Dienstag, 1. März 2016

At the police station.

Or: Explaining hate crime to those 
who are here to combat it.

When you call on the phone to report racist stickers that you have seen in the city centre, everyone is very friendly. "I will forward this to my colleagues, Ma'am, can you come to the station to give a statement, Ma'am, thank you very much for calling, Ma'am."
When you arrive at the police station at 9 o'clock, a woman takes your statement. Blond hair, fair skin, middle-aged. It's you and her, in a stuffy room with no windows.
Police officer, blond, middle-aged: "So you felt that the stickers were offensive?"
(Relatively) young white hijabi: "I didn't just find them offensive, I found them highly offensive, and to be honest, I also got a bit scared when I saw them, for myself and my family. [insert bit about particular family background and ways in which this relates to the stickers] I have always felt safe in [this city here], but it changed (a bit) when I saw these stickers."
Police officer, blond, middle-aged: "But crime and violence, this something that happens everywhere, isn't it, it's a global problem?"
(Relatively) young white hijabi: "Well, yes, but these stickers are used by right-wing extremists to mark their territory and to spread fear. This is part of their strategy, it's part of their campaign. They send a message to people like me, to Muslims, to refugees, migrants, brown people."
Police officer, blond, middle-aged: "But this could happen to anyone..."
(Relatively) young white hijabi: "Erm, no. This is a hate crime. They specifically target one group of people. And sorry, but you, as a blonde, white, British woman won't be targeted by them. I wouldn't if it weren't for my headscarf. But me, the way I look, with this [points to her scarf], I am one of their targets."
Police officer, blond, middle-aged: "But if that was true, they could just put a bomb in a mosque - they don't do that."
(Relatively) young white hijabi: "Erm, yes, of course they do. [insert short excursus about recent attacks on mosques in the UK in general and [the region we live in] in particular, with particular mention of the Muslim grandfather who has just gotten assassinated - for being Muslim - a few days ago] ... "I can't really believe I need to tell you this. They are targeting Muslims, refugees, brown people, and everyone who, to them, looks like that."
Police officer, blond, middle-aged: "But you have that everywhere ... in Paris they just attacked people who were in the street"
(Relatively) young white hijabi: [insert a sentence about how that was a case of Islamist extremism ... which is different from right-wing extremism ... which is what I am talking about at the moment] "No. No, sorry, this is not right. I'm not going to continue like this. I am not going to speak to you any more. I want to speak to someone else. And I want to complain about this. Now."
When you go to the police station to report racist stickers you have seen in the city centre, you might come across a police officer who seems to have less knowledge about hate crime, Islamophobia and violent extremism than you do. Who shows a complete lack of sensitivity while dealing with a victim of a hate crime. Who is playing down an issue she is clearly not facing herself.
But you can complain. And (relatively) young white hijabi did. To the duty inspector and, after that, to the two female police officers assigned to take her statement. Two officers it was this time, both (relatively) young, one blond + white, the other brown + Muslim. Who agreed that this was outrageous, took the statement, chatted about this and that, were friendly, laughed, made little jokes, explained what was going to happen now.
When you go to the police station to report racist stickers you have seen in the city centre, this is the sort of police officers you should have welcome you. Not people you need to explain to that the crime that you are here to report is actually a problem.

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