THE GROWING THREAT OF VIOLENCE

by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions racism, xenophobia, rape, hate crime, racial abuse, Donald Trump.

Statistics reported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) showed a 46% spike in hate crimes in the week that followed Brexit. A Polish man, Arkadiusz Jozwik, was killed by a gang of teenagers in Harlow in August. Hours after a march in his memory, two more Polish men were attacked. In September, a pregnant woman, of Middle-Eastern appearance, was racially abused and kicked in the stomach causing her to lose her baby. Across the UK, areas that voted for the Leave campaign have seen increase in reported hate crime. Brexit has left racists and xenophobes feeling morally justified in their actions and beliefs.

Yet Brexit is just a small part of the problem, one that is growing fast, forming a pattern across many countries and something that is already deeply entrenched in our global society.

Many governments, individuals and institutions have long faced accusations of racism yet are somehow glossed over. Christopher Columbus, the European discoverer of America is revered while in reality he did not prove the world is round and carried out extreme violence against the native Indians. Winston Churchill is remembered for leading Great Britain to victory in the Second World War while his many atrocities and white supremacist attitudes are looked over. Jim Crow laws in the US enforced racial segregation. Police departments across the West stand accused of institutionalised racism and carry on killing black men almost with impunity, as can be seen in the US. Corporations exploit human labour across the globe and we still have to have our smart phones, despite the components having been taken from the ground under dangerous circumstances.

Police departments across the West stand accused of institutionalised racism and carry on killing black men almost with impunity

The simple truth is we are conditioned to accept this and this is why we allow ourselves to remain ambivalent to the violence that is slowly yet steadfastly creeping into our society.

Beneath this public animosity towards immigrants and those of colour lies a disturbing belief and very little demonstrates this more than the case of Abeer al-Janabi. In March 2006, 5 US soldiers, on tour in Iraq, plotted and carried out the rape and murder of Abeer, a 14 year-old Iraqi girl. The soldiers broke into the family home, murdered her parents and six year-old sister, then proceeded to rape her. Afterwards, they set her body on fire and blamed the attack on Sunni terrorists. Although all those who participated were eventually sent to prison, Steven Green entered a plea of not guilty and was quoted as saying “I didn’t think of Iraqis as humans”. Soldiers like Green have witnessed a lot of death and this upsets and disturbs them mentally. The risk is that this kind of mentality translates to modern society.

 The risk is that this kind of mentality translates to modern society

People lose jobs, homes and see the money that they have paid over to the government in taxes going to waste as organisations like the NHS begin to crumble. There is no suggestion here that soldiers have any excuse for raping and murdering young girls, nor that those in the public are justified in physically attacking those they hold responsible for the decrease in quality of life and what they view as the erosion of their country and it values. What we should perhaps consider is that the establishment and others surreptitiously paint a target on the backs of those least able to protect themselves, so as to distract from the monumental failings of successive governments and those who are publicly funded and charged with the duty of protecting a country.

 

(The Establishment by Owen Jones, via Huffpost.com)

(The Establishment by Owen Jones, via Huffpost.com)

The refugee crisis and the many complicated aspects of immigration have hit the political establishment hard. Not that we should feel sorry for them, politicians have long used refugees and immigrants as political leverage to gain votes but it becomes impossible for them to make genuine decisions in the face of often misguided public demands. In humanitarian terms, Angela Merkel’s German government have helped over one million refugees flee war-torn and impoverished countries but this has hurt her politically, resulting in positive election results for Alternative for Germany (AFD), a right-wing and Eurosceptic party.

 Similar results have occurred in other countries. Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) will soon have another chance in the presidential elections. France’s National Front (NF) made gains in the last round of regional elections and will feature heavily in the 2017 presidential elections. In six weeks time, the US elections will see the possibility of Donald Trump entering the Whitehouse. All of this does not bode well for immigrants and it is under this kind of political protection that many feel they now have the right to express far right-wing views and, more frighteningly, carry out aggressive actions against those they decide do not belong in their society.

 it is under this kind of political protection that many feel they now have the right to express far right-wing views

Despite the violence, the lack of equal rights and outright discrimination, many immigrants, blacks and ethnic minorities are voicing disapproval and anger at their treatment and, fortunately, this time it looks like they won’t back down. NFL player Colin Kaepernick has chosen not to stand for the US national anthem at games and other players are starting to follow suit. Prisoners across the US, the majority of them black, have co-ordinated the largest prison strike in US history by refusing to report to work — not that the media are covering this very much. So many people are willing to give up their time and money to help those in need and to challenge those who stand by and do nothing. Racism and anti-immigration will continue to hit the headlines, especially when the trial of Thomas Mair, who was charged with the murder of Jo Cox MP, begins in November.

(San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the US national anthem, via BBC)

(San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the US national anthem, via BBC)

While studies on the positive impacts of immigration provide evidence, there are many who will stand by the belief that this is not the case. We like to surround ourselves with people who share the same beliefs as we do but we must ensure that dialogue and pressure continues to allow for education and positive actions to succeed in bringing us all together.

 Featured image: Shutterstock, via thetrace (CW: link leads to an article re: domestic violence)

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