University of Pittsburgh
March 28, 2012

University of Pittsburgh Experts Available to Comment on Ongoing Events Surrounding Trayvon Martin’s Death


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926



PITTSBURGH—The following two University of Pittsburgh faculty members are available to discuss the ongoing developments surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Black Florida teenager fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Race Scholar Larry Davis Says It Is Important to Focus on the Big Picture When Coming to Grips With the Deaths of Unarmed Blacks

“We need a better focus on this disgraceful national phenomenon,” says Larry Davis, Pitt’s Donald M. Henderson Professor, dean of Pitt’s School of Social Work, and founder of the school’s Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP). Davis says as media attention hones in on individual cases of unarmed Black men being harmed or murdered because of their perceived threat, there is a risk of losing sight of the overall phenomenon. “It’s too easy for people to explain each individual case away,” adds Davis, who likens these cases to the voting irregularities of the last century. “It wasn’t always helpful to look at each and every barrier that kept people from voting,” he said. “What was needed was the overarching Voting Rights Act of 1965, which tackled the entire problem.” 

Davis founded CRSP—the first research center on race at any school of social work in the nation—which has presented more than 160 free public lectures on the societal dysfunction resulting from racial prejudice as well as proposing solutions to overcoming those problems. He regularly assembles the finest scholars in the world for Summer Institutes that offer solutions to race discrimination challenges of national importance. Davis is author of Working With African American Males: A Guide to Practice (Sage Publications, 1999). He is coeditor-in-chief of the 20th edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Work (NASW Press/Oxford University Press, 2008); coauthor of Measuring Race and Ethnicity (Springer, 2011) and Race, Gender and Class: Guidelines for Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups (Prentice Hall, 1989); and founder and editorial board chair of the groundbreaking Journal on Race and Social Problems. He can be reached at 412–780-5012 or or through Sharon Blake.

Legal Scholar David Harris Says the Results of Racial Stereotyping Can Be Deadly

“Stereotyping can lead people to think that everyone in a particular racial or ethnic group is a threat, and when guns are involved, the result can be deadly,” says David Harris, professor of law, Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and associate dean for research in Pitt’s School of Law. According to Harris, the unconscious assumption held by many is that young Black men are dangerous and potentially violent. He says, “This leads people to judge ambiguous behavior as threatening. The result—Trayvon Martin with a can of soda in the wrong neighborhood or Amadou Diallo pulling out his wallet in New York—can be tragic, resulting in an unarmed African American being killed.”

Harris is author of Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work (The New Press, 2002), which led to federal efforts to address profiling through legislation and to voluntary efforts in more than half the states and in hundreds of police departments. Harris also is the author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing (The New Press, 2005). 

Harris writes and comments frequently in the media on police practices, racial profiling, and other criminal justice and national security issues. He has appeared on NBC’s Today show, CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, and National Public Radio, and he has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, among other media outlets. In November, Harris testified at a hearing before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security titled “Twenty-first Century Law Enforcement: How Smart Policing Targets Criminal Behavior.” Harris can be reached at 419-215-8162 (cell), 412-648-9530 (office), or or through Patricia Lomando White.




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