Hate reach

Campus police can't do anything about racial slurs targeting UC Davis students

The men who recently shouted racial slurs at two female students at UC Davis are protected by the First Amendment, according to campus police.

In two separate and apparently unrelated incidents last month, two black women—both enrolled at UC Davis—were verbally accosted by white men driving past them in vehicles.

The first incident occurred on Old Davis Road November 13, where the driver shouted the N-word at the woman, who later described to police officers a shabby, white, midsized car driven by a blond, “fat-faced” man, according to Sgt. Don Malloy of the UC Davis Police Department.

Then, on November 22, a navy-blue pickup truck carrying three occupants passed a woman near the intersection of Hutchison Drive and Old Davis Road. Authorities say both passengers in the vehicle shouted, “Fuck you, nigger!”

Malloy said campus police are keeping their eyes open for cars matching the descriptions provided. However, there isn’t much police could do if the accused men are identified and found.

“They haven’t committed a crime,” Malloy explained. “It’s a hate incident, which is protected by free speech. It’s kind of unfortunate that you can disparage someone in public like this.”

The American Civil Liberties Union defines a “hate incident” as an event motivated by bigotry or hatred, but that doesn’t break any laws. A “hate crime” is typically an act of violence or vandalism motivated by the same prejudices.

The late-August defacement of a chalkboard in UC Davis’ Dutton Hall with a racial slur and the accompanying smashing of multiple car and building windows more closely fits the description of a hate crime. No evidence suggests a connection between that event and either of the incidents last month, Malloy said.

While law-enforcement officials may have no grounds for action if the offenders are located, Malloy said that university’s Student Judicial Affairs department could reprimand the men if they turn out to be students.

The university also offers institutionalized support for victims of hate and bigotry through its ethical manifesto, “The Principles of Community,” said university spokesman Keith Sterling. This set of guidelines, meant to be followed by all members of the campus community, states the goal of preserving “freedom of expression” and “civility and decency towards all” while “confront[ing] and reject[ing] all manifestations of discrimination.”

Malloy said that incidents of race-related conflicts have trended neither up nor down in the UC Davis community over time. “We’re fortunate it was just verbal. One can imagine how a hate incident could escalate into a hate crime,” he said.

But UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi made a special point of decrying such behavior in a statement released after the second incident on November 22.

“[W]e will not tolerate these acts nor will we be intimidated,” Katehi said, adding that local police “are working together to preserve a safe environment for all of us.”

Anyone with information regarding the recent hate-related incidents is asked to contact the UC Davis Police Department at (530) 752-2677 or http://police.ucdavis.edu/contact-info.