USC murders question issue of race, crime

Though it’s difficult to admit, the topic of race is still as dividing and mystifying as it was 50 years ago.

This idea has never been so clear as in the recent arrests of Bryan Barnes and Javier Bolden, two black males charged with the murders of USC graduate students Ming Qu and Ying Wu, who were shot in cold blood in the early morning of April 11.

The school and the Los Angeles Police Department have been vigilant in attempting to catch the killers. Finally, some sort of justice might be done.

Yet instead of rejoicing over the fact that two alleged murderers are off our streets, a surprising amount of attention has been pointed toward the two suspects’ race.

Commenters on an online Daily Trojan article posted some troubling thoughts, such as “I already suspected that the villains are African American . . . and I was right.” Other commenters have even referenced George Zimmerman, a suspect in the shooting of a black teenager, and how Zimmerman could have stopped Barnes and Bolden.

It’s terrifying to think that someone would advocate shooting based on racial profiling as a preemptive strike to murder. Even though such comments are naturally hyperbolic, it’s still quite easy to see that the topic of race isn’t going away any time soon. Though the suspects’ race is usually released for the public to help law enforcement catch them, it seems as if it’ll become a focal point in this case.

Race shouldn’t matter. After all, race is purely a social construct, and no biological difference whatsoever exists between races.

Unfortunately, that fact will probably not change the opinion of some people, which begs the question: Why?

Is it because we, as students, live in a predominantly black and Hispanic community? Is it because black men make up 40.2 percent of all incarcerated males, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report? Or is it something else, something more under the radar and troubling?

Some would say that when a Caucasian man is convicted of a murder, he doesn’t represent his race — he’s simply just a murderer who happened to be white.  The same perception should apply to all races.

South Los Angeles is not a dangerous place because of the black and Hispanic population. It’s a dangerous place because it’s filled with gang activity and people who feel as if they have no choice but to steal and kill to survive. An isolated incident has led some students to fear people who had nothing to do with the attack, largely because of assumptions based on skin color.

Were the devastating murders of Qu and Wu in retaliation for something? A gang initiation? A robbery gone wrong? Though the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office says it was a “botched robbery,” we might never know what really happened.

What we do know is that their deaths should not be overshadowed by the race of their suspected killers. Instead of focusing on color, we should be making our school a better and safer place — for all.


Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in film critical studies and lifestyle editor for the Summer Trojan.

21 replies
  1. carl
    carl says:

    The discussion of race, unfortunately, is not out of place when discussing this topic. To do otherwise would be a cop out. The Black community ( whatever that means) does have to take a long hard look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that the culture they often perpetuate and romanticize, that is hop hop culture and often thug culture, is a cancer on their youth and does nothing to help their own people or the perception of their people by others of other cultures. If one of another culture is walking down the street and sees a black approaching they will not think, ” there is a black male, he is statistically more proportionally likely to do me harm unfortunately do to a higher likelihood of having grown up impoverished and without strong male parental role model, but of course that is do to ingrained institutionalized racism in our society as well as historical economic bias”, the person will simple cross to the other side of the street out of fear of being harmed, and rightly so. All any black person can do is better themselves, and thus by extension, better their people one family at a time, and help the perception and the statistics, one person at a time. Fair or not, the victim mentality does not bring a certain race or culture out of poverty and improve the inflammatory statistics. Over compensating any bias with hard work, extra accountability, and taking extra personal responsibility for ones actions, as well as the actions of ones family members, will do more for the catapulting blacks from their cycle of generational welfare then any march or social program will. Why were the shooters partying with the “No Respect Inc.” crew and shooting other party crew members before this horrible crime against the exchange students? And it is valid to ask where the black community leaders are when these types of criminal acts by one of their own occur. The leaders should be vocal in their condemnation of such acts and vocal in taking responsibility for the good and bad of their race, they chose to be in the spotlight and speak for their race, they need to show visible shame and accountability when crimes like this occur. The tough questions have to be asked by any group, if a group is to better themselves, and ultimately, excusing away criminal activity with philosophical gymnastics and high minded, navel gazing, concepts of large scale social injustice only makes for more George Zimmermans, and disgraces the whole race. Maybe if the black communities had more tiger moms, and especially, dads, and a few less Jessie Jacksons and thug icons we wouldn’t they would not have these problems. ( Yes, I am aware the last statement was a bit cheap, but perhaps a there is a little truth there.)

