When hate crimes occur they are very⅕ serious, cause significant pain and suffering but I’m worried that, from my experience in the classroom, that this significance is being eroded. I suspect that we will all have different takes on what we think hate crimes are and the seriousness with which they should be taken. How we react to such vicious and demeaning actions will vary depending on our cultural norms and experiences. However, I hope everyone will agree that such violence and hatred should not be condoned nor encouraged.
About a week ago a dear blogger friend, Brian, posted about his own experiences of hate crime in the workplace, and his blog got me thinking about some of my own experiences and the way the youth seem to be thinking about equality, diversity and inclusiveness as well as specifically their attitudes towards hate crimes.
My own direct experiences
I personally haven’t witnessed hate crimes in the situations I’m about to recall, but hopefully I will be able to demonstrate the need for some common sense and a little bit of caution when allegations are made of hate crime taking place. I’m not in any way saying don’t over-react, but get the facts straight first – be sure of the facts so you don’t end up taking actions that could inflame situations and make matters worse. We do need to take allegations/revelations of hate crime seriously and act appropriately when they occur.
A few years ago there was a situation where an asian student was part of an equalities working group. The group were discussing harassment and the group lead was outlining some examples of different types of harassment and potential hate crimes. Apparently said student revealled that some of the cited behaviours were being used by his classmates. The next thing I know, the Hate Crime unit from the police were being brought in to talk to the class.
its definitely good to educate our youth of the benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion, and to promote and model appropriate behaviours. However, in this instance, the situation was handled too heavy-handed, causing barriers to go up and made trying to have open conversations where the students wouldn’t feel threatened more difficult.
Afterwards, when I was able to discuss events with the students we were able to explore what had happened and the students, who had been friednds beforehand, were able to talk to each other and ask if any comments etc had been offensive or caused harm.
On speaking 1-1 with the relevant student, he advised that he contributed to the exchanges; he gave as good as he got and felt confident enough to challenge his friends if and when they crossed any line. He added that he was making many of the comments too. He told me that at no time did he feel bullied or harassed, except by the Equality team lead pushing the label of hate crime victim onto him.
I don’t want to take away from the seriousness of racist comments, harassment or hate crimes, but while the actions of one over-enthusiastic person and police officers keen to promote their new Hate Crimes Unit did raise awareness of bullying, harassment and hate crimes i think the whole situation could have been handled more professionally and more sensitively rather than traumatosing and stigmatising people. This leads me on to my second point: we need to think about how we educate our youth.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Training for our young
The need to raise awareness of discrimination, bullying, and harassment amongst our young people has been driven home again recently, with a class of 16 year olds who are too comfortable with labelling everything as a hate crime – someone takes a pen/pencil from them; someone refuses to share something with their classmates, they call it hate crime. Its as if, like a toddler learning new words, they want to use ‘hate crime’ constantly. Everything that happens to them is a hate crime. This change really worries me.
We need to educate our young so they understand the seriousness of the words they’re using. I’m also worried that such attitudes/mentality normalises the term and it loses impact. Harassment and hate crimes are never acceptable but for our young, their cries of harassment orhate crimes seem commonplace. Like the boy who cried wolf too often.
I am pleased to say that the students are no longer labelling all irritations as hate crimes, so a tiny success for me, but I feel this is going to be an ongoing struggle to educate the young.
I don’t know where this blasé attitude or use of the term has come from, but for me to hear it used in such a relaxed manner is quite alarming.
I do cover Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in my teaching, but it’s surprising how few understand some of the basic terminology, although do appear to be quite capable of using it correctly in context. I believe this makes my role as an educator in equalities ever more important, but what about students where this isn’t embedded in their course content, or those not engaging in further study. We need to develop young people coming into our workplaces and being valuable contributors coming into society who have an understanding of the dynamics within society and the need for inclusion.
As a final thought, I believe this needs to be dealt with earlier, when they are still in school.
If we want to live in a world free from prejudice, discrimination, hate crime and instead be inclusive, we need to ensure our young get the message early so they can drive the changes as they come into society as adults thinking for themselves.
I know some people may find what I’ve said contentious, so I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments.