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PATEL: Current race issues show up in campus safety procedures

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PatelcolorIssues of race and racism in the United States are major topics in the news in light of the court decision that came out of Ferguson. White police officer Darren Wilson was not indicted after shooting and killing unarmed 18-year-old African-American, Michael Brown, following a struggle in early August. This is one of several cases recently where the role of race is questioned as motive for police violence toward black citizens.

Milwaukee had its own case when a police officer, Christopher Manney, struggled with and shot a black man, Dontre Hamilton, multiple times after he was found sleeping in Red Arrow Park.

While these police officers may have been doing their duty to maintain order while protecting themselves and others, they resorted to firing multiple shots, ultimately killing Brown and Hamilton.

The message evoked by these incidents, as well as the consistent trend that police officers are more likely to use deadly force against black individuals, is that black people, especially men, pose a dangerous threat and need to be controlled or killed. This is frustrating to many as it results in the unjust targeting of black communities and puts them at odds with often predominantly white police forces.

A similar trend shows up on campus as black individuals can feel the effects racism.

Writes one Marquette student, “I feel that racism on campus is subtle and most times passive. Many times, students of color are disregarded because some students who are in the racial majority assume that all students of color were admitted into the university through the EOP program because of their stereotypes.”

Black students sometimes feel identified as troublesome and singled-out as possible threats by the Department of Public Safety. Some feel they need to wear Marquette apparel, or carry a backpack to validate their identity as students so DPS does not stop or follow them. Even when they do dress the part of a college student, they often still feel like they are watched closely.

This is not a way for anyone to live. Individuals should not feel out of place in their own communities, schools or even homes for some. It seems unjust for some people to worry whether or not their clothing choices will result in DPS following them that day. DPS is tasked to ensure the safety of students, not police those who fit whatever stereotyped demographic they deem to be unsafe based on appearance and possible behavior.

Appearance is not a justifiable mark of guilt or a motivator cast aside when the subject of race emerges. One’s criminal actions make one responsible for a crime, not one’s racial appearance. People of all races can commit crimes, just as people of all races can be innocent.

A particular group of people should not be watched or treated in a way different from another. This discrimination causes a sense of shame and embarrassment, as well as anger toward institutional forces, such as the police system which views and treats them as and danger.

Race does not define actions, just as fear should not define the use of deadly force as justified. While the bigger picture may seem hard to change, it all starts in our own community.

With the possibility of DPS having police rights, many black students may wonder what this means for them, and how they will be treated. Moving into the new year, campus must consider the recent events as it possibly moves toward a big change. Equal and just consideration should be given by DPS to all those on campus, no matter what happens.

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