Just Mercy: Race and the Criminal Justice System with Bryan Stevenson

>>Hi, everyone and welcome to all of us in the theater, all of you, and
to those joining by live stream tonight. Tonight’s program is a production of
Stanford’s Open Exchange Initiative and partnership with the Center for
Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Our program Just Mercy, Race and the Criminal Justice System is supported
tonight by many campus sponsors. So we thank them. And I think you’re in for a real treat. One of my favorite people I’ve ever
had an opportunity to interview, Brian Stevenson, Is here tonight. Brian is founder and executive director of the Equal
Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, the author of Just Mercy,
a story of justice and redemption which has been named one of the best books of
the year by many different publications. His legal practice is dedicated
to defending the poor, the wrongly accused and those trapped
in the criminal justice system. Brian has been called America’s Mandela. Not too shabby? So we’re very lucky to
welcome him here today. Now, after Brian has a chance to tell
you about the work that he’s been doing, we’ll introduce our distinguished
panel and we’ll sit down for a round table conversation. During Brian’s talk by the way we’re
going to be collecting questions on the cards that were handed
to all of you at the door. Ushers in the isles will
be collecting them and we’ll get to some of them, as many as
we can following the panel discussions. So please come up with some good questions
and if there are just comments you want to make about your experiences feel
free to share those with us as well. Now we’d like to introduce
you to C Matthew Snip. He’s faculty director of CCSRE and
Professor of Sociology, Matt?>>[APPLAUSE]
Thank you, Katie. Good evening, I am delighted and excited
to welcome you to this year’s Ann and Laura Kiva distinguished lecture. In collaboration with
Stanford’s Open Exchange Initiative. Our CCSRE Kiva Lectures
are a marquee event in our field, the comparative study of race and
ethnicity in America and in the world. The Kiva Lectures have impact. They cause discussion and provoke debates. For the past 11 years the Kevitt lecture
has brought to Stanford notable scholars, writers, and
public intellectuals to deliver an address pertaining to vital issues about race and
ethnicity in our complex world. The Anna Laura Kevitt Distinguished
Speakers fund support this lecture and today The Anna Laura Kevitt Distinguished
Lecture is one of the most prestegious lectures at Stanford University. I am delighted that Anne and
Lauren Kiva are joining us this evening. Lauren in particular is an attorney
with a long standing concern and interest about civil rights. Anne and Laura, could you please stand?>>[APPLAUSE]>>Tonight I think it’s fair to say that we’re brought together by a common
interest, by a common concern. And that is the place of race
in the American legal system. We are deeply honored
to have Brian Stevenson in here to speak about this issue tonight. Brian Stevenson is a professor
of law at New York University. The founder and executive director of the
Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is an acclaimed
public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor,
the incarcerated, the condemned. Under his leadership the equal justice
initiative has one major legal challenges, eliminating excessive and
unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners,
confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and
aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued numerous cases in
the United States Supreme Court. And recently won a historic
ruling that made unconstitutional mandatory life without parole sentences
for all children seventeen and younger. The equal justice initiative has also
initiated major new anti-poverty, and antidiscrimination efforts that
are intended to challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America. Mr. Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in
the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including a MacArthur
Foundation Fellowship, a Genius Award. He is the recipient of 21
honorary doctorate degrees. Tonight he is going to talk about his work
and about his critically acclaimed and award winning New York Times best seller,
Just Mercy. Which TIME Magazine named as one of
the ten best non-fiction books of 2014. Please join me in welcoming Mr.
Brian Stephenson to Stanford.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you. Thank you very, very much. I am so excited to be here at Stanford. It’s really wonderful. To have this opportunity to talk with you. I’m gonna jump right in. I think this country’s a very different
place than it was 40 years ago. In ways that are very problematic. In 1972, we had 300,000
people in jails and prisons. Today we have 2.3 million
people in jails and prisons. There are six million people on
probation and parole in this nation. There are 70 million Americans
with criminal arrests. Which means that when they apply for
a job or try to get a loan,
they are going to be disfavored. We’ve done some really
dreadful things to women. The percentage of women going to prison
has increased 640% in the last 20 years. 70% of these women are single
parents with minor children and when they go to jails or
prisons their children get displaced. You’re dramatically more
likely to end up in jails and prisons if you’re the child
of an incarcerated parent. There are collateral consequences
to mass incarceration. This past March the president
came to Alabama. He came to Selma to commemorate
the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March. The members of congress came. 80,000 people came. And very few of them knew that today in the state of Alabama
31% of the black male population has permanently lost the right to vote as
the result of a criminal conviction. In ten states,
you permanently lose your rights to vote. Our jails and prisons are filled with
people who are suffering from mental illness. About 50% of the people in
prison have mental illness. 20% are acutely mentally ill. We have the highest rate of
incarceration in the world, and we don’t seem particularly
ashamed about it. These problems are bad. But the statistic that, I tell you, really
keeps me up late at night is the one from the Bureau of Justice that now
predicts that one in three black male babies born in this country
is expected to go to jail or prison. One in three. That was not true in the 20th century. That was not true in the 19th century. It’s become true in the 21st century,
and there is this appalling silence. There is this indifference. To this phenomenon and
it bothers me because I see in poor and minority communities, hope being crushed. I go in to communities where I sit down
with 12 and 13 year old children who tell me that they don’t expect to be
free by the time they’re 21. And they’re not saying that because
of something they’ve seen on TV, they’re not saying that because
of something they’ve heard. They’re saying that because they see
that happening in their community. Their friends, and their brothers,
and their neighbors, are dying from drug war,
are dying from gang warfare, or effectively dying by being
sent to jails or prisons. And there is this
indifference to this problem. We have children born
into violent households, they live in violent neighborhoods,
they go to violent schools, they are traumatized by the time they are four
and five, and we’re not talking about it. So, I wanna talk tonight about solutions. These problems are everywhere. And we could identify other data, other
demographics, other statistics that would outline problems, but I really want to
talk to you tonight about some solutions. I believe we can change this nation,
I really do. I believe we have to change this nation. I think we can create more
justice in this country. But there are some things that all of us
have to do if we really want to be about advancing justice, and I’ve got four. The first is, I don’t think we can create more justice
in America, in California, at Stanford. Until we choose to get proximate to
the problems, that most motivate us, that most worry us. There is a need to get closer
to the problems that we see. I believe that without getting
proximate you don’t come up with the right solutions. We have too many policymakers trying
to make solutions to problems from a distance. And when you problem solve from
a distance you get it wrong. You don’t come up with the right solutions
because you don’t understand the details of the problems. When you get proximate, you hear things
that you don’t hear from a distance. You see things you don’t
see from a distance. I’m persuaded that we’ve got to get closer to the parts of our community where
there’s poverty and inequality. We’ve gotta get closer to
people in jails and prisons. We’ve gotta get closer to people
coming out of jails and prisons. If we wanna do something
about racial inequality, we have to go to the places where that
racial inequality is most manifest. I believe in the power of proximity. I’m a witness of the power of proximity. I grew up in a community in the American
South where black children couldn’t go to the public schools. I started my education
in a colored school. When I was a little boy I had to
go to a school that didn’t go past the eighth grade. My county, my dad didn’t have a high
school, there were no high schools for black kids when my dad was a teenager. But when I was a little boy lawyers came
into our community they got proximate. And they made them open
up to public schools and because of that I got to go to high
school and then I got to go to college. It was because of this lawyer
choice to get proximate. I love coming to college campuses
cuz I look out at you and I think about where I was. Many of you who are students, when I was
in your space, when I got to college. I went to a small college in Pennsylvania,
it was a beautiful college and a lovely campus. And nobody in my family had
ever graduated college so I didn’t really know
that much about college. But when I got to college I couldn’t
believe how wonderful it was. I was playing sports I was doing
music I was studying philosophy. I was a philosophy major. You would go into the dining hall and
they would just feed you.>>[LAUGH]
>>And I just thought college
was this magical place. I thought when I got to college, after
my second year I said to myself one day, I said, you know what, I think I’m gonna
stay in college the rest of my life.>>[LAUGH]
>>And when I became a senior, one day I
would tell my friends every now and then you know I’m a philosophy major so
as a philosophy major I’m gonna go out here on the hillside and
I’m gonna think some deep thoughts.>>[LAUGH]
>>I would say that to my friends. I think they thought I was getting high or
doing something illegal, I wasn’t. But one day I was out there on this
hillside thinking what I thought were these deep thoughts and somebody came
up to me and said you’re a senior. And you’re a philosophy major,
what are you gonna do after you graduate? And I heard this as
a very hostile question, because-
>>[LAUGH]>>I realized for the first time that nobody was gonna pay
me to philosophize when I graduated from college. And so I started frantically trying to
figure out how do you stay in school? And because nobody in my family
had actually gone to college, I didn’t know what I’m sure
all of you already know. I didn’t know that in this country if
you wanna do graduate work in history or English or political science, you actually
have to know something about history, English, or political science,
to get into graduate school. I didn’t realize that. And when I realized that, I was pretty
intimidated by that, so I kept looking, kept looking. And to be honest,
that’s how I found law school.>>[LAUGH]
>>It was really clear. It was very clear to me that you didn’t
need to know anything to go to Law school, so I signed up for that and a few months
later I found myself at Harvard Law school sitting in a classroom,
and I was quickly disappointed. I went to law school because I wanted to
do something about poverty, and race, and social justice, and they didn’t seem like
anybody was talking about poverty, or race, or justice. And it’s only when I took a course
that required me to go to Georgia and work with death row prisoners
that I got proximate. I saw things I didn’t expect to see. I met people literally dying for
legal assistance. And proximity changed me. I’ve been working on children. Working for children prosecuted as adults. We have this phenomenon in America where
we’re actually sending children to adult jails and prisons. There are 250,000 kids serving
long prison sentences. In adult jails and prisons,
there is no minimum age for trying children as adults in 15 states. That means we put 9, and 10, and 11 year
old children at risk of adult prosecution. I’ve represent kids who’ve been
sentenced to die in prison, life imprisonment without parole. Some as young as 13 and 14, and the only
way we can make sense of this is being so far away that we don’t see the details. Well, I’ve gotten proximate,
I’ve seen the details. I worked on a case some years ago
involving a 14-year old boy who was living in a household where his mother
was repeatedly the target of a lot of domestic violence. This boy’s mother had a boyfriend, and when this man would start
drinking he’d become violent. And one day he came home after
he had been drinking and he called the boy’s
mother into the kitchen. He didn’t say anything to her. He just walked up to her, and
he punched her in the face. And she fell down, and
she hit her head as she fell, and she was on the floor unconscious,
bleeding. Her son came running into the kitchen
to try to help his mom recover, and he couldn’t get her to wake up,
he couldn’t get her to move. And after 10 minutes,
this child thought his mom was dead. She wasn’t dead, but
he thought she was dead. The man had gone into a bedroom and
fallen asleep. This little boy got up and he walked
into the bedroom to call the police, or to call an ambulance, but then he
remembered that this man kept a handgun. In his dresser drawer. And so instead of picking up the phone, he opened up that dresser drawer and
he pulled out that gun. And he walked over to where
the man was sleeping and this little boy pointed
the gun at the man’s head. The man was snoring and
when the man stopped snoring, this little boy tragically
pulled the trigger. He shot the man in the head. The man died almost instantly. This boy was very small for his age. He was about 5′ tall and
weighed less than 100 pounds. He’d never been in trouble before,
he had no prior juvenile adjudications. He was the kind of kid that might
have been tried as a juvenile but for the fact the man that he shot and
killed was his mother’s boyfriend. Well that man was a deputy sheriff,
and because he was a deputy sheriff the prosecutor insisted that
this child be tried as an adult. And they immediately certified him
