Who Owns a Hate Crime?

Sometime during finals week this past Fall semester, a dorm room at Ohio Wesleyan was entered and a student’s property was damaged and stolen.  The only discernible marks the perpetrator left were a few swastikas scratched into the frame of the student’s computer.  The incident has been thoroughly reviewed by campus safety and OWU staff and administrators, however, there are no leads on who was responsible for what appears to constitute a hate crime.

Ohio Wesleyan is committed to providing a safe and intellectually stimulating experience for students of all religious and secular persuasions.  I do not believe this instance stands in contrast to that mission.  I recognize this as a single event, a crime perpetrated by an ignorant individual unfamiliar with the Golden Rule or basic modes of civil discourse.  Still, I’m appalled that anything like this could happen at a school included on the list of Colleges That Change Lives.

As I spoke with the victim, his parents, and my colleagues about the episode, a thought struck my mind.  To whom does a hate crime like this belong?  Since it happened in the privacy of a dorm room, should the student determine whether or not it is publicized?  Or, due to the ethnic slurs involved, do all OWUJews have a right, even a need, to know that such an instance has occurred in our community?

From what I know, the victim of this crime is not particularly committed to Judaism at this point in time.  We had never met until we spoke about the incident.  I thought this was ironic considering he was harassed as a Jew.  As we spoke, I wondered how our conversation might have been different if I were speaking with an active member of OWU Hillel.  How would that student have responded differently?  How will we respond as a community?

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One Response to “Who Owns a Hate Crime?”

  1. owujew Says:

    Last night a fellow OWUJew told me this post and the one about stereotyping reminded her of a new program on MTV called A Thin Line (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1627487/20091203/story.jhtml)
    That show focuses on sexting and cyberbullying, but I think the concept also relates to anti-semitic comments. I wonder what percentage of 14-24 year old Jews have received a link or forwarded email with some underlying Jewish slur. I wonder how many have born the brunt of a joke about Jews to save face in a online chatroom. Who draws the line and where?

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