King discusses police brutality, current political moment
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, writer and activist Shaun King spoke to over 400 students at Wright Hall. The 40-year-old is known for using social media to talk about social justice issues such as police brutality and racial discrimination. He is also the senior justice writer for the New York Daily News and a commentator for the YouTube program “The Young Turks.”
“I decided to come because I want to see what’s changed, what’s evolving and how we can continue our growth,” said Hisani Stenson, a second-year political science major who attended the event. “[As well as] see the right way to protest […] and how we can combat stereotypes.”
King started off his speech by telling his audience about the incident that sparked his initial passion for activism. In 2014, he was sent a video of a police officer choking a person of color to death.
“I made up my mind that I [was] going to do something about it,” King said.
In the following months, more instances of police brutality against people of color occurred, including the death of Tamir Rice, an African-American boy who was 12 years old when he was shot by a police officer in November of 2014. Like many others who were disturbed by the violence, King protested.
“They didn’t even care about our protests,” King said in response.
At around the same time, King was enrolled in a history class where he learned that while technology consistently improved over time, humanity as a whole did not. According to King’s diagrams, humanity continuously goes through cycles of peaks and troughs.
King then asked his audience where they thought they are in history. King stated that under the Trump administration, we are definitely not at a peak, but the question is how far down along the trough we are.
“It is hard to know where you are in history when you’re in it,” King said.
King then discussed the sharp increase in incarceration rates in recent years and said that the increase was not a mistake but a conscious effort by those in power to “criminalize blackness.” According to his speech, while a higher percentage of white people sold drugs, black people were prosecuted 800 percent more.
King also said that the downward trend we may be currently experiencing will not end when Donald Trump’s presidency expires, and the fact that he was elected president is a manifestation of deeper issues.
In the next part of King’s presentation, he answered questions from the audience that were passed up to him on index cards during his speech. When asked whether he thought that current law enforcement can be fixed, King expressed that he felt the current system needed major changes, but these changes are more likely to happen bit by bit, by getting to the point where men fight sexism as if it were their own problem and white people combat racism as if it were their own problem.
“We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what could happen,” King said.
He concluded by listing four groups necessary for change: people, plans, energy and money.
“I feel that I’m at a loss of words,” said Mahtab Danai, a second-year medical student at the UC Davis School of Medicine. “He really made a point that when we see people fight against injustice, it’s mostly people who are affected by it. We need to learn that you don’t have to be a victim to speak out against injustice.”
Written by: Clara Zhao — email@example.com