to stay on trial as an adult, and they put him in the adult jail. His grandmother called me after
he’d been there for three days and asked me to get involved. I went to the jail and I I sat in
there and this little boy came in and he sat down, and
I started asking him questions, but no matter what I asked him he wouldn’t
say a word he just sat there. I finally put my pen down, and I said,
look I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, you gotta talk to me. Little boy wouldn’t say anything. I got up, I walked around the table, I
pulled my chair close to him I said, come on you gotta talk to me, I can’t help you
if you don’t talk, you gotta talk to me. And he just kept staring at
the wall he would not say anything. Couldn’t figure out what to do, and at
some point I decided to just lean on him, I don’t even know why. But I leaned on this little boy and
when I leaned on him he leaned back. And when he leaned back I put my
arm around him and I said, come on, you gotta talk to me,
I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me. And that’s when this
child started to cry and through his tears he began talking to me
not about what happened with his mom. Not about what happened with the man, but he started talking to me about
what had happened at the jail. He told me on the first night,
several men had hurt him. He told me on the next night,
several people had raped him. He told me on the night
before I’d gotten there, so many people had hurt him he could not
remember how many there had been. I held this little boy while he cried,
hysterically, for almost an hour. I finally got him calm and I said,
look, I’m gonna get you out of here, you stay right here,
I’m gonna get you out of here. I never will forget that child
grabbing my arm saying please, please, please don’t go. I said no it’s okay I’m gonna be
right back you stay right here. And I left that jail, and the question I had in my mind
was who is responsible for this? And the answer is we are, we are. We’ve created this distance
from the poorest and most vulnerable children in our society. We’ve allowed them to kind of fester and
fend and cope with unimaginable problems. We’ve gotten so far away,
we don’t see the trauma and the injury and the cruelty that we are subjecting
them to by our distance. Many of you have heard your whole life
that if there’s a bad neighborhood, you stay away from it. If there are bad schools,
you don’t go to them. If there are places where
there’s poverty and abuse and neglect, stay as far
away as you possibly can. I’m here tonight to tell you that
the opposite is what we need to do if we’re about justice. We’ve got to get closer to those
places where there’s poverty and abuse and neglect. We’ve got to go inside those bad schools. We’ve got to get inside jails and prisons. We’ve got to get closer to he people who
are coming out of these institutions. We’ve got to hold those children who
are vulnerable and neglected and marginalized closer. And I’m here to tell you that
there’s power in proximity. That sometimes you don’t
think you have the tools and skills necessary to change these things. But I’m here to tell you, that just sometimes,
getting proximate can make the difference. The second thing I believe we have to do,
if we really want to create more justice, is that we have to change the narratives
that sustain inequality and injustice. You see, mass incarceration was
not created just by policies, yes they were policies. We decided to deal with drug addiction and drug dependency as a crime problem,
rather than a health problem. We could have said drug addiction and drug dependency is like alcoholism,
it’s a health issue. And nobody would suggest that it’s
appropriate to put someone who is an alcoholic in prison if we see them
drinking, we see that as a health issue. But with drug dependency and drug
addiction, we say that’s a crime problem, and we made that choice. We decided to kind of beat
up on people who were poor. But those policies were
sustained by a narrative. And the narrative is what I call
the politics of fear and anger. For 40 years our politicians have been preaching to us that we should
be afraid and we should be angry. And we should tolerate abuse and
cruelty because it feels tough. And the truth is, is that when you’re
afraid and when you are angry, you will tolerate inequality and
injustice. And our politicians have exploited that,
both parties. It doesn’t matter who. And we’ve got change the narrative. We’ve got to resist
the narrative of fear and anger. You’re hearing some of it now. People preaching that this bad thing,
and that group of people, and these people over here. And that narrative will lead to injustice
and good people have to do things in response to that if we’re
going to create more justice. I think we actually have to change
the narrative about race, I do. We’ve never really confronted the history
of racial inequality in this country and as a result of that,
all of us are infected by this disease. We are all carrying this illness, this disruption that has been created
by a narrative of racial difference. Our parents and our grandparents didn’t
talk about things that we needed to talk about and because of that,
we continue to suffer. And so I believe we actually have to
have conversations that we haven’t had. I think we need to talk
about slavery in America. You see, I think the legacy of
slavery continues to haunt us. We are shadowed by this era
that did destructive things. The great evil of American slavery,
for me, was not involuntary servitude of
forced labor, I don’t believe that. I think the great evil of American
slavery was the narrative of racial difference that we
created to legitimate it. It’s the ideology of white
supremacy that we made up to make ourselves feel like enslaving
these black people was okay. You see, slavery in America wasn’t like
slavery in other parts of the world. In Africa there were slaves,
in Asia there were slaves, there were part slavery everywhere. But in America, in those countries
they were societues with slaves. In America we became a slave society. We created an ideology to make
ourselves comfortable with slavery. And that ideology was
an ideology of white supremacy. It was an ideology that was racialized. We said these black people are different,
they’ve got deficits, they’re not even fully human. And because of that, we can enslave them
and feel moral and just and Christian. And that narrative was the great
evil of American slavery. And the 13th Amendment doesn’t
deal with that narrative. The Emancipation Proclamation doesn’t talk
about the ideology of white supremacy. And because of that,
I don’t believe slavery ended in 1865. I think it just evolved. It turned into decades of terrorism,
and lynching, and racial hierarchy. Between the end of Reconstruction and
World War II, we did horrific things to people
of color in this country. We lynched them. We terrorized them. It was terrorism. Whole groups of people would come,
thousands of people would come and watch someone be burned to death. Watch someone be castrated. Watch someone be mutilated. And no one did anything. And this era of terrorism was horrific. You’ve got black people in the Bay Area. Some of you might be from this region. And many people don’t even
appreciate how it’s lynching and terror that shaped the demographic
geography of this nation. The African-Americans in Oakland,
in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Cleveland, in Chicago,
in Detroit, in New York, in Boston, did not go to those communities as immigrants
looking for new economic opportunities. They came to these
communities as refugees and exiles from terrorism
in the American South. At the beginning of the 20th century, 90 some percent of the black
population lived in the deep South. And they fled by the millions because they
were being threatened and menaced and traumatized. And we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t deal with it. We’ve created this exodus, and
we haven’t understood how that exodus shapes the way these communities
continue to struggle. Even in the civil rights context I
think we have to change the narrative, I’ll be honest. I hear people talking about
the Civil Rights Movement and I’m gonna get in trouble here, but
I’m gonna be honest, I get worried. I hear people talking about
the Civil Rights Movement and it’s so celebratory, and everybody gets
to celebrate the civil rights movement. We don’t ask any qualifying questions. We don’t ask any hard anything
you just get to celebrate. I hear people talking about
the Civil Rights Movement and it sounds like a three day carnival. On day one Rosa Parks didn’t
give up her seat on the bus. On day two Dr.
King led a march on Washington. And on day three we just
changed all the laws. And I mean, if that was our history
we’d be a great country, but that’s not our history. Our history is that for
decades in this country, we humiliated black
people on a daily basis. For decades in this country, we told black
people, you’re not good enough to vote. We told black people, you’re not good enough to go
to school with the rest of us. We humiliated people regularly. My parents were humiliated
every day of their lives. Every time they saw those signed white
in colored, it wasn’t just a sign and it was an assault. And we haven’t talk about what that’s
done, we haven’t talk those injuries. We should have committed
ourselves to truth and reconciliation at the end of the Civil
Rights Movement, but we didn’t do that. And now we’re in this era
of mass incarceration and that narrative of racial difference is
behind this police violence that we see. It is behind our indifference
to these statistics about racial bias in the criminal
justice system. It has created a presumption
of dangerousness and guilt that follows black and brown people. And I can tell you, even at Stanford,
with your Stanford degree, you cannot educate yourself to the point
you are free from this presumption. It will follow you, you can’t make enough
money, you can’t educate yourself enough. I was in a court room not too long ago,
it was just a couple of years ago. I feel like I have done something,
maybe, and I was in the court room. First time I have seen this
court in the mid ways, and I was sitting at defence council’s table
and the judge walked in, I had my suit on, I had my shirt on, I had my tie on. The judge walked in he said hey! Hey!
Hey! You get back out there in the hallway,
and you wait until your lawyer gets here. I don’t want any defendant sitting in
my court room without their lawyer. And I stood up and I said, well I’m sorry
your Honor, I didn’t introduce myself, I am the lawyer. And the judge started laughing, and
the prosecutor started laughing, and I made myself laugh because I didn’t
wanna disadvantage my client. Client came in,
a young white kid I was representing.>>[LAUGH]
>>We did the hearing. And afterward, I was thinking to myself, what is it that this judge saw
a middle aged black man in a suit and tie at defense council’s table, it didn’t
even occur to him that that’s the lawyer. What that is is this narrative of racial
difference and we’ve got to change it. We’ve got to have these conversations. We’ve got to confront it. In South Africa, there was a recognition
that they could not recover from Apartheid without truth and reconciliation. In Rwanda, there is a recognition that
there will not be peace after genocide without truth and
reconciliation, go to Germany. In the nation state of Germany today, there is this committment to
talking about the Holocaust. You can’t go 100 meters in Berlin without
seeing a mark or a stone that’s been placed at the home of a Jewish family
that was abducted during the Holocaust. The Germans want you
to go to Auschwitz and reflect soberly on
the history of the Holocaust. In this country we do the opposite. We don’t talk about slavery,
we don’t talk about lynching, we don’t talk about segregation,
we don’t talk about racial bias. In fact, when you start talking about
race, people start looking for exits. You start talking about racial justice
people are so nervous they don’t know which way to turn, we haven’t even
developed the habit of having this conversation and we’ve got to change that,
and we’ve got a project at EJI. We wanna put markers at every
lynching site in this country. We wanna resurrect this narrative
in ways that we begin to understand what it means to
be burdened by our history. It’s not just for people of color,
it’s for everybody. A generation of white people
have been taught that they’re better than other people
because of their skin tone. That’s a kind of child abuse, and we’re
gonna help people get free from that. There is something better than what
we have experienced in this nation when it comes to racial justice. I really do believe it
there is a better place. There is a better way for
us to intersect with one another than what we have experienced, but we will not
get there unless we change the narrative. Third thing, it’s not enough to get
proximate and change narratives. We cannot create the justice that
we want unless we protect our hope, and I’m really, really,
convinced of this one. I am persuaded that hopelessness
is the enemy of justice. Injustice prevails where
hopelessness persist, and when you find yourself beginning to
think that you cannot make a difference. When you begin to accept that these
are problems too big for us to confront, to change, to challenge, you are going to
contribute to the problem than justice. Your hope is essential, you got to
protect your hopefulness, you do. Because without that you will not be able
to do that necessary things that requires, the justice requires. Hope is what get you to standup
when other people say sit down. Hope is what get you to speak
when other people say be quiet. You’ve got to protect your hope. You know I have a great privilege when
I was young lawyer meeting Rosa Parks. I got to spend a lot of time with her,
and when I moved to Montgomery, there was a woman named
Johnnie Carr who was the architect of the Montgomery bus boycott,
she would say Dr. King got all the attention, but
she was the real person who made it work. And Mrs. Carr call me up she said, now Brian I understand you a young
lawyer just moved to Montgomery. I said yes I am. She said well do you know who I am? I’m Johnnie Carr. I’m the architect of
the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I said well I know all
about you Miss Carr. I’m so honored to be speaking with you. She said well that’s nice. I understand that you’re a lawyer, so what
I’m going to do, every now and then I’m going to call you up and I’m going to
ask you to go someplace and speak. And then she said sometimes
I’m gonna call you up and ask you to go some place and listen, and
then she said when I call you up and ask you to do something,
you’re gonna say yes ma’am. So I said yes ma’am. And sure enough, she would call me up and
send me some place to talk, or send me some place to listen and
one day she called me up, she said Brian,