    • The Race Card
      The Race Card says:

      In response to your comments. First of all you fail to recognize the diversity of Blacks in America.
      They are not a member of a collective nation of people immigrating over here from a national collective based on culture, religion, language, or any other homogeneous notion that you could attribute to say mainland Chinese, Italians, Spanish, etc. The things that bind Blacks together into a solitary group is primarily not based on ethnicity, but guided by race and socioeconomic status, and is depicted by the same society that fails to recognize their diversity.

      Question- Are Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, etc. a.k.a. Asians, all bound by the same cultural mores, standards, and behaviors because they resemble each other by the color of their skin? Are they the YELLOW PEOPLE, that should all come together and speak out with leadership as a whole, even if they’ve have had their cultures, language, and origins stripped from them, and herded together like cattle? Do you even think that is reasonable or possible to delineate?

      When you discuss “Black people” in your mind, you must think that you see a group of people that have all originated from the same place, socially, culturally, historically, economically, morally, and ethnically. Your eyes deceive youk if that is the case

      Is this an excuse? No of course not. As Americans, it is shameful that one segment of the society, among many others has not yet reached the heights of prospering in the same way as other citizens have. But this problem is not unique. These problems exist in poor communities regardless of skin color. Are these problems unique to Blacks alone? No, but these problems have become exacerbated by gangs and drugs, which were introduced to desperate people by those seeking to exploit a market (people) that they have no ties with.

      This problem becomes a “racial issue” when the color of skin does not match up with the victim.
      If this had been a white shooting a white, an yellow shooting a yellow, or a black shooting a black. The idea of race become irrelevant and this discussion about “Black history” and poorly sourced statistics, and racist statements would matter not.

      The issue as the writer has pointed out is that people want to talk about it being racial, because of the simple fact that they were different races involved.

      The money trail, or lack thereof.. is pretty much the path that will lead you either into or out of the ghettos of your mind.

  2. The Race Card
    The Race Card says:

    People that throw around statistics to skew in argument around their bias should first get there numbers correct.

    First, violent crime has been dropping everywhere since 2006 each and every year. Second, there are more than twice as many White’s that have committed crimes than Blacks, its the majority so that should be obvious.

    There have been more murders overall committed by Whites than Blacks (FBI Uniformed Crime Report-Table 43- Crime by Race 2010 latest totals). These statistics are put out by the FBI.

    Blacks are more than twice as likely to be arrested for murder than Whites, while more Whites “overall” have committed more murders. The only major category of crime that Blacks lead overall is in Robbery.

    Murder, Rape, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Car Theft, Arson, Fraud, Embezzlement, Stolen Property Receiving, Prostitution, Sex Offenses, are all led by Whites.

    total arrests: 7,066,154 – Whites
    total arrests: 2,846,862 – Blacks

    Or the total distribution of crime by proportion: Whites 69.4 Blacks 28.0

    Now, lets look at those numbers.. Since Blacks make up 13% of the population and produce 28% of the crime, you could extrapolate that ‘Blacks are more apt to commit crime than Whites, until you consider the economic data (and gang statistics) surrounding those numbers. When you consider the economic disparity between the groups, a picture starts to emerge.

    A majority of the crime anywhere is related to economic circumstances and dysfunction associated with gang violence, drugs, and lack of educational and employment opportunity.

  3. Trojan Student
    Trojan Student says:

    I would just like to say thank you to this author for writing this piece. I think that you bring up a valid point. I am truly shocked and disheartened by the ignorance and blatant racism in the comment section. Some of it is truly disgusting, and it is sad that these people represent our university.

    • Fellow Student
      Fellow Student says:

      It’s good to know that the school is teaching us how to think for ourselves, question convention, & not simply accept common generalizations. This issue truly does go beyond simply race. Having done research on Chinese news sources, I was disheartened to see that some Chinese citizens actually praised these murders simply because they were believed to be of a higher class or had family ties to the government. I completely agree that the comments posted here do not represent the university we love so much, nor the students, faculty, & staff that comprise it. As a school, USC has made leaps and bounds in prestige because the people here haven’t accepted mediocrity & past stigmas. We take it upon ourselves to become better individuals to make not only ourselves better, but also this school, it’s students, & what we stand for. I would urge everyone who reads/posts on this article to look reflectively upon yourselves before passing judgment. There are many ways to cut this cake & race is simply on of them. I’m sure that there are situations where life has cut the cake in a way that disadvantaged you as well. Think about not how many ways we can cut up the issue, but rather how we can put ourselves back together, stronger than before.

      “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”

  4. Trojan Student
    Trojan Student says:

    So all of those sociology professors must have gotten their research from Wikipedia, huh?

