yeah i'm a "faget", what's it to you?
April 19, 2009 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Oh boy. Anti-gay vandalism outside my apartment. What do I do about it?

Heading out of the house on a brief run to the store a few minutes ago, I noticed "Faggots" or more accurately "Fagets" scrawled on my drainpipe, along with a graffiti style tag.

My boyfriend and I have lived here about a year, and although it's not the best neighbourhood, haven't encountered anything like this.

It's most likely the work of a few tweenage girls who like to hang out in our shared back alley and act tough.

On first glance, I wasn't that worried or offended or anything. I want very much to not take this seriously, it's just stupid kids and nothing I can say will change their mind.

I don't really know who these kids belong to, it's possible I know one of their dads to say hey to, but I don't know his relationship to them for sure.

On the one hand, I shouldn't really care, but it bugs me. What should I do? Wash it off? Talk to that guy, find out whose kids they are and talk to the parents? Critique their spelling the next time I see them? Is there anything I can do that will resolve this and not escalate it? Or do I have to just say kids are kids and ignore it?
posted by yellowbinder to Human Relations (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Correct the e to an o. Gather some sticks into bundles and leave them in a neat stack by the drainpipe.
posted by phunniemee at 5:45 PM on April 19, 2009 [23 favorites]

Do what I did. Lie.
I told the girls I suspected of stealing a pair of Convos from our front porch that shoes had been stolen, and I had a hidden camera on the porch, and the film was being examined by the police.
I haven't even seen them walk down our road since then. Hah!
posted by Acacia at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

Assuming you live in a place where they would take this seriously*, I would call the police. Not so much because you want them to go to jail, but because you want them to understand that this is serious and not just a funny little prank. If the police at least talk to them and ask if they saw anything, that should get the message across. Kids will be kids only if they don't know any better and it takes more than "get off my lawn" to get past the eye-rolling sometimes. I'm not sure this would "escalate" things since the likely outcome would be nothing more than some dumb teenagers thinking "OMG!!"

* Bigotted vandalism occasionally makes the local news here with cops interviewed saying they're investigating and take this stuff seriously. I don't imagine they generally "solve" anything, but I do think it sends the message out that it's not a joke.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Correct the spelling with a little sign, perhaps with more formal grammatical annotation. Teenagers are easily embarassed and if you can make them feel like they're even bad at being stupid that will be a far more effective rebuke than getting the dad involved.

Alternately, if you want to get really meta, chalk in an image of a typical geeky teenager (lumpy, unkempt, lines to indicate BO) writing the tag and then a little bubble with " 00/10. F! See me after class"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2009

If this is the first incident, I'd just wash it off or paint over it. If you critique their spelling or give them a hard time, they may just retaliate. If you talk to their parents... well, that may be where they're getting their intolerance.

If they do it again, then you can take steps to escalate appropriately. Otherwise just try to shrug it off to stupid kids.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm really sorry you have to deal with this situation.

If it were me, I would call the police to make a vandalism report which can help you in the future in case it happens again or escalates, or if they've done something similar to someone else.

I don't think you can go around accusing people of things for which you have no proof, though I think you should talk to some trusted neighbors about it so they know what's going on in their neighborhood or your community board if you are in a city. Take some pictures, and let people know. I think the only way to really combat things like this is to get community support.

(And definitely scrub it/paint over it so you don't have to see it again - no one should have to live with that.)
posted by anthropoid at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Paint over or otherwise remove the incorrectly spelled epithet. Make an effort to be vaguely friendly to the girls in the future. Rinse and Repeat. If you see anything other than anonymous misspelled graffiti, consider further action.
posted by dchrssyr at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2009

I would take photos of it then clean it away and leave it at that. If it happens again, take more photos and speak to the police.

You talk of "house" and "apartment" so I'm going to guess you're in an apartment block - if it was an actual house and the scrawl was on your drainpipe inside your yard, that would be trespass as well as vandalism (and possibly even some hate crime thrown in there for good measure - so you should also let the super or body corporate or landlord or whatever know about it. The pics will come in handy for this, or you could show it to them directly.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2009

In schools we are told to Record, Remove, and Report graffiti. I think these are reasonable steps.