Rosa Parks is coming to town, we’re gonna get together and
go over to Virginia Dare’s house. Virginia Dare was this white woman
who- Who’s husband Clifford Derr represented Dr. King. She says we’re just gonna get together and
talk. She said do you wanna come over and
listen? I said yes Ma’am, I do. Every now and then she’d say now Brian,
what does the word listen mean?>>[LAUGH]
>>And I’d explain to her I knew I
wasn’t supposed to say anything. And sure enough I went over and I listened
to these women and the amazing thing was Ms. Parks and Ms. Carr and Ms. Derr, they
weren’t talking about what they had done. They were still talking about what they
were going to do in their 70’s and 80’s. There was a hopefulness that defined and
shaped their relationship to the world, and I just sat there and took it all in,
and after a couple hours Miss. Parks turned to me she said, now Brian tell me about
the equal justice initiative. Tell me what you are trying to do, and I looked at Miss Car to see if I had
permission to speak and she nodded. And so I gave her my rap. I said, well, we’re trying to do
something about the death penalty. We’re trying to do something about
kids being prosecuted as adults. We’re trying to do something
about prison overcrowding. We’re trying to do something
about the mentally ill. We’re trying to do
something about children. We’re trying to do something
about racial bias. We’re trying to do
something about poverty. We’re trying to do something
about segregation. We’re trying to do something about
these conditions of confinement. I gave her my whole rap and
when I finished, she looked at me, she said mm mm mm. She said that’s going make you tired,
tired, tired. And that’s when Ms Carr leaned forward and
she put her finger in my face. And she said, that’s why you’ve
got to be brave, brave, brave. It takes courage to be hopeful When we are confronting the kind of
inequality we sometimes have to confront. When you get in those approximate spaces,
those places of difficulty, you need to take your courage to
stay healthy, but hope is essential. Fourth thing, final thing, and
I wish I could stop at three, but I can’t. The fourth thing I have to tell you
is that we cannot create justice. We cannot change the world by just getting
proximate, by just changing narratives, by just staying hopeful. The fourth thing we’ve got to do
is we’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. I’ve read and I’ve studied. I’ve never found oppression and
I’ve never found justice triumph, I’ve never found a situation
where equality prevailed when people only did what’s
comfortable and convenient. If you’re going to change the world
you’re going to have to do some things that are uncomfortable, and that’s hard, because human beings
are programmed to do what comfortable. We like comfort. I like comfort. I’m not preaching against comfort,
that’s not what I’m saying, but sometimes you have to choose
to do uncomfortable things. I gave a talk in Mississippi
a little while ago. I flew down to Jackson and actually was
in Hatties- Gulfport, Mississippi and the people met me at the airport, and they
said Mr. Stevenson we know all about you. We’ve read about you. We know what kind of person you are. We know what kind of work you do, and we’re having our conference at
the luxurious Doubletree Hotel. And we decided that you wouldn’t wanna
stay at the luxurious double tree hotel, so we’ve asked one of the farmers
to put you up at the barn, I said what is wrong with you.>>[LAUGH].>>I said of course I wanna stay at
the luxurious double tree hotel that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is that sometimes
you’ve gotta position yourself in uncomfortable places, and
you’ve gotta be a witness. And I’m gonna tell you something just
a little bit personal, if you don’t mind. I’ve been representing
people on death row for 30 years, 30 years, and
we’ve had some great moments. Like just this past April,
I walked out of a prison with a man that spent 30 years on death
row for a crime he did not commit. Anthony Ray Hinton, wrongly condemned,
wrongly convicted, lost a lot of sleep over that case, but just a few months ago,
we walked that man out of jail or prison. Yesterday I spent a couple hours with him. Every time I spend time with him, it’s just like this shot of adrenaline,
it’s so affirming. But I’m also going to tell you that
not every case has ended up like that. Between 2009 and 2011, Alabama had
the highest execution rate in the country. We don’t have a public defender system
There is no right to counsel for death row prisoners in this country. We do not meet the needs of the poor,
even when they face the death penalty. One of the great challenges of
our criminal justice system is that we have a system that treats
you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes. While all of these execution
dates were being set and we made the commitment to stand with
all the people facing execution. And my young lawyers started
working on these cases. And one of the challenges of our
legal system right now is that our courts have a priority on
finality over fairness. We care more about getting to
the end than getting it right. And in each of these cases,
the court kept saying, too late, and these people were being executed. And I watched my staff get beat down. And I finally said, you know what? You all take a break, I’ve been doing
this longer, I know what I’m doing. Let me take the next case,
I just was worried about them. And I got involved in a case where
a man had been convicted and sentenced to death who was
intellectually disabled. He suffered from mental retardation. And the courts had banned execution of
people with intellectual disability. You’re not supposed to
execute someone like that. But the lawyers never
raised the issue at trial. They didn’t raise it at the right time,
and because of that this man was
moving to toward execution. I got involved, I said, look this man is intellectually
disabled you can’t execute him. The court said, too late. The trial court said too late,
the appeals court said too late, the state court said too late,
the federal court said too late. And on the day of the execution
I was waiting for a ruling from
the United States Supreme Court. And about an hour before the execution,
the court called and the clerk told me that the court had
denied our stay motion, too late. I hung up the phone, and I picked up the
phone to call my client down on death row. And I got on the phone with this man,
and I told him the dreadful news. He was obviously overwhelmed. And in addition to being intellectually
disabled, this man had another challenge. When he got nervous, when he got worried,
when he got overwhelmed, he also had a very severe
speech impediment. And he told me that he had something
really important that he had to tell me but then he couldn’t get his words out. He started to talk,
he started to say something but he couldn’t get the words out,
he just started stuttering. He started trying to get words out that
he couldn’t make form in his mouth and he was trying and trying and trying. It seemed like the harder he tried
the more difficult it became and the closer we got to the execution time
the harder it was for him to speak. And the guards were trying to rush him,
which just made it harder. And this man was trying to say something
and he begged me not to hang up, but I was struggling. Because the more he tried to talk the more
he tried to get his words out and he couldn’t, the more he was
just ripping my heart apart. And I was standing there
holding the phone, and tears started running down my face. And I listened to this man try so
valiantly to say something, but not be able to and I was just overwhelmed. I remembered how when I was a little boy,
my mother took me to church one Sunday and I was there with my brother. And we we’re talking to our friends and
there was a little boy, skinny kid I’ve never seen before,
he was standing next to one of my friends. And I remembered asking this child what
his name was or where he was from, and I remembered how when I asked
that little boy that question, this little boy couldn’t
get his words out either. He also had a very severe speech
impediment and I remembered how when I asked him that and he couldn’t get his
words out I did something really ignorant. I laughed, and then I remembered how my
mother saw me laughing and came over and grabbed me by the arm and
gave me this look I’ve never seen before. And she pulled me aside, and
she said, Bryan don’t you ever laugh at somebody because they can’t get their
words out right, don’t you ever do that. And I tried to defend myself and
I said, mom I didn’t know. She said, no, you know better than that. And then my mother looked at me and
she said, now you go back over there and tell that little boy you’re sorry. I said, okay mom, and I took a step and
she grabbed me by the arm. She said, wait, after you hug that little boy I want
you to tell that little boy you love him. I said, mom I can’t go over there and
tell that little boy I love him. And she gave me that look again. So I said, okay, okay. And on the night of this execution I
remembered going over to this little boy. And walking up to him and saying,
look man, you know I’m sorry, and then I sort of lunged at him and gave
him my little boy version of a man hug. And what I remembered was saying to this
child as insincerely as I possibly could. I said, you know, well, I love you and
what I’d forgotten until that night was how that little boy hugged me back and
he whispered flawlessly in my ear. He said, I love you too, and then the man was able to get his
words out before they executed him. And he said to me, Mr. Stevenson I
want to thank you for representing me. And then he said,
I wanna thank you for fighting for me. And the last thing this
man said to me was, Mr. Stephenson, I love you for
trying to save my life. He hung up the phone,
they pulled him away. They strapped him to a gurney and
they executed him. I hung up the phone and I said,
I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard, it’s just too hard. The question I had in my mind, the thought
I had in my mind was how broken he was. And I kept asking myself, why do we want to kill all
the broken people in this country? What is it about us that when we see
brokenness, we want to step on it? We want to throw it away,
we wanna crush it. And then I said I can’t
deal with this anymore. It’s too hard, too hard,
too hard, too hard, I wanna stop. And then I started thinking about
why I’d been doing what I do. And I realized that all of my clients
are broken people, I represent the broken. People broken by poverty,
broken by racism, broken by neglect, broken by abuse. I work in a broken system, we’ve got too
many people who are too far away, who are not approximate, and have power, and
they’re making judgments that are unjust. I said, I don’t want to have
anything to do with this. And that’s when that kind of conversation
you have to have when you’re going to be big kicked in. And in fact you better think about why
you’ve been doing what you’re doing and I realized something I had
never realized before. All of a sudden I realized
why I do what I do. And what I realized is that I don’t do
what I do because I think it’s important. I don’t do what I do because
it’s about human rights. I don’t do what I do because
I’ve been trained to do it. I don’t do what I do because
I have a law degree. I don’t do what I do because if
I don’t do it, no one else will. I don’t do what I do because I get to
talk to wonderful people like you. I realized that night, that I do
what I do, because I’m broken too. And the truth is, is that when you
get proximate, when you have to change narratives, when you have to be
helpful when faced with inequality. When you do uncomfortable things,
it will break you. You’ll get little cuts and nicks. But I’m here to tell you
there’s a power in the broken. This country will not be saved by the
elite, the privileged, those who are whole and happy, this country will be saved
when broken people reach out and find and claim their humanity. It’s the broken who understand
the power of mercy. It is the broken who understand
the need for compassion. It is the broken who can lead us to
the places where justice must prevail. I believe really simple things. I believe that each person is more than
the worst thing that they’ve ever done. I believe that if somebody tells a lie,
they’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something
that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill somebody,
you’re not just a killer. And a system of justice that doesn’t
care about the other things you are, is going to be fundamentally unjust. I tell you also that I don’t believe
the opposite of poverty is wealth, I think we talk too much
about money in America. I am persuaded that in this country,
the opposite of poverty is not wealth. I believe the opposite of poverty is
justice and we’ve got to commit to more justice and finally I believe
that when I come to the Bay Area. When I come to California I can’t
judge how you’re doing out here, about how you treat the rich and
the powerful and the privileged. There’s a lot of incredible
things going on. There are elites, there’s Silicon Valley,
there’s these wonderful things. But I can’t judge your character. I can’t judge your commitment to
justice by how you treat the rich and the powerful. I have to judge your character, your commitment to justice not
by how you treat the privileged. About how you treat the poor,
the incarcerated, and the condemned. That’s the nexus that teaches me,
tells me, where we are. I’m gonna end with this, it’s difficult to
do some of the things that we have to do to confront these big problems. We’re gonna talk about some of them. But I want you to know that there
is precedent for doing them. I was giving a talk not too long ago, and an older man came into
the church where I was talking. He was an older black man, he was in
a wheelchair, and he had this very stern, almost angry look on his face
the whole time I was talking. He was actually unnerving me because
he was staring at me so hard. I couldn’t figure out
what the problem was. I finished my talk, people came up,
they were very nice and appropriate, but that man kept staring at me at the back. When everybody else left, he got a young kid to wheel him up to
me at the front of the church, and he came down the center aisle of this
church with this stern look on his face. And when he got in front of me,
he put his hand up and he said, do you know what you’re doing? And I was stunned, I just stood there. And then he asked me again, he said,
do you know what you’re doing? And I stepped back and
I mumbled something, I don’t even remember what I said. And then he asked me one last time,
he said do you know what you’re doing? And then this man looked at me, he said,
I’m gonna tell you what you’re doing. And he looked at me and he said,
you’re beating the drum for justice, you keep beating the drum for
