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Dear Duquesne

The intersection between systemic racism and police violence are linked in complicated ways.

Racial Profiling Some crimes are bought to the attention of the police by circumstances (e.g., a dead body), but very often the police uncover criminal activity through investigation. They patrol the streets looking for signs of trouble.

Unfortunately, they often view suspicion through the prism of race. The practice of racial profiling is pervasive. For example, black motorists are disproportionately stopped for minor traffic offenses because the police assume that they are more likely to be engaged in more serious criminal activity.

Some continue to defend racial and ethnic profiling by law enforcement as a rational response to criminal conduct. Such arguments rest on two basic assumptions, each of which is flawed and divisive.

1) The first assumption is that minorities commit majority of crimes. IF this were true, it would seem to justify focusing police resources on the behavior of those individuals. But, to use this example of drug offenses: Blacks commit drug offenses at a rate proportional to their percentage of the U.S. population. Black Americans represent approximately 12 to 13% of the U.S. population, and, according to the most recent federal statistics, 13% of all drug users. In fact, for the past 20 years, drug use rates among black youths has been consistently lower per capita than drug use rates among white youths.  

2) The second is that most minorities are criminals. The premise of racial profiling is that random checks of minorities are more likely to yield an arrest for criminal activity. But there is no evidence to support that assumption. The disproportionate attention, however, does create that appearance-much like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because, for instance, police will look for drug crime among black drivers, they will find it disproportionately among black drivers. More blacks will be arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed, thereby reinforcing the idea that blacks constitute the majority of drug offenders. This will provide a continuing motive and justification for stopping more black drivers as a rational way of using resources to catch the most criminals.

Police tactics based on these assumptions are not only unfair; they actually place minorities in physical danger. In recent months, several highly publicized police shootings serve as an example of these dangers.

Join us to talk more about these issues with your fellow students.

We'll be showing short clips of your fellow classmates to begin a discussion about these topics. This session will give you the chance to hear the opinions and perspectives of a number of students around campus. Do these responses surprise you? Did you realize how informed/uninformed Duquesne’s campus is of racial issues and police violence?

Power Center Ballroom: 8:40pm-10:00pm

Note New Location!