• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 66 comments on Black Students Describe Slurs, Suspicion Following Robberies

  1. I hope the university will take these incidents very serious and do all possible security measures to protect all students in the university belt. Parents have entrusted their children to the university for their safety and working hard to put their children to a prestigious university. Police and security personnel should be visible a all times in shifts and if needed should escort students who leave far from their class buildings by providing rides and escorts back to their apartments or dormitories. Streets and alley ways should be well lighted and surveillance cameras should be placed in all apartments buildings housing Npston University students. Alarm posts should be built in every corner of the streets for students to alert police or security anytime. Police patrols should be doing their rounds in every streets where students live and owned by the university. The university should provide all safety measures to the students and to the area. All suspicious looking people should be interrogated and questioned by the authorities and identification cards should be summoned if they claim to be students of the universities in Boston.

    Town hall meetings should always take place to inform students of what is happening in the area and give them all the necessary warnings and precautionary measures.

    Thank you.

    1. That’s a beautiful world you describe there, Judith. Perhaps we should also call in the TSA to initiate invasive strip searches every time we walk into a Dunkin Donuts on Comm. Ave. too? Meanwhile your assertion that “all suspicious looking people should be interrogated and questioned by authorities” completely ignores the point the article is trying to make. Though you’re not a black male, you need to recognize that the unintended consequences of your police state might result in deeply disturbing offenses and violations of civil liberties. That world might work for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, but the forefathers of our great university and of much of civil rights (Solomon Carter Fuller, Howard Thurman, Harold DeWolf, and Martin Luther King, Jr.) offer a better way.

    2. Surveillance doesn’t protect any one, it is an easily defeated reactive deterrent, and only helps arrest some one after a crime is committed.
      Yes, one bad things happens, so let’s put police on every corner, put everything we do on tape, let every one monitor every action we take and you support “stop and frisk” policies that openly infringe on the rights of minority groups….are you kidding me?

    3. And who is going to pay for all of these Orwellian security measures? More tuition hikes on an already insurmountable student debt? Boston University is in the middle of a city. You can’t expect everyone walking down the street to be a university student and have ID to prove it.

      University students are adults, and while yes, Mom & Dad shipped their babies off to a good school, it is now time for those babies to become adults and take responsibility for their own actions. Like not walking down the street texting and listening to an iPod at night, making themselves an easy target for such robberies (not saying the people who have been mugged were engaging in such activities, but just a general observation).

      As far as I am aware Boston University does offer an escort service but you can not seriously expect BUPD to escort thousands of students to and from class.

      Its unfortunate that these events take place, but we are in a city, and along a rather major road in that city. BUPD is doing what they can, and the emergency alert system, while it has some flaws, is a great feature that not all universities have in place.

    4. @Judith Your child is 18 or older. It’s time they start dealing with the real world and have some awareness of the world around them. You can have public cameras surrounding your house, but I’ll assume most others do not.

      1. Agreed. I’ve spent my entire life in not so safe cities. And a lot of other kids have too. Everyone growing up gets mugged eventually, it’s almost like a right of passage.

        Suburban parents, please stop overreacting and getting mad at the police and especially BU. I think it’s time to get real and embrace the urban lifestyle your child chose.

  2. I’m so annoyed that they’re black like way to make us all look bad and feed into stereotypes. That girl who said she will just stay away from all black people for safety: what is wrong with you?

    1. The better question would be, what is wrong with you? Her response is perfectly reasonable and sound. It may not be a healthy approach for society as a whole, but, perfectly logical on its face. On the other hand, you have projected all kinds of deficiency in her character when in fact, I repeat, it is the logical response as wrong headed as it may be.

      1. Only an ignorant and racist person would associate one crime committed by someone that happened to be black, hispanic, asian and white to the whole race.

    2. I can’t believe you think it’s logical to discriminate on race based on one incident. White people do a lot of terrible things- do you also react in the same way towards them, or is your “logic” selective about that too?

  3. To insure the safety of the students (our children) Boston University along with Brookline PD must increase the patrols to include foot patrols. Perhaps even undrcover officers to protect the community and apprehend the criminals before anyone gets hurt. These types of crime tend to escalate quickly if the perpetrators believe they can continue to act without consequence.

  4. This article does a TERRIBLE job on relaying the information that the first and the fourth robbery are not to be connected to the second and third robbery. Only the second and thrid are believed to be committed by those three males. When you clump all the robberies together it just exacetbates the fear of the black men walking around campus. No one is looking out for them. No one is protecting them or their reputations. Articles like this marginalize the black men on campus just as much as the vague text messages sent out to, “47,562 people.”

