Student Life

Souter: ‘(In)Justice For All’ should include more diverse opinions

Violence in the United States is not a “black issue,” it’s an American one. It’s also about to be a bigger discussion on the Syracuse University campus.

On Oct. 28, the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC) of Syracuse University is hosting a panel featuring the mothers of two children whose deaths sparked the Black Lives Matter movement — Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

In addition to the mothers, the panel features a prominent black lawyer, Benjamin Crump, and two black journalists, Sunny Hostin and Fredricka Whitfield. The panel is sponsored and moderated by members of the NPHC, a council comprised of nine black Greek organizations. Department of Public Safety Chief Robert Maldonado will also be in attendance.

There is a wealth of racial minority presence on the panel, but virtually no diversity. Syracuse University students need a racially diverse panel to get a well-rounded discussion of injustice and the effects violence has on communities.

A discussion featuring an almost entirely black cast speaking on a topic widely considered to be a “black issue” does not present an ideal environment for multifaceted discussion. It is not controversial to say that black people believe black lives matter. The panel must include the opinions of officials that have made statements and legal decisions exonerating the killers of black men in the United States for diversity.

Nina Rodgers, Vice President of the NPHC and moderator of the event, said there weren’t offers made to other panelists.

“NPHC did think about other speakers before solidifying this idea, but once this particular group of individuals was thought of, there was no deviation from that,” said Rodgers, a former columnist for The Daily Orange.

It would be unnecessarily cruel to have figures like Neil Bruntrager, the lawyer who defended Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, on the same stage as Brown’s mother. But this panel needs input from people like Bruntrager for truly diverse discussion.

Lesley McSpadden and Sybrina Fulton, the mothers of victims Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, respectively, are not experts on the legal, political and socioeconomic reasons that led to the deaths of their sons. Their proximity to this conflict does not make them authorities — it makes them living victims.

Rodgers said she believes it’s necessary to have the mothers present to hear their stories firsthand.

“We see them on the news and read about them online, but having a personal interaction with them will hopefully help those in attendance to better understand how life has been for them since losing their sons,” said Rodgers.

News media outlets that sensationalize police brutality have thrust these mothers into a sort of “Dead Sons Club,” which is predatory and frankly disgusting. It groups these women together because their sons have been killed without any acknowledgement of the different circumstances in each case; Trayvon Martin’s killer was not even a police officer.

When news outlets put these women into the spotlight because of what they have experienced, they are forced into a position that makes them justify why their sons deserved to live — a position no mother should ever be in, let alone on a global stage.

A panel on injustice is a discussion SU needs to have, but it should also include all members of its community with a racially diverse cast.

This panel needs the input of officials on both sides of this conflict for an educational discussion, but should not include the firsthand stories of the mothers. News media outlets have already forced these women to continuously relive the worst experience of their lives and SU should not perpetuate this type of cruelty on campus.

Correction: In a previous version of this article, the column incorrectly stated the focus of the panel. The panel is focused on discussions about injustice and how acts of violence affect communities. In addition, a quote from Nina Rodgers was not printed in full context. The Daily Orange regrets these errors.

Zhané Souter is a senior broadcast journalism major and forensic science minor. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at and followed on Twitter @zhanesouter.


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