A University of Memphis student found her car keyed and a racist note on her windshield on the morning of Sept. 23 in the parking lot off Central Avenue, opposite Carpenter Complex.
Written on the note were a racial slur against African-Americans, “You dumb n*****s,” and the words, “F**k North Carolina,” said sophomore track and field student, Nicole Lawson.
“Whoever wrote it knows about the things that are happening in my home city, so it makes their actions seem corrupt,” Lawson said. Lawson is from Charlotte, North Carolina, where Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a police officer on Sept. 20. News of Scott’s death prompted the city’s residents to protest for several days.
Lawson reported the incident to campus police who said they would investigate and review camera footage of the parking lot. U of M police services were unable to answer issue-specific questions. Chief of campus police, Derek Myers, said they take every complaint seriously and are working to obtain evidence of the crime.
“The first thing we try to do is determine if it is personal or not by interviewing the victim and ascertaining if there are any recent disagreements or conflicts,” Myers said. “We also look at similar incidents on or off campus for any useful information like suspect vehicle, suspect descriptions, physical evidence, etc. We will sometimes try to get fingerprints off of vehicles if the scene is fresh, weather permitting.”
Lawson said she doesn’t understand why someone would vandalize her car or leave a cruel note.
“I also told my track coach David Queck about the incident. He was shocked and disappointed that someone had the nerve to do something like this,” Lawson said. She said she had previously spoken to Queck about the effect of Charlotte’s events on her emotions, making it natural for her to tell him about the hate note.
Some African-American organizations on campus said they believe they should start spreading awareness on these types of incidents. “If African-American organizations choose not to speak on these issues, it will appear as if outright racism is accepted at our institution,” Realan Lewis, president of the U of M chapter of the NAACP, said.
Lewis also said she is saddened that times have not changed and our society believes these types of things are normal. She said it is time for Americans to progress beyond seeing people only through their race and ethnicity.
“Racism is not and will not be tolerated on our campus,” Jared Moses, president of the student government association, said. Moses said he saw Lawson’s story on social media and immediately began to bring attention to the situation by informing higher administration.
“I want to provide a space for all students to talk about racism in relation to our country, state, community and campus,” Moses said. He is currently working with the dean of students, Office of Multicultural Affairs and a few other U of M departments to discuss ways to bring attention to racism on campus and prevent situations like this from happening again.