  5. Lou
    Lou says:

    Yes this is not about race.

    But can you remind black protestors or your theory on race when they call for Asians and other immigrants to get out of “their” neighborhoods when they open up shops?

    It goes both ways. Black people brought up race in Michael Vick’s dogfighting case when IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE.

  6. such a dumb article
    such a dumb article says:

    CLEARLY you are Black because no one else would ever write anything as selfish as this. Two people were murdered by your race, and what do you do? You blame other people for assuming the criminals were Black! Maybe you should look at some statistics and like someone else said, the Black population needs to take responsibility for its actions rather than blaming it on others. Racial profiling might be wrong, but did you ever think that maybe the profile of Blacks being criminal exists in the first place because so many criminals are Black?! Have you not seen a DPS report? Almost every single one lists the perpetrator as being Black or Hispanic… I guessed that the murderers were of those two races because those two races commit the most crimes around here! The probability of the murderers being White or Asian was much, much, lower. Furthermore, the gangs here ARE composed of Blacks and Hispanics, so, to an extent, they are interchangeable.

    • L
      L says:

      You’re a moron. This is a much more complicated issue than you’re making it out to be. Hope you’re not a USC student.

      • Steve
        Steve says:

        Why is he a moron? How is the issue more complicated than he makes it out to be?

        Statistically, he’s completely right. Blacks are statistically more dangerous. There’s something broken with the black race. They need to stop shooting people and start taking some responsibility for their lives.

        The article notes that USC’s neighborhood is full of “people who feel as if they have no choice but to steal and kill to survive.”

        Well, WHY do they feel they have to do that? Why can’t they get a job and work their way through life and education like everyone else? Is it because they’re genetically stupid and lazy and dangerous? Is it because their parents and black culture values toking up and sagging pants, rather than hard work?

        Whatever it is, it’s a problem blacks have to deal with, rather than blaming other races — like this article does.

        • Trojan Student
          Trojan Student says:

          First of all, race is a terribly complicated issue.

          It seems as though you are insinuating that black people are somehow born with the inherent need to shoot people. Or it’s part of the culture. I mean, I’m pretty sure most people, yes, black people included, don’t wake up in the morning and think “You know what? I’m going to shoot somebody today.” I think even criminals realize this does not lead to good things.

          Then to answer your questions,

          Well, sometimes people grow up in a tough life. They grow up in a bad environment with not a lot of people around to support them, and they think that the only way to get by is to steal and kill. Is it right? Of course not, but if the environment around you is not good, then you generally tend to follow by example.

          I would like to note that when I say “environment” I do not mean “black community.” If you think that growing up in a black community automatically translates to murderer, gang member, or what have you, maybe you should talk to Barack Obama, Oprah, or some of my friends who are smart, well-versed, and successful.

          As far as getting a job and an education, again, it goes back to the environment issue. If you come from an environment where education is not important, then nobody is there to motivate you to get an education. Los Angeles has the highest unemployment rate in the country, and it is that much harder if you don’t have an education. Education also costs money, which comes from employment…so there you go.

          I’m not really sure if you’re insinuating if black people are born genetically stupid and lazy and dangerous or not, so I’m just going to skip that. I wouldn’t want make outrageous claims, of course.

          I can soundly assure you that if there were a book on the black culture, it would not include: “shooting people,” “stealing,” and “gangs” as required activities. Are there people in the black community who glorify that? Of course. There are also people in the White, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic cultures who glorify that.

          So if these two men are the “black community’s problem” and no one else’s, then is every white murderer only the “white community’s problem”?

          What I guess I’m trying to say is, you missed the whole point of this article. The point of this article is that these men did not shoot these two students because they were black. We don’t know why they did. But to assume they shot somebody because of their race is terribly ignorant. And frankly, ignorance is what breeds racism.

          • whoelse
            whoelse says:

            Spin all you want, and blame the “environment” all you’d like, but your environment won’t change until you change your attitude and take your responsiblity.

  7. Freddie Nerk
    Freddie Nerk says:

    Prosecutors should demand capital punishment in this case. These vile criminals have no place on this earth. We lost two bright young people who could have created great companies or helped their country. Their lives have been lost and we are left with a couple of low lifes who only want money because they are too lazy to work. I blame them and their parents. I also blame the black community which is failing to provide leadership to the new generation. All they have to look up to are rap singers whose pants are falling down.

