Calling it out

I’ve been called Paki, terrorist, told to “go home”, “go back to where you belong” and one person said he would “bomb me”. Not just online, but to my face.

The problem is that I’ve got so used to it that I don’t react. I don’t get angry anymore. I just accept I will always be attacked.

I’ve learnt a lot the last few days. I’ve cried too. The tensions in the Middle East have impacted me quite personally and I see the ripple effects it has in London acutely. Luckily, I am surrounded by caring friends and family who are compassionate and understand the complexity of what is happening in Israel and Gaza but online there is hatred that is sadly spilling on to our streets.

Last weekend, I was racially abused while I was at my street stall surgery. I decided to report the incident to the police. The only other time that I have reported Islamophobia and racism towards me was when I was candidate in the 2019 election. I had handwritten letters from a resident who attacked me for my religion and race and I had online abuse, so the campaign team dealt with this and I never had to do it personally or without support.

This time I had to do the recount on my own. I wrote to my local ward officer first saying I didn’t want to report it, saying there was no point, and then explained what happened.

I don’t want to explain here all the gruesome details, but the ward officer was immediate and clear in his response. “This is racism, report it. I will send an officer to you now so we can get this logged.” I was actually shocked. His reaction made me realise how complacent I’d been to what I had experienced.

What had I done? I was accepting racism.

His support allowed me to take the steps to make an official report. As I everything down, I realised just how serious it was.

I got a call from the Kingston Met the same day. They explained how hate crime was logged and how important it was that I reported it. After talking to them, I remembered more details with them which they added to the notes.

I felt heard. He then asked if I needed any support from a charity that helped victims of hate crime. He was so kind, so thoughtful. I was stunned.

Why was I stunned? Well, sadly, my family members have been stopped and searched for no reason so many times, that trust had broken down for me personally with the system.

As a councillor I have always had a great relationship with the officers and I know how wonderful many officers are. But I have also been hurt by the institution too. It’s a difficult relationship for me. But this recent experience has helped heal the wounds.

Trust can be re-built. And if we are to truly tackle the rising hate crime in London, we need the Met to play their role. I’m pleased on this occasion they showed they can. And next time I am attacked (and there will unfortunately be a next time), I will be reporting it.

 

* Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly.

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4 Comments

  • Peter Hirst 28th Oct '23 - 2:43pm

    Racist remarks do need to be recorded and if possible the perpretrators dealt with. We all say things we regret and benefit from being questioned about them. It is one way of changing behaviour. We tend to repeat things we get away with.

  • Nigel Quinton 28th Oct '23 - 4:21pm

    Hi Hina, that is a very encouraging report, I think anything that shows that the police can be supportive and can counter the general feeling of suspicion should be shared more widely. I also struggle to be positive about the police based on what I have seen over the past few years, both in the media and with my own experience. Maybe send to Positive News?

  • It takes a lot of courage to do this but it so important. I know your courage will encourage others to report racist incidents like this. And I’m pleased that you had a positive experience when reporting this to the police. Its important that tell the positives while still holding the police accountable and challenging when necessary. Keep doing what your doing. It does have an impact and it does make a difference.

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