When you hear the term ‘hate crime’, one of the main words that instantly comes to mind is discrimination. Hate crime and discrimination are both defined in the same way, but hate crime is an a offence against unjust or prejudicial treatment towards different categories of people on the grounds of race, religion, age, disabilities or sexual orientation. The majority of those targeted by hate crime usually suffer in silence due to fears of further physical or verbal abuse by their offenders. Hate crime is an abuse that can be committed against a person or property. A victim does not have to be a member of the group at which the hostility is targeted. In fact, anyone could be a victim of a hate crime.
On Monday the 9th of September, as a 99% Campaigner I participated in a workshop set up by IARS to raise awareness about the issue of hate crime. At first we were presented to by two lifelong campaigners, Councillor Wilma Nelson, the Liberal Democrat Council Ward Rotherhithe, and Richard Walker, Chair of Speaking up Southwark. They both spoke about their experiences when suffering from hate crime and how they managed to rise against it. Councillor Nelson had suffered from racial discrimination when she was first relocated to a new area as the only black person in the area. She spoke about how she had to deal with people from different ages calling her names and vandalising her home. Once she reported it to the police, the response she received was shocking. The police officer suggested that she moved from the area as she would avoid this kind of discrimination if she lived within a more multicultural area. She refused his proposal and stood up for herself and fought the discrimination. During the workshop, her main advice for fighting this kind of hate crime was to speak up, stand up for yourself and to fight it. Her advice was: if one doesn’t try and stand up for their rights and to surrender to this discrimination it will only make their life worse.
Those who suffer from hate crime should always try to speak out. By reporting the crime when it happens will be helpful to prevent these incidents from happening to someone else. It will also help the police understand the extent of hate crime in their local area so they can respond well to it. All hate crimes and incidents should be reported through either calling the police, reporting on-line, self-reporting forms, crime stoppers or third party reports; whether the person is the victim, a witness or reporting on behalf of someone else.
Psychologically, there are many reasons why hate crime occurs within society. One of the main reasons that the group came up with was how power affects a person’s role within society. Those committing hate crime offences usually believe that they have authority over those they are discriminating against, being different to the rest in society. Those who commit such crimes may also be scared of change or anyone that is different to them as they do not understand what they really are, which can be a symptom of ignorance.
Unfortunately, local authorities at this moment in time do not usually take much action against those who commit this crime. Likewise, many people within society are not even aware of this issue either; they see discrimination as a casual form of bullying and do not know how destructive it can be for the person facing it. The government has suggested reinforcing new laws to help offer more protection to LGBT and transgender communities and groups with disabilities, to protect vulnerable individuals from suffering hate abuse in silence. Whether such laws come into force will not however be known until the year 2014.
The real questions are, are we all aware of this issue? Is being prosecuted the right way to make people pay for the hate crime consequences? Will those people that face charges for it change their ways?
During the workshop, the group came up with solutions to help resolve hate crime within society. One of the suggestions was that changing the law to fight this problem will make a difference, but there are additional law reinforcements that need to take place to complete this anti-hate crime campaign. The government needs to come up with ways to make the public more aware of this problem, by starting with hate crime workshops targeting the younger generation up until they leave school by bringing people who suffer from hate crime to speak to them about the effects it has on them. There also needs to be workshops at other public centres so that the older generation also learns more about hate crime. People who face prosecution for this crime should also be given community service whilst they are in prison so that it changes their ways and actions to be able to perform better as a member of society.
To conclude, I believe our society should work together to fight against hate crime through many ways. Starting with the government reinforcing workshops to become more aware of the issue and ways to fight hate crime. We should also try to reach out to those suffering through media campaigns so that everyone becomes aware of just how serious this matter is.
Race, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation or transgender identity should not be discriminated against no matter what. We live in a society where everybody should be equal and has the right to express themselves in whatever way they want. So do not suffer in silence, speak up and remember that together we can fight hate crime as one!