In 2012 after a decade of work, the University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) held a 10-year celebration. The center has dedicated itself to social justice issues through its race-related research, speaker series, summer institutes, and scholarship. CRSP focuses on a variety of subjects, including health, economic and educational disparities, racial segregation, and criminal justice.
On June 7, 2012, there was a gathering at Alumni Hall that featured a keynote address by NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous. More than 500 people attended the event, at which they enjoyed a video presentation including interviews with School of Social Work Dean and CRSP Director Larry E. Davis, Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, current Provost Patricia E. Beeson, former Provost James Maher, and CRSP Associate Director Ralph Bangs, among others. The video explored the history of the center and highlighted some of its accomplishments over the past decade:
• hosting the 2010 national Race in America conference
• publishing a first-of-its-kind academic journal, Race and Social Problems
• hosting the conference 50 Years after Brown: New Solutions for Segregation and Academic Underachievement
• evaluating the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative
• developing race-related study abroad graduate courses in Cuba; Paris, France; and London, England
• offering summer institutes to local stakeholders that address real-world solutions to racial and social problems
• hosting free and open fall and spring lecture series that bring in experts from across the country
In addition to highlighting the work of the center, Davis addressed the continuing struggle for racial equality in the United States. “As America becomes more diverse, I wholeheartedly believe [that] we can become a stronger nation,” Davis said, “but only if we address the racial inequity that pervades our society.” Nordenberg spoke about the many accomplishments of the University of Pittsburgh before introducing Jealous, whose speech, “Trayvon Martin: Racial Profiling and the Urgent Need to Heal America,” covered a number of historical cases of racial profiling gone amiss. He used examples such as the cases of the Washington, D.C., sniper, a Black man who was routinely ignored by police because of a profile that assumed the shooter was “probably White,” and Lynette “Squeaky Fromme,” the woman who nearly assassinated then President Gerald Ford, and who was ignored by U.S. Secret Service agents for one reason: being female. Jealous pointed to the recent controversy surrounding the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy, which allows a police officer to stop any person without making an arrest based on a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Jealous noted that in 1999, 80,000 people were stopped and frisked by NYPD officers. However, in 2011, statistics show that police stopped a record-setting 684,330 people on the streets, 87 percent of whom were Black or Latino; about half were frisked, and almost 90 percent weren’t arrested. And although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has insisted that the practice has lowered crime rates, Jealous vigorously challenged that portrayal. “Los Angeles’ crime rate has decreased by 69 percent without this program. New Orleans lowered its crime rate 56 percent without this program,” Jealous said. “If truth be told, we are now at the lowest level of crime in this country since the Eisenhower administration.” “We’ve got to stop profiling,” Jealous concluded. “We’ll wake up one day and the president of the United States, the attorney general, the mayor, the sheriff, [and] the FBI will just stop it and say, ‘From here on out, we’ll focus on behavior.’ To get to that point, first we have to document the problem. In the last 10 years, there has been a decade of silence. Congress has had no hearing on profiling since before 9/11. Maybe if we stop doing it, there also will be better relations between citizens and police.”
Following the program, a reception was held in Alumni Hall. Guests included members of the University’s administration and faculty, members of the foundation community, civil rights advocates, and leaders of both the public and private sectors. As was noted in the program by Nordenberg, the school was honored to have present Cecelia Epperson, wife of the late David Epperson, former dean of the School of Social Work.