Smile Politely

Community commentary on batteries

In conjunction with publishing yesterday’s article, we’ve also engaged several members of the community who might have thoughts to share about the so-called “polar bear hunting” incidents in recent months. They are published below. We’ll add any more as they come in.

I think it’s important to remember that the news media — any news media — tries to get readers. Some, like the News-Gazette or Fox News, are businesses that need to deliver eyes or ears to advertisers to survive. So they need to “grab” readers any way they can. To forget that is to be continually surprised that they pick the most incendiary narrative. It also obscures the fact that the phrase “polar bear hunting” wasn’t useful or descriptive — unless everyone who has been assaulted (on campus or off) is, indeed, huge, fierce, lives in the arctic and is in danger of extinction.

But regardless of the fact that a dumb phrase was used and regardless of the fact that the reporting wasn’t as rounded or thorough as everyone keeps hoping it will be, they nonetheless shouldn’t occur, on campus or anywhere. Several people ganging up on one person — particularly one innocent person minding his/her own business — is deeply unfair and a coward’s act. It’s distressing that the importance of keeping campus and the community safe continually gets lost in the sound and fury over how the assaults have been/are being portrayed.

Marci Dodds, Champaign City Council Member, District 4


Well, in the face of the stats it is alarming but not surprising why the media has angled the story in the manner in which they have done. It is also not surprising why the general public has become so alarmed and suspicious. When observing current social issues, it is important to understand the past and its critical significance to the present. Historically, the White elite constructed a ideological frame needed to justify the enslavement of Blacks, the genocidal tactics toward Native Americans, and etc.

For example, racial stereotypes were created to frame Blacks in a negative light that deemed them as inhuman. Evidence of this can be traced to the memoirs of Thomas Jefferson, Madison, George Washington, and etc. Specifically, Black males were illustrated as oversexed, immoral, violent, stupid, and potential rapists toward White women. These cleverly crafted descriptions were blindly adopted and rooted in the minds of non-Blacks. They also gave rationale for the thousands of lynchings, burnings, castrations, and basic terrorism toward Black males that did not end until approximately 1981.

The roots of hatred and stereotypes still live in the psyche of non-Blacks today. Some are conscious that this framing is wrong and decide to reject these feelings while others struggle and hold them tight to the bitter end. Therefore, it is not hard to believe that many in Champaign are drawn to a false conclusion that Black male violence toward unsuspecting Whites is rampant in the area.

Dr. Terence D. Fitzgerald, author of White Prescriptions?: The Dangerous Social Potential for Ritalin and other Psychotropic Drugs to Harm Black Males


I know that people are very concerned with the attacks that happened for seemingly no reason. I feel that the media is reporting them fairly. I haven’t had any problem with that. I do not like the term “Polar Bear Hunting”, though. It has racial overtones that are unnecessary in my view. That is the one aspect of reporting that I do not appreciate. I know that the police departments are working hard to keep the attacks from happening. I think that by printing the arrests as well as the attacks, the people can get a picture of the situation. Unfortunately, not everybody is paying attention to the safety officials’ advice about walking alone late at night or after drinking.

I decided to do a little research of my own and walked Green Street from midnight to 3 a.m. on a Saturday night after I had done a police ridealong the previous two weeks. It was very interesting to see the dynamics of the people on the streets during each of those times. Very different.

I’d be glad to tell you more about my Green Street times. The first was Aug. 28th when I was with a CPD officer. We responded to an attack on Green Street by Murphy’s. I do not know the age or if it was a student or not, but the young man was injured and angry. Several police cars, including University and CPD responded. Several police ran to try to find the suspect. But no one could be found. While I was waiting in the car, groups had gathered on both sides of Green St. Mostly, they separated as white where the injured person was and black on the other side with some taunting going on. The police car was in the middle of the street, so I witnessed all of it. Then I got out of the car and walked Green St. with my officer to clear the people away.

Later around 1:30 we responded to another assault on Green St. by 5th. A student was talking on his cellphone and someone came past him and hit him in the face. It caused his glasses to skew and cut his nose. It shook him up. Again, we went looking on foot based on his description, but no luck finding the attacker. What I noticed was many of the black young men were dressed with the same colors: white shirt and black pants, or red shirt and black pants.

Then at bar closing around 2 we went to Fourth and Green to just stand and observe. Many CPD did the same. There was a huge crowd congregated there. They were just standing around. It was mostly black men and women who I do not think were students. We stayed until about 3. There wasn’t any trouble, but that had been the scene of many altercations earlier in the summer. Then the shift ended and I went home.

The next walk I did was in mid-September with a member of the Human Relations Commission and another council member. It was after a home football game and we went at 11:30 to just walk up and down Green between 1st and Wright. Huge difference! Didn’t witness any assaults. No activity at 4th and Green at all. All the activity happened after 2 when the bars closed. Most people were congregated between Fifth and Sixth Streets. Lots of people! But relatively little trouble. We left at 3.

I broke my leg a couple of weeks after that and I haven’t been able to go out again. But I am still very concerned about campus safety. After my visits, I spoke with the Student Senate Chairman and a few others about what I witnessed and how vigilant I feel the Champaign Police Department is being to putting a stop to these attacks and unruliness on Green Street. I believe they are working closely with the University Police Dept.

Karen Foster, Champaign City Council Member At Large

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