Crime alerts: racism or reality?

by Anthony Berteaux, Senior Staff Columnist

Nearly 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, without a doubt, our country is still at war with itself when it comes to racial and injustice issues resulting from race-based discrimination. Hundreds of years of structural oppression against minorities have led to a unified mindset of us versus them and whites versus blacks. The Ferguson riots are testaments as to how race tensions between African-Americans and predominantly white police departments are still relevant issues in a post-Obama America.

Some argue our school’s crime alert suspect descriptions perpetrate racism and racial profiling on our campus, especially in regard to African-American males. A popular argument points toward the way crime alert suspect descriptions are drafted. Specifically, how they perpetuate an irrational fear amongst students toward African-American students on campus and instilling covert racism in how we approach our African-American peers.

However, insisting crime alerts perpetuate racial profiling is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It seems the more we say these reports demonize African-American males as criminals, thieving and suspicious, the more it becomes a true statement for us to perceive it as so. We tend to see what we want to see.

Granted, many crime reports sent out do disproportionately feature African-American males as suspects. However, these are objective facts provided by the victims themselves.

“99 percent of the time, our suspect descriptions comes directly from the victim witnesses themselves,” San Diego State Police Department Capt. Joshua Mays said. “We simply put what the victim says.”

The simple matter of fact is African-American males make up a majority of the crime reports because they just simply do.

It’s a tragic and unjust truth reflected in our society. One in three African-American men are in jail, prison, on probation or parole.

No truth will change the matters that suspect descriptions exist to serve an objective purpose: to catch the perpetrator. These descriptions exist not to racially profile anyone, they exist to uphold justice.

On Sept. 9, SDSU campus police arrested the perpetrators of a laptop theft and recovered the stolen item due to a tip from a student who read the suspect and vehicle description in the alert. The student who called the police did so because the suspects were in the described vehicle, not because they were African-American.

It’s really us who add subjective attributes to the descriptions of race. SDSUPD is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s a convenient narrative to blame our issues on other races or administrations without looking at the real problem.

The real war here isn’t racism perpetrated in the crime reports, or racial profiling from our campus police; it lies within students’ perceptions of the idea of race in America today.

The argument that crime reports perpetrate racism only works if we assume that all SDSU students are shallow enough to generalize all African-Americans as criminals, or even generalize all people with dark skin color as African-Americans. Covert racist attitudes against African-Americans on our campus will exist if we truly believe the incorrect and dangerously racist attitude that all African-Americans are like the suspects in crime reports.

We are better than that, at least, I’d like to hope so.

There comes a time and point where we cease riding racial identities and oppressions to blame the administration for these issues.

It’s time to contemplate whether some things are about race — but not all things. This war with race isn’t against police racial profiling against African Americans. The police aren’t the enemy here. It’s about how we define perceptions of race.

In a sense, the real war starts within us.

 Americans. The police aren’t the enemy here. It’s about how we define perceptions of race.

In a sense, the real war starts within us.

Read Marissa Ochoa’s counter-argument.