ICC’s Conversations on Race and Criminal Justice are Informing the Flint Community

Cole Wharton , Writer

Inside the Intercultural Center, discussions about race and its relationship with our justice system highlighted the differing views and ideologies of those in attendance. 

The event, hosted by the ICC, is part of the Dine & Dialogue series focused on providing a space for conversations regarding a myriad of pressing social issues.

Among those in attendance was Officer Stephen Mayfield who, throughout his decades of service, shares some grievances over how certain police departments function.

“Being in law enforcement for over 33 years, there is definitely systemic racism within certain police departments,” said Mayfield. “It’s a middle-aged male white dominated profession, and some of those beliefs are from officers that climb through the ranks. And they are now in [a] position of power to make decisions on who is hired in their departments and how they’re department is going to enforce the laws within the community they serve.”

Throughout the conversation, ‘the war on drugs’ was discussed by many as evidence that the US Justice System unfairly profiles and incarcerates people of color as opposed to white people.

Mayfield, who once supported the war as a way to clean up his community, has in recent times seen it as a destructive force that has only caused more devastation and despair. 

“ … I truly thought that as local police officer we were trying to save our community by attempting to remove the drugs and drug dealers from the community,” said Mayfield in an email. “… In my opinion, the war on drugs was a lie and though many in politics and positions of leadership will never admit it. The war was on the communities of color and not on stopping the flow of drugs from entering the communities of color such as Flint.” 

According to a 2018 statistic by Drug Policy.org, the percentage of people arrested for drug law violations who are black or latino makeup 46.9 percent of all arrests. This statistic supports the idea that the war on drugs disproportionately targets and harshly punishes people of color. 

Shelby Miller, a person in attendance, shared a story about her time in college and how she feels she was treated favorably by a police office for being a white female. According to Miller, she was out with her friends one night when an officer stopped them to check their IDs since they were all seemingly intoxicated. 

Upon pulling her ID out from her purse, one of Miller’s friends dropped a small bag of cocaine. The officer confiscated the drugs but rather than arresting her for possession, he let her go.

“To make a long story short, it was basically like ‘well i’m going to confiscate this, you get back to where you’re going and don’t do it again’ sort of thing, just a slap on the wrist,” said Miller. 

Those present entered the ICC expecting a night of thoughtful, constructive discussion came to the right place. In an email, Dr. David Luke, ICC director, stresses the importance of programs like Dine & Dialogue on campus.

“ … Students should have access to these conversations and the University is a place where we can learn to have them in a productive, respectful, and enlightening way, building these skills that will benefit them throughout their personal and professional lives,” said Luke.

Dine & Dialogue takes place on the third Thursday of each month. The next one is Thursday, Nov. 21 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. in the Happenings Room within the University Center. Contact David Luke, Ph.D., with any questions.