Listen and speak out: understanding Black Lives Matter and Hate Crime
Updated: Oct 12
Listen to the other: Understanding Black Lives Matter and Hate Crime
As we head into National Hate Crime Awareness Week, we need to address questions of identity and community which have become central to our society, which is more divided now than ever before: over Brexit, race, gender identities and rampant inequality.
At points of intense social and political change, prejudice, bias and hate crimes are more likely to occur. Insecurity, fear, ignorance, and anger strengthen group superiority and motivate bigoted attitudes. As people feel threatened and fear losing their livelihoods or place in society, public and political discourses can increasingly devalue and scapegoat ‘others’. Gradually, moral frameworks regarding what is acceptable become eroded, establishing new lows in publicly expressed attitudes and normalising discriminatory practices such as social profiling.
When hate offences lead to targeted aggression or when discriminatory abuse goes unchecked this results in further dehumanization. This is why positive leadership and public awareness campaigns are so needed. Survivors of intense discrimination often say that the sense of being invisible is worse than the persecution itself.
Combined with extremist ideologies about identity and superiority, hate crimes towards migrants and diverse types of minority groups in the UK have doubled in the last five years. With the recent traction gained by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, there seems at last to be an opening to bring the discrimination so deeply rooted in our systems to the fore. While some argued that this was strictly an American problem, the statistics paint a disturbing picture of the status of Black people within the British community.
According to a 2014 study carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, black people, who constitute only 3.5% of the UK’s total population, made up 10% of the total prison population. This suggests a greater disparity than in the US. Another study revealed that a disproportionate number of those who die in police custody are black or from minority ethnic groups. Although past instances of brutality and abuse in immigration detention centres -- such as the deaths of Jimmy Mubenga and Mark Duggan -- have fuelled protests and inquiries, it is notable that criminal charges have never been brought against the government.
Where BLM differs from previous black liberation movements is the recognition that black and other persons facing discrimination need their own voices and words to be heard and seen. White people now occupy the role of allies rather than the voice of the movement itself. This fundamental shift has made leaps and bounds in furthering the cause of black and other minority ethnic groups.
During such trying times as the global pandemic and through social and political changes such as Brexit and LGBTQA movements, it is now more important than ever to create awareness of hate crimes. The George Floyd protests in the UK were the largest outside of the US and seemed to resonate deeply with the British population as well as some politicians. Although it has led to the creation of bodies such as the Committee for the Diversity in the Public Realm, the movement itself seems to have lost its momentum due to the pandemic and a lack of government engagement. 
This National Hate Crime Awareness Week, Rights for Peace joins others in promoting positive attitudes that counter discourses and systems that fuel hate. We can always improve our skills: starting with active listening, speaking out when things around you are not OK and taking the time to experience different perspectives. We have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep, and we hope you will join us in listening hard and speaking out.
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