Black Lives, I keep coming back to the idea that we talk about these things, especially in academics, but oftentimes in movement spaces as well, as if history tells the narrative before we make the choices. And that’s just a lot. In 1965, after we’re looking at Watts, and we’re seeing, you know, as john said, we’ve received more than 100 fires across the nation outraged at the newly-gotten rights and dignity and brand for Blackness. And the response to that, the largest insurrections, the largest uprisings in US history according to historians at the time, according to the national narratives, the response was the election of Richard Nixon. And in ‘92, right when (and I like to have this bit of historical note), the last episode of The Cosby Show, (those of us who have certain vintage will recall), the last episode of The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby before who he is in our imaginations who he is now, when he was a moral center, came out live to camera and said, you might be tempted to go out in the streets. But it’s better to stay at home and watch The Cosby Show. That was the first night of the uprising in LA after the acquitted officers. America disagreed with Cosby then, they disagree differently with him now. But after ‘92 when those uprising, those fires that migrated from the Black communities that were incensed, and grieving to White communities that for the first time said, y’all live that close? After ‘92 what we got under a democratic administration was the ‘94 crime bill. So, I don’t think we should underestimate America’s power to erase, ignore and forget what Black people go through. And I am filled with hope at the generation coming up and making things possible that weren’t before. But I’m also filled with realism because I read history.

    What is possible right now is what we choose. It’s what exactly is everyone saying; it’s what we insist upon, and 100 plus days, that’s also unprecedented, like the last unprecedented ‘92 and the last unprecedent ‘65, and the last unprecedent, ‘42. And the last unprecedented in ‘28. We’ve had unprecedented on a 30-year cycle in this country, since we had the idea of freedom for the children of former enslaved men and women. So, what’s necessary right now is a longer read of history, I think. What’s necessary is an empowerment of the folks who are saying reimagining isn’t just a playful game. It’s not something for storytellers unless you understand the storytellers are the architects of the future. Reimagining is an indictment of our failure to imagine systems that keep us alive. And so, my hope is that what comes next is a different set of choices than what we have always done as a nation. And we are making different choices. So the work that we’ve been doing in cities like Minneapolis, right, in cities like Fort Worth, in cities like Pittsburgh, in Seattle and Portland, right, the work that we were doing, was hoping to bring about a space where the systems could transform and be reliable allies inside of the folks working outside. And what happens is, we are now exhausted by any of that inside game. So the inside better hurry and catch up to the outside game. That’s exciting for folks who’ve been doing these kinds of reforms. It should be; if it’s not exciting, then you were doing it for the wrong reasons. So what’s possible right in my in my imagination, what’s possible right now is that the communities that have been crying out for generations, they have the opportunity to define this on a national stage, not just for themselves, not just in an enclave, but on a national stage to do a full historic, a national historical reckoning with how we got here and a path out of it with what the goals will be. But I want to temper that with my concern, not just with historical precedent, but a very specific and real concern that our passions articulating a goal without a path can easily be interrupted by one terrible incident. One murder, one sexual assault of someone that is legibly innocent, in the face of a retreat from the old way of doing things. And that is easily co-opted by folks who want to say, who want to tell a story, “See? These animals need their cages.” I am concerned that if we’re not also strategic as we move forward on this, that we’re going to end up like we have the last couple of times; worse off than we were when we started.


    President Oliver: Phil, I want to come back to that fear and how that that fear can be mobilized towards progressive concerns. Let’s do that later. But for now, all of us have talked about systemic racism. And being a panel or a group of folks who’ve worked as scholars, and most of our work has been documenting and deconstructing those structures of racial inequality that lead to disparate outcomes, give our audience a sense of how you have used structural racism in your work on the ground, with communities and groups, pressure groups to change, to forge new ways of turning around those structures.


    Phillip Atiba Goff: So, the work at the Center for Policing Equity begins, or at least the work that we’ve been doing up until now, that we were able to be out loud about, begins with a pretty basic insight, like performance management. Right? If you want an organization to do well, you got to track the things that are a problem or that are a goal. You got to hold people accountable to it. Otherwise, there’s no way to get corporate communications, you can’t make an organization function any other way if you have no ability to track that. You don’t need advanced analytics, but you got to at least have some value. In the context of public safety, we have measured reported crime, just of side note, there’s no such thing as crime statistics, those are all fictitious. Not because they don’t reflect some kind of reality but there’s only reported crime. There’s no real measurement of crime. Right? If we really wanted to know things about where people were engaging in underage drinking and illegal behavior, we might ask the college community about that, but we know we don’t keep statistics. I’m not talking to anybody in particular. So we keep track of reported crime, we keep track of arrests. We don’t keep track nationally of police stops, police searches, body cavities, we don’t really keep track of sexual assault by police. We don’t keep track of police use of force. So how on earth are you going to measure the good things that you want to have happen to the bad things that are around that if you don’t measure it? Right, like imagine a world where we didn’t measure income. We didn’t measure educational attainment, it demonstrates we don’t care.

