Mount Pleasant continues conversation on race, police

Katy Kildee | Staff Photographer Students organize a peaceful protest against police brutality in front of the Charles V. Park Library. Students were drawn to the protest due to the actions that occurred in Ferguson, Mo.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., riots, 140 Central Michigan University community members gathered this week for a Speak Up Speak Out event to discuss police brutality and race relations. 

We commend Mount Pleasant for keeping the conversation alive a month and a half after Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by police, turning a community, and eventually a nation, to protest.

It speaks well of the character of our students, teachers, staff and community when we are able to constructively discuss sensitive issues, like race and police brutality. These exchanges make our community and world a better, more understanding place.

We are proud our university- cut into the cornfields of mid-Michigan some 500 miles from Ferguson, Mo.- feels so passionately about a topic some prefer to ignore. 

The SUSO event, which was cohosted by the diversity research group Soup and Substance, featured students, teachers and police officers as panel members. Each speaker provided a unique voice on the issue of race relations in our nation.

Mount Pleasant Police Officer Jeff Browne and CMU Police Chief William Yeagley were panel members whose experience allowed them to shed unique perspective on the interaction between citizens and police.

“At universities, we have a lot of people who are not from Mount Pleasant, and that gives them a lot of life experiences that we don’t have,” Yeagley said. “We as police officers don’t think about it that way all the time.”

We feel it is imperative for every police officer and every citizen to maintain the same point of view expressed by Yeagley. Once we step back and put ourselves in the place of others, we are able to better understand society and figure out how to fix it. The SUSO event is a testament to this truth.

Ferguson recently made headlines again on Thursday when Police Chief Thomas Jackson in Ferguson apologized to Brown's parents and peaceful protesters via video, according to a St. Louis public-relations firm video.

While there remain countless other loose ends regarding Brown’s death, an apology is at least a step in the right direction. Without the peaceful protests in Ferguson, and the combined support of communities across the nation – Mount Pleasant included – the conversation on race relations and police brutality might never have had the chance to evolve.

As long as we continue the discussion – and not sweep it under the rug, as often happens with aging news – we will become closer to realizing a more united nation.