You should certainly photograph it--particularly the tag-like portion--before removing it. You should remove it as soon as possible. Graffiti proliferates if left unchecked. Personally, I wouldn't report it--this time--but would if it happens again, in which case you also will have photographic evidence from this incident.
posted by etc. at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'm taking a different look at it i guess...

are you sure it's directed at you particularly? if so, then i'd definitely wash it off and if you see them doing it again get up in their face and put the fear of something in them.

if it's just general bigotry, directed at all fags everywhere (as you would see on the subway or on the side of an abandoned building) just let it go because you will not win this fight.

the distinction to me is that when it's hatred directed right at you (as opposed to a group you happen to belong to) the threat of escalation is much higher. sure, they may be wannabe tween thugettes, but they can still give you a good beating if they have weapon and surprise you.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2009

Goof Off Graffiti Remover works really well. You can find it at Ace Hardware or a similar store. I'd take a photo of the graffiti, then clean it asap so the kids who did it won't get to show it off to anyone.
posted by belau at 6:24 PM on April 19, 2009

Write "Mr" before it and "to you." after it? :)
posted by springbound at 6:26 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Years and years ago, someone wrote "Lesies Live Here" on our apartment door in chalk. We had the same mix of amusement, low-level alarm, and uncertainty about what to do that you describe. We also suspected, based in part on the terrible spelling, that kids did it.

We did nothing, beyond wiping it off. And it was OK. Nothing else ever happened, we lived happily in that apartment for quite awhile longer. We were able to just let it go.
posted by not that girl at 6:27 PM on April 19, 2009

Response by poster: Just to clarify, it's not a large apartment block, I live above a store and enter through the back, about 5 or 6 units in various stores/homes share the space. It's almost certainly directed at us.

I'm not really worried about a physical confrontation with them. Though it can be a rough neighbourhood, and I don't know these girls, I don't get the impression that it's anything more than acting tough.

A lot of good points to consider so far, thanks.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:31 PM on April 19, 2009

I would definitely call the police (in some cities there's a non-emergency 311 number that would be appropriate for this, not sure how things work in Canada). If nothing else, it will create a record in case things escalate. Even if it's "just" kids pretending to be tough, tagging is unacceptable and illegal, especially when it's derogatory. So don't feel "silly" involving the authorities. If they just tell you to wash it off, nthing the suggestion to take pictures.

When I first moved into my current apartment, my mezzuzah was stolen. It made me so angry, not only because it was of sentimental value, but because it was almost certainly done by someone who lived in my building, likely even on my floor. The sense of being surrounded by people who identify you and hate you because you belong to a particular group is oppressive. I'm sorry that this happened to you and your boyfriend.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:45 PM on April 19, 2009

Importantly, don't do anything now. Do not react to it in the slightest way. Any reaction from your part will escalate the situation.

In a few weeks, spay over it.
posted by mattoxic at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2009

Another vote for fixing the spelling. I'd write, "It's 'faggots,' yo!" without erasing what they wrote. Then, a month later or whatever, erase everything. Show's them you're smarter, tougher, unafraid of who you are, and have a sense of humor regarding idiots.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:49 PM on April 19, 2009

Erase the graffiti, and buy a fake security camera decoy and mount it in a prominent place with some sort of scary surveillance sign.
posted by aquafortis at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

In some states, acts such as this can be treated by the authorities as a hate crime, which could REALLY freak out whomever might have done it. Check your local laws. At the very least, get a police record of it, even if it's not "burning crosses" status where you live.

Oh, and don't spend money on a fake camera. Mount one of these in the right spot.
posted by hippybear at 7:05 PM on April 19, 2009

Cleaning up graffiti is your landlord's job, not yours. Document it with video or a camera and then call your landlord.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 PM on April 19, 2009

Someone once wrote "douchenozzle" on the door to my shed, which opens into an alley. I scrawled "that's Captain Douchenozzle swabbie!" under it. A few weeks later it was all wiped off and a simple "aye aye cap'n" was written.

I really recommend doing one of the humorous suggestions, especially with your wish to not turn this into a big deal. If you don't want to make it a big deal, then simply don't make it one. Don't contact the police, don't put up a fake security sign/camera, call the parents, etc... No one should have to be subject to slurs, but people are, so maybe you could just show those kids what a mature person does when someone tries to insult them.

Seriously, I'd just correct the spelling then draw an arrow pointing down to where you have placed a bundle of sticks.
posted by jellywerker at 7:30 PM on April 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center has a free hotline, 800-373-2227, where you can report hate crimes. This would qualify. You can call them, or maybe your city has something similar. Here's a link to the anti-violence project page.

They might be able to tell you what other organizations you could report it to, or if you should report it to the police, etc. It sounds like you're not in any danger yourself, but some organizations try to keep track of anti-gay crimes.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:43 PM on April 19, 2009

If you don't follow the advice of people who say document and report it, you might at least figure out what level of bad behavior you might consider your personal limit, in case it does escalate.

I'd also note that you might not be the only target for such bad behavior. I understand not feeling like you can change people's minds. Maybe you can't. But you can try to change their behavior.

