Several students at La Quinta High School in Riverside County, California were caught playing a late-night game of tag called “Beat the Jew”.
Originally called “Fugitive,” the game consists of “Jews” being blindfolded and taken to a random location off the freeway. They then must make it to “base,” or the school, while being chased by “Nazis” who are out to tackle and capture them. While seven students were caught, the game has 40 fans on its Facebook page.
The game was not charged as a hate crime since everyone involved were willing participants, but the Facebook page has been shut down. The school’s principal reports that since the chase did not take place on campus, the school cannot take action against the students.
However the school recently announced plans to implement an “Anti-Bias Education” program, delivered by the Anti-Defamation League and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area. The curriculum will focus on encouraging teens to take action against bias and bullying, as well as empathy and prejudice. Other schools in the region will also receive training.
One issue that this story brings up is whether Facebook should ban hate pages. Certainly students’ anti-Semitic views and game would exist without Facebook, but the site was arguably a helpful tool in promoting the game. On the other hand, what can be termed a “hate site” may be subjective. Obviously a page promoting violence or harassment towards an ethnic, religious or cultural group is hateful, but what about a page that promotes stereotypes about a group yet is non-violent in tone? In addition, some argued the “Beat the Jew” game was not anti-Semitic since no Jews were actually harassed. The question of how much responsiblity a social networking site has in stopping hate has no clear answers, but given the disturbing incident at La Quinta High, it is in dire need of discussion.
The game is 45-and-out crossed with a fox hunt. Renaming it shifts the aim of the game – it’s not ‘get back to base’, but ‘Beat the Jews’.
It matters what the hunter and the hunted are called in this fantasy world, whom most of the participants identify with, and how we think that the fantasy infects or reflects the real world.
I bet I’d make a mess of trying to explain this to high school students – but for Greens, with our vigorous opposition to Islamophobia, it’s easy: just imagine the game was called ‘Beat the Muslims’ and recast the Nazis as crusaders. Definitely something you’d want to intervene about.