Race, Police & Justice: Voices from the Colgate Community

I’m a White student attending Colgate University. My Whiteness has shielded me from monitoring mistreatment and abuse by the Hamilton Police department and Colgate University Campus Safety because of systemic racism within these “justice-based” institutions. It is a system which I benefit from and am disproportionately protected by. But this isn’t the case for people of color, people about whom I care deeply. I’m not here to voice these experiences or construct a narrative for you. I write from a place of love for my friends, fear for their safety and concern for their well-being. When I hear stories of Black friends being pulled over, parties and gatherings being shut down, people being followed up towards campus, children being monitored harsher at school and then learn of one more individual becoming a hashtag in national news, I know this isn’t a “coincidental pattern.” White supremacy is dangerous, and, White person to White person, I plead you to think about your role in the system we are all a part of and work to push back on it.

When I listened to the conversation with the Hamilton law enforcement a few weeks ago, a few things came to my mind. I’m writing to White officers who may have students report hate speech, violence or other racially motivated crimes to them. I’m writing to people who may not want to step outside their experiences and accept that not everyone feels as safe as they do when walking down the street near a police officer. Officers – it’s not personal, but systemic. But let’s not forget that we, as humans, make up these systems. White people, let’s do better. Let’s be better. Much better. When we are listening to, and possibly challenged by individuals whose experiences we don’t share, let’s not be defensive. When we are told we are being threatening and racist, let’s reflect on our actions and change for the future. Let us not justify our mistakes or defend our intentions. Instead, let’s recognize our position, and engage critically with discussing racism within the police system and outside.