Sunday 18 October 2020

Nerd Church - Hate Crimes Are Bad, Right?

(Warning: this post discusses hate crime and bigotry, including racism and Transphobia.)

Last week (ending yesterday) was National Hate Crime Awareness Week in the UK.

Which means that there's been a lot of very productive hashtags -

(no, I'm not being sarcastic - it's possible for hashtags to change the world, and you know it,) 

- and shows of support from various institutions. 

And it's largely been a very nice, if sometimes luke-warm, effort by said institutions to show solidarity with marginalised groups. Which is good, obviously.

'Hate Crimes Are Bad, Right?' on a stripey blue background

Or... at least I thought it was obvious. 

Because I thought it was obvious that hate crimes are, y'know, bad.

But apparently that isn't obvious to everyone.

Because someone, somewhere, dearest nerdlets, will always find a way to be a jerk. 

Never more so than on social media.

Because these are just a few of the things I've seen as replies to anti-hate-crime posts:

'[this is promoting an] agenda of division'

'[whatever happened to] freedom of speech'

'illegal to criticise [marginalised people]'


'[being anti-hate-crime is somehow] censorship'

Now, I would like to stress that these are a relative handful of lonely and silly Twitter trolls. 

But there are enough of them, with enough support, to show that some people somehow think that it's ok to stand up for hate-crime...?

Like, how can you hear/see yourself defending literal hate crime... and think that's OK? I don't get it.

And then there's the ones who act like somehow, those with privilege are the victims.

The people who say this a 'war' or 'racism' against White people, as if White people were brought up in this post in the first place - spoiler: they weren't. 

Posts saying 'hate crime is bad' don't normally explicitly mention White people.

(Oh, wait, maybe that's the problem! White people aren't centred in this conversation and clearly a lot of us aren't used to that - do better; this is why people from other racial groups think we suck. #SorryNotSorry)

Or the so-called 'Gender Critical' crew who take requests to not be Transphobic as a 'hate crime against women,' or some such sh**.

There is a hierarchy of privilege and marginalisation within our societies: Cisgender (non-Trans) women come above Trans women in that hierarchy, just as White women come above Women of Colour/BAME women.

What the 'Gender Critical' people do is what some people who aren't at the tippity-top of the privilege pile have always done: sh** on those below them in order to maintain their own position in the pecking order.

(Much like the lower-middle-class in the UK, who will lament the behaviour of the working-class and people on benefits in order to make it clear that we aren't like them, oh no, Lord Torypants, we're not like those people at all.)

If they accept Trans women are women - 

(because they ARE - just as Trans men are men and Non-Binary people are people with a gender identity that exists outside the M/F binary,) 

- then they have to accept Trans women as being on the same tier of society as Cis women.

I.e. - as women. 

So, in order to position themselves as 'the good ones,' they put a wedge between two arbitrary types of women - Cis and Trans - to try and claim that Trans women aren't women at all (which they are - and I will keep repeating this for as long as is necessary.)

It's probably not a coincidence that a lot of the same people discriminate against sex workers. #JustSaying.

So, I'm getting off-track: What counts as a hate crime, anyways?

Disclaimer time! - I'm not a legal professional, neither do I work in the justice system. 

I'm a nerd who likes to spread her nerdy knowledge around the Internet. 

Always seek legal advice from a professional if/when you need it!

The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) which handles prosecutions in England and Wales defines hate crime as:

"Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person's disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity."


Scotland protects the same characteristics under hate crime laws. As does Northern Ireland, with an emphasis on sectarianism under the religious category due to NI's history.

Hate speech is prohibited in the UK as a subsidiary of hate crime laws. So using known slurs, for example, is not technically legal here.

There are a lot of factors that affect whether or not someone would actually be prosecuted for using a slur, or any other hate speech, and it can feel more than a little vague and dependant on decisions and attitudes of those dealing with each case. 

Not always ideal. The principle is there, though.

So, we have free speech - but free speech with an exclusion of hate speech.

Is that a contradiction in terms? Maybe. But life's full of contradictions. 

This one has an academic philosophical-ilaly name and everything - The Tolerance Paradox (aka The Paradox of Tolerance.)

(...Which sounds like an excellent title for an episode of Dr Who, tbh.)

Defined in a note to Chapter 7 of a book (The Open Society and Its Enemies) by some Austrian-British fella (Karl Popper, aka K. R. Popper,) The Tolerance Paradox is as follows:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- K. R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

Put simply? The one thing that a tolerant society must not tolerate is intolerance. Because intolerance destroys tolerance.

Yes, it is a paradox. Clue's in the name, really.

(You can disagree with the Paradox of Tolerance btw - it's a theory, and I happen to believe a very good one, but it's not a law of physics or whatever. ...I guess you can disagree with the laws of physics if you really want to, but gravity don't much care if you believe in it!)

Standing up to hate and against bigotry should not be controversial.

Thankfully, I think most people would agree.

OK, I get that this post was, a lot - so thank you so much for sticking it out to the end dearest nerdlets!

