Is This Hate? **EDITED**

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:

photo1

and here’s the back.

photo2

Call us crazy, but we all agreed that’s Al Gore in the portrait on the front.  We have NO idea what that means…

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7 Comments

Filed under book geek, compassion and cooperation, concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, GLBTQ issues, Holocaust, Local U., out in the real world, Questions, Yikes!

7 responses to “Is This Hate? **EDITED**

  1. Kari

    I second your assessment that the act on its own wouldn’t be considered a hate crime, but having those “bills” in the sections and books that they were found changes things considerably.

    I would consider it a gateway to hate crimes. Sadly, my family would consider it “witnessing” or spreading the gospel without realizing just how judgemental they really are toward others.

  2. I don’t know that I would consider it hate, though it’s clearly over zealous witnessing so it’s something I hate with a passion. It’s pointed but they may figure that only Jews would read things about the Holcaust so they think it’s just good marketing. Either way it needs to stop.

  3. Laurie B

    If I were to pick up a book for a paper I was working on and found that kind of note, I would consider it a hate crime. I would ask the library staff to call the police and the LU would be forced to call a “hate crime” media notice. At least something good could come of it.

    Sadly, overly zealous religious fanatics call it “evangelizing” . I interpret that as them saying”I am right and you are wrong, so shut up.” Why oh why do religious folks think that we all march to the same psychotic drummer. Heck, I’ve got my own to dance too, I don’t need theirs.

    On the other hand, if there were Post Secret note in the same book, how would I perceive as the difference? Same tactic.

    In my world, the post secret person would be reaching out and hoping for an inclusive reaction. The “Jesus is the real thing” people would need to get a call from the police.

    Just my gut instinct and having a Bro in law that could be the one that would be leaving the Jesus notes..not at your LU but in the place he lives.

    Got back to you by way of your recommended “Piece of Doom Cake”….smart guy.

  4. So far, the things I’ve found in library books either have been left there accidentally, or I’m stupid. ;)

    And I think that I would believe the “this” on the fake money to refer to the fake money, unless it was prevalent enough that I found fake cash in several of the books I’d chosen from that section, and none in any others. Even then, I think I’d just be like, “pf. plz. Get a life.”

    But at the same time, while I’ve experienced prejudice and discrimination, it’s never felt threatening to me, so others might not have the same laissez-faire attitude that I do toward this.

    Finally, I think that if a group that had done this WAS contacted by the police, they would see it as evidence that their pseudo-evangelism was having an effect and being noticed.

  5. I think there are bigger threats to society, certainly, but I still think their actions should be addressed and stopped. Calling it a hate crime? Eh, I don’t think so. But since they are placed only in certain books they definitely have a pointed message.

    If nothing else, those books belong to the library and although the pieces of paper are easily removed, I would still consider it a defacement of their property because they have to take the time to return the books to their original state.

  6. I would walk around the library in my “Jesus may love you but everyone else thinks you are an asshole” tee shirt.
    I bet you find the bill droppers then ;)

    It may not be hate, but it is ugly in a bad way

  7. I don’t think this could be considered a hate crime because the messages are not negative. “Jesus isn’t fake like this counterfeit bill” doesn’t sound like hate to me. “You’re going to hell” sounds like hate, because it’s something derogatory toward the recipient.

    Were the Bible verses general, encouraging ones or messages of condemnation and judgment? That would be the determining factor, in my opinion.

    So my verdict, assuming the scripture wasn’t promising fire and brimstone? This behavior was annoying and inappropriate. But not a hate crime.

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