Racism is an uncomfortable and emotive subject to discuss. To its victims it is absolutely devastating and can affect entire communities. In Britain it is considered socially unacceptable but despite this, and the numerous laws designed to prevent discrimination, racism is still worryingly commonplace. I’ve witnessed it myself on duty more times than I can count; the culprits are usually adults, which is shocking and unpleasant enough, but for me, the truly worrying cases are those involving children.
Last month I spoke to an officer who specialises in groups with extremist views. He told me about a child living in the UK who reads extreme right-wing literature including Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Anders Breivik’s Portfolio. The child can quote passages from them off by heart and there is evidence he has been doing so at school. Several members of the family belong to a right wing extremist group and have encouraged the child to share their views.
This case has been playing on my mind since hearing about it. For me it raises one very difficult question to answer; how should society deal with families who are deliberately raising an innocent child to be an intolerant bigot?
In a truly democratic society a person is free to think and speak as they see fit, both at home and in public; but there are limits which are necessary to protect the freedoms of everyone. The great Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George once said “Liberty has restraints but no frontiers” for me this hits the nail on the head. Liberty has restraints to ensure the democracy is fair and balanced for everyone so yes, we live in a free society but a society which must protect its citizens from prejudice and be intolerant of hate. In the case I’ve highlighted I believe education is the key. The child should be given the opportunity to learn about different people, cultures and faiths and test their views within themselves. Racism is the result of ignorance and fear. Replacing this with knowledge and understanding will be step in the right direction. It won’t solve the problem, I’m not naïve enough to think that, but it’s a start. Schools should lead the charge in providing a strong, practical education. Books should be read, open discussions had, visits to synagogues and mosques should be arranged. The issue should not be ignored. It is through examining a viewpoint from different angles which allows us to form balanced opinions. Children are no different.
This week Nick Clegg spoke about racism (listen to part of the speech here) in which he said racism must be met with a “Steel fist” and that “we must aim for nothing less than real equality of opportunity across the whole of our society” Liberal Democrats see the importance of equality for everyone and of taking robust action, either prosecution or rehabilitation, against people who commit hate crime. I believe this is the way forward for this country and all its citizens, regardless of their race, culture or gender.
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* The author is a serving police officer writing under a psudonym