>>And I was so moved, I was also really relieved
because I just didn’t know.>>[LAUGH]
>>Then he grabbed me by my jacket and he pulled me into his wheelchair and
said, come here, come here, come here, I’m gonna show you something. And then this man looked at me and
he turned his head, he said, you see this scar that I
have behind my right ear? He said I got that scar in Green County,
Alabama 1963, trying to register people to vote. He turned his head,
he said you see this cut I have down here, the bottom of my neck, he said I got that
cut in Philadelphia, Mississippi 1964, trying to register people to vote. He turned his head, he said,
you see this dark spot? He said, that’s my bruise. I got my bruise in Birmingham, 1965,
trying to register people to vote. He said, I’m gonna tell you something,
young man. He said, people look at me. They think I’m some old man, sitting in
a wheel chair, covered with cuts, and bruises, and scars, he said, but
I’m gonna tell you something. He said, these aren’t my cuts, these
aren’t my bruises, these aren’t my scars. He said, these are my medals of honor. What we are going to have to
do to change this nation, what we’re gonna have to do to
advance justice, is get proximate. To change narratives, to be hopeful,
to do some uncomfortable things and not worry about the cuts and the nicks. Sometimes they are the things
that liberate us, they are the things that honor us. You honor me by giving me this opportunity
to be here with you tonight, and I wanna thank you for all the work that
I hope will continue in this place, in your heart, in your mind, in your
lives as we try to advance justice. Thank you very, very much.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Thank you!>>Thank you!>>Thank you!>>Well, talk about a hard act to follow,
it’s like Bryan Stevenson for president, please.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you. That was just incredibly moving Brian. So thank you so much for being here. And now we’re gonna [LAUGH]
do a panel discussion. Which I’m sure is probably a little
disappointing to some of you all.>>[LAUGH]
>>At this point, cuz we could probably listen
to Brian talk for hours, but we actually have a wonderful panel
to discuss some of the issues he raised. And I’m having trouble with
my Madonna microphone.>>[LAUGH]
>>So I’m so sorry about that. Not used to this kind of mic. Let me introduce our panelists for
you, though, tonight. Stanford psychology professor Jennifer
Everhart is a 2014 MacArthur Fellow and a social psychologist.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>And a social psychologist who studies the consequences of the psychological
association between race and crime. Her groundbreaking work has uncovered
the extent to which racial imagery and judgement permeate both our culture and
our society. Stanford American Politics professor,
Gary Segura is the director of The Institute on the Politics of
Inequality, Race, and Ethnicity. He focuses on issues of
political representation and the politics of America’s
growing Latino minority. He has studied minority politics and political behavior in the multiracial
era of American politics, and was one of three lead investigators of the
2012 American National Election Studies. And finally, Stanford Law Professor
Robert Weisberg is Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center,
which promotes and coordinates research and public policy programs on criminal
law in the criminal justice system. His primary focus is in the field
of criminal law, procedure and sentencing, including examination of
the police and correctional system. So please welcome our panelists.>>[APPLAUSE]>>I think I’m just gonna do this. Can you all hear me if I
just hold it like this? So Brian I just wanna pick up, gosh how do
I pick up where you left off, seriously? But one of the things that is a positive
note that I think does keep us all hopeful is that criminal justice reform
is one thing, that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on when it
comes to legislative initiatives. Can you tell us about sort
of the latest legislation? I know it’s expected to arrive on
President Obama’s desk this summer. And how it will change the atrocious numbers that you’ve
described in your talk?>>Well, I do think it’s encouraging that
we’ve come to a point which we haven’t seen in four decades, where you have
people from both political parties acknowledging that we have too
many people in jails and prisons. And that creates an opportunity
to do something. And my hope is that we do
something big and bold. We have an objective. We think that we should cut the prison
population in this country by half over the next eight years, and
I think we can do that. We’ve got a million people in jails and
prisons that are there for low-level drug crimes or non-violent
crimes, there are that many people who we could release without in any
way compromising public safety. The problem is kind of the jurisdictions
that have control over this. So what Congress is talking about,
what the President was talking about last night, is what the federal government
can do to impact mass incarceration. And there are kind of a bunch
of proposals out there. Some deal specifically with the least
kind of politically complicated crimes, very low level drug offenders,
very low level non-violent offenders. Others try to do more,
they try to deal with both that problem of over-incarceration and
collateral consequences. The problem is going to be that only 10%
of the 2.3 million people in jails and prisons are in the federal system, and so
the Congress can’t solve this problem. I think it’ll be an important
step to move forward, I think people should pay close
attention to these bills. I think you should be informed about them. The Sentence Reform Act is an act that
does more than just reduce sentences. It actually does things like deal
with the collateral consequences. If you release a million people or
100,000 people from jails and prisons and you don’t provide re-entry services for
them, you don’t allow them to get jobs, you don’t allow them to do
the things that you need to do, they’re gonna end up back in jails and
prisons. So, we want to bills that actually do
the most to help people recover from what we’ve done to them. And I think those are the bills we
hope that the president will sign, but what we really hope is that,
that will then start a conversation in the states Which is where most of the
people who are in jails and prisons are. In fact, 85% of inmates are housed
in state-controlled prisons. So Bob, how do you deal with that
kind of incarceration at that level? And what are some of the forces
at work that will try to work against any kind of reform,
particularly at the state level? Well we start with the forces that
created the problem in the first place. And as Brian points out, there’s some
hope now for a bipartisan solution, which is just as well because
the fault is bipartisan as well. Basically what happened in
the United States going back about 40-plus years is a strange consensus behind
the criminal justice system. Whereby an old discretionary system where,
for example, judges had a fair amount of discretion as to how much of a sentence
to hand down was seen as very bad. Which it was in many ways,
because it invited lots of disparity and, no question, lots of discrimination. But the solution turned out to be rather
odd which was to make things much more fixed, much more mandatory and frankly
to ratchet up rather than ratchet down. So what we’ve had is a combination
of very draconian legislation, especially mandatory minimum drug laws. We’ve also had legislation which,
admittedly, targets people who are not nonviolent,
but with bizarre disproportions. So we get so many de facto life sentences. And a certain political inertia developed,
such that it was seen as almost an act of communist subversion to ever
talk about actually reducing sentences. At the same time, we had these strange trajectories in
crime rates in the United States. Where the crime rates shot up dramatically
from the 1970s to about 1990, they’re the highest in American history. The incarceration rate increased with it. Then we had this incredible drop in
the crime rate which has continued to some extent. But certainly crime dropped
precipitously in the 1990s and the early noughts, but
the incarceration rate kept going up. And yes, of course,
the argument was made was well, one explains the other,
incarceration goes up, crime goes down. Well, statistics don’t
validate that at all. What we have seen in recent years is
a kind of bipartisan guilty conscience in some of the states. And interestingly, it has had to be
bipartisan because of the old phenomenon. Those of you old enough to remember
the line, Nixon can go to China, well it’s sometimes the Republicans who
can afford to risk looking soft on crime. And there’s been a lot of revision for example in the mandatory
minimum drug laws. And I put the recognition this way, the political forces that always complain
about big government, big taxation, big programs have always seemed to make
a strange exception for criminal justice. Which is after all a large, invasive, tax-depending government program, and
one that’s bloated and inefficient. We’ve seen some movements in the States,
but it’s going to have to be very local, very political, very granulate. And there are a lot of people
working against that part of the, sort of prison industrial complex,
if you will. People have a vested interest
in high incarceration rates. Certainly that’s true, and the famous or infamous prison guards union in California
has certainly played a role in this. But I think things are changing in part
because a lot of people at the state level, including judges and prosecutors,
have begun to realize that criminal justice is after all a government program
that’s supposed to accomplish something. It’s not necessarily a theological
imperative to impose maximum retribution. Jennifer let’s talk about policing and
the systemic racism that seems so pervasive in police
departments across the country. For example racial disparities,
like the fact that African American’s are stopped twice as often as whites for
exceedingly minor violations. Like driving too slow,
malfunctioning lights, failure to signal,
these are so- called investigatory stops. And they have in some cases, led to
the killing of unarmed civilians like Samuel DuBose, who was shot in
Cincinnati at a traffic stop. Because he was missing his front license
plate that happened to be in his car. Tell us about your work with implicit bias
and how it may be affecting the judgment of police officers interacting
with black and Latino suspects. Right.
So bias can direct suspicion, right? So there’s an association there
between blackness and crime and in fact, blackness can direct our vision. It can direct sort of
where our eyes will fall. So, in some studies that I’ve
conducted with police officers, we expose them to sort of the concept, or sort of make accessible
the concept of violent crime. So we do that by exposing them quickly
to words like arrest and capture, shoot, and so forth. And we show them an image of
a black face and a white face and we watch their eyes move away from
the white face and land on the black face. And when you take that black face
away from the computer screen and you ask them to recall
the black face they saw. They recall a face that’s more
stereotypically black than the face they were shown. So that association is a deep one and it’s affecting not only our behavior,
the decisions we’re making. But it affects how we see, where we
literally decide to place our eyes. It affects how we are able to
pick up on objects in the world. I’ve done other studies with students,
for example, where we show them black faces or
white faces. And we show them blurry images of objects. And it turns out if they’re exposed
to the black faces beforehand. They’re able to pick up what those blurry
images are if they’re guns, more quickly. So that association is
a powerful one I think. And affects not just the police,
but it affects students, it affects community members,
it affects voters. It effects all of us. Gary, what about policies like
racial profiling and stop and frisk? I know when the NYPD was using stop and
frisk, they were targeting blacks and
Latinos 85% of the time. And according to a study
from the NAACP in 2014, 20 states still don’t have laws
banning the use of racial profiling. Has it gotten any better,
has this changed at all? On the one hand, stop and frisk as we
understood it in New York City has been modified and significantly reduced. But how bad the problem was
really needs to be illustrated. I don’t know if he’s in the audience,
but one of my doctoral students, Jonathan Mummalo, is doing a study of
the stop and frisk policy in New York. And I believe it was in fiscal year 2010. Among African American males, 18 to 39, there were more stops in New York than
the census said there were people. That is, that on average each
African American male between 18 and 39 was stopped more than once by the NYPD. Now that’s insane, and rather than
just simply say that there’s these problems of racial profiling,
why aren’t states working to eliminate it? In fact, states are actually in some
instances passing laws that encourage it. And I do most of my work on immigration. As some of you may have heard, Arizona
passed a law in 2010 called SB 1070. And that empowered the police to stop
anyone who they reasonably suspected might be undocumented. Well, the little Canadian kid in
the corner’s not the one who’s going to be reasonably suspected of
being undocumented in Arizona. So we actually facilitate racial profiling
in some of the policies that we adopt. And Bryan, reflect for us the impact
that these Policing policies have on the African American community,
minority communities, Latino communities.>>Well it’s demoralizing. I think you are being threatened and
menaced everyday of your life. The people who are supposed to keep you
safe are actually as much of a threat to you as the people who
you think are dangerous. And it ultimately undermines trust,
and legitimacy. I mean, let’s face it, the people
who enforced the Fugitive Slave Act during the time of slavery, we hear about
Harriet Tubman taking people through the Underground Railroad, and
the courageous people trying to, but the people who were trying to disrupt
that were law enforcement people. They were the people who
went into the North and actually made arrests and pulled people
back during the time of lynching. The people who failed to protect the black
community, while they were being killed and slaughtered through these acts
of racial terror, was law enforcement. It’d be the Sheriff that picked you up. And that same Sheriff would
open up the jail doors so the mob could pull you out and kill you. It’d be the Sheriff and the police that
left your body hanging from a tree. The sheriff that would insist
that no one did anything wrong during the time of segregation until
rise people would march and protest. Who would be on the other
