Three months ago, the Leave campaign was asking Britain to ‘take back control’. It told us before a poster of brown bodies fleeing untold war and devastation, that WE, WE the 6th richest country in the world were at breaking point. It spouted bigoted vitriol against migrants, Muslims and minorities. It hijacked the instability of the country’s poorest communities, telling them their problems were not because of endemic inequality, the financial crisis or government cuts, but because of THEM. The Polish, the Pakis, the Muslims. . . Unsurprisingly, reports of xenophobic and racist hate crime have soared since the UK voted Leave in the EU referendum, amidst a wave of anti-immigration sentiment nationwide.
Whilst many of us are getting together, campaigning and fighting for a safer, more welcoming Britain, we also need to raise awareness of how to shout out and stand up to hate crime.
First things first, we need to understand how widespread and endemic this problem is.
REFERENDUM-RELATED HATE CRIMES: THE FACTS
There were over 3,000 reported hate crimes in the week leading up to, and the week following the 23rd of June – that’s an increase of 42% compared to the same period last year. Perhaps more worryingly though, in areas of the UK which backed Leave, there was a colossal rise in hate crimes following the vote. In Lincolnshire, for example, where more voters backed leave than in any other county in the country, there was a 191% increase in hate crimes compared to last year. And these, of course, are just the reported hate crimes. The Annual Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) found that out of the 154,00 racially motivated hate crimes they recorded in 2013, only 15% were reported to the police. This is perhaps unsurprising – many hate crimes still fail to result in a conviction. Many of our most vulnerable citizens – those who are unconfident with their spoken English and those who have irregular immigration statuses are also very weary of reporting crimes to the police.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IN THE FACE OF RACIALLY(/RELIGIOUSLY)-MOTIVATED VERBAL ABUSE?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Can you safely remove yourself from this situation?
Safety first. If the person poses a threat to your physical or mental wellbeing, and if you can easily and safely remove yourself from the perpetrator of abuse, do so. It requires a lot of mental energy to confront an abusive person and it is not your duty to do so.
2. Is it possible to intervene?
You may wish to directly confront the perpetrator over their hurtful and flawed diatribe, but doing so often antagonises the attacker further and puts you (the victim) at greater risk. Try to remain calm and collected, and if you do respond, try to do so in a measured way, saying things like ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ or ‘Im just trying to go to the shop, please leave me be.’ If you do not feel physically threatened by the perpetrator of abuse, consider recording the incident on your phone. If the attacker continues to verbally abuse you, the recording can be used as evidence for the prosecution.
3. What further steps should I take?
If the attack happens on private property – in a café, restaurant or bar, for example – it may be a good idea to talk to management after the incident has happened. They may be able to ban the person from their premises, allowing you to feel safer if you visit the venue again. If the attack happens at a school, report the incident to the pastoral team – schools have a duty to protect their students and staff from racist abuse under the Race Relations Act 1976. Pursue the attack with the police if the incident is serious/ repetitive and the school is failing to take action.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AS A BYSTANDER TO RACIALLY(/RELIGIOUSLY)-MOTIVATED VERBAL ABUSE?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is it safe to intervene?
Safety first. Do not confront the attacker if this puts you in immediate danger. If you feel as though the aggressor does not pose an immediate and serious threat to you or the victim, it may be possible to stand up to them. Ask them to kindly leave the victim alone, and let them know that they are upsetting everyone around them. Let them know that what they’re saying is unacceptable, untrue and hurtful.
2. Is it safe to record the incident?
If you believe the person poses a physical threat to you or the victim, you should not film the incident. This is perhaps why the majority of videos showing racially motivated attacks record older women as the aggressors – a group normally read as physically non-threatening – the majority of hate crimes are actually perpetrated by white males aged 16 – 24. If you are confident filming the incident will not put you/ the victim at greater risk and you are in a visible, populated public place, it it may be the best step to make. It will often prevent the aggressor from continuing with their tirade of abuse or can provide evidence against the aggressor if the verbal abuse continues.
3. What further steps can I take?
Offer your support and solidarity to the victim after the aggressor has stopped/left. Victims of racism are much more likely to experience psychological trauma if no-one intervenes to help them. The following guide provides another productive way to stand up to racism:
ANOTHER WAY TO RESPOND TO RACIALLY/RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED VERBAL ABUSE, BY MAERIL
REPORTING IT: WHAT’S THE POINT?
Stop and searches, immigration detention and memories of Stephen Lawrence mean that ethnic and religious minorities, understandably, do not always have the upmost trust and confidence in the police. However reporting hate crimes and incidents to the police is important and necessary (and doesn’t actually require you talking to the police). Reporting hate crime can and does result in conviction – in 2015/16, the CPS prosecuted 13,032 racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes, 27.7% of the total number reported. And even if your report does not result in a conviction, recording the incident in itself helps. Records are kept of hate crimes and hate ‘incidents’ (harassment, verbal abuse and online messages not considered threatening enough to be considered crimes). These statistics allow everyone to see a truer picture of the racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia endemic in British society. It also allows organisations and charities to build stronger campaigns against the damaging narratives and policies catalysing these malignant attacks. It also allows for the development of localised education and training programmes in areas where hate crimes are particularly prevalent.
HOW DO I REPORT A HATE CRIME?
You can report a hate crime or incident using the online form found here: www.report-it.org.uk/your_police_force, it is relatively simple to fill out – just make sure to recall as many details as possible about the perpetrator of the attack, as well as about the time and place in which it took place. If you’d prefer to report the attack by phone, the number to call is 112. If you do not want to talk to the police or fill in the reporting forms, you can also report a hate crime by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or via their website at www.crimestoppers-uk.org (open in new window). You do not have to give your name and what you say is confidential. It is free to call.
I WANT TO RAISE AWARNESS OF AN INCIDENT I WITNESSED/ WAS A VICTIM OF–WHAT MORE CAN I DO?
There are number of online platforms which can help you raise awareness of the incident.
1. iStreetwatch allows you to record street harassment on its online and completely public timeline – it has recorded almost 500 incidents so far. It also produces a ‘risk map’ documenting the areas where hate crimes have been most prevalent.
2. #PostRefRacism is a hashtag which has been used to call out incidents of hatred, intolerance and racism after the EU referendum. It has been used in a broader way than iStreetwatch’s platform, with twitter users including the hashtag after media reports, statistics and infographics. The hashtag has generated interest from big news outlets like the Guardian and the Independent, so is useful if you want an incident to receive wider media coverage.
3. WorryingSigns is a facebook group which has been used to document verbal and physical hate crimes since the referendum. It’s particularly good for sharing verbal abuse and harassment you’ve witnessed on social media–it includes an album of screenshots documenting online racist/ xenophobic abuse. Reporting verbal abuse to facebook and twitter’s admin teams often results in no further action–this group provides vital support and solidarity to those affected by online abuse.