    So what we’ve done is, since police have measured crime, like it’s something that you can reduce, right, and they’ve held themselves accountable to it, and there’s some evidence that there’s some positives that come from that. We said, well, is it possible to measure justice, can we measure the portion of the racial disparities, not just disparities in general, but the portion of the racial disparities that police could do something about? And it turns out, you can and when you do, you can see some good results. So what we’ve done is we’ve provided a very modest goal, a management tool that you can give back to both communities and law enforcement, say, hold him accountable to this. Because this is what it’s going to look like when people are treated equally, and this is what it looks like now. And we’ve seen some improvements. But this work on the inside, when there is no pressure on the outside, or when the pressure on the outside can be easily ignored, it is destined to fail. I have woken up every day for the past dozen years doing this work, knowing I was going to fail every day and just trying to feel differently or fail better the next day, because in places like Minneapolis where they saw a 20% decrease in use of force in the three years we worked there, that’s good news. I’m proud of that. And the last report we gave, we said you know, you have a culture, a sub-culture within this department. That is just one incident away of lighting the whole damn city on fire.

    When I started doing this work, there was a Midwestern chief who said, I don’t know if we’re better than the county. I don’t know if we’re worse than the county. I know we’re one dead Black teenager away from this whole place burning to the ground. And this is what Andrea is, in part, talking about, is, I think that there needs to continue to be a harm reduction role. But I think it needs to be de-emphasized in favor of really thinking about what is the role we want for people who deal in violence to be doing in communities plagued by violence? What are the set of tools that we want? And so the other part that we’ve been doing quietly, that we’re now allowed to do out loud, because we’ve been taking money in small chunks out of police budgets and putting it into social services, and now we’re providing roadmaps for the thousands of cities that want to try and do that, right? Here is a way to do this. If you’re worried about violence, if you’re concerned about the messaging, here is a responsible way to do this in the way that you define responsible. And putting those things together, by saying we want to right size the problem and give the right set of resources and no folks have to call the police in the first place. If they’re having a crisis, they have a better set of options at the same time of engaging in harm reduction for the folks who are already there, because we’re not going to get rid of police tomorrow. That feels to me like what is made possible for right now. And that’s the position that we’re in either the CPE is that I’m in personally as leader, that organization.


    President Oliver: John, I know you’ve done a lot of work on racial equity and minority communities, Black and Brown communities. And you are one of probably the foremost authorities on structural racism. How have you used structural racism? How do you define it? How do you use it on the ground?


    john a. powell: That’s a great question. And I taught a class yesterday and we focused on policing. But I opened the class up two weeks ago, with a piece by Professor (inaudible) on structures and systems, because I felt like we actually don’t have a working understanding of structures. Or Tilly, who passed away a little while ago, who taught at Berkeley, wrote a book called Durable Inequality. And he said, we are methodological individuals, that we reduce everything to the individual. And we think that the structure of our community is just a collection of individuals, but it’s not. We also know that we say, we don’t pay attention to it that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Why? Why is it that when you have, yes, the same nine people in the room, you have 10 minds? What are… John Rawls says if you want to have societies just don’t look at the people, look at the institutional arrangements. We have blind spots, and it’s not race blind. It’s not colorblind. It’s not gender blind. It’s not ability blind. It’s institutional blindness. We have a hard time seeing institutions. And so institutions and structures are interlocking systems and they discipline each other.

    And so, in a sentence, one reason we can’t… first of all, think about fixing the police, police department. Who’s the we trying to fix the police department? We just did a survey and a lot of interesting things are going to come out in about a week. People are all over the place. But one of the things that come out is that the White community has a tremendous high trust to the police. The Black community has a tremendous low trust in police. But also, it’s oftentimes not paid attention to that the White community has a different experience. That famous American philosopher Richard Pryor talks about that. He talks about being stopped by the police and saying, “Look, I’m reaching for my license.” And he sort of flips over as the White person policing a White person saying, “How you doing officer; it’ so nice to see you today. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” These are different lives. These are lives not just reflecting the police, it’s reflected in every part of our society. So both Phil and Andrea touched on this. The police are designed to do some things. They’re designed initially, initially as slave patrols. What’s the crime that they were concerned about in slave patrols? The crime was Black people wanting to be free. That’s the crime. We have to guard against that crime. And the apparatus to guard against that is a system; it’s not the police. It’s the police; it’s the lawyers; it’s the court; it’s the property owners, all of those things interacting. And so part of it is to understand the relationship so systems actually is about a set of relationships. It’s not the thing. And systems are complex. They adapt, they adjust, they adapt, you make an intervention, it’s like I can handle that. You know, I don’t have to change, I can handle that. And so part of the concern I have is that we focus on inputs and not on outcomes.

