Community members, ministers, law enforcement officers and others gathered at North Central College to discuss racial profiling and other topics.
“Where Do We Go From Here” was the topic of a July 23 forum sponsored by the DuPage County Branch of the NAACP and hosted by the College’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. Moderator Juan Thomas noted the title of the forum is the same as a 1967 speech and book by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Local leaders organized the forum in the wake of a Florida jury’s acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American. Panelists, including Renard Jackson, director of outreach and program development at North Central College, said some people have used divisive rhetoric in expressing their reaction to the case.
“It’s been a trying and troubling time since the verdict,” Jackson said. “Among the positive signs I see as we move forward are young people asking questions, becoming more concerned about issues and becoming more involved.”
Audience members—including some black police officers—said that every African-American has experienced racial profiling. Panelist Theresa Dear, a member of the NAACP national board and minister at DuPage A.M.E. church, noted that Martin was killed by a private citizen, not a police officer.
“Justice is colorless,” Dear said. “A lot of people are emoting about Trayvon Martin. We need to get beyond the emotions.”
The police chiefs of Bolingbrook, Aurora and Elgin were among those attending the forum, and the panel included Deputy Naperville Police Chief John Gustin, who earned a certificate in leadership studies at North Central College. Gustin noted the overwhelming majority of homicides in America are the result of black-on-black violence.
“If we don’t stop our own kids from killing each other, this conversation is moot,” Gustin said.
Panelists and audience members alike agreed on several outcomes from the discussion, including the need to provide more early-childhood and other education opportunities for minorities and low-income families, cultural sensitivity training for educators, improved efforts to counsel young people in conflict resolution, and continued dialog among people of diverse backgrounds.
The forum was held in North Central College’s Harold and Eva White Activities Center.