President Trump has shone a light on the “cancer” of hatred within global communities, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox has said.
Addressing the No2H8 Crime Awards in London on Tuesday evening, Brendan Cox said it was the job of those tackling hatred to “be better organised” and help to rebuild communities.
“I think there is a danger when we talk about hatred to imagine it is created in a vacuum,” he said.
“The hatred that is taking more of the public discourse isn’t an accident - it’s happening because of our politics, it’s happening because of where we are in our country at the moment.
“And we are meeting tonight at a time of crisis. There’s no point in wishing away the gravity of that crisis or imagining it is going to be short-lived, because it’s not. We have tried to wish it away for a long period of time. We’ve been complacent, we’ve buried our heads in the sand, we’ve imagined the end of history, where the structures we have relied on have been collapsing around us.
“In fact, the only thing to be thankful to President Trump for is I think he’s awoken us to the scale of that challenge and cancer within our own societies, how fundamentally something has gone wrong.”
Cox was presenting an award in honour of his wife, who died in June 2016 after being shot and stabbed outside a library in her Yorkshire constituency by far-right extremist Thomas Mair.
He said the challenges facing communities were only going to increase in the coming decades.
“The fact is this isn’t a short-term threat. We are living through a perfect storm of insecurities - economic, physical and cultural - the thing that Trump tapped into incredibly powerfully,” he told the central London ceremony.
“If you look at the UK, it is currently made up of about 12% black and minority ethnic groups - by 2050 38% it will be BME. That cultural change, which is already destabilising communities, is going to grow.
“The economic dislocation that we are going to have in this next period is going to make vulnerable people feel more vulnerable, not more secure.
“And those storms of insecurity are hitting us at a time when we are least able to cope with them. The institutions that used to protect us whether that’s politics, or the media, or faith leaders - our trust in them has collapsed. They are no longer able to play the role that they used to play.”
Cox said people were living more and more separate lives, with pubs, churches and local shops failing to bring neighbours together in the way they once did.
He added: “We are living increasingly in our own echo chambers, shouting louder at people who already agree with us, becoming more extreme in our own convictions and less able to connect with other people.
“Our kids are less likely to know other kids on our same street, we are less likely to know the name of our neighbours than in any time in our history.
“And in the midst of that you’ve got people who are, day in, day out, driving hatred against other groups. They are funded very well, including by other states and they spend their time telling people their problems, their insecurities have a very simple solution - it’s the Mexicans, or it’s the Muslims, or it’s the Jews.
“There is no guarantee that we will come out of this. It is a very combustible mix. And if you around the world we are beginning to see states fall. States that have been democratic for a period become less democratic, whether that is in Turkey, whether that’s in Poland, Hungary and even to an extent in the US.
“I think in the US the institutions will hold up to this challenge, but it is only the first assault. The thing that we’ve forgotten too often is that stable democracies, liberal democracies, are a very recent, Second World War invention. They are not the status quo, they are not pre-ordained.”
Cox said anti-hate campaigners must bear in mind that those responsible for division were “not the majority”.
“We often talk about polarisation but the reality is more nuanced than that. Most people are in the middle. Yes, they are concerned about immigration, but they are not haters,” he said.
“Yes, the might have questions about the role of women in Islam, but they aren’t Islamophobic. Our job, our challenge, is to engage with those people, support them in open conversation, not one where we agree on every element, but where we agree on the fundamentals and freeze out hate.
“What’s happened in the last period is not that people have become less liberal. In fact, most people are progressively becoming more so. What’s happened is that the far right haters have become better organised, they’ve out-organised us, on the street, politically, on social media and elsewhere. Our job is to out-organise them.
“People know that something is wrong, and they want to fix it.”
Stop Funding Hate, a campaign set up to urge advertisers not to spend money with the Daily Mail and The Sun following negative headlines about refugees, was the winner of the Jo Cox Award.
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, set up in memory of teenager who was killed because of the way she dressed, also netted an accolade.
Other No2H8 Crime winners included Jack Stanley, who won the nation’s heart when he befriended Syrian refugee Rani while appearing on Channel 4 programme Educating Manchester and Emma Roebuck, a transgender woman who helps organisations improve their communications and relationships with LGBTQI communities.