    1. I wager that a good majority of the student population assume all the robberies were connected, just from glossing over the email alerts.

      However… hasn’t this miscommunication actually been serving to DIMINISH the fear of black men, as opposed to the reality?

      It’s MORE politically correct to believe the same group were responsible for all the robberies. If the same three men are robbing people, you’d expect them to continue doing so.

      But then we learn the reality is there are two unrelated sets of robberies – and the perpetrators are black AGAIN? Isn’t THAT more fear-exacerbating than the mistaken assumption that the same group did all the robberies?

  5. I think something that was brought up at the meeting but I don’t think was understood was:

    There was text messages indicating that there were 3 black males with different colored hoodies.

    But then when more information came out. Like color of back pack, or type of shoes worn… that information was put into a BU Today Article, and the link was texted to everyone, instead of simply writing that information in a text message.

    The only reason I knew to go to the meeting was because I followed the link online. But a lot of people don’t have time to do that, so why not just send ANOTHER text message saying, “Latest information is that they had a purple backpack, one had braces, and one had airjordans”. That way EVERYONE would know that information. At this point, only people who followed the link to the BU Today article or was at the meeting knows that information.

    1. I stayed to speak with Dean Elmore and the man who was in charge of the alert system. They both understood that that was the point several of us were trying to get across, however, they said they stand by how the information was broadcasted. Apparently the text message alert system was not created for updates as they come…

  6. Way to racially charge a town hall meeting!! (And resulting article!) Slurs are definitely wrong. But I got news for you… if it was 3 white males in hooded sweat shirts, I’d be suspicious of white males around Brookline. Do I not have a right to be suspicious? I think human nature is to be suspicious. It goes back to the rustle in the grass… to be PC do I have to believe it’s only the wind?

    1. I see what you are saying and I agree with your sentiments. I would like to just point out though that there is much more of a stigma attached to black male than there is white male.

  7. I hate to bring up gun laws now and I don’t want to start an argument about gun control. However, I believe that these recent armed robberies illustrate why we should think about allowing *licensed* students/staff/faculty who are in good standing and have no record, etc, etc to carry a concealed handgun on campus property. As a licensed gun owner and BU student, I see no reason why I should legally be allowed to walk down Comm Ave carrying a gun but I can’t step into the GSU or a classroom building. Since I will be on BU property at some point in the day, I have to go all day not being able to carry my gun. Clearly the criminals don’t follow the law since the last armed robbery happened on BU property. Gun-free zones only hurt law abiding citizens by leaving them unarmed. We obviously can’t rely on the police to get there in time to protect us because they haven’t even caught the people yet. (I’m not saying anything negative about the police, it just takes them a few minutes to respond to calls). As mentioned by someone above, we could have all the call boxes and security cameras and patrols driving around but those won’t prevent crime. It is up to us to defend ourselves in situations like this. Imagine if the kids decided to shoot the last girl because she said she didn’t have anything of value.
    This idea isn’t as far-fetched as it seems because some colleges already allow students to carry concealed and there have been no incidences with these students. This website might answer some common questions and concerns about this idea: http://concealedcampus.org/common-arguments/
    That’s just my two cents…

    1. Hear, hear. But I think pepper spray might be an easier sell with this crowd. A lot of people around here seem to have a negative emotional response to idea of concealed carry. It is very difficult to change emotional responses; it requires a complete shift of perception. So I would set my goals a bit lower and try to get restricted FID’s approved on campus. Let people become licensed to carry non-lethal weapons like pepper spray on campus. When people see that this does not interrupt their lives in any way, attitudes may begin to change.

      1. I agree with that idea. While I wouldn’t feel as safe and it wouldn’t be as effective against someone with a gun, it’s still better than nothing. And, like you said, people would probably be a lot more receptive to the idea.

      1. I actually live in the greater boston area and I already have a class A LTC unrestricted, so I can legally carry concealed in Boston (just not on the BU campus)

    2. As our country has developed under the rule of law, armed people have become relatively rare, but they remain far more dangerous, both to themselves and to others (cf. comparative international gun-related death statistics). The rest of us who prefer to go outside unarmed have a right to know who they are (this is just one of many reasons I don’t like visiting states like TX, LA, and AZ).

      Anyone not on duty in active law enforcement who carries a concealed gun in public should be required to wear some kind of prominent disclosure label (e.g., a bright orange hunting hat, etc.). Then we can all apply our ‘rustle in the grass’ instincts and stay the hell away from them.

