Saturday, 11 March 2017

Challenging Discrimination and Inequality-Never loose Momentum

This blog is inspired by a combination of a talk from Peter Tatchell, a rise in hate crime post-Brexit and a need to find inspiration during politically and socially deflating times.

In October 2016 I met Peter Tatchell when he hosted a lecture for Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC). During his talk, Peter explored various issues surrounding discrimination and inequality in society. The theme of his discussion felt very relevant in the current social and political climate. From the recent Brexit Referendum and the refugee crisis across Europe to the impending USA Presidential Elections and the upcoming Dutch General Elections, it is clear that human intolerance is prominent.

So it's understandable that Peter emphasised concerns over recent increases in hate crime, particularly against members of the LGBT community, Muslims and members of the BME community. If you are unsure of the definition of hate crime it can be defined as 'crimes that are hostile and prejudiced in their manner, when targeting a person merely as a result of their: disability, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity.'

Disgracefully, racially motivated hate crimes remain the most persistent, accounting for a staggering 42,930 (82%) of all hate crimes recorded in 2014/15. It has been reported that there has been a 41% increase in racially motivated hate crime, since the European Referendum. These statistics could be even higher as many victims of hate crime are reluctant to report hate crime. Also, the recording of hate crime can vary across different police forces and public bodies. This can be due to a variety of reasons including lack of training, resources and a failure by some to take it seriously or identify an act as a hate crime. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we should turn our backs and shrug our shoulders.

One of Peter's messages during his lecture was to speak up against inequality and hate crime. He explained that if enough people make a stand we can make any Government listen. He reminded us of our power when we come together to make a stand against injustice. He reminded attendees of our power when we made a stand together against the unfair poll tax,  which led to changes. (Ok so some of us, including myself, are too young to remember, but the momentum is not lost.) Peter suggested lots of different ways that we can come together including raising concerns with our MP.

Peter also explained that in order to improve equality & diversity you need to speak directly with the people involved to help identify practical resolutions. Anti-discrimination law alone (such as The Race Relations Act 1976) is not sufficient to prevent racial inequality. (I am currently gathering evidence of this through my research as the Project Manager of Race Act 40, a research project exploring local historic racism post-1967.) There must also be equal opportunities within education and the economy. Unfortunately, this is something NREC are very aware of through their day to day work supporting members of the local community. It was only last month that I spoke with a professional who had recently resigned due to institutionalised racism.

So what can you do to take a stand, in solidarity with those suffering from discrimination and inequality? Firstly, you have to remain strong and level headed, as the title says, 'never give up momentum'. You can then explore different ways of supporting victims and challenging injustice. This could include turning your back on everyday discrimination and offering victims support, to demonstrate disapproval of ignorant behaviour. Or you could challenge discrimination in the workplace and other public environments, by reporting incidents that you witness. You may wish to contact local Councillors and MP's to make them aware of your disapproval of incidents. Another method of challenging ignorance can be to encourage integration and debate as often ignorance can fuel intolerance. As Lester B. Pearson famously once said “Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.” Alternatively, you can support the work of an anti-discrimination organisation or campaigner as a supporter, member or volunteer etc. What every you decide to do remember that "whenever one person stands up and says "wait a minute, this is wrong," it helps other people to do the same". (Gloria Steinem)

What is important is that you remain focused on what you want to improve and how it can be done. This will prevent you from losing momentum or focus which could lead to you giving up on fighting for what is right. Or it could even lead to you falling into a trap of behaving in a way which could undermine the cause and what good would that do? As Martin Luther King once said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I find this quote very appropriate when fighting ugliness and darkness, but the reasons are a blog in itself.

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