  8. Brian
    Brian says:

    This s a deep tragedy for so many good people, the two students, their parents and fellow citizens, their friends and the USC community, los angeles and the United States. I say it starts with the parenting or lack of. Fathers need to live in the house with their children and help raise them on a daily basis. They need a good male role mode. discipline, the security, and income. Without that they have a much higher probability to criminalize. I say if convicted, march their parents before the cameras and make them make a statement of what went so dreadfully wrong and have them accept some responsibility for the pain they brought to the world. Without society landing heavy coresponsibility on the parents, nothing will change, ever.

  9. Bleeding Heart Libs Out!
    Bleeding Heart Libs Out! says:

    College culture is, for the most part, progressive. Academics, especially those in humanities departments, condone egregious actions like this double murder. They rationalize these wanton acts because the perpetrators got the short end of the stick in life; they were neglected by the “European, white dominated” society/system. Then, when the suspects get all this overwhelming evidence against them, you get the hackneyed, “he’s a good boy, he’d never do that, he’s my baby…blah blah blah” with crocodile tears streaming.

    If these two are indeed the perpetrators, I think the one who pulled the trigger should receive capital punishment, and the other, whatever the judge thinks is condign.

    race card = cop out

  10. shocked parent
    shocked parent says:

    As a college professor on the east coast I found the article a perfect read. Disturbing are the comments. I didn’t need to look at the race of the writer. It didn’t matter. What he wrote is absolutely true. “South Los Angeles is not a dangerous place because of the black and Hispanic population. It’s a dangerous place because it’s filled with gang activity and people who feel as if they have no choice but to steal and kill to survive”. I live in a mixed race community. On my street of 10 homes are Caucasian, Asia, African American and Hispanic families. We all get along and skin color or race has no bearing on our friendships. In my city there was a recent murder. An African American male killed by an African American male. The community DID protest. They want it to stop. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers do not want to see their child killed, They don’t want to see their child go to jail for life. The screaming from the pulpits should be to stop the cycle of gangs violence and drugs. These young men (mostly) need hope and they don’t have it. This is a complex issue. It should not be about race. And Freddie, having lived in China, the trial for these suspected murderers would be in about a month and they would be put to death a few days after. Again, this is a complex issue and maybe life in prison on death row is more appealing that the support these young men are getting on the street.

  11. Trojan Parent
    Trojan Parent says:

    Having been alive more than half a century, I’ve witnessed the evolution of our culture from the days of civil rights to the continuing race conflicts of today. Let’s all be truthful here… the main issue that continues to divide our culture is that of all races, African Americans are often most unwilling to accept responsibility for the behavior of members in their community (shall we all remember the OJ case?). Let’s look at the Zimmerman/Martin case. Many black community leaders and politicians are rallying around this incident as if it’s reflective of how all non-blacks behave when it’s simply a tragic example of one vigilante making an awful mistake for which he will pay. However, when two black men walk up to a car with two Asians and shoot them at point black range, where are the black community leaders then? Where are the marches protesting this egregious behavior? Where are the church leaders pounding the pulpit extolling their congregation to stand up against gang violence? That’s right… there’s just silence. So, until the black community is willing to step up and represent their community–both when assaulted and when it is committing the assault–non-blacks will continue to dismiss black grievances because they are often so one-sided. And I have many black friends who agree.

    • Trojan Student
      Trojan Student says:

      You know, just like these two men don’t represent the thoughts of the entire black community, your black friends don’t either. I’m not saying their opinion is not valid, I’m just saying that a few people’s opinions very rarely reflect the majority opinion of an entire group of people.

  12. Chuck
    Chuck says:

    The interesting thing is that some black people, like the author of this piece, make everything about themselves. The real racist issue surrounding this case was the way the news media – and not just the few internet commenters you’re complaining about who have a much smaller reach – spun this story to represent the victims as rich spoiled kids driving a fancy car – actually an old used car worth less than the cheapest brand-new sub-compact. I was shocked to click on the link to this story and find nothing about that – only another self-centered, self-absorbed person who cares only about “their side” and “their people” winning. The nonsense suggestion that this could have been a possible gang or revenge killing is complete and utter fabrication and rumor mongering. Think about it Ms. Watson and admit it. You know you’re spinning lies. And you know you’re taking the focus off the real racism surrounding this story. If you’re going to guess at motivation, and if race played a part in this case, it’s most likely the victims were targeted because they were Asian.

    • Trojan Student
      Trojan Student says:

      There are so many things I could respond to with this, but my first one is — how in the world do you know the author of this piece is black? Do you know the author personally?

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