Most people have heard of hate crimes, but what actually is a hate crime and how can we prevent them?
This year, National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2020 runs from the 10th to 17th of October. Whilst it is important to combat hate crime every day, this week seeks to draw special to attention to the insidious nature and harmful consequences of hate crime.
What is hate crime?
Hate crime is any incidence that breaks the law, physical or verbal, “violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are” based on their transgender identity, religious beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, or race. Even if a person is not actually what the perpetrator thought they were or is not the person about whom the abuse is made, that person is still a victim of hate crime. Common examples of crimes that could be considered a hate crime include assault, murder, hate mail, and harassment. Similar actions that are not illegal or that target different characteristics from those listed are considered as hate incidents, which are not counted in hate crime numbers. These can take many forms, including but not restricted to verbal and physical attacks, unpleasant things being delivered to the house, or, as has become more prevalent in recent years, online abuse, particularly on social media.
Hate crime is part of a terrible cycle where the divisions in our society are increasing hate crimes year on year, which then widens these hostilities. There are severe negative consequences not only for society, but also for the mental health of victims. At a time when the world is dealing with a global physical disease and many would already consider us to be in the midst of a mental health crisis, particularly for young people, we cannot afford to be silent on the issue of hate crime and let this societal disease continue to fester.
What should we do?
The slogan for this year is ‘We Stand Together’. We must stand together to raise awareness on hate crime and stand against those who seek to promote hate, marginalise groups, and divide groups. Every person can play their own small parts to enact mass change. This could be by calling out prejudice, explaining differences in a non-hostile manner, or helping out someone from a different ethnicity who looks like they could some help.
We can begin by reporting hate crime, which can be done both by victim and witnesses. Where we encounter hateful language, we should call it out appropriately and report to the relevant authority, whether in person or through the reporting mechanism on the website itself. It is important to hold such people accountable so that they know that this kind of conduct is completely unacceptable in an open, liberal society.
Our public figures are vitally important in setting examples for society. They may be powerful and famous, but they are not immortal. They have an obligation to watch the kind of conduct and language they promote, and we should hold them to account when they fall short. Words are extremely powerful. There are many people who may see a public figure using racist language and either believe this to be true or see this as a valid excuse to act upon such language. Those of us who know better must stand together to use our voices to stick up for those who do not have a voice. If we see a anyone including politicians promoting hateful or divisive conduct, we can hold them accountable.
In the long-term, improve community cohesion and empower those groups most vulnerable to hate, such as minority ethnic communities. This requires fundamental structural change and engagement on the local level. At JAN Trust, we use a holistic approach to help empower our members of marginalised groups to tackle the problems facing their communities, whether through opportunities to learn practical skills or through our campaign projects, such as our Web Guardians™ programme. Through this programme, we empower Muslim women to combat online dangers like gangs and extremism, so that they can play an active role in strengthening their communities. If you would like to help us continue our vital work, please donate on our website.