      This way, public and private institutions which have a desire — or indeed a mission — to encourage a more civil society can pass reasonable rules to exclude from their properties this minority of people who insist on practicing such anachronistic behavior (guaranteed by our Constitution though it may be).

      1. I would argue that armed people are not that rare (224,000 Class A LTCs in MA in 2009 (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/12/20/gun_permits_surge_in_state/)). I would also argue that you do not have a right to know if I’m carrying or not. I took a gun safety class, passed a written and practical test, went through a background check, and was interviewed by my local police chief to receive my permit. I am qualified to carry a gun so you don’t need to worry about me.

        One of the main benefits of concealed carry is that you have no idea who is armed. This prevents people who don’t like guns from freaking out and it also provides an important advantage. If I was required to wear a bright orange hat like you said, I would probably not be robbed. The thugs would go after someone who isn’t armed. However, since they don’t know if I’m armed or not, it’s a little risky for them. They don’t know if their target is going to shoot back or not. If concealed carry holders were required to identify themselves then they would be no more useful than the marked patrols driving around trying to act as a deterrent (which obviously isn’t working).

        I completely support a more civil society, which is why I want to be able to carry a gun to defend myself and the other innocent people. I’m sick of these thugs going around and preying on innocent victims. If the first person whom they tried to rob was carrying a gun, there wouldn’t have been additional robberies. I can tell you’re one of those people who just thinks guns are bad and can only be used to do harm so I’m not going to get into an argument.

        1. Your Boston.com citation actually reinforces my point quite well. The long term trend (think back to when we all lived in caves) is to settle fewer of our disputes through violence. This is why gun ownership has been steadily going down over time (Gallup:
          http://www.statisticbrain.com/gun-ownership-statistics-demographics/ )

          Only recently, in the wake of our Great Recession, have more people have been buying firearms, and as they readily admit, mainly because they feel insecure.

          So I’m sorry to hear about that – but I guess at least carrying your gun makes you feel better, and I can appreciate that. Just don’t shoot me.

          1. I have found slightly different statistics (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150353/self-reported-gun-ownership-highest-1993.aspx). But, either way, armed people are certainly not “relatively rare.”

            The recession was only one reason stated in the article. Other reasons included the election of President Obama (people thought he would tighten gun laws), fear of Governor Deval Patrick implementing new gun laws, self defense purposes, a loss of faith in the government’s ability to protect them, and the civil unrest after Hurricane Katrina.

            Crazy things happen nowadays such as mass killings at movie theaters. Many people are realizing that we no longer live in a society where you can go out and leave your door unlocked. If you would still like to live in your bubble and think that nothing bad will ever happen to you then good luck. I will continue to carry my gun because I know that crime does not discriminate and anything can happen at any moment.

        2. Thanks for looking up the original Gallup link. I never disputed this recent trend (indeed I agree it indicates our anxiety is rising). I’m just insisting on my right to take a longer and more optimistic view of human nature and social progress.

          If you (and Hobbes) are correct, then we are all damned to a world where only ‘might makes right’. That’s just not my view of history, or my vision for the future. Instead I’m inclined to agree with Zakariah who argues that we are lucky to be alive at a time when the world is “profoundly at peace”:
          http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/05/text-of-fareed-zakarias-commencement-address/
          [Evidently he thought this speech was so good he thought he could get away with giving it twice.]

          Anyway, I’ll admit, I’m willing to take my chances in a world where as you say, “anything can happen at any moment”. As game theory teaches us, sure I might lose, but with everybody throwing their dice over and over, we’re all more likely to come out ahead if we can just get past our universal insecurity.

      2. Factually incorrect. Concealed carriers fall far below the national average for crime rates- they are statistically much more law-abiding than the average citizen. About half of American households own guns, so it’s certainly not rare. There are more privately owned guns than people in this country, but gun crime has been in sharp decline for decades. Thirdly, higher levels of gun control correlate to higher levels of crime nationwide- so clearly gun control does not work.

        I think your fears are unfounded and irrational.

    3. I’d prefer a 1911 but until the rules change a knife might be a nice step up from pepper spray… They are nice in that they allow for lethal and nonlethal use for self defense. Additionally, they are really useful tools/ bottle openers. :-)

    4. I am so disappointed with the BU community by saying such ignorant things as “we would all be safer if students were allowed to carry guns to class.” I am glad that society protects me from psychopaths like you who believe- even after all the shootings in public places!!!!!!!- that what we really need are more guns. Use your brain.

