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Chris is a BA Criminology graduate of 2017 and was motivated to write this blog through the experience of his own dissertation. His dissertation was on the Experience of Hate crime: Exploring professional perspectives of racist hate crime against ethnic minority.
The issue of racially motivated violence against ethnic minority groups in the UK was an important focus of media discussion both during and after the referendum on leaving the EU. Hate crimes, in general, have often been a source of debate for legal theorists, academics, politicians, journalists and law enforcement officials. Many perceive it to be a crime that is usually driven by prejudice towards the victim. Professionals working in the field have therefore all made efforts to understand and address hate crime, as one of the most unpleasant manifestations of human prejudice.
As a research topic, racist hate crime within the UK has been widely explored ever since the unprovoked racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in south-east London twenty-three years ago. His unfortunate death led to a determined campaign for justice by his family spanning many years. It is therefore argued that “Stephen’s death had come to personify racial violence in the UK”; the vigorous campaign by Stephen’s parents had since led to changes in the law and given a voice to victims of hate crimes.
The findings in my dissertation revealed that victims of racially aggravated incidents experience immense psychological and physical harm. In essence, racially motivated incidents harm society and destroy community cohesion among different ethnic groups. The racial abuse inflicted on victims often leaves them in constant fear that the incident may happen again. Eastern Europeans were particularly found to be prone to racial attacks following the decision of the UK to leave the EU. Racial violence is an ongoing social phenomenon, as incidents of such violence often seem to occur without end.
The data I collected suggested that victims of racist hate crime isolate themselves and adopt different ways to avoid direct contact with the offender; hence this creates barriers for the victim and their family members and may prevent them from using local amenities. Victims of racist crime would rather use the facilities of nearby cities or towns, and this further deepens their social isolation from the local community. Victims will constantly worry about where to socialise, which community to live in, which school their children should attend and where to work.
New victims are being targeted as a result of the recent arrival of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers from Eastern Europe. Indeed, migrant workers from the EU have suffered the greatest number of racial attacks in the past year. This has occurred in line with the view presented by some politicians in the media that the purpose of the EU referendum is to enable the UK to take control of its borders.
The issue of race and immigration has been shown to be consistent within the broader research literature on racist hate crime. Like wise, my dissertation findings also suggest links between race and immigration, as both of my participants did not generalise the concept of race. Instead, they discussed and associated it with ethnic minority groups or those deemed inferior by the dominant population. In other words, participants associated race with individuals that have experienced racial abuse and hostility by the host population.
Indeed, race and immigration have been socially constructed and this has reinforced stigmatisation towards already marginalised groups. In essence, there is very little political will to change or even challenge prejudiced and discriminatory views against foreigners. Racial violence is an ongoing social phenomenon, as incidents of such violence often seem to occur without end. A recent data recorded by the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicates that victims of hate crimes are more likely to be repeat victims and up to four times more likely to suffer more serious psychological impacts.
In sum, the data I collected towards my dissertation strongly suggests that victims of racially aggravated incidents undergo an immense amount of psychological and physical harm. The racial abuse inflicted on victims was found to leave an enduring impression of constant fear that the incident may happen again. Nevertheless, with one voice let’s end Hate Crime.
There are few things I tend to do when I am on Erasmus in a long running partner. I get a morning fredo coffee from their refectory, then into the classroom, followed by a brief chat with their administration staff and colleagues. The programme is usually divided between teaching sessions and academic discussions.
My last session was on learning disabilities and empowerment. The content forms part of a module on people with special needs. The curriculum in the host institution combines social sciences differently and therefore my hard criminological shell is softened during my visit. It is also interesting to see how sciences and disciplines are combined together and work in a different institution.
In the first two hours we were talking about advocacy and the need for awareness. The questions posed by the students raised issues of safeguarding, independence and the protection of the people with learning disabilities. I posed a few dilemmas and the answers demonstrated the difficulties and frustrations we feel beyond academia, shared among practitioners. This is “part of the issues professionals face on a daily basis”. Then there were some interesting conversations “how can you separate a mother from her baby even if there are concerns regarding her suitability as a mum”? “How do we safeguard the rights of people who cannot live an independent life”? Then we discussed wider educational concerns “we are preparing for our placement but we are not sure what to expect”. “Interesting”, I thought that is exactly what my second year students feel right about now.
As I was about to close the session I told them the thought that has been brewing at the back of my head since the start of my visit….”I may not be able to see you next year…today the UK will be starting the process of Brexit.” One of the students gasped the rest looked perplexed.
It is the kind of look I am beginning to become accustomed to every time I talk about Brexit to people on the continent.
After the class the discussion with colleagues and administrative staff was on Brexit. It seemed that each person had their own version of what will happen next. Ironically they assumed that I knew more about it. Thinking about it, the process is now activated but very little is known. This is because Brexit is actually not a process but a negotiation. A long or a very long negotiation. The EU devised a mechanism of exit but not a process that this mechanism needs to follow. Despite the reasons why we are leaving the EU the order and the issues that this will leave open are numerous. In HE, we are all still considering what will happen once the dust settles. From research grants for the underfunded humanities and social sciences to mobility programmes for academics and students. My visit was part of staff mobility that allows colleagues to teach and exchange knowledge away from their institution. The idea was to allow the dissemination of different ideas, cooperation and cultural appreciation of different educational systems. The programme was originally set up in the late 80s when the vision for European integration was alive and kicking. The question which emerges now, post-Brexit, is what is the wider vision for HE?