    And I think we have to really talk about what are the different outcomes we want and then work backwards. And so, okay, we have more police in the community, and what’s the outcome? Okay. The police now have military equipment and what’s the outcome? And we have a weak police review board and what’s the outcome? When a police is involved in a killing, that’s on tape, we have this long attractive process, sometimes months, sometimes years. And by the time something happens, the community’s energy, in some sense, has dissipated. We got to study this. We just saw the police snuff out the life of Eric Garner. On video, we saw it. Now let’s have a commission to study what happened. Now let’s turn it over to the prosecutor who’s going to sit on it for months and months and months, and finally come back with no indictment. That’s part of the system. That’s part of the structure. So part of it in the structure has the capacity sometimes to outlast the anger.

    I’ll wait you out. You met today? How about three years? So, part of this sort of understanding, and that’s why I think some of the stuff around funding is important, you know this, but it’s not just the police. You can’t fix the police by themselves because they’re doing what they supposed to do. I did a study at University Minnesota around racial profiling. You know where racial profiling is a big issue? When the Twin Towers came down, all of a sudden people say okay, racial profiling, we can live with that. Because it’s not us being profiled; those people are being profiled. And people kept saying, explain why the police are always stopping Black people. Explain why all the people; we have judges saying, I’ve sentenced you know, hundreds of people for drug offenses. I haven’t seen one White person, I don’t ever see White people. And then you have these stories because Black people, what? Fill in the blanks; whatever it is, it’s a lie. What it is, is not about Black people. It’s about White people. White people use drugs, as much as Black people, but they don’t get busted for it. If they get busted, they get a lesser crime. It’s like part of the good lesson. They don’t go to jail. They don’t, you know, at every level on every point. So why are we doing that? Because society grew up around the idea that they have to police, control and fear Black people. That’s it. That’s the mission. Control the Black people, we’re going to keep them in a place we call it segregation, not just segregated from White people, but segregated from opportunity, segregated from work that you’ve done now, then they’re segregated from well segregated from good schools segregated from housing that appreciate segregated from jobs, you know, and keep them there.

    So when you go back to racial profiling, what we found is that racial profiling was not the highest in the Black community. It was for Black people who wandered into the White community. It’s like, Oh oh, we have a problem. Black man in the White community, Black woman in the White community, what the hell are they doing out of their place? Police unit during a job, stop. And then New York one of the most liberal cities in the country. 800,000 people, mainly Black and Latino men, stopped and frisked. What were they doing? They were being Black. There were being Latino. The hidden rate was below White people. They weren’t getting anything. This was done in one of the most liberal cities in the country. So it was tolerated. Right? New York is safe now. And literally, Black and Latino young men were actually choosing to shelter in place. They were choosing to stay inside because if they went outside, they know they get stopped and they get frisked. What was the charge? You look at the Supreme Court, it says, Well, what the member says unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court said, well, that’s kind of a high standard. What if there’s probable cause? That’s good enough. Okay. That’s kind of high, too. What if they just, what if the police are worried about their safety? They can just pat them down. The terrorists stop. They can just frisk them. And each time they have given a police, but it’s not just the police, it’s the Supreme Court, it’s the mayors; it’s the business people, all of them are part of the structure. And the police know that if they get called onto the carpet, catch your back. The judge catch your back, the prosecutor catch your back, the police union catch your back, ain’t nothing going to happen. And that’s why the police can wave as they take out the lives of Black people, because they know this whole system catch your back. So systems and structures is looking at these relationships and the dynamic of this relationship, and then sometimes saying, we have to really change the relationship and inputs are interesting, but we’re concerned with outcomes. We want a different outcome. You know, don’t tell us what you did, and things didn’t change. How do you make real change? And I’ll just say that I’m agnostic about that. Does it mean defund? does it mean disband? Does it mean… I don’t care, do whatever it takes to make a difference. Redefine the we; redefine an idea that polite people will control the people who police them, that you know what that’s called? That’s called democracy. The idea that people will actually make laws that they will obey and administer to people who actually execute those, those laws. That’s called democracy. But we can’t have democracy; we can’t even vote. We, you know, we say we want to vote and they say they can take away the mailboxes in the Black community. They’re not taking away mailboxes in the White community. Yeah, I want to vote? Go find a mailbox. That’s structural, right.


