Keynote Speaker: Ben Sanders, “Race, Law Enforcement, and Faith-based racism”

Austin Kelly, The Black Bear – On Feb. 27, 2017, Ben Sanders delivered a speech covering the topics of race, law enforcement and “faith-based” racism to any student who wanted to come in the Missouri State University Welcome Center.

benn sanders

Courtesy to Missouri State University.

Ben Sanders was the keynote speaker for this year’s Black History Month, organized by the Multicultural Resource Center. He is an assistant professor of Theology and Ethics at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sanders discussed the origin of race itself, he said, “Race is a relatively new idea and wasn’t fully formed until the 18th and 19th century.”

Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th century philosopher, was the first to construct the idea of race by putting classifications on humans. Carolus classified Europeans at the top, being governed by law, stating that they were rational people. He classified the African Americans at the bottom and as being governed by will.

Sanders quoted the book Between the World and Me, saying, “race is the child of racism, not the father.”

He mentioned other philosophers such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant, who all had shared ideas classifying humans. David Hume said, “Negroes are naturally inferior to whites.”  

Racism is a deeply rooted concept that has been held throughout history.

“Race in America is the only thing where our approach constantly is,” Sanders said. “Things will never get better if we keep talking about this. We will never move forward if we keep obsessing over something that happened 400 years ago.”

The second part of Sanders’ lecture focused on law enforcement. The racial bias found in the law enforcement relates back to the deep roots of racism woven throughout our history.

Sanders said, “There is no white supremacy training in the police academy.”

An investigation to understand the motives of the Ferguson Police Department occurred after the shooting of Michael Brown.

According to the Department of Justice’s report over the investigation, Ferguson’s police and courts show racial bias.

“Ferguson law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes.”

Despite the investigation done by the Department of Justice, Darren Wilson was not charged for his crimes. The matter relates back to the philosophy that African-Americans are governed by will and should be controlled by law. Much like the thinking of the European people in the 18th century.

The last portion of Sanders’ lecture introduced a concept he has been working on for a while and a message for what the people need to do to improve the situation.

Sanders briefly discussed  the concept of “faith-based” racism, which is the idea that people of faith can participate in racist acts such as lynching, but still hold to their faith.

Sanders said, “Faith is what we do, and don’t do, with our lives.”

Being a Christian himself, Sanders proposes this idea so he could try and understand how the church can allow racism within its beliefs.

Sanders concluding his lecture with hope for the future saying, “We can transform the culture of law enforcement. We can demand more from our representatives. We can leave a better future for our children. But we must to be willing to do the real work and we have to come to terms with what our ancestors, especially our European ancestors, have not been able to come to terms with. Its going to cost us a whole lot, its not going to be comfortable, but what is at stake is the very world we leave for our children to inherit.”

The lecture was well received by students who had come to watch. After the lecture was over, students crowded the podium to greet Sanders and ask him questions.

Courtney McShannon, a senior in the major of Operations Management, said, “I thought it was really interesting. Never though of race as the child of racism. It was interesting to see the colonization of it too.”

Phi Beta Sigma member, Walter Kayesse, a senior majoring in biology and president of NPHC, said it is important to have discussions like these.

“Talks like these are important,” Kayesse said. “It was important that it happened. It was everything I expected it to be: raw and straight to the point.”

Kayesse talked about changing the climate on campus and increasing the understanding of racism.

“We have to work to create a climate to break the stigma and reach out to understand racism. Feels really good about that this happened. Talks like this are helping the climate on this campus.”

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