      1. Really? and how is that ignorant? If you look at my earlier post you will see that some colleges are already doing this and it is reducing crime on their campus. If guns are so dangerous why don’t we say police officers are no longer allowed to carry guns too.
        And yes, I am a psychopath. That’s how I passed the background check to get my license to carry a gun. And all these public shooting are definitely being done by people just like me, who went through the process to get their LTC and who purchased their guns legally. I’m sure the “juvenile” who just turned himself in for the armed robberies also had his license to carry (which you need to be 21 to get) and I’m sure he purchased his gun legally too…
        Why don’t we just hang up more “no guns allowed” signs to protect us from all these psychopaths and armed robbers! Do you have any other great ideas because clearly my brain that keeps me on Dean’s list every semester isn’t good enough for you.

    1. Just to expand that, we do have a shuttle until 2:30AM and a shuttle on the weekends that runs up to about 4AM. However, the shuttle does not reach the inner areas of Brookline or the parking lots of BU buildings, which are frequented by BU students and faculty. Therefore, the BU Shuttle does not provide a solid solution to this specific situation concerning safety.

    2. True but the fourth armed attack happened right in front of the BU parking lot where commuter students can park; as someone who parks there, I’m now terrified to stay late at the library and walk to my car alone afterwards (which is barely a 5 minute walk).

      1. You can call the Escort Security Service; the number is listed on the back of your ID. They will send two people to walk with you and are available late-night.

    1. Dan,

      While I also do not agree that it is racist to report the race of the men, as it would have been reported regardless of their race, using the phrase “your community” is extremely offensive and entirely incorrect. That is the racist part of your commment.

        1. They probably were not racially motivated because there is a higher percentage of students who go to BU, who are not black. In other words, the probability is that someone of another race is more likely than not to be robbed.

    2. Surprised BUToday is approving some of these extremely racist comments when they censor so many other comments that make the university look bad but are true and not nearly as offensive.

    3. I think I speak for most, when I say we didn’t consider the reporting of race as racist. Our concerns lie in the fact that there were not more details of the suspects that could allow the public to narrow down their suspicions. Due to the vague descriptions, several students have expressed their fear of not only the possible robbers, but of black people, especially black males. This fear triggered by each vague description of the robbers has even lead to BU students being stopped by the police because a student had called into the police. I am just asking BUPD and Brookline Police to release more information about the robbers so BU students have more to look for than just “Black male” and “hooded sweatshirt.” Regardless of race, these vague descriptions help no one in correctly guiding where the suspicions should lie. Additionally, the only community you should be referring to is the society we live in. This whole world needs fixing, what else is new?

      1. How exactly were they supposed to find these details? Not everyone has a scar or an eye pat ch. If people compulsively cry anytime someone of their race does something bad about racism, they are the ones making it about race in the first place.

        1. They had the extra details, but didn’t release them until the town hall meeting, which definitely did not have all 30,0000+ students there for. It’s about the fact that there has been a BU Student that has been racially profiled because of the “black male” description and actually looks nothing like the video or the kids who have been arrested. However, if we had more details to begin with, maybe someone would have taken an extra thought and said, “Oh, yeah, he doesn’t have braces, the Jordans, or etc.”

    4. Dan, your ‘community’ comment ranks up there with the racist remark of the girl quoted at the meeting. To me it’s like a very small taste of what is going on in your mind. I think it is deeply unfortunate that this is your view. If everyone your age thinks this way, then only God knows…

    5. There is no Us and Them. There is only Our and We. The communities are all ours. The issue is not that the reports are racist, but that prejudice and stereotyping is born out of reading the reports from then which black students may be the targets of…

  8. Dan, I completely agree, if they sent out the alerts saying that a tall redheaded female had been involved in 4 robberies then I would get stares from all around campus also and GOOD because that means that the students are on their guard and being AWARE of those around them. If you’re black and it bothers you that they released the race of the suspects stop acting like the world is against you and pulling the card with the racial profiling and let everyone focus on what is REALLY the issue here, that we have suspects of robberies near/on our campus.

    1. Except you don’t hear a lot of red-headed people robbing others, right? You don’t hear about Irish (yeah I’m gonna go there) people being oppressed by poverty and institutional racism now. Decades ago you were the one that was started at in the street. It’s so comfortable to make comments like this when you are the privileged one.

  9. If race is a relevant factor in reporting crimes, then report race for all crimes. How about headlines of this nature–“Person who defrauded bank suspected to be white!”, “Theft of millions thought to be the work of white accountant”, “Corrupt loan practices perpetrated by white bankers.”

