UEL students and academics hold hate crime workshop at NewVIc College
'Step up to stop hate' project encourages discussion about hate speech and hate crime
When a crime takes place, why do some people run away, others reach for their camera phone while others intervene?
This was the hot topic debated during ‘Step up to stop hate’ – a new project run by the University of East London (UEL) to educate and activate young people in Newham around the issue of hate crime.
The inaugural workshop took place on 10 May at NewVIc College, Newham, involving a group of college students.
“Before today’s workshop I would’ve been scared to do anything if I saw a hate crime happening,” said Agnes Thiongo, 19, from Southwark. “But now I have some useful knowledge about what to do and how to do it.
“People can be scared to intervene as there’s the fear that ‘I might have to get involved’ and be quizzed by the police. People want to protect themselves first.”
Research into ‘bystander behaviour’ has shown that when an incident such as a crime or accident occurs, a person on their own is more likely to feel a sense of responsibility and intervene.
But if there is a group of people – as on a busy train or in a shopping centre – people feel less personal responsibility as they think someone else will take action. They are also more likely to conform to group behaviour, so if everyone else ignores what has taken place, they do the same.
During the NewVIc workshop, UEL lecturers and students gave talks on what the law says about hate speech and hate crime – offences perceived to be motivated by prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or whether they are transgender.
College student Stephen Appiah, 18, from Harrow, said he had initially been sceptical about how such crimes are reported by the media.
He said, “The news is good for being informed, but sometimes things are hyped up, and attention-grabbing words are used to get attention.
“But after this session on hate crime I now know the proper definitions and what is and isn’t’ a hate crime. There are real stories about hate crimes and not much has been done.
“Our laws around this are fine, but the issue is how they're enforced, as it can be very subjective what people find offensive. People have different thresholds.”
Sally Holt, a research fellow at UEL’s Centre on Human Rights in Conflict, is leading the project with support from UEL criminologist Dr Aaron Winter and global studies principal lecturer Dr Tim Hall.
“It was great to see our UEL students deliver their first workshop, which they’ve designed and developed themselves, to a really receptive and engaged group at NewVIc,” said Sally.
“The students will also get practical support from our students and community organisers, Citizens UK, on how to take a campaign project forward using what they've learned.”
NewVIc's student development manager, Kate Reed, explained that in March this year almost 500 NewVIc students had organised and led a campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM), before recently voting to take up the issue of hate crime and inviting UEL to help with a campaign about it.