I got this memo through the mass-email system at Local U. the other day:
For the past several years the L.U. Library has been finding fake $100 bills with religious messages like “This is counterfeit but Jesus is the real thing” and bible verses on them. These bills have been found in books all over the stacks on level 4 and 5, but have often been heavily concentrated in specific sections, like books about the Holocaust, books about gender, and sexual orientation. We’ve removed them each time but they reappear; most recently the section of books about the Holocaust were stuffed with them again. We also found out that we are not the only library who has seen this; there are several colleges in Nearby State that have experienced similar vandalism/littering with these bills.”
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I got it, and I can’t decide if I would consider this an act of hate or not. The message on the “bills” doesn’t seem to fit the criteria I would establish for a hate-motivated act, but the fact that these things are being left in the books that they are – and not in, say, the ecology section or in math books – leads me to a different conclusion.
The memo ended with this message from the “Bias Response Team:”
While we do not consider this behavior to be a threat, it does appear to be “pre-meditated and created for public display and attention.” We are asking that you pass this information along to colleagues. We are optimistic that the more this gets out, the more likely someone who knows who is behind this will either come forward with information, or will disclose something that the University Police can use to find the persons responsible. The goal is to stop this behavior.
I’m a little mystified by this. What do you think? Harmless play for attention, or a gateway activity to hate crimes?
**Edited to include**
Since we’re starting the “debate and persuasion” part of the course, I brought this question up to my students the other day and asked them to come to a determination of whether or not these things constituted a hate crime. They’ve got some work to do yet on formuating a solid argument – a bunch of them didn’t bother starting with a defintion of what “hate crime” means, but the general consensus was that, in its current form, this action does not constitute hate. They were quick, however, to point out that where these bills are being left leads them to believe that it wouldn’t take much for them to change their minds; they’d be less likely to consider it a hate crime if one could find these things in math or science books in the library, too.
One enterprising young lady went to the library the next day and came to the following class with one of the bills, which she generously gave to me. Here’s the front:
and here’s the back.
Call us crazy, but we all agreed that’s Al Gore in the portrait on the front. We have NO idea what that means…