By Alan Branch —

A respectful discussion about race, law enforcement and the world we live in ensued last night in Billy Minardi Hall as a question and answer discussion tried to answer the question, “Do Black lives matter?”

Sponsored by the Housing Program Committee, the discussion started at 7 p.m. and went on for two hours with more than 50 people in attendance. The panel consisted of six individuals in the criminal justice system and the U of L police department, as well as professors.

Students were given the opportunity to ask the burning questions that still left a sour taste in their mouths after killings of young African American males by Caucasian police officers continue to appear in the news.

The discussion began with the speakers talking on their own experiences with racial profiling. Tierney Bates, director of the U of L Cultural Center, talked about his first experience at the age of 16 when he was stopped by the cops with two of his friends. After the police officer asked for their names and they responded, the officer replied, “Why don’t you guys get real names?”

Panelist Aaron Perry commented on how he was raised to deal with racial profiling enforced by police.

“There’s a racial socialization that your parents put you through, even as a young child,” Perry said. “When you’re coached up and trained up about how you outta interact in the off chance that you are engaged by the police. And the discussion and conversation doesn’t revolve about asserting your rights, the discussion and conversation revolves around how you leave that interaction in one piece.

These racial and regional stereotypes are fueled by the media, which generates the viewers and profit. “The media is a business,” Aaron Graham said. “They are in the business to generate profits. They’re selling controversy and appealing to the masses.”

Graham also commented on the recent findings that the Department of Justice recently concluded from their report on Ferguson. They found that there was racism, bias and profiling from top to bottom in the entire city of Ferguson. The report is meant to be publicized soon.

So what’s next?

The speakers stressed the importance of being involved in your local elections and politics. We as the people have the power to enforce these changes, but it takes organization, strategy and actualization.

Officer Oscar Charvez concluded the discussion with how sometimes the change comes from within. Taking an active approach towards change rather than just discussing it will ultimately make the biggest difference.