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Hate Crime Exposed as Hoax: Student Hung ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ Signs to ‘Make a Point’

Campus president calls stunt ‘well-intentioned’ and ‘theoretically positive’

The student who hung “White Only” and “Colored” signs on doors and water fountains in a dormitory at Sweet Briar College last Thursday isn’t a racist – she’s a social justice crusader trying to “make a point.”

Yep, barely a week into the fall 2014 semester, and we’ve already got our first official hate crime hoax of the school year.

On Thursday, the president of Sweet Briar College, an all-female liberal arts college in Virginia, sent out a gravely worded announcement about the incident.

“Sometime between 8 and 10:30 this morning, four labels, made with a label-maker, were affixed to doors and the water cooler on the fourth floor of Meta Glass,” wrote President James Jones. “As difficult as this is to believe, two of the labels read ‘White Only,’ and two ‘Colored.’ ”

Jones goes on to note that:

 … we [may] have among us someone who is essentially bigoted and mean-spirited who would recall the Jim Crow days of separation, mirroring the apartheid of South Africa that summoned the calm voice of reason of Nelson Mandela to decry hatred and to seek to change one’s immediate environment for the better.

On the other, perhaps more theoretically positive: Someone … sought to use the old, abusive words to remind us that while such terms were part of the historical past, some of the emotions lurking behind the words might still linger in a few.

Leave it to the president of a liberal arts college to try and spin this idiotic stunt into some sort of teachable moment.

At any rate, the vandal emailed in a mea culpa of sorts to President Jones a day later which read in part:

While posting these extremely hurtful labels, I had one thing in mind. My mission was to show others that words can still have an extreme impact, and the past still resonates with us all. While moving forward, we can never really shake the past. The past is a part of us and we are a part of the past. While they did not necessarily know this before, we are all equal and nobody deserves to be treated unfairly. I was trying to make a point, but the point ended up “making me”…now everyone has ideas on what type of person that I am. I am none of these things….I am myself, I am caring and kind. I am the last person who would ever intentionally hurt someone else, but most of all, I am sorry!

In response, President Jones has asked her to turn herself in and adds that her hoax was well intentioned. 

What has occurred on our College campus since Thursday morning points directly to the fact that sometimes our actions and words, no matter how well intentioned, backfire unexpectedly and inflict pain, hurt, and suffering upon others around us.

The vandalism was justified in part by President Jones in his two letters to the campus community because the school hosted a play during freshman orientation called “In Sweet Remembrancethat delved into the 113-year-old college’s segregated past. The signs were hung the day after the play debuted on campus.

Interesting how a play of that nature ended up helping cause chaos and strife within the community it aimed to teach. Before this student fessed up, the student government president condemned the signs as “dehumanizing” and a blogger called students at the school “little, ignorant f*cks.”

At any rate, this incident will be added to the very long and ever-growing list of campus hate crime hoaxes:

March 24, 2014: The Grand Valley State University student who found racist graffiti on her dorm room door’s whiteboard in mid-February is the same person who put it there, police have determined.

November 27, 2013: Hate Crime Hoax Exposed at Vassar College

March 6, 2013: Oberlin College: Alleged ‘KKK figure’ possibly just a ‘person wrapped in a blanket’

July 3, 2012: A lesbian student who received threatening notes–which provoked the campus to host a tolerance rally in her name–fabricated the whole ordeal.

Here’s more on that, from College Fix reporter Blake Seitz writing in National Review Online in December:

The UGA case bears more than passing similarity to “hatecrime hoaxes,” anonymous attacks that are perpetrated not by racists or homophobes but by radical activists impersonating them. Recent incidents at VassarOberlinCentral Connecticut State, and the University of Wyoming are illustrative. “Hoaxes” even have precedent at UGA, where in 1998 it was discovered that a series of homophobic threats and arsons had been committed by their ostensible target, Jerry Kennedy, who is gay. He was charged with three years of probation.

And on and on it goes.

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.