    President Oliver: You’ve described perfectly structural racism. And I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here. It sounds pretty engulfing. It sounds pretty impossible to attack. It sounds like something that none of us are going to be able to address. Where are the points where we can actually make a different, start a different dynamic? Is it looking at the outcomes and starting from there? Where’s it at?


    john a. powell: What it’s like a lot of things. It’s a little bit complicated, but not all that complicated, right? So I’ll give upi two quick examples. So one thing is that, as you know, in terms of systems, it’s similar, first cousin to structured systems, have what they call leverage points. So if you think about a system, you might say is too big, it’s too complicated, we can’t change it; systems are always changing. And you don’t have to do everything. That’s the good thing, because things are interrelated. If you can figure out the right things, and be persistent, and be deliberate, you can actually make change very fast. And the example I use oftentimes is, think about when the economy is really in the tank. So you go to the feds and you say, people are being laid off. People are losing their houses, companies are closing, what are you going to do? The feds don’t say we’re going to actually build new companies, the feds won’t say we’re going to build machinery for the factories, they say we’re going to lower the interest rates. He says, What? I’m talking about people losing their homes, people have been laid off. And you talk about adjusting the interest rates? What the feds are saying is that we believe, is the leverage point. If we can make money cheap, then people will borrow more. And including factories, they’ll borrow more, and they will buy more machinery, and then they hire more workers, and then people will buy more, and then it kind of, and so that’s a system, to making a system intervention, but they don’t do everything. So systems are indeed quite changeable, but you have to understand the relationship. And the relationship suggests that if you can figure out two or three leverage points on the right conditions, you can radically change the system. So one is to look for those leverage points. And I think we might be there right now, but we’re not necessarily looking for the leverage points. Plus, the leverage points sometimes is not the most obvious Changing interest rates is not the most obvious way to get people back to work. And you might be wrong. And so it might be, I’m just saying, it might be the most effective way of changing policing is not even focus on police. It might be focusing on something completely different. It might be focused on police, but we need, at least and I think my co-panelists here, we’re all scholars, but we’re all after the scholars. So we’ll know what works.

    I’ll just give one last example. I created something called the adequacy theory and education. Adequacy theory basically says the state has an obligation to make sure the students are educated so that they can function in society. And today, there’s probably been 50 to 60 lawsuits, based on the theory of adequacy. It’s different than equity, which actually focuses on making sure that Black students and White students are both funded equally, or maybe even the black students are funded more. I’m not against that. But that’s a theory saying, if you find the Black students more, they will have similar outcomes as the White students. So I’m going straight to the end. I’m saying, whatever you do, you got to make sure that students come out a certain way. And we had one case in Kentucky, I believe, where the school district said, the Black students, they couldn’t educate Black students, because by the time they show up at five years old in kindergarten, they’re two years behind. So you know, we can’t do anything, but that’s not our job. They’re behind when they come to school. It was an inadequacy. So and what the court said is that adequacy doesn’t say what to do, it says you have to do whatever is possible and reasonable to produce those outcomes. So you got to start a preschool program. If you say the problem is before they get there, it’s happening when they’re three or four, that’s where you got to go. So that’s the system’s approach and the steps are looking at inputs and saying, what does it take to get to this outcome? And then make an intervention to see if it works.


    President Oliver: I think that is an important role of the academic, the intellectual, to help identify what are those leverage points, so communities have a way of making change. And I think the best academics who are involved in community change, and societal change are those who identify those leverage points. As you know…

    john a. powell: Let me just say one of the things about backing it up. So, one of my teachers really taught me something. He said, look, there are all these different factors, and we don’t know what’s the most important and you don’t have a single factor. But if you were going to pick on a single factor in terms of producing different outcomes for life expectancy, for policing, for health, for schools, it wouldn’t be income. It would be wealth. That was Melvin Oliver in Black Wealth, White Wealth.


    President Oliver: I was going to say, I talked to a group, and they were worried about the wealth gap, racial wealth gap. And I said, your problem is you, you’re trying to look at all these independent variables. What creates wealth? Start with wealth. You know what wealth is. How do you get to it? Instead of, oh, let’s change this, you know, four times out of the timeframe that wealth is created. No, let’s start with what do we want to create in terms of wealth? That’s a good analogy. Andrea?


    Andrea Ritchie: Yeah, I definitely see structural racism as a collaboration among institutions to distribute life chances. And as Prentis Hemphill says, distribute trauma and opportunities for healing to protect the accumulation of wealth in ways that I think serve White supremacy. So I’m not sure that accumulation of wealth is the answer, because the ways in which it happens serve racial capitalism. And so for me, the focus does need to be on outcomes. And I would push past what Phil put out there to say that actually the outcome needs to be about safety and measures and metrics of safety, and that what I learned through engagement with groups like Insight is that if we ask what actually keeps women of color safe, or what keeps Black women safe, what keeps Black trans people safe, that’s the outcome that’s going to produce safety actually for everyone. And that outcome has nothing to do with policing. And in fact, that policing is a primary source in sight of violence for Black women, queer and trans people. And so, and that’s been certainly the continuing conclusion of my work over the past 25 years, investigating both violence and safety and police violence against Black women of color, and queer and trans people of color. And I think it just feels important to also, when we’re looking at that outcome, look; we tend to excise policing from our conversations about violence. So when Phil was saying earlier, like well, you know, one mistake and they’ll you know, someone gets shot, someone gets raped and, then the whole experiment goes out the window. Someone’s getting killed right now by police. Someone’s getting raped right now by police, I assure you. And every police encounter that happens sets off a chain reaction of an incredible amount of violence. The amount of violence that takes place behind prison walls is astronomical. including right now, people literally being sentenced to death in boxes and cages without ventilators or even morphine or anything from a disease that, you know, we know is incredibly deadly and painful. And just being denied by every policymaker the opportunity to live to survive the pandemic. And I think once we look at violence holistically that way, there isn’t a responsible versus non-responsible way to defund police. We just need to look at the outcome holistically and say we need to end the violence, and the violence is coming from the people as Phil so accurately put it, who deal only in violence, who have a monopoly on violence, and that’s their way of going. And, their way of, and they’re doing it in order to protect this collaboration among institutions to distribute life chances in ways that protect White supremacy and the accumulation of wealth.

