Texas State hosted its eighth annual Roundtable 360 Oct. 3. The conversation centered around this year’s Common Experience theme “The Search for Justice.”
The panelists included Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch and Ashton Cumberbatch, jr., policy advisor, office of Austin Mayor Steve Adler and executive pastor at Agape Christian Ministries.
Each speaker presented an aspect of justice as it pertains to their work. Valdez is from San Antonio. Before being elected Sheriff, she was a captain in the United States Army and worked for the Department of Homeland Security as a federal agent. Valdez discussed fairness and ethics in law enforcement and mentioned how criminals should be treated.
“If we learn the simplest things about people, we can learn to treat them better,” Valdez said. “I train my officers to say, ‘we’re here to take care of the people that are incarcerated, not to judge them.’ Somebody else does the judging.”
Valdez also discussed the relationship between police officers and communities.“Our profession, in certain communities, has not always had the best relationships, and we get to change that,” Valdez said. “We have to make it so that we can have a good relationship with all communities, even the unresponsive communities. One of the things that I started telling our recruiters is that we can teach a person to shoot, we can teach somebody to fight, we can teach somebody to chase, but what I can’t teach them is how to have a good heart.”
Cumberbatch discussed systematic racism within modern institutions, most especially in the justice system, which Bryan Stevenson mentioned in the Common Experience novel “Just Mercy.”
“It is time for us as a community, as a region, as a state, as a nation to become smarter about race, to acknowledge our past, as hurtful as it may be and to agree that there is work to be done to go forward,” Cumberbatch said. “And not to continue to stick our heads in the sand or act as if it will just go away if we don’t talk about it. I’m reminded about cancer. We talk about it freely now, but there used to be a time when people wouldn’t utter the word cancer. They’d say the ‘c-word’ as if not mentioning it meant it would go away. Many of us treat race the same way, and racism, and institutional racism, systematic racism the same way,”
The panelist continued to discuss race relations between police forces and civilians. Common Experience provides events, discussions and speakers centralized around the theme of each year.