I personally consider reporting it to be what a good citizen does. It can also be an opportunity to build a rapport with your local police.
posted by gryftir at 8:16 PM on April 19, 2009

How big is it? Can you preface it with the words "I ♥"?
posted by hooray at 8:22 PM on April 19, 2009 [15 favorites]

add an arrow pointing to the spelling mistake, and the word FAIL
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:51 PM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Where I live, the police will respond to such an incident. However, for other kinds of hate grafitti, I've had surprising success with the local Jewish Congress. They have a grafitti clean-up squad and zero tolerance for hate vandalism. YMMV, but I hope not.
posted by acoutu at 10:15 PM on April 19, 2009

Ask your apartment manager to clean it off, or offer to do it yourself, and move on with your life. No need for confrontation or sincere discussions about intolerance. Keep it boring, clean it up, move on. A witty response would invite a reaction or continuation of this--not to mention, you don't own the property, so painting something yourself isn't appropriate.
posted by kprincehouse at 11:22 PM on April 19, 2009

Any jokey reaction whatsoever might reinforce the behavior.

I'd say go with the "Record, Remove, and Report" time-tested recommendation. If you wanted, you could leave off the "report" this first time, if you don't think it will escalate later.

I would say getting it cleaned quickly is key; if the landlord or clean-up squad can't come immediately, clean it up yourself ASAP. If this is just bored kids trying to entertain themselves, make it a waste of their time: no external reaction, and the graffiti is only up for a very short time.
posted by IvyMike at 11:38 PM on April 19, 2009

I don't think responding to vandalism with vandalism is the right thing to do, here, however appealing and humorous your inked retort might be. Just deal with it with dignity.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:07 AM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

The best outcome would be that you come to some sort of a friendly understanding with those girls and that they not only come to look at you in a more positive way, but, with you two as perhaps the only gays they know, learn to see all gays in a more positive way. That would be hard to manage but worth a bit of effort, so think about it before you bring the hammer down on some clueless kids.

For starters: ask your landlord to take care of removing it. You just record it for when you report it to the landlord and for your records (in case you have to take it any further or have to remind a slow landlord). Try not to be seen out there taking pictures or they'll think something's brewing and they'll blame you for anything that happens to them.

If you need to escalate it, try to do it through the landlord. The girls did a shitty thing to his property and they're wasting his time and money with the cleanup. If he's from around there, he may have a good idea of who's involved and who the parents are. If it has to be a conflict (involving parents, police, cameras, whatever), make it a conflict between the vandalizers of a building and the owner of the vandalized building.
posted by pracowity at 3:55 AM on April 20, 2009

Make sure it's removed before the kids get out of school today. If that means getting your landlord to reimburse you for your supplies/effort or even if it means doing it yourself free of charge then suck it up, because it will be way less satisfying for these kids if they can't show it off to their friends after school. Don't respond by painting something else because that sends the message that painting stuff outside your apartment is ok.
If you clean this up this vandalism, and any new vandalism right away, kids will get bored and go paint somewhere else.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:38 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm all for "remove it immediately" (photo first if you think you may need it). There are actual studies that show the faster you remove graffiti, the faster the kids get sick of doing it (in that spot, anyway).

I had to remove "bitch-ass nigga" from my window at my (then) new place of employment (a place far more racist than I thought possible in my part of the country). I called the police (I am a town dept head, and figured I might get some professional courtesy or whatever) and he simply asked if I had "pissed anyone off." So, be prepared for that if you call the cops, but certainly YMMV.
posted by coollibrarian at 7:04 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Remove it because it is not just you and the perps that can read it. I would be offended if I saw it but wouldn't feel I had the right to remove it from personal property.
posted by saucysault at 7:29 AM on April 20, 2009

I'd also take a picture of it, and send it to a gay blog like They do a good job of keeping the queer community alert when this sort of thing happens - and I personally feel its important to be reminded that this type of crime happens, and it happens often, and we still have to take the time and energy to be outraged.
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:31 AM on April 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks very much everyone, you gave me a lot to consider.

I just cleaned it off (it was just sharpie on a painted drainpipe, so a little rubbing alcohol on a toothbrush cleared it out pretty quickly. Not the best way to start your day though.) I did take pictures in case it happens again.

I don't think it will escalate, like I said, 99% sure it's just kids being stupid.

I wanted to write something snarky, or leave a note saying that it is a hate crime and taken seriously, but I don't think confrontation is really the best route to go.

I feel a little cowed and passive about the whole thing, but really I don't think it's a big enough deal to warrant taking it to the cops or the blogosphere.

If it happens again I'll definitely report it and take whatever steps necessary.

Thanks again, I'm short on time now but I'll try to mark some best answers later, although you all were very helpful.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:35 AM on April 20, 2009

If it happens again, warn the girls in a friendly, neighborly way that there is possibly a gang of French grafitti artists in the area and as such you are installing cameras. You just wanted them to be on the look out.
posted by agentwills at 10:16 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

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