side trying to stop them? It would be uniformed police officers. And throughout our history, people
wearing the uniform had been forces and tools of resistance to racial equality. They have been the tools
of racial oppression. And we act as if somehow
that history doesn’t matter when we join the police department,
when we see the police department. And if we don’t do something
absolutely corrective, that will continue to be the case. Which as why when a young man is shot or killed, a young person of color is
shot and killed, it’s the police who ought to be saying, no, let’s get
somebody from the outside investigating. I want to stop policing. I wanna do everything I can to make it
clear that this is not my committment. One of the programs that we have is that
we’re putting up these markers at lynching sights all across the country. And the first thing we do is we wanna
go to sheriffs and police chiefs. And we say to the sheriffs, the police
chiefs, we say when we put up our marker, we want you to be there. And I think you should say to the Black
community that you are sorry, that people wearing this uniform
did not protect people of color when these acts of terror and
violence took place. And then we think you should say I wanna
commit to you, that now the people wearing this uniform are here to protect you,
here to serve you. And you know what happens
when we ask them to do that? They say we can’t do that,
that’s too uncomfortable for us. And that’s why this narrative change
has to take place because without that, we’ve giving away opportunities to build
the trust and legitimacy that is necessary if we’re actually going to
both keep communities safe, keep police officers safe. And actually build the kind of
society where we can do something collectively to help us all be safe.>>Jennifer, I know that you’re using your research to
help work with various police departments. Tell us about that. How do they react to your research? And are they taking positive steps
to change the way they interact with people of color?>>Right, so I started working with
the law enforcement agencies sometime ago. And I remember still when I first got
a call actually to go up to Sacramento and present to law enforcement officials
at a conference on racial profiling. And I was really nervous
actually about going and about talking about my work and
I didn’t how they will receive it. And just the idea of talking about racial bias in a way that
they could be implicated. I didn’t know if they would reject that or
get defensive around it. But they didn’t. And that surprised me. They were quite open to
hearing this information in a way that they hadn’t heard before. I think normally,
all of the conversations at that point for them, they were accusatory. I mean they were conversations that
the only way that you could deal with race was under the threat of
litigation or to be monitored in a way. Even though they could recognize
that they had a real issue, there was no way to safely
examine the problem. And so through talking about this work,
talking about implicit bias in a way in which
we all can be affected by it, I think it allowed them to have
this conversation that they just weren’t having and so
I was really gratified by that. So, that was surprising and then I’ve
been surprised in other ways too. Like, more recently I’ve been
working with an agency and I was going to go in and sort of talk to
them about doing this experimental study there and kind of control for
this and that and the other thing. And I sat across the table from,
well they all have guns. I was gonna say a guy with a gun. [LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH]>>But anyway, he looked at me and he says you know, you know,
I’m not gonna let this happen on my watch. And I was like, what is he talking about? He says,
I am completely against random assignment! And random assignment is like [LAUGH]. I was like,
who could be against random assignment? I mean, as a social scientist, I mean,
for a randomized control study. That’s the gold standard,
that’s what you want. You would think people would embrace
that because they really wanna know sorta what’s happening. They really wanna understand cause and
effect. They really wanna get to
the root of the problem and be able to figure out
what the solution is. And one way you can do that
to really examine a problem carefully is to randomly assign people
to conditions in these studies. But he was like, that’s not gonna happen
on my watch, you can forget about it. So anyway, so that was interesting. But [LAUGH]
I feel like, just, what Brian was saying
earlier about being proximate, that just walking into these
law enforcement agencies and sorta trying to understand their world and
understand their culture. And understand what the policies are that could sometimes lead, sort of not prevent bias but
allow bias to fester. You have to be in there to know that. You can’t do that from a laboratory, you can’t do that from
an academic institution. You actually have to go there and
drive there and actually talk to them
about what they’re doing. And that proximity has, you know, helped me tremendously even though
sometimes it’s uncomfortable, it’s sometimes outside my comfort zone. It has allowed me actually to have
a lot of hope about the possibility for change, change in law enforcement
in particular in this country.>>That’s good to hear. Meanwhile, I know that Bob, a lot of people say the police departments
themselves need to be more diverse. But others argue that the thin
blue line or whatever, that Latino and African American
police officers are loyal first to the police unless they get into these
sort of upper management positions. What are your feelings on
the effectiveness of more diversity? I guess it must help to a certain extent,
correct?>>It absolutely helps and it’s tough to do controlled experiments on
this as Professor Everhart would affirm. But there’s plenty of evidence that
things change in the culture of police departments when there is diversity. But, even if the concern right now is that
The changes are only at the top level. Those are pretty significant changes. There were very, very progressive
cops in the United States. They’re some of the most
thoughtful leaders in the country. And in part because of the great
visibility of police, many have Accepted the fact, or even embraced
the fact that they are studied a lot. So, Jennifer talks about the importance
of getting into the field. I simply want to emphasize since we’re an
academic institution here, it’s true that it’s very hard to study these matters
within the academic institution. But the academic institution is a great
platform from which one can study. These things and a lot of it involves
getting very, very close to the ground. So for example, studying on this top and first context that Gary was talking about,
this is all under this vague doctrine and the Terry stop doctrine which permits
the police to detain you on this strange illusive phenomenon called reasonable
suspicion well before they arrest you. Studying how police claim to have
decided that reasonable suspicion was established and what the police then do
to people through this act of detention, including sometimes imposing a great
deal of humiliating force on them, these things can be studied. The labor intensiveness of
these studies is great, but students can actually participate
in this kind of work. Shameless advertisement, we encourage
undergraduate students to come over to the Stanford Criminal Justice Center
where we do these things. But I wanna take one quick turn in
a slightly different direction. Police, because of their visibility,
are being studied a lot. They are not the only, and
some might argue they are not the most, important actors in the system. The ones that are least studied and
maybe most powerful are prosecutors. And I’m not talking about the famous
visible federal prosecutors. I’m talking about the ground-level
county prosecutors, who have vast Power in the United States. Power which of anything has been
hugely enhanced by mandatory and very fixed sentencing laws,
which pretty much leave the power of sentencing in
the hands of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors are famously, or
infamously, immune to being studied. They don’t think that what
they do can be studied. They think it’s kind of like a vatic, inspirational power that cannot
be explained to mere mortals.>>[LAUGH]
>>But a lot of the research we and others have done, has involved trying to
get into prosecutors’ offices to study how those decisions are made and what kind
of legislative changes might follow.>>Meanwhile, you have some thoughts Gary,
I know on diversity among law enforcement.>>Well, I, so most famously, the United States Border Patrol is an
overwhelmingly latino organization and so there’s an example that diversity does not
by itself produce and change in policy. Whether you’re a police officer or
border patrol officer, sheriff’s deputy, you’re actually
part of a much broader system. And it’s a system that has given
you a set of marching orders. That notwithstanding, I think all of
us would agree that a more diverse police force is better than
an all-white police force. In terms of policing communities of color,
but I should never see that as a panacea because of what you described
as the end of the line the internal culture of the organization and
the idea of in group solidarity.>>Brian, briefly tell us about some of
the ways police departments are evaluating how they do their business. They’re talking about having more
restrictive rules about pursuits, for example, if a suspect flees for a minor infraction,
that they don’t have to follow them. They’re getting more guidance
on calling for backup. They’re having more a better
definition of what is excessive force. I mean, these things are being
talked about in a hopeful note, and police departments all across, well,
maybe not all across the country, but in a lot of major metropolitan areas.>>I think that’s right. I mean, we now know what makes for
better policing and one of the challenges, what you just said Katie, is that there are 18,000 police
departments in the United States. There is no centralized oversight,
so it’s highly decentralized and so getting to best practices is really
hard, but we know what they are. The first thing is just the identity of
the officer themselves is that we have too many police officers in this country
that think of themselves as warriors. And what we want to do
is change that identity. We don’t need warriors on the streets of
America with guns and in police uniforms. We need guardians. If you tell somebody,
you’re not a warrior, you’re a guardian, they begin to think
differently about their role. We’re talking to people about training. Most of the police departments, 95% of
their training is them going someplace and shooting something, or
fighting each other, right? It’s all about shooting and fighting. And if that’s what you’ve been trained
to do, when you’re out on the street and you’re stressed,
what are you thinking you’re gonna do, you’re gonna shoot or you’re gonna be
abusive and aggressive with someone? We have to change that. And there are some great recommendations. I was fortunate to be part of the
president’s task force on policing, and what we recommend is this identity
shift involving the community. We need people form the community
talking to the police and police talking to the community. Independent autonomy. You need to have independent
investigations when there’s an accusation of some excessive force. You need independent prosecutors
who can prosecute these cases. de-escalation is the thing
you were mentioning where sometimes you don’t have to chase somebody
and create this high security problem. Just because they jaywalked, just
because they have some traffic problem. It’s not the ultimate. Eric Garner,
it would be better if they just let him sell those cigarettes on
the streets of New York City. Really, who is gonna be worse off, right? And so, this idea that it’s not a test of your authority each time you
encounter someone is really important. And then there are other things that are
really important in how we police better. And I think we’ve got a blueprint. I wanna just urge people here. So we put out a 40 page report,
the task force recommendations that deal with things like training,
civilian review. Every person in here is authorized to go
to your local police chief or your sheriff I say I wanna sit down and talk with you
about the task force recommendations. I wanna know which of these
recommendations that you’re following, which things are part of your policy, which things are going to
be part of your policy, and begin a dialogue with your local
police leadership around these topics. Around topics like training. Topics like we have a wonderful program
that’s been incredibly effective where police departments are hiring
what we call high emotional IQ officers who don’t wear uniforms, who don’t have
guns who go into high crime neighborhoods, projects and low income sections. And they just are there to help. They announce themselves. They say, I’m Brian, I’m a police officer. I don’t have a gun. I don’t wear uniform. I’m here to help to help you anyway I can. Can I get your groceries? Can I walk you to the store?.What
can I do to help? That culture shift does
something really remarkable. And we have to allow those officers to
kind of go up the ranks just like we allow the people who kind of carry guns and
chase people down. And that kind of modeling has been
unbelievably impactful in poor and minority communities. If anything that LA did to change,
you know 1992 the Rodney King riots, LA was the worst police
department in America. Three years ago, when somebody was on
a rampage trying to hunt these police officers down you had poor people, and
people of color offering protection and shelter to some officers. Because they had that kind of respect for
them. That’s what we have to see
facilitated in departments.>>My profile Chris Magnus, who’s police
chief in Richmond, California, he’s really trying to bring whole new meaning to
the concept of community policing and he told me that when you take care of
people’s small problems in the community. They want some trash removed. They want a car,
an abandoned car removed off their street. There’s this element of trust
that really develops, and I think crime in Richmond, California has
gone down so much since Chris Magnus and since these different police techniques
have been utilized by that department. You know, talking about getting proximate,
I don’t think we can be here at Stanford without talking about what’s being
going on in college campuses not only here all across the country and of course,
after seeing the protest In Ferguson, following the shooting death of
Michael Brown, students at the University of Missouri in a way took a page from
the Black Lives Matter movement and started to protest racial
incidents at their school. And before we talk about the dynamics
