The recent Cumberland Lodge conference ‘A generation without hate’, part of the Freedom series, brought together practitioners, policy makers and educators working around the country to tackle hate crime. Hate crime has been defined as a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice. This is clearly a complex issue in terms of how it manifests itself, but delegates were provided a very comprehensive briefing note written by Deborah Grayson, a research associate with the Lodge, (the briefing note can still be viewed here) prior to coming which really helped to distil some of the key antecedents and approaches.
The conference was addressed by senior figures from Government (Lord Bourne), academia (Prof. Dominic Abrams), Criminal Justice (Baljit Ubhey) as well as an array of NGOs, schools and young people. This spectrum allowed us to both drill down into issues around specific groups, as well as think more broadly about social and political matters which enable or inhibit hate crime and hateful attitudes.
To give an example, I got into a very interesting discussion with a group of teachers about how they use restorative justice approaches that put perpetrators and victims in the same room to discuss the impact of the perpetrator’s actions. Not more than two hours later I was talking with colleagues about the rise in hate crime following Brexit and what it means for the future of work in this area.
What I learned over the two days is that we do know quite a lot about the causes of hate crime. Even better, we also know several good ways to reduce it, especially at the school level. We saw great examples of work from StopHate UK, Sophie Lancaster Foundation and the Anne Frank Trust. However, modernity throws up several new and evolving issues.Most notably the role of social media both as a space where hate speech can be prevalent and as a space where solidarity and support for marginalised groups can manifest. What exactly we do to reduce the former and promote the latter is an ongoing debate.
Another tricky issue that was highlighted is how organisations can prove the worth of their initiatives especially at early intervention stage. It would be impossible to show that someone who received an early intervention did not commit a hate crime because of the intervention. Collectively, we tried to think radically about the way impact could be measured in ways that both meet the needs of funders but are also meaningful for participants and the public. Some of these ideas are captured in an upcoming outcomes report by Deborah Grayson, so look out for that on the Cumberland Lodge website.
My key take away from the conference was to have hope. Many organisations, and very conscientious people within them, are working on reducing hate crime and building dialogue between communities every day. This work is at the forefront of delivering the basic elements of a society I think we all want to see: one where people don’t need to live in fear of violence because they’re different.