Published in the Asbury Park Press 3/09/04
School graffiti: Scrawled bias just as hurtful
Too often lately, we open the newspaper and read about another incident
of bias graffiti in one of our county's schools. This is of special
concern to the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, as we are
dedicated to opposing prejudice, bias and hate wherever we find it.
Words scrawled on bathroom walls, lockers or classroom chalkboards
frustrate school officials and law enforcement alike when they cannot
be traced to a definite source. Most of us want to believe that actions
have a rational basis -- that there is a reason for such vile
statements. Anonymous acts lead some to condemn the school environment,
the community or the parents for permitting a climate wh ere young
people give expression to base sentiments.
The dismaying fact is that, in many cases, young people do things, such
as graffiti, simply because they can. Hidden by anonymity, they may
want the shocked reaction the graffiti will bring. While there may be
instances of organized hate groups -- accessible through the Internet,
influencing impressionable local youth -- there is often the lack of
any rational explanation for hastily scribbled hat e.
So what do we do? We do not ignore or dismiss any expression, anonymous
or signed, that denigrates or threatens any group. We report them to
law enforcement and call our commission's hate/bias hotline at (732)
303-7666. We applaud schools and entire districts that have programs to
educate their students on the damaging effects of such expressions and
take them seriously. We support the efforts o f law enforcement to get
to the source of such statements by interviewing dozens of students,
even if they still come up empty. And we urge parents to set a positive
tone in the home where derogatory language is simply not acceptable.
If a source of bias graffiti can be identified, it should be fully
exposed. If it cannot, we should all seriously consider what we can do
to create an environment in which no young person seeks even momentary
recognition through an expression of hate.
MONMOUTH COUNTY HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION