Friday, June 4, 2010

Race in America Conference

The University of Pittsburgh is hosting presentations by 46 of the nation’s top experts on racial disparities in the criminal justice system, economics, education, health and family matters. Evening events at seven are open to the public tonight at the Twentieth Century Club and tomorrow at Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum.

Race scholars and activists are presenting the facts about persistent adverse conditions faced by racial minorities, but Charles Gallagher of LaSalle University in Philadelphia says many whites think all racial obstacles have been overcome and mistakenly equate the ethnic experiences of their immigrant ancestors with the experiences of racial minorities. While there's no question ethnic groups suffered discrimination in the past, Gallagher says it was temporary and completely disappeared within a generation or two, while race still figures in all sorts of negative outcomes. According to Gallagher, such disconnects make it almost impossible to have a national dialogue about policies to establish a truly level playing field.

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., says instead of preventing crime and expanding positive opportunities, the U.S. leads the world in its use of incarceration so that a black male born today has a one in three chance of doing time in prison if current trends continue. Mauer says with black children having a better chance of ending up in jail than going to college, policies have to change.

Following the conference, a report and action plan for each of the seven areas of focus will be produced.

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