UT and Huston-Tillotson students convene to discuss racial bias in society

David Maly

UT students came together Saturday with students from Huston-Tillotson University and members of the general public to discuss the issue of racial bias in present-day society.

The event titled “End Racism and the New Jim Crow: Families of Police Violence Victims Speak Out” was held at Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin. The event was co-organized by several organizations, including the UT chapter of the national organization Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The discussion focused on national and local instances of police misconduct driven by racial bias. In many of the instances, an African-American man was killed by police at the crime scene or while in custody. The family members and victims shared their stories to explain why there needs to be additional and stronger legislation to prevent such misconduct from happening in the future.

Speakers included Eva Haywood, mother of James Haywood, an African-American man that died in 2011 at the age of 33 in the custody of the Elgin Police Department in Central Texas. Airicka Taylor also spoke at the event from Chicago via Skype. She is the cousin of Emmett Till, an African-American boy killed in 1955 at the age of 14 by Mississippi police, spurring on the then emerging national civil rights movement.

Roughly a dozen event attendees stood up and shared their experience with racially-motivated misconduct.

Several of the event’s co-organizers, including government senior Michelle Uche, also spoke at the event. She broke down in tears as she spoke about the lack of public awareness of such misconduct in Austin and nationwide. Uche called the issue “systematic,” because of its frequency and the lack of oversight regarding it.

“This idea that black life can be extinguished by anyone at any time is systemwide and it needs to stop, but it will not stop until we get together and we fight it,” she said. “There will be no justice for us until we get together and we demand it.” Speaker Eva Haywood said racially motivated police misconduct often occurs because police tend to treat people unfairly once they have been convicted of a crime.

“Because our children break the law, it doesn’t mean they are not worth anything,” she said. “They are worth something.”

Felisa Yzaguirre, event moderator and 2012 UT alumna, encouraged event attendees to join organizations that advocate for civil rights in order to fight racially motivated misconduct.

Outside the event, the UT chapters of Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the International Socialist Organization set up tables to allow event attendees to join their organizations and find out about related events.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Students discuss current racial bias