BATON ROUGE, LA – The Baton Rouge community, although seeming small in comparison to larger cities spreading the nation, has a long record of making its marking on our country’s history in many ways. Some of those ranging in its positive or negative impacts, but more recently it has reflected poorly on Baton Rouge in regards to the racial struggles and controversies that have created a nationwide uproar.
In attempt to combat and discuss the topics that have needed exposure for years now, Louisiana State University hosted a two-day symposium: “Moment or Movement: A National Dialogue on Identity, Empowerment and Justice for All” on October 3rd and October 4th, 2016. This series of meetings consisted of a wide range of panels, covering past events, new ideas and steps leading to involvement, all proclaiming a need for change and hope for the future.
Dr. Michelle Massé, Graduate School Dean, moderated and contributed to one of the interactive panels. In which, Dr. Wesley Church, Dr. Lori Martin and Dr. Roland Mitchell discussed how racial issues have led to educational and economic conflict, and how the College of Human Sciences & Education plan to address the local crises in an hour long segment called “Now What? Movement Beyond the Moment seminar.”
Dr. Roland Mitchell, Department of Sociology/African and African American Studies Associate Professor, emphasized that “it’s not just moment, we’re focusing on the movement. There has to be action that comes out of this moment, and that is what the college of Human Sciences & Education are focused on.”
He begins by touching on the shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5th, 2016, where racial tension was present. Louisiana, as well as other neighboring states began to riot in coalition with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, causing a national crisis. In the past, there have been many divergences between African American’s crime scene and the police. This one in particular simply pushed the constantly building issue over the edge and called for some renovations and serious conversations to be had; hence, the reason for the “Moment or Movement” symposium and the “Now What? Movement Beyond the Moment” seminar.
He proceeded to talk about justice and what that means for Baton Rouge and its residents. The steps needed in order to make a change in the community lies within the community alone. He based his foundation and precepts on the word “responsibility” and how the community of all races are responsible for facing these issues with racism, education and economic backgrounds, and work towards a mutual, respectful relationship with each other.
One of the two conversations that Dr. Roland Mitchell said he is most passionate about is the gut-wrenching topic of African Americans in the education system. There was a study done that proved that black children are being discriminated against and targeted for causing the most disruption in the classroom, which ultimately sets them up for failure by having lack of faith in their potential.
He compared this to the idea that if police officers assume that “all black men are scary” and expect them to be unsuccessful and delinquents, they ultimately enter them into a system which hardly has a rebound rate. “The earlier that you get introduced to the criminal justice system, the more likely you are to stay there,” he said, and that is where the on-going problem remains.
However, he ends his speech by stating that these victims of racism and prejudice still can succeed, and the ones that do “just have resources, support and we knew that they could be successful”; which they were, by producing African American men with PhD’s at six times the national average.
Dr. Roland Mitchell was just one of the three panelists discussing racial unjust, but his thoughts and plan for action was the most powerful in his persistent notion to have faith in the community that is Baton Rouge and every member of every classification.