Hannah Meibers, Columnist
On April 27, the Janus Forum hosted Heather MacDonald and Governor Martin O’Malley to speak on police brutality and the role of race in the justice system. But it seemed to be MacDonald versus Miami. There were police officers guarding the doors, eyeing the rowdiest of students, and the applauses only sounded when Governor O’Malley spoke. Beyond the stats and stories, I cannot say the question at hand was answered: Can Both Black and Blue Lives Matter?
MacDonald’s points were simple. The data is the data, and the policing system is not racist. MacDonald made sure to praise all of us for our kindness, as we did not blockade the door to the facility, as the Claremont College students had done 16 days prior to the talk. After a few words to get the ball rolling, she began discussing the statistics. And to be honest, she did not stop discussing the statistics.
When the stage was handed over to Governor O’Malley, he made sure to acknowledge the “far from perfect” country we are living in, and how, in order to improve, we have to “do it together.” In just 10 minutes, Governor O’Malley discussed personal stories from his experience in Baltimore as the governor of Maryland, and the questions he has been asked.
On the topic of making improvements in high crime cities that would allow citizens to enjoy their neighborhoods, he was asked, “How are you going to do that when nobody else has done that before?”
And his response remained strong: “We’re going to do it together.”
During the Q&A, MacDonald and Governor O’Malley began a heated discussion. MacDonald said, “We’ve been having an obsession with phantom racism.” And Governor O’Malley retorted, “With a nation like ours, a history like ours, with an injustice in racial proportions like ours, we can say that one area this doesn’t apply to is criminal justice.” Governor O’Malley continued to talk about the “injustice and bias in everything,” which gave MacDonald the impression that he was implying that police in high crime areas had “double standards.”
And immediately Governor O’Malley heard the dishonesty in her words, saying, “That’s not what I said.”
MacDonald kept her streak going as she continued to state statistics. I never heard her personal opinions, her personal viewpoints. Research has no part in racism; it is in plain sight. Seeming to have sensed her discrepancy, MacDonald strayed away from her data and announced that our “unflawed justice system” would work to our advantage if everyone “complied now and complained later.”
After the forum, Governor O’Malley and MacDonald exited the auditorium and joined students and faculty in the lobby of Farmer School of Business. I spoke with two students, Isaac Pickell and Molli Spalter, who both showed their passion for the viewpoints Governor O’Malley presented.
Spalter pointed out the lack of a black voice, and the coincidental four black police officers guarding the doors that were in frontal view. I had not noticed such an observation, but it definitely did not feel like an accident.
Spalter also shared that, after speaking to MacDonald following the talk, MacDonald alluded to the high crime rates as being “the fault of the black community.” Spalter also recalled MacDonald’s use of “cultural deficit” when describing African Americans.
Pickell shook his head and said, “I don’t think there is any reason to respect racism in 2017. It’s racism. We’re a long way past where that should be.” Which Spalter finished with, “Shame on Miami for bringing her here.”
I took Spalter’s quotes to Governor O’Malley, and asked what he thought of MacDonald’s use of “cultural deficit.” He looked at me, puzzled at such a phrase, and continued, “What I do know in our country is that some of the most impressive and inspiring stories of individual and family success will be found among the very diverse African American stories that are a part of our country’s story. At the same time, we look at how far we’ve fallen in crossing that gap between justice and injustice, especially in our large cities. And those aren’t exclusive to African American families and people that live in our cities.”
Outside of the statistics and facts, the stories of shootings and solutions to police brutality, I cannot pinpoint an answer to our question of the night. However, maybe that is the answer. If both black and blue lives could matter, cohesively, together, then the forum would not have been held in the first place.