It was inspiring and thought-provoking to listen to the guest speakers at the recent National Hate Crime Conference in Newcastle last week. As an organisation that has developed and currently delivers interventions for perpetrators of Hate Crime, we were keen to hear from the leading experts. Here are a few of our reflections.
The Red Snapper Managed Services (RSMS) Intervention ethos has always been that of ‘early intervention’ and ‘prevention’ when it comes to harmful behaviours. The vital importance of this approach when it comes to tackling Hate was collectively acknowledged by conference delegates and speakers alike. The overwhelming volume of Hate Crime incidents (including online abuse) can only be addressed by fundamental changes to the values we hold as a society. The values of equality and diversity must be reflected and celebrated in all spheres of life, in our institutions, schools, policy, home environment, in the work place.
Our own Hate Crime behavioural Insights Trial has shown that many perpetrators are school-age and the behaviours themselves were motivated by thrill-seeking and/or peer influence. Our participants often lacked an understanding of the impact of their actions and initially struggled to recognise the seriousness. We also found an inconsistent response from schools with many appearing not to know how to deal with the matter (e.g. believing a simple apology would suffice). In defence of schools, they are generally reluctant to formalise any action against pupils for fear of criminalising that young person which is a very positive stance, however, this can result in missed opportunities to refer to Hate Crime interventions which provide the necessary means for behavioural change and prevention of further offending. If left unaddressed, such behaviours are likely to escalate.
The RSMS Hate Crime intervention spends time looking at the Media’s role in exacerbating tensions, how the media can feed into motivators of Hate (such as fear and anger), and how online activity can lead to echo chambers for harmful views that go unchallenged. While this is likely to remain a problem for the foreseeable future, it is also heartening to see some of the positive stories such as the public response to the appalling abuse endured by England penalty takers following the Euro’s. Teaching young people how to be more critical and questioning of the media and sensational headlines has been an invaluable life lesson which will help participants challenge a range of prejudice. I was interested to hear that far-right organisations seem to be adapting their approach in order to rally support from sections of society, using a hidden agenda to get behind causes that are emotive for particular localities and rooting themselves within communities. Again, another topic our intervention covers is the psychology of ‘in-group/out-group’ and this more discreet version is perhaps even more dangerous given the seeds that are being sown and left to grow gradually, the metaphor of the ‘Boiling Frog’ springs to mind. This is something we must also discuss when we deliver the intervention.
Finally, Action and Kindness
The following quote was highlighted at the conference. It was referencing a statement made by one minority group about universal rights. “We do not want anything that is not available to all”
What does this mean? It means we are all responsible for championing the rights of one another. It means that progress for one group is progress for another. It means we believe in the concept of universal rights and equality. One thing that was abundantly clear is that we will not achieve this by being passive spectators. We need to continue the difficult conversations, we need to keep this on the agenda and as we approach the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence and countless other victims, we need to remember why we strive to stop Hate Crimes.
I was humbled to listen to Dr Neville Lawrence talk about the deep and irreversible ramifications of losing his then 18-year-old son Stephen in 1993. At the age of 81 Neville explained how he had hoped the Macpherson report and years of campaigning would bring progress in how Hate Crime was addressed, and how unfortunately there has been less progress than anticipated. In a context of activism and hope against a sometimes worrying backdrop, Neville explained that kindness is perhaps the most simple but important behaviour we as human beings can express and it is the key to tackling Hate. Kindness transcends individual differences and allows you to connect. He referenced his own experience of being approached by a stranger recently on the underground when he felt particularly low. The stranger offered to say a prayer with him and wished him good day with sincerity and it lifted his mood and outlook. This is a message I want to share through the work we do and something I want to get better at personally.
For further information on the services offered by RSMS contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit to Kira Day who wrote the article.