    I think the other key thing to remember in that is that there’s it’s not just a resource divestment from police. It’s an emotional and ideological divestment from policing as a practice. And so that goes to what john was saying earlier about people are afraid to divest from policing and punishment as a measure of safety, even as it fails to produce safety and only produces more violence because people are scared, they can’t imagine the other thing. And there is this expectation that there must be this fully formed other system that has sprung up overnight somehow, without 100 billion dollars a year and without the decades of ideological, emotional, and financial investment we make in policing and that that has to be in place before we’re willing to let go of the old, even as the old kills us. And that’s the part that I feel like is what this inflection point requires. And it requires us to understand that the systems that exists right now are not responsible. And that’s where policing is perpetrated by a police officer or by a social worker who distributes life chances in a way that harms and exposes Black women and queer and trans people to violence. Or a healthcare worker who might use (inaudible) instead of handcuffs and 72-hour hold instead of an overnight hold in a jail cell to police and control Black people’s behavior in very similar ways, and in ways that people who are experiencing it feel very similar. And so, I think the responsible thing to do is to really think about the points of intervention are about focusing on the outcome of safety. What are the metrics of safety? What are the things you will need in order to feel safe? Often when I asked that question, I almost have I’ve never heard police. When I’ve talked to Black people about that. I’ve only heard I need a roof over my head. I need a job that is not criminalized that, you know, the way structural racism works is that we structurally exclude people from everything and push them into the criminal punishment system. We push them to be criminalized. So that’s how it plays out in my work, is it structural exclusion, then produces criminalization. Like it’s exclusion into criminalization. You’re pushed into the mob criminalization, and that happens at the hands of police. It also happens at the hands of the healthcare system and happens at the hands of social work, it happens at the hands of every institution, because as john was saying, all the institutions are collaborating to distribute like chances.

    So, the inflection points are many, but they start and this is why the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has been such an evocative and rallying point. It starts in the place that we’re going to distribute life chances in such a way that we’re not predicting the accumulation of wealth at the expense of Black lives, globally, in this climate catastrophe, for instance. We’re not going to distribute life chances in such a way that Black people’s lives are expendable and disposable in the ways that they’ve been made through COVID. And through the ways that society purports to produce safety, at the expense of the tremendous amounts of violence that are distributed in Black communities and in Black lives, by police and by the failure of the current system to actually give the things and provide things that require our needs to be safe.

    And so, I completely agree with this question of focusing on the outcomes. The inflection points are in our hearts. They’re in our families, they’re in our communities. They’re in our visions and our imagination about what safety looks like and what we’re willing to risk to get there. And it does mean that we’re going to experiment and doesn’t mean our experiments are going to fail. They can’t fail worse than 1000 people being killed a year by police. They can’t fail worse than hundreds of thousands of people being sexually assaulted by police, abused by people in prisons or abused by border guards. So that’s the inflection point in some ways. That’s the intervention point is including the sum total of violence of the current system in our calculus, and then pushing ourselves to imagine in every interaction, in every conversation, in every conflict or situation of harm or need, what would actually produce safety for the people who are at greatest risk now, and that that will flow from there. So I think that’s the other thing is that we often think we have to have like the huge level scale solution in order to proceed at all. And I think that, as my colleague, Mario Ancaba says every day, we all have the tools of the world that we want to see in our hands, we just need to start using them in very different ways and taking the risk to get there. So for me, that’s the intervention point. And I think also the budgets have been a very huge intervention point, but they’re necessary but not sufficient, because we need to divest as I said, from the notion that policing and punishment, that we can police and punish our way to safety. We can only police and punish ourselves for more violence. And so how do we reimagine, literally in ourselves and in our practices, what safety looks like. And we know, people tell us all the time. So I think that looking at what people name as the primary things that they need: housing, income, non-criminalized employment, education, health care. That’s the place to start. And once we make sure people’s needs are met, that we make sure that people’s education reads points of adequacy, to not just survive in this economy and to be a cog in this wheel, but to thrive and to reach our highest human potential, then I think we’ll be headed in the direction that means we can survive what’s coming.


