Imagine a scenario where someone is stirring up hate in your community. Maybe it’s just one person, maybe it’s an organised group. Maybe you don’t have to imagine, because it’s happening in your community right now, and it’s really vile. You want to respond – you want to make things better, and stand up to hate – but you’re not sure how to get started. Who do you contact first? What will make things better, and how do you make sure you don’t make things worse?
It’s exactly for scenarios like this that the team at HOPE not hate Charitable Trust have put together a new website hub, When Hate Comes To Town(WHCTT), jam-packed with information and resources designed to be accessible and useful for anyone who wants to take a stand against organised hatred entering their community, and make a difference.
Our site includes examples of real-life scenarios where we have worked with local people to make a difference when hate has come calling. From the English Defence League planning to reignite physical confrontations between communities in Bradford in 2001 (and from where HOPE not hate now celebrates an annual festival), to the long- term change brought about by a community newsletter and positive activities on an estate where the British National Party had gained purchase in the West Midlands, through to the power of a unified response celebrating the diversity of Golders Green when threatened by a neo-Nazi rally. We have put together resources which we think will help others when hate comes to town.
Over the years we’ve been working in communities, we’ve always found that the vast majority of people are proud of the place they live, and just want to get on with their fellow residents. Even if residents admit they don’t necessarily have that much contact with everyone who lives or works near them, most people are happy to live side by side with others. But sometimes, something comes along to change that. A threat to the unity of a community can come in many guises, and some are easier to spot than others.
Many tensions that arise in communities are because of an outside threat but don’t underestimate the trouble that can be caused by division arising within a community too. Sometimes hate comes as a response to an event or incident which impacts on a whole community, but hate does not have to be the default response, even to terrible events such as a terrorist incident or the exposure of organised child sexual exploitation.
Whatever the cause, we believe that taking the time to think strategically about what a community is seeking to achieve by responding will affect the outcome of any response.
Every scenario is different, and what worked last time in your town might need to be altered for a new situation. Carefully thinking about objectives, strategy and tactics can make all the difference in how successful you are.
It is also vital to think about how you build support for your campaign, and how to reach different groups in your community, and adapt your messaging accordingly. The message that appeals to an active anti-racist will be very different from the one that strikes a chord with someone who has not considered getting involved in taking a stand before. We recommend working on a plan to get different groups involved and use influencers in the community. That might be someone in a formal position like an MP, or someone who does not even see themselves as an influencer, but is a popular local volunteer at a youth club or football team.
On our site, we have resources including videos, explainers and a downloadable guide to running an effective campaign. We’ve also included a guide to different hate groups, as well as a guide and links to help people report and get support if they experience a hate crime.
The underlying message we most want people to be able to take away from this new project is that, when hate comes to town, we don’t have to respond to it by closing in on ourselves as communities. With the right planning and confidence, we can use this threat as an opportunity to celebrate all that is good in our local area. It is an opportunity to rally the community and say that we all stand strong together against hate.
Together with the online hub, this week HOPE not hate Charitable Trust also launched an offline campaign with workshops in Tower Hamlets and in Bradford. The events gathered various council members, civil society organisations, hate crime officers and police, faith leaders as well as Hope not hate activists and informal community leaders. The sessions were not just an opportunity for the guests to pick up vital information and tools from our team about countering extremist threats in communities, but also allowed the participants to learn from each other.
Tower Hamlets and Bradford share a history of opposing the far-right. Exercises such as community mapping and our research on the spectrum of support helped the participants understand how they can better organise against hate in their communities. Feedback from the two workshops demonstrated that people found the workshop useful and relevant for the issues that the communities they work in face. The participants from the council of Tower Hamlets expressed that the community mapping exercise will be used as a framework in their work to identify relevant actors who could get involved in supporting them. Participants from Bradford expressed how they gained more knowledge not only on how to organise against hate but also, what the drivers of hate are. The increasing threat of the alt-right/light and the manosphere were new concepts for many that raised the question of how to organise against hate online – for which the WHCTT hub is a perfect place to start.
A participant from Tower Hamlets said “When thinking about key influencers and decision makers, the workshop really got me thinking about who I know, how I could get them to participate, what their values are and whether it aligns with the overall objectives of our community. It was a fantastic workshop to be involved in”.
When Hate Comes to Town is accessible at http://charity.hopenothate.org.uk/whctt and the more offline workshops are planned for later this year. Please visit @hopenothatecommunity on instagram and @hnhcommunity on twitter to follow the work of HOPE not hate Charitable Trust and to keep yourself updated on #WHCTT.