The recent news that officers from the Universitys Police Department were acquitted by a federal court of police brutality charges in the case of Clemmie Carthans should not be the end of discussion on this troubling event. As one of the leaders of the movement to defend Carthans two years ago, I felt it was important to remind the community that our concern then (and my concern now) was not solely whether or not Clemmie had been brutalized by the police; in fact, our primary concern was why this young man had been approached in the first place. Why is it that a black man approaching a white woman in front of a library on a racially diverse college campus is automatically suspicious? The courts ruling may exonerate the officers of brutality charges, but it does not acquit our campus police department of racial profiling.
It is ironic that this story appeared on the same front cover as a report on the Universitys Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. If we are going to be serious about realizing the vision of King, weve got to confront the demons of our past and exorcize them completely. If were going to be serious about this vision, we must integrate the study of race into our Universitys curriculum, we must help everyone appreciate the importance of celebrating Kings birthday appropriately (I witnessed one too many dismissive acknowledgements of this Universitys first-ever King holiday from some members of the community), and we must put an end to racist practices on the part of agencies within our institution! The case of Clemmie Carthans was not about police brutality. It was a microcosmic view of the arc of this communitys moral universe that is still miles away from its bend towards justice.
Paul Robeson Ford
The Divinity School