CJ GUION | EDITOR – IN – CHIEF
On March 20th, Campus Police released a crime alert pertaining to a sexual assault that occurred on March 15th between 6am and 7 am near the intersection of Sullivan Dr. and Dan Allen. The suspect was described as a dark complexion male. Following this crime alert, many students of all races began to question the description of what constitutes a dark-complexioned male; many are calling for more specific details to be released in the future from campus police.
Student Body President Chandler Thompson shared concerns from students with Chief of Police Jack Moorman and they replied with a couple of statements.
University police noted that crime alerts are sent campus wide for two very important reasons. “1. To make the campus aware of a serious crime, in which there may be a continuing threat from the individuals. 2. To aid in the apprehension of the suspect(s).
In the statement released it stated that university police relies on victims to provide them with a description and at times those descriptions can be vague. Moorman explained a situation that occurred on campus when students mistakenly described a suspect as Hispanic, when he was indeed Asian. In this case, students assumed the student’s ethnicity by just looking at his skin.
University police also stated that the changes in descriptions released stemmed from feedback that was received in the past from African American students, staff, and faculty who said that it could be anyone and created a license for increased suspicion of Black people.
“The university police department is sensitive to how its crime alerts affect public perception of all individuals throughout the university community. When a crime alert is sent to 35,000 plus people, references to one race or another can adversely influence people’s self-awareness, perceptions, and attitudes and may contribute unnecessarily to negative stereotypes.” said Moorman.
“At NC State University, race is a much less useful as a descriptor than in many communities in North Carolina. The university has people of color from all over the world. How can we distinguish between black, brown, white, dark complexion, light complexion and other? In a recent article in the News and Observer, writer Ted Vaden, “pointed to photographs of Barack Obama and North Carolina US Representative G.K. Butterfield. Not knowing their ethnicity, could a reader describe them as black or white?”
“Keith Woods, dean of the Poyner Institute, a development center for journalists in Florida, makes the case that race is ethnic, not descriptive. Ethnicity, he writes, does not tell you what a person looks like. “All Irish- American don’t look alike. Why then, accept a description that says a suspect was African-American?”
Some students share a difference of opinion. Lvi Diggs, a Sophomore stated ““I don’t think it’s clear because as you can see there are a lot of different races on our campus. And, the first person people think [in my opinion] about is a black person, but there are also Indian and Latino races that can be dark skinned as well. ‘Dark skin’ is a very vague and ambiguous phrase. I think it makes people more cautious of dark skin black males [at night].”
Paul Vandergrift, a Freshman said ““It’s a little unfair but then again you’re describing someone. So, you have to be as simple as possible. It’s unfair because they say dark-skin male and that’s a huge population of our campus. Would we still feel the way if it were light-skin or white male? Has there ever been an alternate phrase? So far it’s always been a dark-skin male. If it is crime, it is a crime. What point does it even matter? It paints a very dark color for a whole population of people and it sucks. If there weren’t any injustice we wouldn’t have to worry about it? As an African American male, it is pretty disheartening.”
Ashley Davis, a junior in said “I don’t like the term dark complexion male, especially when everything happens at night because, of course, everyone looks darker. That phrase doesn’t help me when I’m trying to protect myself. [Dark complexion male] has a negative connotation, too. I feel like if they know the race, put it. If not, just leave all of that out.”
Moorman said that campus police is always looking for feedback from students, faculty, and staff, and has even agreed to attend a campus town hall forum where students will have the chance the voice their opinions.