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"Moment or Movement": LSU Symposium Seeks Racial Solutions

courtesy: LSU

Racial discord in the capital city boiled over this summer, and the annual LSU Presidential Symposium is looking into causes and solutions, asking the question “Moment or Movement?”

At one of the Monday forums on that theme, LSU Public Policy Lab director Michael Henderson said two of their annual surveys gave warning signs of the potential for what happened. One of those surveys, City Stats done for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, showed clear differences in black and white responses regarding satisfaction with police.

“You don’t see differences except in one place, and so that tells us there’s something particular about perceptions and attitudes about law enforcement in this parish,” Henderson said

For the past four years, whites have rated law enforcement a 4.5 on a 5-point scale. Blacks have rated law enforcement a 3.

Henderson says the statewide Louisiana Survey shows a similar disconnect, when the question regards the level of confidence that police will not use excessive force.

“White respondents it’s about 75 percent: African-Americans in the state, it drops down to 38 percent,” Henderson said.

And when asked about confidence in equal treatment by police, Henderson says white opinion is very different.

“You know, most of them are like, ‘Yep, things are great; no mistreatment; everybody gets treated the same’. It’s almost 80 percent,” Henderson said, adding, “African-American respondents were under 50 percent.”

One audience member, a white senior citizen – later identified as one of the street preachers who frequents LSU’s Free Speech Alley -- was upset with the topic.

“The idea of public opinion setting public policy is insane!” he declared

Chair of LSU’s Political Communication department, Martin Johnson, was taken aback.

“I actually don’t think the idea that public opinion would affect public policy to be insane at all. That’s democracy,” Johnson admonished.

An African-American student got to the heart of the entire topic.

“I like the idea public opinion drives public policy, but whose public opinion?” she asked

The symposium continues today, with forums on ways colleges and students can work to find solutions to the discord.