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Ibram Kendi discusses recent Rochester incidents during UR MLK address

University of Rochester
Author and antiracist activist Ibram X. Kendi giving a virtual talk for the University of Rochester's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address on Wednesday night.

Ibram X. Kendi, best-selling author and anti-racist activist, addressed recent pain and anger in Rochester over the Daniel Prude investigation during a talk on Wednesday night.

The author of "How to Be an Antiracist" gave a virtual talk as part of the University of Rochester’s 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address.

Kendi commented on this week’s announcement that a grand jury will not indict the Rochester police officers involved in the incident last year where Daniel Prude suffocated and later died.

The author and academic said that the Prude incident was devastating to him on multiple levels, including the fact that he has a brother with a mental disability and he once called police when his brother got into a heated argument with his parents. Kendi said that he feared for his brother’s safety, and noted that since Prude was having a mental health crisis when he was pinned down by officers, it brought up those fears again.

"And the fact that those officers were freed because they were quote, following procedure, says everything that’s wrong with those officers and with procedure. Because to me just because you’re following procedure don’t mean you should do it," Kendi said.

Kendi also commented on the recent handcuffing and pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl, saying that too often, Black children are treated like adults and that will sometimes lead to people defending the actions of officers in cases like this.

He said incidents like these have led to the call for a complete reimagining of public safety.

"In real life people can’t separate police from violence so when people talk about things like abolishing the police, people hear abolishing the police as opposed to abolishing violence, that’s what they’re talking about," Kendi noted.

He also discussed the need to have the availability of people trained in responding to various kinds of crises, rather than traditional police personnel responding to those incidents.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.