Witnessing racism in your neighbourhood or your community may be an overwhelming experience, where you may feel stuck, scared, angry and not knowing what to do nor how to support those affected. Hate-fuelled crimes and incidents are an attack on a community’s health. Hate tears society apart along racial, ethnic, gender, and religious lines. Hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. To prevent that, similarly as in a case of bystander intervention, we must recognise that all of us, either acting as concerned citizens or as members of community organisations, have power to stand up against racism. Every single act of anti-racism resistance can have a positive ripple effect on victims, our communities and the society..
HOW TO RESPOND TO RACISM IN A COMMUNITY
Southern Poverty Law Centre published an excellent guide Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide (2017) with recommendations and ideas on responding to racist hate on a community level. The advice below is adapted from that guide.
What can you do?
- Repair acts of hate-fuelled vandalism or damage to private property, such as racist graffiti.
- Consider donating to or volunteering with an organisation that works for civil rights or/ and with Ethnic Minorities.
- Host a neighbourhood or community meeting. Speak up in church or another place of worship. Suggest some action.
- Set up (or sign and share) a petition against racism or/and hate crime.
- Support anti-racism social media campaigns such as #TogetherAgainstRacism or #EndDP.
- Attend (or organise) a vigil or a counter-protest.
- Use whatever skills and means you have. Design, print and or distribute fliers; share your musical talents at a rally etc.
- Report all racist incidents you witnessed or heard about to iReport.ie.
What can you do?
- Get your organisation to join INAR anti-racism national Network.
- Call on groups that are likely to respond to a hate event, such as faith alliances, trade unions, student unions, teachers, women’s groups, housing activists or youth groups. Make a special effort to involve businesses, schools, local politicians and media.
- Build links with members of targeted groups and invite them to avail your services. Find out what ethnic minority-led groups are in your area, attend local mosque events etc. Make sure they know about your organisation or initiative.
- Work to create a healthy relationship with your local Garda Station. Working together, human rights groups and law enforcement officials can track early warning signs of hate developing in a community, allowing for a rapid and unified response.
What can you do?
- Believe the victims and treat their complaint seriously.
- Break down their isolation by reassuring him/her that you are on hand to listen and to help.
- Get your organisation to become iReport.ie Racist Incident Reporting Centre.
- Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection. Research shows that even small acts of kindness such as a phone call, a letter or providing a listening ear, can help.
- If appropriate, assist the victim to secure their home or in finding emergency accommodation. Help them fix the damage caused by the racist attack. Engage others in the community to help.
- Mobilise other community members to act together to respond to racism in the community i.e. painting over racist graffiti with young people or your local representative. Promote successes.
- Help with reporting what happened to the iReport.ie and authorities such as the police, or the Workplace Relations Commission. Provide information on specialised lawyers, free legal support, victim support services. Accompany him/her to court, if appropriate or refer to a specialist victim support service.
- Link them with contact details of organisations practical assistance such as specialised NGOs, INAR Members, local support groups or victim support organisations (see below)
What can you do?
- Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
- Spread the positive message on social inclusion and diversity through social media and websites, church bulletins, door-to-door fliers, letters to the editor, joint statements and print advertisements.
- Report racism when you witness it. Contact the Gardaí if a crime took place. Report all racist incidents to iReport.ie. See here for advice on reporting racism.
What can you do?
- Demand a quick, serious police response. The vigorous investigation and prosecution of hate crimes attract media attention to issues of tolerance and encourage the public to stand up against hate.
- Demand a strong public statement by political leaders. When elected officials issue proclamations against hate, it helps promote tolerance and can unify communities. Silence, on the other hand, can be interpreted as the acceptance of hate.
- Encourage leaders to name the problem. Local leaders sometimes try to minimize incidents fuelled by hate or bias by not calling them hate crimes. As a result, victims and their communities can feel silenced, and national hate crime statistics become inaccurate.
- Push leaders when they show bias or fail to act. Healing in the wake of a bias crime or incident — and building a more connected community — requires more than official statements. It also takes hard work. Ask your community leaders to walk the talk. Ask for their public support and involvement in rallies, community meetings, and long-term solutions that address the root causes of intolerance.
CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE
What can you do?
- Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.
- If an event featuring a hate group, avowed separatist or extremist is coming to your college campus, hold a unity rally on a different part of campus. Invite campus clubs, societies and athletic organisations to support your efforts.
- Hold alternative events at the same hour, some distance away, emphasising strength in community and diversity. It can be forum, parade, or unity fair featuring speakers, food, music, exhibits, and entertainment. These events give people a safe outlet for the frustration and anger they want to vent. INAR Ireland can help you promote your efforts, so get in touch!
- Develop counternarratives to reduce support for extremist and racist groups and ideologies, and decrease the impact of hate speech. See here for ideas.
What can you do?
- Bring together people of different nationalities, religions, and ethnic groups. Hold candlelight vigils, interfaith services, and other activities. Gather people around issues important to everyone, such as health, family, community safety, welfare or sport to create opportunities for various members of community to meet and interact.
