[Campus Conversations] Protests and Looting: The Exploitation of an Event

October 8, 2020

Every year, Gwynedd Mercy University offers Campus Conversations, a series of lectures, panel discussions, and presentations whose purpose is three-fold: to generate conversation as part of our commitment to intellectual inquiry and lifelong learning; to address relevant, timely, and meaningful topics that speak to our mission and core values; to highlight the expertise of our faculty and other scholars in relevant disciplines. This year’s theme is Systemic Racism.

The first event of the series, “Protests and Looting: The Exploitation of an Event,” focused on the various perspectives in sociological variables that lead to protests and looting in America, the psychology behind these events, and the possibility of easing tensions while creating a more equitable America.

Patrick McGrain, PhD, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at GMercyU, was the discussion moderator, leading the discussion with Townsand Price-Spratlen and William Goldsby, co-authors of the book “Reconstructing Rage: Transformative Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration.”

“With the death of black men at the hands of police officers, we’ve started to see more protesting and looting in small and large American cities,” said McGrain, as he posed his first question to the speakers. “Is what we’re seeing now going to have any serious positive effects down the road?”

As the first of many thought-provoking questions of the evening, this inquiry opened the door to an engaging dialogue.

“Acts of organized resistance in the form of protests are at least as old as the very founding of this nation state and of course go back far longer,” responded Townsand Price-Spratlen, who also is an Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University. “[Protests are] forms of engagement to address structural inequalities and profound injustices, and are fundamental to the understanding of what this country is about, and the very foundation of a critical racial-polarization that we are still processing these decades and generations later.”

As the event continued, William Goldsby, the Founder and Chair of Reconstruction, Inc., stressed the importance of consensus building, and that we as individuals should start building consensus within our own family structures to start facilitating meaningful change.

“To build consensus, there has to be an element of letting go and trust. Because when you have three people making a decision and one does not want to unite with the other two, that one has to trust or either block the movement,” explained Goldsby. “And that requires understanding consensus. And we need to be able to understand first ourselves and how we’re communicating with each other. Many of us don’t understand how to build consensus.”

In addition to further exploring consensus building, our speakers shared their views on whether small scale protests are not effective anymore, whether this “rage” is inescapable, and why are people turning to looting and rioting, among other topics.

As the presentation came to a close, Dr. McGrain posed his final question: Can we create a more equitable America?

“I say yes because humanity is still young and still primitive and we are still on the move. And it’s not just about America. It’s about humanity,” reflects Goldsby. “I would say a resounding yes and having these kinds of conversations build on that yes.” 

To view the entire recording of this Campus Conversation, visit GMercyU’s YouTube Channel.