of what’s going on And how we can all talk about it, and face our past, and
really have a constructed dialog. Why do you think so many of these racial
incidents are surfacing at schools, at colleges, across the country? Whether you’re talking
about a noose at Duke, or whether you’re talking about putting
cotton balls outside the black culture center at the University of Missouri,
or Blatant racism like saying a racist chant by
the Oklahoma fraternity on that bus. Is there what’s going on in the culture
that we’re seeing these incidents more or are we just hearing about them more? I’m just gonna throw that out to everyone. Can I just start? I actually think these incidents had been
going on for decades and part of the pain and anguish that these are my people wanna
say something like black lives matters, that people have been talking about them
forever and nobody’s paid any attention. These.
Problems of racist behavior, and incredibly insensitive and offensive
behavior, have been going on for decades. And now there’s this interesting
opportunity to talk about it in ways that people will maybe, for
a moment at least, focus. But I don’t think it’s an increase as much
as it is finally getting some exposure. And of course,
the more racial justice work you do The more you’re going to trigger
some resistance to that. And so people start getting activist and
advocating for particular things you’re going to see some push back and that’s
going to manifest itself in these ways.>>We have to mention social media I think
Brian in terms of making people aware of what’s happening at colleges and universities all across the country
>>Used to happen sort of in an insulated way.>>That’s right.
>>And now it happens in a way that spurs
outrage and conversation on social media.>>Yeah, I think that’s right. Being able to, you know young people, people on campuses can
control the messaging. They can control the story telling in ways
that’s unprecedented in American history. And frankly, If the same executives in
a handful of networks, in a handful of communities were controlling the narrative
we wouldn’t know about Michael Brown. We would not know about Eric Garner. We would not know about
that police shooting. But, because that’s changed, we’re now
being forced to have conversations that we wouldn’t have otherwise. And I think that’s been the powerful
upside to what technology has wrought. All of you obviously have
taught at different schools, in addition to Stanford. You’ve had a lot of contact
with minority students. What are the most commonly expressed, universal grievances that you’re hearing
from these students in these situations? Gary, why don’t you take that one? Why I think the things that you’re
most likely to hear are curriculum, faculty, and campus climate. And the first two are closely linked, and
then I’ll talk a bit about the third. In terms of curriculum, students of color, students from disadvantaged backgrounds,
>>And students from otherwise marginalized groups don’t see
themselves reflected in the curriculum. Part of that is a very inertia driven curriculum in a lot
of disciplines in the United States. And it’s true at Stanford,
it’s true across the country. That’s not unique to any
particular environment. The curriculum is going to have a tough
time changing if the faculty don’t change. And you’ve seen demands for increased
diversification of the faculty nation wide, there are a lot of folks here
who are very proud of the efforts that Stanford’s engaged in in investing
in faculty diversity, but I gotta tell you
>>Stanford’s falling further behind. In the last year that there’s full data
available on the Provost’s website, 6.1% of Stanford’s faculty represent unrepresented minorities,
that was in 2014. In 2004 the number was also 6.1%, and in 1994 it was 4.6%. So we’ve improved our under represented
minority faculty presence by one and a half percent in 20 years. At the same time the number of under
represented minorities in the society Has gone from about 17% of
the population to about 33, so by holding study we are actually
falling further behind. Now that is not an indictment statement
per se because those numbers are actually replicated at whatever institutions
across the United States. So we are rapidly on our way to a moment. Where a mostly white faculty is ging to be
teaching a mostly non white student body. The majority of children seven and under in the United States
are children of color. So in 12 years that’s who’s
entering the university system. So we really need to think
about faculty diversity.>>We should mention by the way by 2060
>>The minority population will be, minorities will be 56%
of the total population.>>That’s right,
whites would remain a plurality, but would no longer be a majority. Ans so the last thing you wanna
talk about is campus climate. And in most instances,
when you see some of the protest that have taken on in college campuses, it is the
failure of administrative leadership To respond to an incident of hate, or
to respond to an incident where the concerns of minority
students have really come up. And I think that Campus Climate involves
not just the behavior of administrators and faculty, in terms of responding to
concerns, but also a sensitivity that the white upper middle class norm,
that has characterized universities Really doesn’t necessarily apply to all
of the students who are now enrolled. Let me give you one example and
then I’ll shut up. We talk a lot,
we talk a lot about internships. Internships are a big recommendation to
how to move into various professions or maybe how to get into graduate school or
whatever. For people who come from
low-income backgrounds, do you know what an internship is? It’s an unpaid job. Not everybody here can
afford an unpaid job. Some people need to get paid jobs
in order to be able to pay the next semester’s tuition. So that’s just a simple example of how the university environment as it
has existed for 50 or 60 years. Doesn’t necessarily suit people
from disadvantaged backgrounds or under-represented groups who are changing
the student body in meaningful ways.>>Which reminds me of
the term white privilege. And Brian I wondered if you would
talk a little bit about the role that term has when it comes to
having a meaningful dialogue It make some people bristle and
feel uncomfortable, and defensive. But why is it important for people to keep in mind when they’re
having these kinds of conversations? I think Garry just gave
a great example actually.>>Well I do think that we have to begin
thinking honestly about the ways in each if you’re not burdened. With the presumption of dangerous guilt,
how that changes your life experience. If when you go to the store,
nobody’s following you around. If when you see a police officer, you’re not more anxious because
you don’t feel at risk. When you go into a classroom,
you always see people. I never met a lawyer, period,
until I got to law school.>>And I’d certainly never
met a lawyer of color, right? And this idea that you
wanted to be a lawyer, you had to believe
something you’d never seen. That’s actually hard when you’re trying to
fight against all these things and there’s multiple ways in which this burden of
bias and discrimination weighs you down. It weighs you down, and for people who
haven’t weighed down like that, they’re making judgements about other people
without appreciating what it feels like. My grandmother is the daughter
of people who were enslaved. She was brilliant but she was uneducated. My parents couldn’t go to highschool,
right. We grew up in a space where we couldn’t
learn to do a lot of things cuz we didn’t have access to these things. The pool wasn’t open to black
cuz I didn’t know how to swim. It’s not a judgement about my laziness,
so they’re all of these things. So what white privilege forces you to do
is to just think about the ways in which you are not disadvantaged,
you are not burdened by these things, and then to kind of presume something
that you haven’t really experienced. So when people are expressing, everybody
in the room who’s black is saying it feels like A, and you’re saying,
no that’s not right. Then you need to be questioning yourself,
why are you saying that? Why are you so confident,
that you are right about that? When you haven’t had
any of that experience. And I think that’s the whole
question of privilege. And for me, the reason why we have
to this narrative thing is it, if I just accidentally just did something
and something flew off my hand and hit Jennifer,
I would wanna make sure that she’s okay. And if I thought she wasn’t okay,
it would bother me a really long time. Because I just don’t wanna be that
kind of person that doesn’t care if I’ve done something
that’s hurt someone. We’ve done a lot of things to hurt
people of color in this country. And we ought to care that
we do something about that. And that privilege is the only thing that
makes us feel like we don’t have to pop. Indigenous people in this country,
the whole, dispute. AP advanced placement use the word
genocide in characterizing what happened to indigenous people in
this country on one of their exams. It was a big outrage. And then they finally retreated from it. So you’re not allowed to call the genocide
of Native Americans genocide. Ten million people here. White settlers come, few years later,
half a million people are left. It was genocide. But we don’t wanna be burdened
by having to confront the fact that maybe our foreparents
were part of a genocide, so we’re not gonna allow
you to use that word. That is a privilege perspective,
you get to. So that’s the kind of thinking that
I think is really key to how we move forward, it’s really key.>>And when it comes to implicit bias, Jennifer, how,
it gets imprinted at such an early age. Other than being aware of the implicit
biases you might have, how can you keep them from taking hold in the first
place, or is that virtually impossible? Now I wonder if you shared the story. I went to Jennifer’s class during
parents weekend last year.>>[LAUGH]
>>So I love her, and I love all her work.>>[LAUGH]
>>Maybe you could also illustrate this by telling the story of your son.>>Okay. Some of the students here,
I think you’ve heard this story before but this story took place a number of
years ago when my son was about five years old and we had been in Boston. My husband was invited to Harvard to
teach a class during their winter term. It’s a short three week term and
so, my son and I went with him for the first week and we were on our way
back here to California on the plane, and he’s looking around on the plane,
and he looks up and my son sees this black guy and he says,
hey, that guy looks like Daddy. And I look at this guy, and he does not
look like daddy, so it’s like okay. [LAUGH] But then, parenting these
days you have to be real sensitive. And so I’m thinking well maybe he’s
seeing something I’m not seeing. I’m gonna give it a shot,
I’m gonna give it a chance. My initial reaction was that he just
thought all black people looked alike, cuz he was the only black guy on
the plane and he had to look like daddy. But I’m gonna step back. And so I look at the guy, and
I look at his height, and he was about four inches off, and then I looked
at his weight and there was nothing there. I looked at his body type, nothing there. I looked at his facial features,
nothing there. Skin color, nothing there. I looked at his hair and he had these really long
dreadlocks flowing down his back. And my husband’s bald.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] I’m like all right. So I’m ready to have that talk. Ray was talking about having
the difficult dialogs. I’m ready to have the talk. And so, I’m sort of getting set in
what I’m gonna say, and then before I can say anything, he looks up again, and
he says, I hope he doesn’t rob the plane. And I said, what? What did you say? And he said it again. He said, I hope he doesn’t rob the plane. And I said, well why would you say that? I said,
you know Daddy wouldn’t rob a plane. He said, I know. And I said, well, why would you say that? And he looked up at me with this
really sad face and he said, I don’t know why I said that. I don’t know why I was thinking that. We’re living with such severe racial
stratification that even a five year old can tell us what’s
supposed to happen next. It saddened him and it saddened me, it
saddens me every time I tell that story. When you live with the disparities,
the extreme disparities that we’re living with in this country, it’s not
just affecting people who are in prison, it’s not just affecting their families,
it’s affecting all of us, it is affecting our psyches in a deep way.>>We have some questions
from the audience. They’re not quite as good as mine [LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH]>>But I feel like I have to ask them.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] Sorry.>>[LAUGH]
>>Can I just ask one more of mine and then I’ll get to these? Okay, cuz there’s just one, there are
actually two more but I’m gonna do one. I wanted to talk cuz we were talking in
the green room, all of us, about what happened at Princeton with taking Woodrow
Wilson off the school of foreign policy. And, there were other schools
that were taking similar action, Georgetown is changing
the name of two dorms, they were former presidents of Georgetown
but they were also slave owners. They’re talking about at Yale changing the
name of Calhoun, one of the houses there. Are these steps, in your view,
schools should take or is this in some ways erasing a painful chapter in our
nation’s history that may be instructive? I’m just curious because I’ve been
wrestling with this myself and Bob what are your thoughts? You’re looking at me like I’m crazy. [LAUGH]
>>No not at all, not at all. I think it’s been a very interesting
intellectual and social and moral exercise,
now let’s take some extremes. The Confederate Flag was taken down
from the South Carolina State House. How that could have been controversial is
hard to believe because there you were talking about an endorsement
of the Confederacy. But then you move into this much more
murky area of historical memory. So the first thing is actually,
when these things get discussed, students suddenly start studying
the history of their institutions. They learn a lot of things that
they had not otherwise learned. And I think, as many have said, that there maybe have to be a statute
of limitations in terms of erasure. I am not sure if you
are erasing painful memories. Because the memories may not go away. Rather, you’re making a new statement
about the identity of the institution. And if I can just switch to one little
side point in a way, the notion that well, something is part of tradition,
we can’t change that,is ludicrous. Tradition isn’t fixed. Tradition can change,
it’s not a categorical imperative. So here’s my maybe odd example. The football team for
the District of Columbia, okay. The question of changing the name, the resistance to it is but there’s