So, (keeping civil! Hatred will be deleted - my blog, my rules,) what are your feelings on this?

Do you agree with existence of the Tolerance Paradox?

Talk to me! 💭💬

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  1. It all seems like common sense. Unfortunately, people are so self-absorbed in their own hatred that they excuse their hatred under the disguise of "freedom of speech." But there is no freedom in defacing property, threatening someone's life, or harming someone. Hate crimes should not be a debate. Like you said, it should not be "controversial."

    1. *punches air* HELL YES!

      People also don't seem to realise that freedom of speech protects the people criticising you, and, in the UK, doesn't protect you when you're spreading bigotry.

      You're right - a lot of it is self-absorbed nonsense. Or, sometimes, it's people who have their own problems and are lashing out - and I get that, but you can't let that hurt other people - it's just not acceptable.

  2. Hello - I enjoyed reading your blog and thank you for taking the time to write about hate crime and National Hate Crime Awareness Week #NationalHCAW which I created in 2012. The basic idea behind the week is to encourage local authorities (police and councils), key partners and communities affected by hate crime to work together to tackle local hate crime issues. We don't set a national agenda for the week as we really do want people to tackle local issues, although each year, at a Service of Hope and Remembrance at St Paul's Cathedral we have started the tradition of lighting a National Candle of Hope and Remembrance for those affected by hate crime - and each year have attempted to get family/friends of victims of hate crime, representing the different strands of hate crime (Disability, Faith, Gender Identity, Race, Sexual Orientation and Alternative Subcultures) to light the candle. This year it was lit in memory of 18 disabled people featured in the 2008 Getting Away with Murder Report - one of the first reports about disability hate crime in the UK.

    There is an archive here

  3. What drives me to do this - I've been a victim of hate crime myself. Bullied and tormented at school and labeled as gay before I even knew what the word meant. Dragged into an alley way and beaton on my way home from a gay bar in Reading. Seen my boyfriend headbutted in front of me and we fought back. When I was homophobically abused from a car with 4 lads in it in Brockley I called the police with the registration number and it resulted in all four being arrested - and two of them ended up with criminal convictions and communnity service. I also use to drink in the Admiral Duncan before it was bombed on the 30th April 1999. What motivates me? In 2009 I read an artcile about the 10th anniversary of the bombing that concluded that the anniversaries cause pain and suffering, the community doesn't care so the anniversarys should be played down. I thought that was so wrong - so I set up a Facebook group to provide a space for those who wanted to stay in touch could do so (over 2,000 joined in a month), I called the group 17-24-30 after the dates of the three London Nail Bomb attacks on Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. I've always thought it important to build bridges and bring people/communities together (I'd love to run a community centre again one day). Anyhow - the same year I set up the group two Gay men were abused and beaten - James Parkes a Gay Police Officer in Liverpool and Ian Baynham a 62 year old Gay man out celebrating a new job in London. James survived - Ian died. Ian's death inspired vigils around the UK and abroad - and 17-24-30 organised the first London Vigil Against Hate Crime on the 30th October 2009. Right from the beginning we sought to bring representatives from across the hate crime strands together... the vigils ran between 2009 to 2012. Then in 2012 they evolveed into what we now know as National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

  4. We spread a message of H.O.P.E. To raise Hate crime awareness, to improve Operational responses (not just the way the police respond but getting people to think how we can respond if hate crim happens in our communities), Preventing hate crime where we can, and Empowering communities to come together. We encourage hate crime reporting - every report helps us map where hate crime is happening and that enables us to look at how we can tackle it. My dream - is one day no hate crime goes unreported, no victim goes unsupported - we eradicate all forms of hate and prejudice from our communities. You might think then there will be no need for the national week - but that is not true. For as long as there are people alive who have been affected by hate crime - we all have a duty to stand in solidarity with them - to remember those we have lost, those who need our ongoing support and to ensure that the bonds that join our communities together in society are as strong as they can be, creating opprtunities to be inclusive and celebrate the diversity that makes our communities what they are.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post - every engagement in the national week helps us move towards the ambition that there will be no place for hate across the UK and beyond.

    Sorry for commenting in 3 chuncks - word limits :-)

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, and for RT'ing on Twitter - you're amazing and the work you do is so important and awesome!

      In school in the 00s I wore my own clothes on a non-school uniform day. At the time, I used to dress quite butch - and honestly hadn't thought anything of it before that day, they were just my clothes, the kind I wore most days; I have very vague memories of that day, I think I've blocked most of it out, but I can remember being shoved at least once, and being called a d*ke a *lot.* I always made sure I was dressed 'acceptably' feminine for every non-school-uniform day afterwards. I have a habit of minimising that day and other incidents, but honestly - it's not OK. No-one should be made to feel ashamed of who they are - and no-one should *ever* face physical assault for it.

      It was completely bemusing to me that there were actually people commenting on some posts about hate crime as if hate crime is something that should be defended... it shows that there's still a lot of work to be done, and I'm so glad there are awesome people like you around to do it! <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!