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Hate Graffiti

Compiled by Laurie Cherpock, Cold
Spring Harbor High School,
New York, United States

[ Student Drawing of Hate Graffiti ]

I would like to thank Dennis Kögst, Germany; Nizzan Ziffer and Michal Basham, Israel; Dr. Matthias Heyl, Germany; Emily Greenfield, USA; Eram Meir, Israel; Shasta White, USA; Genia Kosta, Germany; and, Mr. Chris Homer, USA, for their help in making this article possible. All their contributions are greatly appreciated.

Imagine walking down the street and seeing messages sprayed on walls that insult you. How do you react? What are you thinking? Who has done this? All these questions run through your head.

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word, "graffiti"? The true definition of graffiti is either, "an inscription or design scratched into an ancient wall" or "a rude scribbling on a wall." Graffiti is considered by many to be a form of art and free expression. Nevertheless, property laws define graffiti, which defaces property, as illegal and can result in severe restrictions. In addition, antisemitic, sexist, racist, or homophobic forms of graffiti are actually hate propaganda. These acts have nothing to do with freedom of expression or art, but are really serious, criminal acts.

The legal definition of hate propaganda is a technical one and charges against the offenders are often dropped. In spite of that fact, it is essential that we confront these acts. When a community gets involved, it can help minimize the disturbance and open response to modification. One way the German government has been cracking down on their graffiti problem is to cut off funds given to the youth groups. But is that solution the only one?

Emily Greenfield of Cold Spring Harbor High School claims that, "there is not too much I can personally do, but I think that having night patrolmen does a lot. I think that we should have more awareness and that we should get the message across to kids at a younger age that hate graffiti is something that is wrong."

Are night patrolmen our only way out, though? What about common sense and morals? Society should know just from our values that graffiti is wrong. Even though most people feel that they would like to end graffiti, most aren't willing to do anything about it. Nizzan Ziffer and Michal Bashan from Israel claim that, "you can find graffiti every place and it is just ugly. Nothing has been done yet in our country, but we are hoping to change that soon."

The most puzzling thing I have ever heard someone say was that they felt "indifferent" when asked the question, "How do you feel about graffiti?" At the moment when I heard that answer, my heart dropped. Everything that I have done to try to change people's minds suddenly seemed worthless. How can someone be indifferent to hate? Indifference is not caring, not even wondering who is being hurt; it's sad.

Too many people in this world are indifferent. We must take a stand for our beliefs, fight for justice, and try to change the world for the better. We must learn why people take part in graffiti and other hate crimes, and then figure out a way to end it. "We can have patrolmen and night officers twenty-four hours and day, seven days a week, but that is very impractical. What we should want to do is end the urge for people even to want to do anything of the sorts," says Eran Meir, "...for as you watch the photos of the boycott against Jewish store owners, you can see swastikas and the 'Jewish star' painted on the windows, as a kind of early hate graffiti. This is how things started in Germany. And it would have needed people like you to take action against hate, racism and violence," states Matthias Heyl, a historian, educator, and author in Germany.

How do we change peoples' views and make them see the hurt that they have brought on upon innocent people? We should teach the children of the world; they are the future; they can make the change. Parents should teach their children that everyone is equal and that just because someone may have different appearances or beliefs, we are all in a sense the same. In schools, teachers should stress the fact that everyone has the same rights and that is the way it should be.

I was able to find a source on the Internet that gives steps to combat hate action. If you:

If you come across any of these things, you have fallen a victim of this worldwide problem. Here is what to do right away:

  1. Notify the police immediately.
  2. Be sure of the facts (who, when, and where of the incident).
  3. Notify your race equity coordinator or regional office.
  4. Take care, if and when, you go public.
  5. Contact political and social community leaders.

The more people that we can touch with this information, the better off our future will be. Most people I speak to don't want to recognize the hate graffiti. Instead, they think of it as "art graffiti." We first have to be able to make people understand that hate graffiti is not art. Art is supposed to be beautiful work, not disgusting forms of hatred that hurt others. Teodora from Bulgaria says that graffiti is "poetry." I do not understand this concept. Poetry isn't supposed to be on walls; poetry isn't supposed to cause controversy; poetry isn't supposed to hurt.

Where did all this hate start? I can't understand why someone would want to hate someone else. The more hate people have in them; the worse these individuals are as people. Hate is not healthy. It causes illnesses; it makes people sick. "Words and symbols are a gift to communicate and not to denigrate and desecrate," says Mr. Chris Homer, health teacher at Cold Spring Harbor High School; he goes on to say that graffiti is, "the visual equivalent of being hit with a rock." Being hit with a rock must hurt.

Hate -- it's a strong word. It takes upon many meanings. We sometimes use the word "hate" so casually, and we often hate people for insignificant reasons. Not to like someone for his or her beliefs, race, religion, or gender is completely foolish. Young children generally like everyone. They are so naive and oblivious to hate and racism. That is the way that all of us -- adults, teens, and children -- should be. Forget about the looks; forget about the differences; focus on the individual.

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