Moderator: Paul Weismantel
Speakers: Sgt. Bruce Oliver, Daniel Godsun, W. Mack Palmour, Herbert Ford
Part I: Racial Profiling
Paul explained there would be two topics with the first being racial profiling with two presenters.
Paul introduced Sgt. Bruce Oliver, a USCB Police officer who has served in law enforcement for over 40 years, the last 12 with the USC-Beaufort Dept. of Public Safety. He is a retired police detective and had previously worked as in several police departments, working with schools at all levels with the goal of helping students grow and succeed.
He gave the definition of racial profiling as the use of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, background, socio-economic status, or culture as the sole basis for police activity. Sgt. Oliver has never seen anyone picked up due to racial profiling, but knows it exists.
He told the story of his handling of a homeless person at the start of his career. He felt he handled the situation badly by telling the man to “pick up your junk”. Realizing he was wrong led him to always treat all with respect and understanding, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Sgt. Oliver believes that most police do so. Herbert Ford commented on Sgt Oliver’s great actions and ideals of honesty and fairness.
Paul then introduced Daniel Godsun, who founded the WIN Academy for Success 9 years ago and has spent over 20 years dedicated to service in youth development.
Mr. Godsun, who is Black and spent most of his childhood in the Bronx, told of a situation of racial profiling when he was 17 years old. He was waiting at a bus stop when 4 policemen hopped out of a car and surrounded him. He was questioned by all 4, who wanted his ID and to look in his book bag with no explanation of their actions.
Mr. Godsun feels racial profiling is illegal and immoral. He commented that every contact with Sgt. Oliver has been friendly, respectful, and that all interaction can be that way.
Police need reason to stop a person.
Mr. Godsun moved from the Bronx to Coosawhatchie and experienced trauma there because he couldn’t hide his poverty. He was embarrassed to have to use food stamps. He showed us that by his wearing a dark hoodie that he would be suspect. Wearing his blazer made him respectable.
He commented that when stopped by police, white drivers automatically reach to get out a driver’s license. Blacks do not, suggesting if stopped they need to roll down all the windows and show their hands so officer can see who is in there.
Another experience of profiling was while he was sitting in a park and police rolled up and parked right next to him.
Comments from the audience on Racial Profiling:
Sgt. Oliver said potential school shooters don’t proceed with a planned shooting when they are greeted and told to have a good day. Sgt. Oliver greets every student warmly.
Hank Noble asked Mr. Godsun the difference in risk in Beaufort County and the Bronx? Daniel answered that lots of police on the island are not from here and have no community connection. Bias will play out. An example is that there are more drugs on the south end of Hilton Head than the north end but because poverty is greater on the north end there are more police patrols on north.
Neil Funnell asked if profiling is ever justified. Sgt. Oliver said NO. Mr. Godsun added No, and said that white and black have same percentage of drug use, but arrests don’t reflect that reality.
Neil Funnell told of his experience with profiling in Paris airport after terrorist attack.
Collin Moseley asked if certain police precincts have profiling. Sgt. Oliver responded that this does happen.
Discussion continued with the environment of specific police departments, specifically Memphis. Sgt. Oliver commented on the criminal histories of the 4 officers in Memphis. He added that there has been mass retirement of police in our country and here the Beaufort County Sheriff’s staff has openings for 50 officers they can not fill.
There are subtleties in many situations. Mr. Godsun spoke of red lining in real estate which he experienced himself when he was refinancing.
Cindy Petitt added that all of us have biases, mostly unconscious.
How does Mr. Godsun get through to young people today? He helps kids identify 2 people they can look up to. Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club are a big help.
Sgt. Oliver added that kids are desperate for knowledge.
Part II: Affirmative Action
Paul Introduced W. Mack Palmour, who has over 30 years in education administration and currently serves as Vice-Chancellor for Enrollment Mgt. at USC-Beaufort. He gave a definition of affirmative action:
Proponents of AA say it is designed to increase the representation of underrepresented groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities, women, and those in the lower social economic status. It is necessary to redress past discrimination and ensure that all students have equal access to higher education. They argue that diversity in the student body enriches the educational experience for all students and prepares them for a diverse workforce. Race should not be a condition.
Opponents of affirmative action argue that it violates the principle of equal treatment under the law and creates reverse discrimination against individuals who are not members of the historically disadvantaged groups. They argue that admissions decisions should be based solely on merit and qualifications.
It is widely assumed that SCOTUS will overturn the previous rulings about the use of affirmative action in admissions in the case SFFA v. Harvard/University of North Carolina. Race can’t be used as a determination.
Mr. Palmour explained types of college admissions.
The second AA presenter was Herbert Ford, a 5th generation native Islander who retired after 29 years of service in the CIA and, among others, serves on the Board of Directors for the Historic Mitchelville Preservations Project.
He spoke on the positive aspects of AA in his own life. He attended college in Florida and assumed he was the recipient of affirmative action allowing him great opportunities when his parents lacked the money to send him to college. Mr. Ford said some think AA is reverse discrimination, but he does not think so.
Q&A on Affirmative Action:
Mr. Palmour said USCB does have quota to help with diversity.
Audience added that AA has been in courts many times with wiggle room.
One man was firmly against AA because everybody should be able to meet the same standard. Today is different than it was 30 years ago. He felt that we are now one America. Herbert Ford disagreed and said there are still 2 Americas.
Another man asked how one can tell if a student will be successful and Mr. Palmour answered that there is no way to tell.
Mr. Godsun feels AA provides opportunities.
A speaker brought up the question of legacy and that we should get rid of it.
Cindy Petitt commented that discrimination exists and that AA was put in place to get rid of it
Hank Noble asked if AA is taken away, what will replace it.
Currently employers tend to hire people who look like us.