    President Oliver: Thank you. I just want to do a shout out for “Say Her Name,” because Black Lives Matter, of course, is very important. But probably the second most important motto…

    Andrea Ritchie: Not that I agree that it’s second… in order to say Black Lives Matter, you have to Say Her Name. And I think, you know, for me, what’s been important about that is, you know, visibility is necessary, but it’s not sufficient also, right? I think that it’s not enough for us to say Breonna Taylor’s name at the same time as we say George Floyd’s name. It’s also important for us to say, Tony McDade name, is a Black trans man who was killed by police or to say, Caleb Moore’s name as a black trans woman who was killed by police. And I could go on. But it’s about understanding again, what’s the outcome, right? What would have produced safety for them? What would have made them safe? What took safety away from them? And in Breonna Taylor’s case, that requires us to look at the war on drugs. That’s what brought the officers to her door, not just a warrant or a form of a warrant, right? And also gentrification bought those officers to her door. So now we’re looking at those institutions and the way they’re collaborating to deny Breonna Taylor a life chance. And that’s again, an inflection point. I think that when we get stuck on one case, visibility, prosecution, and we ask a system that killed her to produce justice for her, we’re headed down the wrong way. We’re banging our head against a wall. That’s not going to get us anywhere. But when we start to look at what would reparations look like, for Breonna’s family, but also for her community, how would we shift the ways life chances are distributed in that community to make repair for the violence that the state produced and the violence that people aren’t protected from and to shift the conditions, then I think we’re starting to move in a direction that feels more objective.


    President Oliver: I don’t have much more time, but I have a couple more questions I want to ask. I’m going to ask one to Phil that I want him to follow up on, and that is your notion of how fear can be used in a political way. And we see it in such a naked way with Trump and, you know, they’re going to be in your community. They’re going to be, you know, destroying it. How do you see that working, especially with your work on implicit bias?


    Phil: So, you invoked the great implicit bias, so I feel like it’s important for me to go ahead and give the caveat. Implicit bias, I think, it was and is a revolution in the way that we think about how structures are represented in the mind. And my goodness, as it’s taken off and done terrible damage to the ability to actually fix structural racism, and the way that it gets wielded. Implicit bias is not a contaminated heart and mind. It cannot be fixed with training, trainings or weak levers and tools. And to begin with, and I want to be really clear, not all bias is implicit. Okay? So there’s that. I think that within that context, when I said my great fear is this one instance, I’m thinking about the real politics of this. I’m worried about the fact that there are folks who’ve been in these spaces and in the trenches doing this work since forever, since they were, you know, cognizant responsible adults, and it’s pretty clear that, again, you want to live in communities that don’t have crises so there’s not a need to call police, if that’s the structure that we’ve got. And if there’s a crisis, there’s many other options for where you go. These are very simple. These are not controversial. And I give space to language that allows for the largest groups of people to not be scared by what will feel otherwise like a radical change in the status quo and their structures that feel like they’ve been serving them just fine. I experienced both the pain of being a Black dude from West Philadelphia and taking off my professor accent and polishing it and talking to folks in seats of power. And the folks in seats of power are like, “Wow, Black people have been catching; how bad, that looks really awful. We should do something about that.” And they hear someone say, not just defund but abolish the police. They’re like, “Oh, that’s terrifying. We’re done. We’re checked out.” And it shouldn’t be that our politics has to cower or placate with the sort of whimsical emotions of people in power, but it should be the case, I think, that we’re aware of them.

    I am concerned that like john said, are we ready for it? And we won’t know until we’re done. And the same way that I feel like what’s possible, whatever we’ve chosen, by the time that we’re done, we’ll see the choices we made, that was what was possible. I worry that on the path to doing the thing that most folks think that we should be getting towards, that that fear gets weaponized. Because when I talked to, you know, like the members of the movement for Black Lives were on my board, when I talked to the activists in Minneapolis, when I talked to the folks in Louisville, I hear different language for the same set of outcomes, like. get the police out of this. They have nothing to do with mental health, get them out of substance abuse, get them out of, especially, the trauma of sexual assault, get them out of that, right? Why should someone with a badge and a gun be prosecuting someone who has just survived a violation of their own body? Right? You can have people who know how to do that work and get a report that no need to bring someone with a badge in at all. Police get that at the same level that activists get that; they use different language for it, but it’s the same thing. But as soon as they use that different language, it becomes tribal. It becomes, “I’ve used the language that signals to you that I don’t know how to talk this thing. So I’m not one of you.” Now we have a division. And so you get people screaming that they’re on opposite sides. We talk about both sides of the issue, what the heck sides are there to freedom and justice? There don’t need to be differences in that way. And so my concern, when I talk about the concern, is that the politics of this moment can be weaponized to segregate folks who agree from other folks who agree, but who don’t see themselves as of the same group. Right? I mean, so john has a Center on Othering and Belonging.

