Introducing the Blog Carnival for Hate Crime Awareness Week UK – Blog #1 Beyond the Hate Crime Headlines: new manifestations, new spaces

National Hate Crime Awareness Week (NHCAW) is a week-long initiative that seeks to raise awareness not only about the harms of hate but so too what we can individually and collectively do about it. Originally conceived as a Facebook group in 2009 to mark the 10th anniversary of the London nail bomb attacks on Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, the initiative today encompasses a wide range of events and activities that seek to bring together local authorities, the police, academics, policymakers and importantly, those communities most affected by hate crime to talk about, learn from and find ways to work together.

To coincide with NHCAW, the Home Office publishes its latest hate crime data for England and Wales. This year is no different. From the figures published earlier this week, hate crime numbers are again at record levels. With more than 105,000 hate crimes being recorded in 2019-20 – numbers which exclude Greater Manchester due to IT issues – this was an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year and the fifth year in succession when numbers have hit record highs.

More than three quarters of all recorded hate crimes is racially motivated; the total number rising by 6 per cent to more than 76,000. However it was the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation that saw the largest percentage increase, by 19 per cent to 15,800 followed by transgender identity by 16 per cent to 2,500. While disability hate crime rose by 9 per cent to approximately 8,500, only religiously motivated hate crime fell: down 5 per cent to 6,800. As regards the latter, more than half were targeted at Muslims.

What is maybe most surprising about recorded hate crimes being at record levels in the past year is the fact that for around a quarter of that time England and Wales were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the statistics suggest that hate crime levels were lower than normal during these times, it would be wrong to ignore the localised spikes in hate crime levels that followed localised lockdowns, the claims that Muslim communities were deliberately spreading COVID-19, or the unprecedentedly high levels of hate crimes targeting those of Chinese or South East Asian heritage as revenge for the ‘Chinese virus’.

According to the Home Office’s analysis, it was in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that hate crime levels soared. This was most evident in the number of racially or religiously motivated hate crimes recorded in June and July of this year. To this extent, the number recorded in June this year was 34 per cent higher than June 2019. As the statistics show, this was consistent across both England and Wales with 27 police forces showing increases of 25 per cent or more. As with 2016’s Brexit referendum and 2017’s terror attacks, here again is evidence of how socio-political events and incidents have a direct impact on levels of hate crime.

While these statistics provide the headlines, they also go some way to mask the realities of the true scale and prevalence of hate crime in our societies today. While the five monitored strands – race or ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity – provide a useful means of capturing the primary motivations for hate crime, they do not encompass all of its myriad forms. Likewise, that which occurs ‘online’ is largely obscured by that what happens in ‘real life’.

It is for this reason that the Centre for Hate Studies and the School of Criminology at the University of Leicester have teamed up with the International Network for Hate Studies to facilitate its ‘Blog Carnival’ during NHCAW. Going beyond the headlines, six new articles published over the next few days afford an insight into new manifestations of hate crime as indeed the new spaces these are occurring. From hate crimes against the homeless to those against sex workers, from online hate against LBG people to the experience of trafficked Roma, from how Greece’s now criminalised Golden Dawn engendered Islamophobia to how political rhetoric catalyses feelings of hate and hostility: each article is informed by innovative and timely research.

While serving as timely reminders, both NCHAW and the Home Office’s annual statistics are merely the tip of the hate crime iceberg. While the former undeniably raises necessary awareness and the latter provides a means to identify trends and developments in hate crime levels, they are however far from being all-encompassing. So too the articles presented as part of our ‘Blog Carnival’. While they afford insights that might be routinely overlooked or even ignored, they too fall short of providing a comprehensive picture of the contemporary hate crime landscape. It is for that reason that not only do we need to think more about hate crime and our responses to it but so too how we conceive and understand hate crime also, to ensure that everyone who experiences hate – irrespective of manifestation or motivation – has their voice heard.

Chris Allen is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester. For the past two decades he has been researching Islamophobia and associated forms of far-right extremism. He was the former Director of Policy and Research at Birmingham race Action Partnership.

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