Nadia on... Hate Crime

Words: Nadia Whittome
Photos: Fabrice Gagos
Tuesday 06 April 2021
reading time: min, words

In her monthly LeftLion column, Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East, discusses issues affecting both Nottingham and Westminster. This month, she talks about incidents of hate crime...


When Meghan Markle sat down on Oprah’s sofa in early March, the revelations she divulged about her treatment struck a chord with many of us. Despite her immense privilege – marrying into the Royal Family, carrying the title of Duchess, her huge wealth – some of her experiences were all too familiar to people of colour. Racist comments from in-laws, being held to a different standard to white counterparts, and being treated as an outsider are common occurrences in our society. 

The interview was a reminder that whether you’re a taxi driver being abused for your religion by passengers, a waitress regularly catcalled on your way home from work, or a princess being smeared in the press and on social media because of your race, we can all be victims of hate and the toll on our mental health can be severe. Of course, most of us don’t have the option of moving to California to try to escape it. 

Nottingham has a proud history as a pioneer in initiatives to tackle hate crime. Before I became an MP, I had a job as a hate crime worker so I got to see first-hand both the devastating impact it can have and the incredible work many in our community are doing.

Hate is behaviour motivated by hostility to or prejudice against aspects of a person’s identity, like their race, religion, disability, sexuality or gender. Some hateful behaviours break the law – those are hate crimes. They can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property

Back in 2014, Nottingham Citizens launched a commission into hate crime in Nottingham, which resulted in the report No Place for Hate. It found that there were 2,800 unreported hate crimes in Nottinghamshire. At the time, hate crimes linked to misogyny were not being recorded by the police. Nottingham Women’s Centre, working with Nottingham Citizens, put forward the case that they should be. As a result of their efforts, Nottinghamshire Police now goes beyond national police guidance and records hate incidents targeted against women.

This was an important local victory, but we still have a long way to go in making hate crime a thing of the past. In 2018, a survey of 4,170 people in Nottingham found 36% had been the victim of a hate crime. Between January 2020 and August 2020 a total of 1,614 hate crimes were reported in Nottinghamshire.

When I spoke to people who had experienced hate crime, person after person told me that often even worse than the hate crime itself was people standing by and doing nothing

When I spoke to people who had experienced hate crime, person after person told me that often even worse than the hate crime itself was people standing by and doing nothing. We can’t be passive bystanders to hate and bigotry. 

So what can we do if we witness someone being harassed or abused? In 2018, Nottingham-based social enterprise Communities Inc set up National Bystander Awareness Day to teach more people how to help. It took place for the third time last month and, as incidents often occur in public spaces, the information it provides is invaluable. 

If you feel able to, there are direct ways to tackle hate incidents you are witness to. You could try to interrupt the abuse through distracting the perpetrator, such as by spilling a drink or asking for directions. You could show your disapproval, by saying what you think out loud or speaking to others at the scene. Or you could directly challenge the perpetrator, by telling them their behaviour isn’t right.

These kinds of actions may not always be possible or you might not feel safe or comfortable taking them, but there are also indirect ways to help victims – remembered through the phrase “see, report, support”. If you witness someone being abused or harassed, observe the situation and pay attention to the details. You can report it in a range of ways – to the police, to Crime Stoppers, or to a number of third party organisations. In an emergency, you should call 999. You can check-in with the victim after the incident and offer your support. 

Oppression is more than just isolated occurrences. Our society is built in a manner that disadvantages many of us in a range of different ways. But we can all play our part in trying to change this. And challenging hate when we see it is a good place to start. 

For more information about hate crime, visit Communities Inc’s website

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