    This is a lot of what that is. And this is part of the structures of systemic racism, of structural racism. So that’s what I mean, it’s happened to each of the last 30 year cycles that we’ve been through, there’s broad public agreement, right? A small group of folks who have been living this life and working on these issues, articulates a set of goals that share broad common sense and appeal. And then, people reframe the issue to weaponize identity against folks. And it’s always with Black folks, queer folks, trans folks, women on the bottom of that hierarchy, as disposable. And that’s the thing, that’s the nightmare that keeps me up, is that we now have the political will momentum, critical mass to get a number of the things articulated as the goal and to start charting a path to get there. Right? And no need to wait because we’ve been waiting for you for more than a couple of generations to make it happen. But along the way, if we’re not prepared for what is always the countermove, then we will have the outcome that is always the counter move and that has won every single time since. I want this time to be different and a beginning. You know, john, you were saying we will be different, whatever is going to be, maybe it will be worse, it will be different. That’s the part where I’m not sure that I know if that’s true. Right? That’s the part where I’m like, well, maybe it’ll take one more loop through the cycle. I thought we were going to be different in ‘92 through ‘94. And I don’t think we were on the other side. We were, but I don’t know that it was meaningful, right? Like, what is actual change as opposed to cosmetic? And I really do hope that on the other side of this, I think we can be, I think we absolutely must be, but I don’t know that we will. Because every time before, I feel like the folks who agree with me have underestimated the power of the folks who weaponize those things that are the natural failures along the way to better. And so I hope that we’re doing both and like, there’s a number of us who are talking about this. This is the everything and the try everything era, because we’re going to get a bunch of stuff wrong but exactly right if we get the calculus of what’s actually already happening, right? Then we’ll be getting more right than we’ve gotten ever right in the in the history of the country. My hope is just that we have a firm eye on the real politic of it at the same time that we’re doing something that’s unprecedented. It is heartbreaking to look at how little we got in exchange for all the lives that we gave up.

    You know, Andrea, you were talking about getting justice through the system. And I like to make sure that we’re really clear; there’s no such thing as justice for a life lost. There’s accountability. There’s no justice for Breonna Taylor. There won’t ever be. But maybe accountability of some sort. But until we’re talking about reparations, not just for families and communities, but reparations for the full accounting of all the ways we have erased and targeted with abuse, Black communities like that, that’s only accountability. We’re nowhere near justice and justice is a half measure of freedom. Because justice is always about making right what was already a burden on folks who are caring more. That when you’re asking what my fear is, that’s my fear is we’re going to lose sight of the political reality, the concrete and the historical cycles of this. And that will trip us up because it has every time before, not because I have any less faith in what’s possible and what we’re trying to work towards. But because I’m now old, and I’ve seen it happen and like it, it hurts to have to go back and retread this territory and just start with incremental stuff, because that’s now what’s possible, because the flames burned out in the cameras turned away.


    President Oliver: But we have to keep pushing. We have a student body at Pitzer that I believe is committed to racial justice. I want to leave them with some sense of optimism. What would you say to young activists at this time? Because as you pointed out, there you know, there is a way in which this may not work out in the positive, or what we think of is the most positive way. But how do you keep going 20, 30 years into this struggle as activist scholars?


    Phillip Atiba Goff: I said it once before, but I do feel like it’s worth repeating. We talked about history, like it was always going to happen exactly that way. Like because it turned out the way that it did, it must have always been that to me. And tell yourself that story about the person you’re with if you want, but don’t lie to yourself about racial justice that way. The moment that we’re in, the movement that you’re part of, the struggles that you’re trying to navigate, that will turn out the way you make them. These are our choices. They belong to us, our failures and our successes together. And so I don’t like the answer to the question of “Well, what’s going to happen,” be a bunch of predictive regression lines. I know that’s sacrilege, because I’m a social scientist, I trade in numbers, but I don’t like that as the answer, because it minimizes the role of the spirit and an individual choice. That becomes collective when we say “Now, we’re going to do something different.” So I love the fact that my students and the activists that we that we run with are still in the streets, a hundred plus days later. I love the fact that they’re like, “Nah, we’re not close to where we need to be.” And so if there’s some hope to be given, I think that, for me, the biggest wellspring of that is looking at folks who realize that it is up to us. It’s on us to define and to remake. And that can be hopeful because we do have a vision collectively, of something that’s radically different from what’s always been and was originally and continuously designed to damage and destroy Black bodies, Black souls, Black communities, Black generations.

    President Oliver: john?


    john a. powell: This is a great question, Melvin. So just a couple of things very quickly. I agree with, you know, what Phil has said and Andrea, and I want to complicate things just a little bit, and then try to answer your question. We just did this poll, and it’ll be out next week or so, and I’d be happy to send it to you guys early. But a lot of us focus on the police, but it’s also focus on belonging, it’s focus on the economy, it’s focus on immigration. And what I will say is that the good news is people are closer than let the newspaper normally report across the board. But people are in different places. So, Phil’s point referring to people using different language. The Black community itself is in very different places around policing. And there’s no consensus. And I think that’s okay. I think, you know, that’s what we are. We have to have space to really talk about that, where there is probably more agreement is on the outcome. Where there’s not agreement is the best way to get there. And I think in all honesty, we don’t know the best way to get there. And so I think space to get people, as Andrea said in terms of experimenting, so people are risk averse. And so you say, get rid of the police? No way. I’m not signing on to that! Some people say, it’s that time! I think we have to be at whole, both. So that’s one of the systems. Realize that we’re really talking about a whole panoply. Secondly, I agree with Phil in terms of risk, and I’ll put it this way. One reason that we haven’t gotten there in the past, I think, there’s something we call breaking-bridging, that we break, that we actually isolate ourselves from people who are actually in this with us. And I’m reminded the fact that the communists and socialists had a plurality and maybe a majority to form a new government in Germany in 1936. And they were so pissed at each other, they decided not to work with each other and let the Nazis form the new government. They should have, you know, and they had differences. But instead of saying, yeah, we have differences, but we can work together, we can work, some work, some compromise, we got to stop those guys. It’s like, you know, the communists and the socialists, most people couldn’t even tell the difference between them. And we are to me, that’s the danger that we keep falling into that. It’s not simply that we reject our enemies, we reject our friends. We break and so part of it is, can we think and reset the sound in terms of what’s the pathway forward, pathways where we have an expansive, inclusive “we,” where people can belong without giving up their identity, or we have a narrow categorical “we,” were only a small group of people belong and everyone else is on the outs. Those are the big questions and it’s not clear where we fall on some of those questions. So again, when I was talking about the importance of this space in terms of talking about anti-Black racism, but to do it in a way that’s a bridge to other communities as well. I had a similar conversation with my (inaudible) partner 10 years ago around comprehensive immigration reform, say, you have to do in such a way that other people can see themselves in that future. If you don’t do that, they don’t come along, and you break. And so, part of it is, even as we focus on anti-Black racism, can we do in a way that other people can see themselves in the future? And we don’t always do that. Sometimes I know, it’s our turn. No, it’s all of our time.

    And then the last thing I’ll say: I guess, well, I agree, and I think what you were saying, in terms of like, we need to be able to experiment and we need to be able to fail. But some of those failures can be actually quite costly. So think about what we were arguing to get people deinstitutionalized, who are in homes and in places who have mental illness and emotional illness, and that the strategy coming from us, coming from the community, was to get them into the community, out of institutions, and let them have a more humane life. We did the first part, we got them out of the institutions, we didn’t do the second part. And that is really the epicenter of homelessness in the United States in its modern form. You know, so I think we have to be, so people who worry that if you get rid of the police and you have nothing on the table, I’m not feeling that. I think we have to be able to respond to them. It can’t simply be, “Don’t be afraid.” Because a lot of those again, a lot of people in the Black community, it’s like no, I am afraid, and deal with my fear in a way that doesn’t paralyze me but don’t be validated. So I do think we can build, but I think we have to build for all of us. Not just for some of us, but all of us. And if we don’t do that, then I think we don’t get there.


    President Oliver: We are at the end of our time. I want to thank the panelists for a very illuminating discussion. Let me have a few final thoughts, especially for, once again, our students, and those people interested in pursuing racial justice, not only this year, but throughout their lifetimes. I think the vision is what has to be kept in mind. And the vision has to be inclusive. And the vision has to be one in which you understand this is a long-distance race. It’s not short burst and exhaustion, or short burst, and just getting out of the race. It’s long-distance. This is not something that’s going to be done tomorrow. It’s going to take a while. And we join generations before us, and I’m sure generations after us, in pursuing what we envision in the future of racial justice. Thank you so much. And thank you for attending and I look forward to seeing you again. Bye now.

Melvin L. Oliver, the sixth president of Pitzer College, is an award-winning professor and author and a noted expert on racial and urban inequality. Oliver co-authored Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality with Thomas M. Shapiro, which won many awards when it was first released in 1995. He is the co-editor of four books, including Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles, and the author of numerous special journal issues and more than 50 scholarly publications.

Andrea J. Ritchie

Andrea J. Ritchie is a Black lesbian immigrant police misconduct attorney and organizer whose writing, litigation and advocacy have been focused for the past two decades on the policing and criminalization of women and LGBT people of color. She is currently Researcher-in-Residence on race, gender, sexuality and criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, where she recently launched the Interrupting Criminalization: Research in Action initiative.

john a. powell

john a. powell, professor of Law, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties as well as on a wide range of issues including race, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty and democracy. He is the director of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society) which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and socioeconomics in California and nationwide.

Phillip Atiba Goff is the co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity and a professor of African-American Studies and Psychology at Yale University. He received his AB from Harvard and PhD in Psychology from Stanford. He has quickly become a national leader in the science of racial bias by pioneering scientific experiments that expose how our minds learn to associate Blackness and crime implicitly—often with deadly consequences.