The Guardian reported on a rise in race hate crimes in Germany today. German Police had recorded almost 24,000 far-right crimes last year (including physical attacks and murder). This, it said, was a rise of 6% on last year and the highest they’ve seen in 20yrs, since records began. The targets appear to be mainly immigrants, refugees and black people and there’s been a significant rise in anti-Asian violence, linked to the pandemic.
The BBC also recently reported on a rise in Asian hate crime in UK during pandemic, triggered by Trumpian rhetoric blaming China for the Covid pandemic, describing it as the “China Flu” or the “Kung Flu”
Oddly though, both the Guardian and the BBC failed to offer any wider data or context. For example, government records show that UK hate crime data for the March 2019-2020 period recorded an 8% rise from the previous year (March 2018-2019). In fact, the police in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester police) recorded 105,090 hate crimes during that period. That’s more than 4 times the number of hate crimes reported by German police during the pandemic year. Incidentally, the UK government haven’t yet released their data for the March 2020-2021 pandemic period but we think it’s safe to assume that the figures will have risen significantly. In fact, according to government records, there’s been a steady, year-on-year, increase in hate crimes in the UK for some time now.
Incidentally, it’s worth noting that Germany has a bigger population than the UK. The current UK population is roughly 68 million, compared to Germany’s 84 million. It’s also worth pointing out that the UK government data is only accounting for hate crimes reported in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester) and not, in fact, the whole of the UK.
Can we rely on hate crime data like this to gauge how racist we are as country, compared to others? Sadly not. Unfortunately, there is no consistency in how hate crimes are reported and recorded by different countries so you can get dramatically different figures. For example, the US Department of Justice reported that 15,588 law enforcement agencies reported only 7,314 hate crime incidents in 2019. Given that the US population is almost 5 times the size of the UK, this data is clearly not matching up to expectations. The Guardian’s Mona Chalabi explains why US hate crime data is so lacking. She points out that the FBI only record crimes by a single motivation. So, for example, the victim might be a black Jewish woman so the crime might be reported as a race hate crime but not reported as an Anti-Semitic attack or gender-violence . Or they might record it as an Antisemitic attack but not as a race hate crime or gender-violence.
So, in reality, unless countries agree a format for reporting hate crimes, it’s impossible to compare how one country is performing against any other. However, a consistent approach to reporting crime data does help to build up a better picture of what’s going on over a given period of time and it’s clear that Germany and the UK, like many other countries, have seen a significant, year on year, increase in hate crimes for a number of years now and not just during the pandemic.
I don’t think we’ll ever answer the question ‘how racist is the UK’ compared to other countries but it’s certainly undeniable that the UK ‘is’ deeply racist and getting more and more so with each year. Perhaps the question we should be asking is how effective has the anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, anti-BLM, Antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric been, globally?
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