On Thursday afternoon, the Black Faculty and Staff Association hosted a panel discussion inside Gregory Gym to examine the turbulent relationship between police and the African-American community.
The panel consisted of UTPD officer Jimmy Moore, government senior Wesley Nash and Chiquita Eugene, city-wide manager for Austin’s Youth and Family Services/Initiatives.
After a recitation of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, otherwise known as “The Negro National Anthem,” the conversation began with the panel members’ response to a series of questions.
Moore began by discussing UTPD training, specifically addressing how officers are to handle confrontational situations. Moore detailed UTPD’s three-level system to incident response and reiterated what to do and say if stopped by a police officer.
Eugene said bridging the divide between police and the African-American community begins with civic engagement and ends with an added sense of cultural awareness and education for both camps.
Eugene encouraged the audience to visit police departments with their children to foster an active dialog and dispel racial tensions with police at a young age.
“A lot of this combative environment is based on fear,” Eugene said. “Don’t y’all know you’re pretty powerful people? You can cause people to be fearful. And fear is the state of the unknown. Reduce some of that fear. Go to your police stations. It’s good for you, and guess what, it’s good for them too. Police officers are like us. They’re human too … It’ll give them another perspective when dealing with African-Americans.”
Chas Moore, an activist and former UT student, voiced a more radical position during the question-and-answer portion of the panel. Moore took issue with excessive policing in underprivileged areas and said it would inevitably lead to more police brutality. Moore said, ultimately, communities should police themselves.
Attendant and concerned citizen Cindy Nathan said the panel gave her added perspective on racial tension. Nathan, whose grandchildren are African-American, said more white people should have attended the panel.
“I think bridging those relations is a good way to start,” Nathan said, “but honestly, I would have liked to have seen more white people here. We wrote the system. For us to sit back and say, ‘Okay, now you guys fix it,’ is really, really unfair. We need to get involved too.”