“We live in a racist society,” said Dean of Student Development Manuel Perez during the Brave Space Dialogue held at ARC Wednesday morning.
The Brave Space event was organized to give students a safe space to discuss how they feel about what has been occurring in Ferguson, Mo. According to Perez, Brave Space is a space that is set up whenever the community has been rebounding or reacting and feels a deep need to process.
This was the first Brave Space held in about a year and a half, and was focused upon the protests over the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
About 30 American River College students and staff attended this Brave Space and spent it’s two hour limit sharing their opinions with one another and getting into passionate debates.
Attendee Leon Burns, an ARC student, said, “The older generations, they are the callous from how I see it. They don’t understand that the youth of America, no matter what the color, will be leaders of this country.”
“The historical perspective, for me, is so important. The same things that were happening are still happening … I will not assume a doctor or police man is any better than me, people make mistakes.” Burns continued. “Maybe Darren Wilson made a mistake, take him to trial, let him have his day in court like everyone else.”
Tamara Dunning, who is acting as ASB Student Senate president, was also in attendance.
“I’m worried about what we are teaching our kids, to ignore an officer’s questions and to attack them. We are creating this culture and then complaining about it,” Dunning said. “(People) are saying it has to happen because of race, the police against us, (or) smoking weed. We teach our kids that if the police approach you, to run because they are going to hurt you. It wasn’t like that when I was growing up.
“What happened to Mike Brown shouldn’t have happened to anybody, but it wasn’t because he was black and the officer was white, but because he was a human being,” she said.
Los Rios police captain John McPeek was in attendance and fielded questions.
“I’m not here to represent them (the police), but to listen to the community and find out why we are here,” McPeek said.
McPeek was berated by other attendees for a large portion of the meeting, after which he left looking uncomfortable.
One of the questions most frequently asked of McPeek was if police are trained to shoot and kill their targets, or if they are trained to disable them.
“Officers are trained to use their weapons appropriately to protect ourselves and the people around,” McPeek responded. “Our job is to serve and protect … there are certain levels of force we are trained to use depending on the circumstances…I’m held accountable just like you are.”
Psychology professor Lori Hokerson said, “We need to look at our own bias, and that’s the only way we can move to a system that doesn’t (discriminate).”
After the meeting, Dunning said that she chose to attend because of the importance of the dialogue.
”These are conversations that need to happen,” Dunning said, adding that she hopes to see more Brave Space meetings in the future.
“It would be nice to to see these on a regular basis — not only as a reaction, but as an ongoing dialogue.”
The next meeting on the Ferguson topic will be held on Thursday in the community rooms in the Student Center from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.