Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Being you is not a crime…

According to police guidance, a hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived – by the victim or any other person – to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexuality, disability or gender.
     Hate crimes are targeted and personal, and this makes them different to other offences. Victims are targeted simply because of who they are.
– Dr Loretta Trickett: Nottingham Post

It’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week – and I’ve been struggling, so far, to come up with something pithy to say on the subject. (And I’m still not certain that I’ve succeeded – although, hopefully, after reading this, a few more people will be aware….) Probably because, having been at the receiving end, myself, it’s hard to be dispassionate about an act that blights so many individuals’ lives. (From my perspective, if you’re disabled, you’ve probably got enough undeserved shit to be dealing with already, without others flinging more at you….)

Police recorded crime
In 2014/15, there were 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police, an increase of 18 per cent compared with the 44,471 hate crimes recorded in 2013/14, of which:
• 42,930 (82%) were race hate crimes;
• 5,597 (11%) were sexual orientation hate crimes;
• 3,254 (6%) were religion hate crimes;
• 2,508 (5%) were disability hate crimes; and
• 605 (1%) were transgender hate crimes.
It is possible for one hate crime offence to have more than one motivating factor which is why the above numbers sum to more than 52,528 and 100 per cent.

Throughout the week, Warwickshire Police (who I personally found very clued-up, thorough, and immensely helpful) are also blogging on the subject – and their posts are a great introduction to what the offence constitutes; why “Being you is not a crime: Hate crime is”; and why – and how – you should therefore report any incident to the police (whether you believe it to be criminal or not).

There are many misconceptions about what is – and is not – a hate crime. There is also no such thing as a “minor” hate crime, and hate crime is an issue for all of us, which can only be tackled by us all working together.
     Hatred is a strong term that goes beyond simply causing offence or hostility. Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by an offender’s prejudice or hatred of someone because of their differences.
     There is a misconception that hate crime can only happen to people from minority groups. Whilst it is true that very sadly some members of society are disproportionately more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than others, absolutely anyone can be a victim of a hate crime. We all either have a religion, or do not have a religion (a crime committed against someone because they are atheist is still considered as a religious hate crime for example). So potentially we could all be a victim of a religious hate crime. We all have an ethnicity, so could all be victims of a racial hate crime. And so on.
– Adrian Symonds, West Mercia Police’s Equality and Diversity Advisor for Worcestershire and Herefordshire: There’s no such thing as a minor hate crime

However, on my way into Stratford-upon-Avon, yesterday evening – whilst being threateningly tailgated on the A422 (defined as a “medium-high-risk road” by the Road Safety Foundation) at exactly the 50 mph speed limit – I realized that a lot of such “personal” crimes stem not just from differences between people (we are all unique, of course: something that scares the ignorant; and/or draws despising or patronizing pity from the arrogant), but perceived ‘failures’ to comply with the warped expectations and senseless criteria that govern (if that’s the right word) the lives of the many who would seek to instantly judge us. [By the way: I struggle to separate the two qualities(?!) of ignorance and arrogance – as it seems almost impossible to have the latter without the former.]

So… I should not be upset that the “fool” behind me is breaking the 0.2‑second rule with alacrity (whilst simultaneously failing to communicate his thuggishness with some sort of gittish sign language) – never mind the more sensible and commonly-accepted 2‑second version. Nor that he expects everyone to ‘drive’ like him (or simply get out of his way: which I eventually did, for safety’s sake…) – and waaay beyond the speed limit (a maximum, remember; not a target…). Nor that he obviously knows better than everyone else about the road conditions and concomitant speed suitability, and the handling prowess of his tatty transport. Nor that he then ran a red light at the roadworks at Goldicote (because he couldn’t possibly brake in time…).

In his world – and with his tiny little mind (oops: I nearly wrote another word there – sorry…) – the Highway Code doesn’t (and shouldn’t) apply to him, though. He is superior (as are the majority, of course) to everyone else: in both skill and bloodymindedness. Pity the poor deer that crosses the path of his unlit grey van at dusk – and in rutting season, too… – whose fault it will undoubtedly be (for existing) when they collide, bloodily….

I can’t for the life of me – already ruined by a similar speeding maniac (exactly ten years ago, tomorrow…) – explain, therefore, how I ended up just a couple of vehicles behind him, a few miles later, on Seven Meadows Road…. (Perhaps Aesop can help, here?)

What a sad world we live in, though, where bullying others becomes the norm for some (so many) folk – obviously not helped by this sadistic Government’s leading-by-example… – because those “others” (and it is ‘otherness’ that is crucial, here…) don’t fulfil someone-else’s bizarre, skewed definition of what that “norm” should be….

From where I wobblingly stand, it is these buckoes, though, who are to be commiserated. Their singular lack of empathy must lead to such high contempt from so many (some). “What a wretched existence.”

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