such an investment in the tradition. Is it really that important are lives that
built around it are they going to be that hurt if we just allow for the possibility,
that symbols change as culture changes. So I think it’s been a very
interesting exercise. I think it’s hard to say where to
draw the line in terms of erasure and all that, but I think it’s useful.>>I think that it’s been incredibly
educational for me, someone who thought of Woodrow Wilson as a guy who
>>The League of Nations had a stroke, kind of propped them up. Edith pretty much running the country, and that’s pretty much what I
knew about Woodrow Wilson. And then, upon further examination
as this controversy arose, I mean he tried to reintegrate
the federal government. He invited members of
the Klan to the White House. And these are things that I
think to your point Gary, being taught history a certain way. I had a sanitized impression
of Woodrow Wilson, but the question is, where do you stop? I mean, can we go all the back. You made a funny joke. Say that joke, Gary. [LAUGH]
>>It better be funny now.>>[LAUGH]
>>You realize I have no chance now.>>[LAUGH]
>>Well I just said that as we go back in history, at some point you’re
gonna have to draw a line. Julius Caesar was a bad guy, but
we probably don’t wanna change.>>Change the name of the month of July.>>[LAUGH]
>>See that was good, right?>>[LAUGH]
>>See, you ruined it. I can’t-
>>[LAUGH]>>I’m sorry.>>I didn’t have a chance!>>I’m sorry.>>No, but the point I was going
to make was just simply that, the statute of limitations on atrocity,
at some level, runs out. Right?
So there is world history we could
tear down monuments in Europe because of an invasion that took place
during the Napoleonic or whatever. And I just wonder if were benefited
by completely erasing it. Now there are certain things, and I know Brian’s got some good thoughts
on this, there are certain celebrations of really bad people that need to be done
away with and I’m absolute good with that.>>I think that’s my point, I’m not
worried about where we’re gonna stop because I don’t think
like we’ve ever started. I really don’t. [APPLAUSE]
>>And I’m gonna admit I’m coming at
this cuz I live in Montgomery, Alabama where there are 59 markers and
monuments to the Confederacy downtown, and not a word about slavery. Where the two largest high schools,
Robert E. Lee HIgh and Jefferson Davis HIgh. On Monday, I won’t get to celebrate
Martin Luther King Day because in Alabama, it’s Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee day.>>Jefferson Davis’s Birthday
is a state holiday, Confederate Memorial Day
is a state holiday, and the American South is littered with
the iconography of the Confederacy. This false narrative of our great
triumphant heroes who were in fact insurgents, terrorists,
who tried to destroy this nation. And in Germany, you would not ever
think it’s appropriate to say, we should celebrate
Adolf Hitler’s birthday. And in fact, the Germans,
have banned the Swastika, And you know what people in Germany
who are nationalists and racists do? They wave the Confederate flag. And it’s that kind of symbolism
that expresses something. The Confederate flags in most
State Houses in the American south. Weren’t there in the 1920’s and
30’s, they were erected in 1955 after the Supreme Court issued
Brown versus Board of Education. They were political statements,
saying we resist integration. And so when people drive around with
them now, what it says to me now is that I’m resisting all of that
racial progress stuff. And so we actually have to engage in an
honest conversation about what that means. I don’t think we’ll ever recover, we won’t
heal from slavery, and from terrorism, and segregation, until we embrace a different
set of memorials, monuments, icons. I don’t know why any university would want
to have a building named after someone Who did something horrific. Now people can recover. Listen, I represent people
who commit terrible crimes. I’m not interested in punishing people for
the bad things that happen. I want to get to something better. You have to find a way to express some
remorse, some acknowledgement of that, and that’s the challenge it seems to me. And sometimes it means changing a name, sometimes it means putting a marker
outside of the building saying. Well, you should know that this person did
this, that Woodrow Wilson celebrated birth of a nation as a film,
thought it was wonderful.>>Right.>>And did that kind of stuff. You have to do that, and
I think that’s the way we move forward. And I really do think not only
is it important it’s essential, we’re not going to, you can’t, if you live
in the mud like we’ve been living in this country when it comes to
racial justice for 400 years. You are gonna have to some
point start cleaning. And that cleaning process
is a really purposeful one. We’re in the early stages
of a post era here. And I think there’s a lot that has
to be done to recover from that. And, you know, the naming process
is a really important critical component of that.>>Two final questions from the audience. And they’re really, actually, quite good. [LAUGH] You talk about being proximate so
the question is do we replace those in power with those who are proximate or
push them to be proximate? I don’t mean to I think we do both. I think that we have to push people who have power to get proximate, and if
they don’t we have to then replace them. I really think that that
dynamic is essential, and there are just multiple ways to do it. I live in regions where the political
power, we don’t have a lot of political, I don’t have political power. There are these numbers
that make that hard. So we have to keep pushing
people to get closer. I want to bring people into jails and
prisons, I want to bring them into schools,
I want to bring them to these spaces.>>Think Donald Trump
wants to get proximate?>>You know, it’s funny I almost
said something about this and I didn’t, but now that you’ve asked.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH]>>When it comes about narrative, this is what I think we all have to do, this
is where I do think we all have a role. When it comes to narrative we can
not tolerate the kind of bigotry and the kind of racism that we’ve been
hearing on some of this campaign. This comment about I’m gonna block all the
Muslims, this is the thing I think when I hear something like that on the day
that someone in power tries to do that. All of us, who are faithful Christians and
faithful Jews and faithful Buddhists,
need to stand up and say, I am Muslim. All of us need to embrace
the Mexican people.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>[APPLAUSE]>>When you hear somebody say, Mexicans are this and that, and this and that, we have to say,
I’m Mexican, don’t talk that way. We have to challenge that rhetoric, cuz I think it is much more
destructive than we realize. You can’t spend time in a room with
no oxygen, and not suffer some real consequences and that’s what that kind
of talk represents, it is unhealthy. So, I do think that, yes, there are ways in which we have to insist
on proximity when people engage in the things that are designed to keep us
as far away from each other as possible.>>Finally, Ken, the panel, I guess all of you give
>>Some more examples of how we in this country can “talk” more about slavery and
racial difference. What does this conversation
specifically and explicitly look like? I love the symbolic markers about lynching
sites, around lynching sites for example. So I guess in closing,
how can we reconcile our past? How can we have an important dialogue
with honesty and also forgiveness for people who do acknowledge their
implicit biases, or have baggage that they want to acknowledge, but
also have to be forgiven for. Anybody?>>[LAUGH]
>>I’m nominating you.>>I’m with Brian, I am Mexican.>>[LAUGH]
>>Wait, I actually am>>[APPLAUSE]>>[LAUGH] Wow, I mean, thank you for that. So I mean,
the folks who have written on this, both as polemics and
from a philosophical or academic point of view,
talk about developing racial projects to undo forms of white privilege and
white supremacy. You asked the white
privilege question earlier. I think on of the greatest obstacles to achieving some form of
racial justice in this society. It is the fear that,
particularly middle-class and working-class, whites have when
you tell them they’re privileged. Because no one wants to believe that
they’re the beneficiary, almost no one, wants to believe that they’re
the beneficiary of racism, or that racism helped them get ahead. And they don’t want to acknowledge that
their parents, or their grandparents, or their great-grandparents
participated in something like this. But when you talk to a white audience,
you just ask them some simple questions. Did your grandparents own a home? Raise your hand. And with the people
whose hands are raised, remember that that home appreciated and
that home had value because there was a form of
enforced racial segregation that. Denied people of color the opportunity
to even buy in that neighborhood that reserve the more desirable
locations for whites. How many of you have a parent or
a grandparent who’s a union member? You get some hands up. Well, it turns out that even after
the passage of the 64 Civil Rights, union policies that gave hands up
to legacies, to children of people who already carried a union card
meant that white privilege was preserved even after the formal
abolition of discriminatory behaviour because all the people
who had legacy, were in fact white. When we look at
the affirmative action cases, we didn’t talk about that tonight and
it’s another whole can of worms. If you look at the affirmative
actions cases in Michigan, which were adjudicated several years ago. One of the interesting things there
was that legacies at the University of Michigan got a hand up in admissions,
and so did people from the upper peninsula, which
is essentially an all white environment. So it turns out that when legacies and all white areas are given hands up in
admission everyone thinks that’s okay, but giving African Americans or Latinos
an opportunity to go to University of Michigan that’s somehow or another
some form of reverse discrimination. So calling out white privilege, not in an
angry way, but just sort of in explaining how an average middle class white
person is still the beneficiary. Of decades of systematic bias and
exclusion, that I think is the first step towards getting people to understand that
the world that they live in is not just. And if their life is not glorious
because of their own wonderous merit, however merit as they might be, but because of a system of bias that’s
been in place for 104 years or so.>>We have, I hope somewhere nearby or outside, these calendars that we brought
here for people to take, and they’re free. And if you don’t get one,
just go to our website, it’s eji.org. And it’s a small, simple thing. But it’s actually intended to be a tool to
help begin some of these conversations, because I totally agree
with what Gary is saying. It starts with truth telling. If we just tell the truth about the ways
in which racial inequality manifest itself, people of goodwill will want
to reconcile themselves to that truth. They’ll want to do some
things that are corrected. But if we don’t tell the truth, if we
hide from it, if we allow the denial that exists in so many ways to persist
we won’t actually get there. And so for me to begins with truth. I mean we can’t force truth and
reconciliation, but we can force truth. And the truth is what will motive
people to want to reconcile themselves. So these calendars are not happy,
friendly calendars right? They’ve got some really challenging
images they’ve designed to make. We don’t have like President Obama’s
birthday in there, or anything like that. We have dates of lynchings and violence. We talk about when Japanese Americans were
forced into concentration camps in this part of the country. We talk about all of the 10-70
laws in Arizona, we talk about the ways in which we’ve constructed
this narrative of racial difference. And we think just putting it out there and
talking about it creates this momentum. And then I think you have
different conversations. So when I think about voting rights imma
get in trouble now for real, I don’t understand How we denied black people in
the south voting by to 150 years, and then we passed the Civil Right Act, which
all of the sudden the states were against, and then we resisted enforcing it
in the 70s, in 80s and 90s, and then as soon as we could. We actually took a case to
the US Supreme Court and asked them to begin to undermine it. And I think in some ways
we weren’t actually asking the right policy questions. I think in the nineteen, after the Civil
Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act should have mandated that in states where voting
rights were denied to black people, every black person when they turn the age
of 18 is automatically registered to vote. I don’t think black people should have
to register to vote in this country. I actually think maybe in those states, the states ought to send somebody
to their homes and get their vote. You shouldn’t have to go to the polls. If we’ve denied you the vote for
150 years, you might even be able to get
to vote twice, I don’t know.>>[LAUGH]
>>[APPLAUSE]>>But it wouldn’t have been crazy in the 1970s to have
an educational recovery conversation after denying
black people access to schools. Instead of just talking about letting
a handful of people into a why wouldn’t we just say having denied education for
a hundred people, we’re going to let people of colour, African Americans who
can show this history of exclusion, come to our state universities for
half the tuition as everybody else? Why not have a conversation about it? We might not adopt those policies. But for me we ought to want
to do something reparational if we have the truth pushing us. I wanna create to a place where
I feel better about this. And gender issues we’ve done a little
bit better we aren’t there yet, but we’ve learned not to say certain things,
we’ve learned to do certain things and I think that’s part of what we
have to do in the race context. And the opportunities are everywhere,
so few people have done so little. You can pick any place and start,
and you’ll make a lot of progress. But the last thing I’ll say about this,
I will tell you on the other side of it, there is something that feels much
better than what we felt like. I’m working with people,
white people and poor people and communities that have carried
a lot of these burdens with them. and you go into a place you actually
start talking about this stuff and people get to lay some
of these burdens down. It’s amazing what that does
to your whole being and that’s what I want for this whole nation. And I think we can get there, but
we’ve gotta commit ourselves to telling the truth and
we haven’t really done much of that. Well on that note, we’re out of time. Bryan, Jennifer, Gary, Bob,
thank you all so much.>>[APPLAUSE]

