“Black in America” Sparks Conversation on Race and Injustice

It is easy to feel like just another face in the crowd when sitting among a packed audience at the Staller Center’s main stage. For Sarah Georges, however, being an audience member at Monday night’s event, “Black in America” hosted by former CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien, made her feel the exact opposite.

“People don’t understand what we experience on a daily basis,” Georges, a junior biology major, said about the difficulties of being black in society today. “But I think it was good to see diversity in the crowd tonight.”

Stony Brook University students Sarah Georges and Shanell Morrison attended Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America" tour at the Staller Center on Feb. 16, 2015.
Stony Brook University students Sarah Georges and Shanell Morrison attended Soledad O’Brien’s “Black in America” tour at the Staller Center on Feb. 16, 2015.

O’Brien made her sixth stop on the “Black in America” tour, titled after the popular docu-series of the same name, at Stony Brook University with a panel of guest speakers to discuss the issue of race and police brutality in America today.

The latest installment, “Black & Blue,” discusses cases like the death of Eric Garner and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past summer, as well as the media’s coverage of the incidents.

“Everyone experiences life differently,“ Shanell Morrison, a junior sociology major, said. “But I think police brutality is an issue and we can’t divert the conversation.”

The events surrounding the increased tension between police officers and young black men around the country have sparked what O’Brien calls an “uncomfortable but necessary conversation.” Many parents of black youth, including panelist and former NBA player Etan Thomas, have had to have this talk with their own children in order to keep them safe.

Thomas said that he had to take the “rose colored glasses” off and explain to his son the often unsafe reality of the situation for young men like himself, though he is only just a child.

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The former basketball player did, however, say that it is important to remind these young men that their lives do matter, and they are of great importance. With more and more police altercations taking place every day, it can be difficult for black youth to be taken seriously when it becomes their word versus that of the police force.

Technology has played a major role in proving the cases of those who have encountered police brutality first hand, including panelist Luis Paulino.

Paulino, a DePauw University graduate, had been unjustly assaulted by NYPD officers in the summer of 2012. The only proof of this altercation was a cell phone video captured by a taxi driver who was a witness to the crime. 

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Social media’s importance in relaying these stories of race and brutality that may otherwise go unknown has grown immensely in recent months. The media’s attention to the incidents surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner continue to further the need to have this “conversation” thrusted into the spotlight.


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