Gallery: Students Respond to Hate Speech Chalking

No space for Homophobia

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Friday night, students responded to the hate speech chalking found in Worth Courtyard by reclaiming campus sidewalks and buildings.

The chalkings currently cover the space in front of Parrish and McCabe, as well as Sharples, the Science Center, Magill Walk, and other high-traffic areas. Most of them convey positive messages about acceptance — “love is love, show some!”, “homophobia stops here” — but several express anger at the administration and the straight community (“queer specs: run!” and “fuck breeders”).

The overall goal of the chalkings, according to a widely shared student email sent by Andrea Jacome ’14, was to communicate that “this behavior [hate speech] is not okay… let’s try on some level and bring this conversation out, aggressively and explicitly… si se puede!”

Five other students responded Friday by writing an open letter to Dean Braun and President Chopp. Ian Perkins-Taylor ‘13, Gabe Benjamin ‘15, Kenneson Chen ‘14, Jonah Wacholder ‘13, and Joyce Wu ‘15 proposed in their letter that Braun and Chopp “give a 15-minute campus address on Parrish Beach this Monday” to highlight “the impact that a violent threat such as this one has on not only the physical safety, but also the mental and emotional wellbeing of community members.”

Students and alumni who would like to show their support for the proposal are asked to view the letter and sign it.

Update 4/30/2012: Chopp Calls for Entire Community to Attend “United in Safety and Justice.”


  1. The messages “queer specs: run!” and “fuck breeders” are NOT okay. As a straight, white, middle-class ally, I take offense to these messages.

    A) promoting fear in response to fear is not okay. Yes the threats of violence are awful and fear-inducing but let’s not spread that fear to other populations! (specs)

    B) promoting hate in response to hate is not okay. Most of us “breeders” had nothing to do with that hate speech, and this rhetoric turns it into an “us vs. them” battle in which many of the us (allies) are being portrayed as them (homophobes).

    The messages of love are great. It’s just how this campus should respond to hate speech. But promoting hate and fear in turn is not right. Share the love, not the hate.

      • Let me make it clear that I don’t approve at all of the “fuck breeders” chalking, but it has to be taken into consideration that the person who wrote that is far more likely to have had negative experiences with straight cis people than the person who wrote the original chalking has had with queer people. Queerness is a marginalized identity and hate speech (if it can even be called that) against the privileged simply is not as grave. That said, that doesn’t change the fact that retaliating against hate with more hate is completely unproductive.

  2. Also troubling: “Fuck Breeders” was a response by a Swarthmore student, while the threats and insults aimed at the queer community were potentially written by people outside of our academic community.

  3. It seems a theme this year, given the several incidents of homophobic remarks and the Pubnite flag flair-up, that we at Swarthmore strongly, fiercely condemn such events, but then, when students meet hate-with hate, sweep it under the rug because, “Oh, well, that person, because she’s queer/of color/etc. was feeling marginalized.”

    How can we as an institution say violence/hate are universal wrongs but then turn around and make exceptions for our own student leaders? After all, the person who wrote the “fuck breeders” chalking probably has a lot more education/sensitivity training than the teenage hoodlum who I’m guessing sketched the initial slurs.

    Violence is often something marginalized people perform. Iran seeks nuclear weapons because it hopes to show off its prowess against what it perceives as international marginalization. Terrorists set bombs and bullied kids pack guns to school for similar reasons. Maybe the person who sketched the insults did so because he/she is angry at the privileged education/environment Swatties partake in and thought he’d stir some trouble. What I’m saying is, marginalization is never an excuse, and we shouldn’t casually use it as a way of letting our own peers off the hook.

  4. It seems like there’s a pretty valuable distinction to be made here to between hate and anger. I would also consider myself a white, cis-gendered, middle-class ally, but acknowledge that that doesn’t mean I should police how folks I claim to be allies with respond to direct threats on their communities. Messages like “queer specs: run” and “fuck breeders” aren’t hateful, they’re angry. I think anger is productive, and endemic to the ways folks process things (including myself). Having a privileged identity that hasn’t been attacked in the same way, I really can’t say how I’d respond if that were to happen. Chances are, I’d be angry, and would be similarly pretty angry if my ally stopped supporting me because I wanted to vocalize that.

    “Not Right,” frankly your comment reads to me a bit like an attack on “reverse homophobia” or “heterophobia.” The reason why “reverse racism” and other such faux-oppressions don’t exist is because when someone calls–for example–a white person a cracker, or generally derides their racial identity, it isn’t tapping into deeper historical structures of oppression. Similarly to “Yes, but…” I don’t see attacks by folks with marginalized identities against folks with privileged ones as that grave of a threat.

    • I’m pretty sure “fuck queers” is considered hate speech. If you think “fuck breeders” isn’t hate speech, then you’re discriminate on who can be attacked.

    • “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

      But seriously. The writer of this chalking may only have felt anger, but I experienced it as quite bitter/hateful. Do members of the queer community have the right to be angry, resentful, and even hateful? I think so: these are all natural emotional responses. What matters is that these feelings are channeled productively, as you say you think anger can be.

      These issues could devolve to tone arguments really fast, but there’s no getting around it: writing “fuck breeders” is going to make hetero people feel hurt, defensive, and less amenable to changing their attitudes and behaviors. Obviously, straight people’s happiness isn’t queer folks’ responsibility. However, the venting/strengthening allies balance does seem precarious.

      As a more scientific tangent, those of you who have studied social psychology may wish to remember that venting anger/aggressive feelings does not actually make people less angry or aggressive in experimental settings. Just food for thought.

  5. I do not understand how people can believe that it’s ok to chalk “fuck breeders.” Pointing to a marginalized community’s right to be angry does not give them the right to disrespect other people. In a community that is Swarthmore, no one should be insulted, regardless of ethnic background or gender preference.

    I’m sorely disappointed in everyone who is somehow managing to reconcile this form of hate speech simply because it stems from the marginalized community and directed toward the “majority.”

    Hate speech is hate speech. Regardless of whose mouth it comes from.

    • hate speech 
      speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

      • Are you trying to say that “fuck breeders” isn’t speech attacking a group on the basis of sexual orientation? Because it clearly is.

        • Sorry, I was conflating that shorter definition with something else I’d read on Wikipedia and didn’t think to post the full thing—

          In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic.

  6. It sounds like you’re calling for a different standard between “protected groups” and presumably non protected groups. But isn’t speech that intimidates sexual orientation still, well, speech that intimidates based on sexual orientation? Let’s apply the law equally. Hate is hate. Let’s try love.

    • Sorry, I haven’t been expressing myself very clearly in the interest of concision.

      I completely agree that hate is hate and that hateful messages are hurtful and wrong, no matter whom they’re directed at. However, I am still calling for a different standard between hate speech against marginalized groups and hateful messages directed at privileged groups. It is undeniable that people with marginalized identities are more vulnerable to the effects of hate.

      In summary, the “fuck breeders” chalking was hateful and wrong, but it simply does not hold as large of an impact as the original one.

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