“Hate” is a strong word. That is an argument that was used in a recent community debate that started after a concerned parent posted a picture on social media, showing a swastika painted on a light pole in the parking lot of North Grenville District High School.
“Hate” is indeed, a strong word. That is why some parents encourage their children not to say things like “I hate broccoli” or “I hate school”, teaching them to find different words to express themselves instead. However, “hate” is a word that applies appropriately to the swastika. Just like “genocide”, “Holocaust”, and “antisemitism” are strong words, we should not shy away from using a strong word – “hate” – to identify the kind of ideology that fuels such horrors.
The symbol in question was spotted on a light pole in the NGDHS parking lot while the parent was waiting to pick up her child from South Branch Elementary School (parents at South Branch routinely use the high school parking lot for pick ups). The symbol appears to be painted on using white paint. The parent notified staff at South Branch, who assured that they would pass the message along to NGDHS staff so that the symbol can be removed.
While many agree that the symbol is grossly inappropriate, some local parents argue that labelling the painting of the symbol as a “hate crime” is overzealous. Kids will be kids, after all, and some may not even realize what the symbol means. While it’s true that raking the culprits over the coals is not going to do any good, we also shouldn’t make light of an act such as the painting of a swastika in a school parking lot. If anything, it can be an opportunity to connect with youth, explaining the potentially harmful power of mere symbols, and the deeply personal reasons why there are many people in our community who should not have to look at such a symbol.
Being a professional educator, I understand the counterargument. Kids really will be kids. The day before writing this, I spotted a rather large rendering of maie genitalia that appeared to be sketched using a water bottle on the pavement of my school’s parking lot. It is also not uncommon to find swear words etched into trees or picnic tables. These things may represent “bad behaviour”, but they are not likely to cause the type of emotional harm that can come from painting swastikas or words with deep offensive meaning such as the “N-word”. To compare an inappropriate image with a symbol that literally represents hate and genocide is like comparing a frog to a goat.
It is not likely that the identity of the person who painted the swastika in the NGDHS parking lot will ever be found. Good people do bad things, which is probably even more true for youth. No one is suggesting a witch hunt and a haranguing, but parents also need to take a clear position that hate is not a joke, and that it has no place in our community.
Should we break out the handcuffs? No. But restitution can go a long way, as can a meaningful conversation with a dedicated, loving parent.