"Nothing to see here; move along now" seems to be the outlook of some people to the announcement of record levels of reported hate crimes in England and Wales.
Between July and September last year 14,000 incidents were documented, the highest level recorded since reporting began in 2012. In 10 forces the number of suspected hate crimes increased by more than 50%.
There are three ways in which we might account for the rise in reported hate crimes: people are more willing to come forward and report such incidents; police are recording such matters in a different way, which leads to more incidents being recorded; or hate crimes are actually on the rise.
There are those who suggest that there has been no increase in such incidents and that the majority of reported events are extreme reactions from the police and the public, a sort of political correctness gone mad.
Do we really think that thousands of people in the UK all simultaneously decided to start reporting incidents that they would previously have left to go unreported? Alternatively, do we really think that 33 out of 44 separate police forces would all have simultaneously recorded incidents in such a way that would produce record levels?
What is less of a mental leap is the fact that hate crime is actually on the rise and people and the police are responding appropriately. Most non-white British citizens will have faced their own personal experiences of violent discrimination. Being made to feel like "the other" is something that has become all too real for many of us, myself included.
I can cite multiple examples, some which I have reported and some which I haven't: from being accosted by a drunk man on a train who saw fit to recite a passage of Enoch Powell's infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech before telling me that people like me were taking jobs away from him, to a man shouting racial slurs following an incident on the road.
We have a choice as a society. We can try to explain away these figures, and pretend that they don't point to something deeply worrying, or we can accept that, imperfect though some of the statistics may be, they point to a troubling truth.
There is nothing new about discrimination in the UK. It's always been there, simmering away under the surface, but now there are those who feel emboldened by national and global shifts toward the right: toward nationalism, protectionism and closed borders. Do we as a society just look away and try to ignore that? Or are we actually going to try to do something about it?Suggest a correction