For this week’s episode, host Muna Gasim and panellist Ashling Williams are joined by Alex Raikes, the Strategic Director of Stand Against Racism & Inequality, for a discussion on the escalating and pervasive crisis of hate crimes in the United Kingdom. Alex discusses both the long-term prevalence and event-related spikes of hate-based crimes and incidents facing marginalized communities across the country. This episode also dives into the need for preventative education, research, and action to work towards a society that celebrates and protects the rights of every individual.

This week, we are joined by Alex Raikes MBE  (Hon LLD), who became Strategic Director of Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), a leading, regional hate crime charity, in 2014 having joined as their first caseworker in 1991 under the leadership of the founder Director the late Batook Pandya MBE DL.  Alex has gone on to be a driving force in SARI and its surrounding areas for tackling racism and hate crime; ensuring a best practice response by responsible agencies and ensuring that conflicts between and within communities are minimised so safety, security and cohesion is maintained for all.

“There’s a lot of emphasis in the news … about [hate crime] being on the rise… but actually, hate crime, racist abuse, racial harassment, homophobic abuse, has always been really severe and really high. It’s a regular, frequent form of abuse going on all day, every day, in our country.”

Alex Raikes

According to StopHate UK, in the three months after the EU referendum, 14,000 hate crimes were reported, showing a 55% increase in racially motived crimes and an 80% increase in religiously motivated crimes. To understand this severe uptick in attacks, it is important to first understand the terminology being used. As Alex explains, a hate crime is any crime motivated by hatred or prejudice against a set of recognized characteristics, which include race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity. SARI’s work extends beyond these legally recognized characteristics to also address crimes committed out of hate and prejudice based on age, sex or gender, alternative dress, or societal vulnerability such as sex work or homelessness. While these characteristics are not recognized as protected in criminal law, there still exists rampant prejudice and violence against members of these groups. In addition to hate crimes, Alex discusses the problem of hate incidents, which are actions which may not be technically illegal but still cause severe harm or damage, ranging from verbal abuse to leaving noxious substances on one’s property.

“Racism and other forms of hate crime change their tale… a bit like a virus… according to what’s going on in society around us.”

Alex Raikes

Alex explains that there is an ongoing crisis of hate crime and violence being perpetuated against marginalized communities and also details the upsurges in abuse that happen in response to current events and news coverage. After the Brexit referendum, SARI observed an increase in violence against those perceived to be immigrants from the EU, violence against people of color from the UK, and hate speech. The beginning of lockdown provided a temporary decrease in hate crimes and incidents, but when restrictions were eased, there was an increase in attacks against people perceived to be of Chinese or East Asian descent. Following the Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks, described as suspected terrorist activity, racist abuse spiked against members of the Muslim community.

“The bringing down of Colston has forced a very important awakening of, ‘Who do we want recognized in our statues and memorabilia?’ And yet people are … saying that we’re destroying and erasing history. When we’re not – we’re making history.”

Alex Raikes

The Black Lives Matter movement and its widespread positive cultural impact have also been met with instances of regressive backlash. Across the nation, a surge of attacks and racist language against Black and nonwhite individuals has been observed, including amongst students and children. One of the profound impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement has been the removal of statues which uphold a racist legacy, such as the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. While many see the removal of such statues as an important reckoning with racist history, Bristol has since seen severe backlash in the form of several White Lives Matter protests and racist violence against Mayor Marvin Rees.

“SARI works really hard to fight for the rights of people at the blunt end of hate, and the trans community are facing just about the worst situation I’ve seen in decades. It has gone massively backwards.”

Alex Raikes

SARI also advocates for the rights of the trans community, which is facing what Alex describes as one of the worst situations of hate, violence, and regression seen in decades. Many members of the trans community find themselves effectively in hiding, as it can be unsafe to participate in daily life or have an online presence or social media account. In addition to the pervasive criminal attacks and violence being perpetrated against individuals, there are extensive, organized political efforts to undermine existing and proposed legal protections for the trans community. These attacks, aimed towards the erasure and denial of self-identity of the trans community, constitute a severe violation of rights.

Raikes explains that SARI doesn’t stop at responding to instances of hate crime and violence through casework, they also strive to anticipate backlashes like those discussed, and use data to better understand and prevent harm before it occurs. For example, police found that the inclusion of certain terminology in reports of suspected terrorist attacks are likely to trigger backlash and hate crime. By using predictive analytics, SARI can better tailor public outreach to uplift messages of unity, respect, and community, thus preempting and reducing harm. Training sessions in schools and agencies also help to minimize ignorance, minimize myths, and minimize scapegoating. By working to promote a society the respects individual differences and freedoms, SARI strives not only to respond to hate crimes but also prevent them.

When asked how listeners can best get involved and be better allies, Alex emphasizes the need to not only be “non-racist” or “non-homophobic,” but “anti-racist” and “anti-homophobic.” It is not enough to simply be “non” or neutral, it is incumbent upon every individual to take up the responsibility to protect, celebrate, and fight to expand the rights of everyone, regardless of differences. Listeners can research local anti-hate organizations and movements, get involved, and also advocate for educational trainings and workshops to be built into the organizations that they belong to. Equality, respect, and representation must be built into every organization, and this is only possible if we move beyond passivity, take active steps, and act as changemakers in our communities.

Learn More & Get Involved

SARI welcomes referrals either directly from the person suffering hate crime or by a third party. To make a submission, visit their online page, which provides instructions for submitting online, by mail, or by phone. If someone’s life is in danger, or a serious crime is taking place, you should always call the police immediately using 999.

Learn more about Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI)

Follow Alex Raikes on Twitter