Black people have been behind a number of would-be hate crimes against other Black people. But the hoaxes, often intended to shine a light on racism against Black folks, backfire many times and are harmful.
The deceptive act–which cannot be condoned–created an opportunity to address bigotry. Discovery of the epithet moved academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria to warn the cadets, faculty and staff that intolerance at the academy is unacceptable. A video of his speech went viral.
There are several reasons that Black people falsify hate crimes, including psychological illness, attention seeking or rallying support for a cause, Phyllis Gerstenfeld, a criminal justice professor at the California State University Santislaus, told the Christian Science Monitor, referring to these types of case in general.
What’s missing from the list is the element of poor judgment. There are far better ways of calling attention to racism. It’s counterproductive once the truth is discovered, and it creates doubt when a genuine hate crime is committed. At the same time, these hoaxes discourage actual victims from reporting racist attacks.
That kind of misguided thinking was involved in a 2015 case at Kean University in New Jersey. Police arrested an alumna who tweeted threats against Black students. The investigation found Kayla-Simone McKelvey, an activist, paused during a protest to create an anonymous Twitter account and post the messages. Her motive was to create awareness about campus racism.
At St. Olaf College In Minnesota, a faked hate crime brought a measure of good to the campus, which was outweighed by the harm.
Students rallied against bigotry after reports that a threatening message was placed on the windshield of a Black student. Some students said the ruse didn’t change the reality of racism and welcomed the new awareness, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
It also gave ammunition to folks who are less empathetic about discrimination, and it no doubt gave real victims pause about filing a report.