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The Only Thing 'Uncivilised' About Ray Kelly's Talk at Brown was Inviting Him

We protested the NYPD chief's speech because of stop-and-frisk. We engaged peacefully, and I was proud to be part of it.

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And most disappointing to me, my own university president both misunderstood the true nature of educational discourse, chastising not only students but hard-working individuals in Dare as "disruptive". President Paxson failed to mention the racist and  unconstitutional nature of stop-and-frisk in her statements – she could only reduce and allude to the policy as an "opposing view".

When did naming injustice become uncouth? A community forum attended by over 600 students held at the university Wednesday evening did not include, and furthermore did not even acknowledge the achievements Dare and other organizations have reached through decades of activism against racial profiling. As inspiring as it was to see many members come together, the space was an important reminder of how out of touch discourse on racial issues is at Brown and throughout America. The status quo does not abide nor will it even acknowledge critical analysis and a commitment to a dialogue in a space that is not created by the powerful, that is not sanctioned by the scrawl of Latin insignias.

To frame the protest as an "infringement of free speech" for one of the most influential white men in America, is to deny what the protest so powerfully communicated: protest is discourse on the terms of the oppressed, and it takes a "disruption" for marginalized communities to have their voices heard.

We are moving on. Just two days after the action, professors involved with the  Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, have organized a teach-in on the policy. I welcome and thrive off the legitimate intellectual discourse that the Providence community, and this includes my university, has afforded me.

But stop-and-frisk is not just an idea. Racial profiling is not an intellectual puzzle to be spread across the table. Stop-and-frisk is a politically sanctioned system of police brutality, and one of the most conservative institutions in the US – the justice system – deemed it unconstitutional. We are committed to conversations, but until we work to change the inequality embedded in how they currently are carried out, as Brown Professor Tricia Rose urged in the university forum last night, we as a society will not be engaging in true and "free" political speech.

Doreen St Felix is a senior at Brown University.

 
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