- Mark anniversaries, intercultural celebrations and important dates such as Anti-Racism Day, World Refugee Day, Diwali or Eid.
- Break bread together. Some communities have dinner clubs that bring together people of different ethnicities and income levels for a meal. These groups typically have no agenda, no speakers, and only one rule at their dinners: Sit next to someone you don’t know.
- Begin a community conversation on ethnicity, identity, diversity and/or racism. Discussion groups, book clubs, youth clubs, library gatherings can bring people together. Effective community conversations allow individuals to tell their stories, their immigration history, their daily encounters with discrimination, their fear about revealing sexual orientation, and so on.
- Consider building something the community needs, and use it as an organising tool, from a community garden to a new playground. Make sure residents from different backgrounds are included in the process.
- Create or join your local Facebook page or an online community celebrating diversity and challenging racism. Create counter-narrative against racist discourse.
- Bring together people from different backgrounds and belief systems, and provide them with a safe space to share thoughts and get to know each other.
Prejudice is learned early, often at home. Schools and programmes such as the YELLOW FLAG programme or SHOW RACISM THE RED CARD IRELAND can offer lessons, activities and programmes focused on anti-racism, interculturalism and social inclusion. You can host a diversity and inclusion day on campus or reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate group propaganda and prejudice.
What can you do? Tips for parents.
- racistExamine your children’s textbooks and the curricula at their schools to determine whether they are equitable and intercultural.
- Introduce your child to intercultural experiences by intentionally expanding your circle of friends and experiences.
- Encourage your children to become activists. They can form harmony clubs, build multicultural peace gardens, sponsor “walk in my shoes” activities, and create ways to interact with children of other cultures.
- Examine the media your children consume, from internet sites to the commercials during their favourite TV shows. Stereotypes and examples of intolerance are bound to be present. Discuss these issues openly, as you would the dangers of cigarette smoking.
- Model inclusive language and behaviour. Children learn from the language you use and the attitudes you model. If you demonstrate a deep respect for other cultures, races, and walks of life, they most likely will, too.
- If your child is experiencing racist bullying at school, reffer to ‘Responding to Racism Gide’ for information on your options and resources on dealing with bullying.
What can you do?
- Start with yourself. Look at your own prejudices you may have. Make positive statements about others, challenging assumptions about people who are different.
- Keep persevering on behalf of other members of society who feel acutely threatened right now. Be an ally for people more vulnerable than yourself.
- Get active in your community and do something that makes you feel empowered.
LOCAL ANTI-RACISM AND COMMUNITY SAFETY INITIATIVES
Anti-Racism Civil Society Initiatives
Local anti-racism, integration and intercultural forums and groups are formal or informal civil society initiatives focused on combating racism, supporting integration and promoting interculturalism on a local level. Many of them may have little or no funding and are run by volunteers. Therefore, keep in mind that the level of support those groups may be able to provide can vary. Depending on their focus they may be in position to provide some emotional and practical support, link you with like-minded people or with NGOs or community organisations that can help. Contact your local group directly to see how they can support you and/or how you can get involved.
The following groups are Members of INAR:
Community Safety Initiatives
To address issues of concern in relation to community safety, policing, anti-social behaviour and estate management, a range of community policing initiatives has been established in Ireland, including Local Policing and Community Safety Fora, residents’ associations and crime prevention programmes. These initiatives aim to bring together community organisations, An Garda Síochána, Local Authorities, community members and other stakeholders to share information and identify main community safety problems and find solutions. They may provide a forum to voice your concerns in relation to racism in your locality.
Residents forums and community safety forums
If you have problems with racism in your community or neighbourhood it may be a good idea to get in touch with your LOCAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY. They can provide you with contacts of a range of relevant local organisations such as residents associations, community forums, policing forums that may help address the problem of racism in your locality.
An Garda Síochána Community Initiatives
COMMUNITY GARDAÍ engage in community partnership building, to enhance the delivery of the Garda service within communities. You can ask for your local Community Garda Officer at your nearest Garda Station.
COMMUNITY ALERT is a community safety programme for rural areas with an emphasis on older and vulnerable people. It operates as a partnership between the community, An Garda Síochána and Muintir na Tíre.
- To set up a group in your area, contact your LOCAL GARDA STATION or your LOCAL MUINTIR NA TÍRE COMMUNITY ALERT DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
- Read the Community Alert Handbook
NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH is a crime prevention and community safety programme for urban areas. It operates as a partnership between An Garda Síochána and the public. One of its aims is to reduce anti-social behaviour, including graffiti and harassment.
- To set up a scheme in your area, contact your LOCAL GARDA STATION
TEXT ALERT enables communities to set up a group to receive alerts advising them of suspicious or criminal activity in their area. As well as ensuring awareness among users of the service, it can also lead to them reporting suspicious activity to Gardaí. Sending the information by text means that it can be disseminated rapidly to a large number of people in a cost-effective way.