News from the past week:
- July 5th, 2016: Police officer shoots and kills Alton Sterling, a black man, while he was seemingly pinned to the ground, unable to move.
- July 6th, 2016: Police officer shoots and kills Philandro Castile, a black man, after he was pulled over for a broken tail light.
- July 7th, 2016: Five police officers killed by sniper fire during a demonstration against police shootings of blacks.
There is some variation in the data, but regardless, the numbers of black people killed by police in the United States are very high, especially in light of the underlying demographics of the country (roughly 72% of the population is white while 13% of the population is black—further demographic data here), and also in comparison to police violence elsewhere in the wealthy Western nations.
Nathan Nobis, a philosopher at Morehouse College, wrote to me following the shooting of Alton Sterling:
In light of the recent murder of another black man in LA, I wonder if you could post something asking what philosophers (and philosophy teachers) can do, or even say, about all this that might make a positive difference. Philosophy obviously thrives on controversial issues, and all these killings seem to uncontroversially wrong and completely unexcusable. Given that, it’s hard, at least for me, to see what to say or do about any of this, other than to say and do what anyone else might do or say, that this is all just awful. Anyway, I hope this makes sense and wonder if you could do something to raise some productive discussion here about what, if anything, philosophers can uniquely do or say to address these evils.
Consider this post an open forum for philosophers to discuss various aspects of these shootings, including the killings of the police officers. Discussion of substantive philosophical issues, or of practical matters regarding teaching and advising, or of anything else you think important to draw attention to in this forum, is welcome. Please post links to related articles, discussions, and resources elsewhere.
Here are a few related items of interest:
- “Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism—from Ferguson to Charleston“
- Description of and link to the syllabus for “Police Violence and Mass Incarceration,” a course developed by Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt).
- “Philosophers On The Charleston Massacre,” a previous discussion here of the Ferguson shooting and how it might be approached in a philosophy class, and a previous discussion of police violence and race.
- A discussion of “How Many Police Shootings Are Tragic Mistakes? How Many Can We Tolerate?” by Christian Coons (Bowling Green).
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