Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's behind "The GW Bubble?"

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the dangers of racial profiling in DC. It concerned a front-page article in The Hatchet about the rising tide of crime on our campus. When I consulted the actual statistics, I realized that rates of crime were actually dropping across the board. What troubled me most about the article was the presumptuousness of campus police, who not only claimed that this was significant, but that they could pin down a cause (city residents near metro) and shift their focus to a particular subgroup of people (young black men). Either campus police are misinterpreting what is actually an optimistic trend, or they are looking for ways to justify profiling DC residents. One anonymous reaction:

Racial profiling isn't dangerous, ignoring the statistics and political correctness is.

No one challenged the main point of my post, which is: police claim an increased crime rate to justify controversial practices that unfairly target our neighbors, even though crime is actually on the decline. I wasn't ignoring statistics; my article was full of them. This suggests that because I don't interpret these particular petty crime reports (7 in two months) as a valid justification for police to stop young black men on a college campus to "ask for their information and what they're doing," I am denying reality. Another reaction:

Where do you draw the line? I should always then be defensive when walking into a shopping mall at home? A restaurant? A sporting event? etc etc...Basically, you're advocating living in fear.

My intent is to assuage fear. Statistics show that the dangers are very modest--especially compared to the surrounding city. There's no line, just common sense. Odds are very good you'll make it home on any given night without any trouble. If I were you, I'd just hedge my bets by concealing electronics at night, taking 4-ride, or pairing up when you're in an unfamiliar area. I am all for a police presence, and I believe in granting them a certain level of discretion, but they need to consider the big picture. When Foggy Bottom is becoming safer and more open to the city around it, is there any reason to start labeling the largest demographic in DC--young blacks--as potential suspects? More importantly, how could this realistically prevent a "crime of opportunity" that is over in 30 seconds anyway?

We live in the US, not some third world country.

We live in the nation's capital, and more than 50% of DC is black. How do you define US? United States? Or "US," as in us out-of-state students (composing 99% of GWU's student pop.) vs. them? As more impressive low-income students come to GWU, especially from the most competitive charter schools, they will bring the best parts of DC with them. This means more ways to connect with our exciting and vibrant city. Unfairly labeling them as suspects will only bring out the worst of DC.

Madeline Twomey just wrote a thought-provoking column on the issue of "The GW bubble."

In the 2010-2011 housing assignments e-mail from GW Housing Programs, the bottom read, "Watch for the 2010 Census in your mailbox! You learn here. You play here. You live here. Get counted here." And they're right. We can all do more to be residents of D.C., not just GW. GW does its part. It's time to do ours.

We can get a lot of benefit from the city: invaluable locations, public transportation, a unique nightlife, and access to local jobs and internships. Students won't feel comfortable taking advantage of these opportunities if they're given the impression that locals are dangerous, and that police are gatekeepers instead of peacekeepers.

1 comment:

Madeline Twomey said...

As the writer of the column, I appreciate your shout-out, but I'd love it if you'd spell my name correctly!