UMPD open to description suggestions

The Somali Student Association first requested the use of “east African.”

by Greg Hestness

The March 23 Minnesota Daily letter to the editor âÄúWhat exactly is an âÄòEast African maleâÄô?âÄù protested the use of âÄúeast AfricanâÄù as a descriptor in crime alerts issued by University Public Safety, saying it is stereotypical. We seek to fulfill our obligation to provide our community with required information for their safety and also to be sensitive to the feelings of historically stereotyped racial and ethnic groups. As a result, two years ago we met with leadership of the Somali Student Association and heard their concerns about the use of âÄúSomaliâÄù as a descriptor. It is not uncommon for a victim of a crime to describe a suspect as Somali. Sometimes, when a victim is him or herself Somali, it may be completely accurate. The Somali Student Association pointed out that for many native-born Americans, the ability to distinguish a person of Somali, Oromo, Eritrean or Ethiopian heritage is doubtful. Therefore, they pointed out that using the word Somali stereotyped their community without a public safety benefit. Their point was well taken, and as a result we began using the term âÄúeast AfricanâÄù at their request. Minneapolis police have also used the term. The writer suggests the term is imprecise. If that is true, we are open to a better suggestion. We are keenly aware that the use of racial or ethnic descriptors is often a toxic subject. We always approach it with deliberate consideration of the benefit of its use in any given case. Greg Hestness, University chief of police