    I say to Dan that many members of “your community,” since you think that being of the same community is a simple matter of race, commit crimes but they aren’t identified by race and so you don’t have the opportunity to be offended by identification of such members of ‘your community.”

    1. Going back to the fact of the matter there who is offended should not even be considered an issue here when there are people walking around with handguns not afraid to shove them in students’ faces. Actually Reese the headline of our alert was “armed robbery” and it went on further into the message to describe that there were black suspects just the same as any one of your above articles would probably continue on to say that Italian men or native american women or Caucasian teen etc. If we had only received the alert saying that the robbery occurred and that we should be on the lookout for any suspicious activity or anyone suspected of the crimes, most people would respond by asking what exactly the suspects look like that we are supposed to be watching out for. And yes, I would want to be notified of their race regardless of what it is because if I am looking to identify them by physical appearance that is what I am going to go from. It has nothing to do with community its a simple matter of appearance in identification.

  10. One further thought. There is no single black community that contains all black people. There are many different black communities just as there are many different white communities. And, just as white folks also belong to communities that are multi-racial and/or are based on something other than race, so do black folks.

  11. Lots of good opinions about not only the content of the article but who and how it was communicated. When I think of people like Jerry Sandusky (Penn State), Catholic Priests (pedophiles), James Holmes (Colorado movie massecure) and others who commit terrible crimes against society. I don’t think of their communities, I think of them as individuals. I think the same should apply here. Better to use everyone’s resources to “solving” the crime rather than “blaming” the crime!

  12. This is a complex and challenging issue. We all want the sense of safety that Judith Castillo envisions for her child (OMG, you must be so embarrassed!). But as many others have already pointed out, when subjective human beings try to implement police-state security measures at this level, it almost inevitably leads to violations of individual civil rights.

    Initially this may seem acceptable, especially to those of us whose physical traits and manners of dress and behavior don’t correlate with what the police consider “suspicious” (and especially when we live in culturally homogeneous suburbs where nothing really challenging or interesting ever seems to happen anyway). But it’s very different if you are the one being stopped and interrogated all the time when you’re just minding your own business.

    New York City has been struggling with a stop-and-frisk policy that has clearly gone too far, and the policy itself is actually beginning to undermine the police’s ability to maintain security. I encourage Ms. Castillo and anyone else inclined to question my comments to view this video first:

    http://harvardpress.typepad.com/hup_publicity/2012/06/the-scars-of-stop-and-frisk.html

    Boston should learn from what’s already going on in NYC, and do much much better.

  13. Frankly, the BU Alert System is somewhat responsible for creating what in my opinion can be equated to racial animosity. I graduated from BU now a faculty at BU, but for son long I have gotten these alert messages that seems to always describe the suspect as blacks. After leaving in America for ten years I noticed there always seems to be an emphasis on the description when it involves black people. Whenever I read or hear a story about robbery or rape or other crime I know the next sentence will have the word black in it. Black male… black male un, deux, trois toujours les memes conneries. I got sick of it. I am not saying we should not give the description of assaillants however, we should be careful in how we present things. I honestely don’t know how to solve this problem but white criminals even if they stand next to you, you won’t know but when you are black you could be Dean Elmore you are looked with suspicion. Just for being black. And I think we should not criticize the girl who reportely say to stay away from black people or something like that.The media and journalist seem to always put an emphasis on race. In doing so they conditionned white people to be scared of blacks even if they are Jesuses. I got stopped once by a policeman because a white girl called and told them that she saw a black guy who looked like the guy wanted for rape and murder on the picture in a grocery store. In America “all blacks look the same I guess. Luckily I had my governement issued id that day otherwise I could have taken a bullet in my African derriere for nothing. Today I wear African clothing all the time… a sort of camouflage until they realize I am actually black. Then who knows what will happen. May God protect us all.

  14. 1. U.S. Americans- you are ridiculous. I am from Latin America and I know what real crime is. When you experience real crime you don’t freak out. Real crime is mundane- it’s part of your every day routine. It’s when fear moves into your mind and fixes up the place for a long-term relationship. You have to deal with it on a daily basis. This is not real crime- this is an anomaly in a world in which crime is not common.
    2. I can’t believe people actually are defending the right to walk around with guns. You have no brains.
    3. I can’t believe people are actually complaining about the amazing response from the university. I wish my country was fortunate enough to have such an effective and caring police force.

    Feel the privilege, be proud of it, and appreciate that others are not as fortunate as you are.

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