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  • cerebral dome says:

    Katie Couric, UVA #1

  • Alex Chen says:

    Don't blame history, don't blame other people. You don't represent all minorities. Please think about why other minorities have very low criminal rate. If you guys don't look at yourself and correct your own problem you guys will never come out of this pity situation. Lower your single mother rate, give kids good parenting, study hard, work hard, smoke less drug, etc.

  • Arlene Becerra says:

    Nothing in the comments and this has been up for over 8 months?! Wow— Mr. Stevenson is right about the discomfort with discussing racial injustice.

  • Boervin says:

    The #Boeremag in SA tried to stop genocide in SA back in 2002 and been in jail since 2002 for high treason unlawfully. Watch the video about Boeremag Injustice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLloX3Z7mGU

  • Michele Gordon says:

    awesome,  and inspiring

  • Lavette Slaughter says:


  • Texas BUSHMAN says:

    Great speakers on a difficult and needed talk on how we all can get involved to help build a country we all would be more proud of founded on justice and equality. The injustices in the US span hundreds of years and will take action from us all to gain shardd comfort

  • Queen says:


  • nazdalaan says:

    I can’t even take this, horrible justice system

  • Vaneita Adams says:

    …and you wonder why Black people are pissed. THIS.

  • kimmy D says:

    So wonderful to know that there is someone out here actually spending his life making a positive difference in the lives of others. He is my inspiration.

  • Connie Criscitello says:

    Excepting Mr. Stevenson….Why do intellectuals have such a hard time letting go of the idea of government being a necessity? I believe it's a form of elitism. They feel us poor people are uneducated brutes, but what they don't know is we are much more civilized than any politician or cop. Government is not what makes a society civilized….it has always been the source of chaos, brutality and genocide throughout recorded history. I suggest some so-called experts on the criminal justice system research this term: Voluntaryism.

  • MADMAX MAN says:

    Sad people ….. wait this man sounds white and he is dressed like white man

  • living2liveagain1 says:

    To Change Injustices in America takes 4 things:
    1) Be Proximate; 2) Change Narrative; 3) Protect Hope; & 4) Do Uncomfortable Things!!!!

  • terry gerych says:

    obviously race plays a huge role in criminal (in)'justice' in america, but beyond that the whole system is sick and evil. without accountability, police, prosecutors, and judges are free to abuse their 'authority'.

    there's a documentary series on HLN (headline news network on american tv) titled DEATH ROW STORIES. each episode details a particular case in which a likely or surely innocent defendent is wrongly convicted of a capital crime due to various types of abuse of power. many but by no means are all of the victims black or brown. the key which needs to change is the lack of accountability. the whole system could hardly be better designed to breed injustice. the whole adversarial system ought to be scrapped in favor of one that holds accountable all 'authorities' and impartially and open mindedly seeks truth and reconciliation, not revenge. that's another thing. this system reflects a cruel puritanism in the heart of american culture and society, that of a dogmatic, judgmental and punitive god.

  • terry gerych says:

    another comment: this coming almost 2 years to the day after the listed publication date of this video. it has fewer than 14,000 views. it ought to have more than 14 million! sheeple in general and perhaps americans in particular just don't seem to care much about things like truth and justice. it's absolutely pitiful, a sign of a deeply dystopian culture/society.

  • terry gerych says:

    bryan stephenson says about 18 1/2 minutes into this talk re. the drug war, 'we decided to beat up on the poor'. here's what former top nixon administration official john ehrlichman admitted re. nixon's decision to pursue a robust 'war on drugs' policy:

    The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.


  • Helle Møller says:

    This man makes so much sense.

  • TRUTH HUNTER says:

    STOP! Being blind to what's causing division and criminality. The law makers. If there were laws saying treat blacks like whites. Shit would relax a lot. That mean better work, opportunities, no stop and frisk, no racial profiling or shootings. Whites needs poverty to defined their social classism. And who created hatred of skin color? Whites! There is a reason for that. Ever thought of why? To hate a color was needed in white's lives. And no intellectual reason was EVER exposed. It would really make sense to know why so blacks could make it right. We secretly think WHITES are insane. Was there a historical reason like a ancient CONFLICT! Or just a mental disorder called…..HATE. And sense it is HATE….for what reason? Does white hate have a reason, from the very ancient beginning?

  • Maite Garlic says:

    “Justice system should have a different name”

  • espada9 says:


  • Weiming Wang says:

    I saw Mr. Stevenson speak this morning at Inbound, it was so inspiring so powerful, there was not a dry eye in the audience

  • Strizer Quel says:

    Coming comments of from 'Just Mercy'

  • Louie Shinen says:

    Perhaps the major problem in our society is the widespread disregard for our laws. For example, we decided to legalize marijuana because the people decided they wanted to use it regardless of it being
    illegal. People use cocaine for the same reason. Property laws are also being ignored and the police are
    not enforcing many reported crimes. As our youth see that laws are just suggestions, they break the laws,
    get caught, and get sent to prison. It doesn't make sense, but that is what is happening.

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