November 1, 2015
Don't Call Thieves 'Criminals,' Says San Francisco Resident

Some San Francisco residents are saying it's not politically correct to refer to thieves as criminals because it dehumanizes them.

The executive director of the Center for Media Justice in Oakland went on social media recently to urge her neighbors not to label thieves as criminals because it shows a lack of empathy and understanding.

Malkia Cyril was in a forum on Next Door, a social network designed to allow neighbors to interact online in the Crime and Safety Area, when she made the suggestion, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

She says it would be better if people referred to the thief specifically: "the person who stole my bike," or "the person who stole my bag."

"I think we should think twice before speaking in disparaging terms about 'those criminals.' Police can't stop what desperation will drive folk to."
San Francisco is rife with class warfare as highly-paid tech workers continue to move into the city and displace long-term residents who can no longer afford sky-rocketing rental costs. Some critics have argued the high cost of living in San Francisco is fueling a rise in crime.

Does high cost of living in SF create criminals

Cyril told the San Francisco Chronicle that she wanted to shift her neighbors discussion away from complaining about crime and toward thoughtful discussion about its root causes.

"Imagine risking your freedom to steal a few thousand dollars worth of goods. A cell phone. Most folk here don't know that life. But perhaps, if you took a moment to look around and see what this city has become, you'll understand."
The extreme political correctness took some of her neighbors by surprise and several users commented negatively about Cyril's suggestion. Many posted angry responses about having their stuff stolen. One user, who admitted to being HIV positive and not a high-paid tech worker, questioned whether the person who stole his new bike was really the victim.

Other neighbors agreed with Cyril and thanked her for her remarks. Of the 85 comments on the thread, 61 were positive with many neighbors disparaging the change in San Francisco neighborhoods.

Is it politically correct to call thieves criminals?

They blamed the high cost of living and rising rental prices on the large number of highly-paid tech workers moving into the city, saying greedy capitalists have ruined many neighborhoods.

Many citizens said neighbors should work on building a community, not just a place where people live.

As executive director of the Center for Media Justice, Cyril works to give voice to historically underrepresented groups like low-income workers, minorities, and LGBT communities. The group's website says a one size fits all approach to media reports leaves out important points of view.

Cyril sent an email to the San Francisco Chronicle saying she wanted to open a discussion about the wealth and privilege of many in the Bay Area and how that affects the less-wealthy residents.

"I implored those on the Next Door platform to see low-income neighbors as neighbors, and not suspicious people, I reminded them that dominating wealth and privilege, while pushing ppl out of their homes is a sure fire recipe for increased crime and violence."
San Francisco has made national headlines recently as a sanctuary city that shields illegal immigrants from federal officials unless they have a warrant. Conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly has blasted the city for many of its progressive policies.

The famously liberal city has been at the forefront of discussions concerning women's rights, gay rights, the LGBT community, recycling, global warming, and a host of progressive concerns.

What do you think? Is it okay to refer to thieves as criminals or does that term dehumanize them?

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]