In March 2017, our colleagues at HuffPost US collaborated with the nonprofit news company ProPublica to help create a database of hate incidents. This stemmed from concern that President Trump’s ascension to power was emboldening bigots to spread hatred in the streets of their country.
It’s a depressingly familiar picture for those of us on the other side of the Atlantic. Like the US, the UK is in the midst of a growing populist movement and hate crime incidents are on the rise.
After the Brexit referendum result in 2016, the number of hate crimes recorded by police surged to be 29% higher than the previous year. That remains, to date, the biggest increase ever recorded.
The latest statistics also show that hate crime figures have more than doubled in the past five years. Police in England and Wales recorded a 17% rise in incidents with three quarters – 71,251 – recorded as race hate crimes.
In total, there were 94,098 offences. Home Office data shows religious hate crime saw the sharpest rise, with a 40% increase from 5,949 incidents in 2016/17 to 8,336 in 2017/18.
Last year, the government’s counter-terrorism community strand, Prevent, revealed a rise of 36% in people suspected of being influenced by far-right rhetoric.
Far-right groups have become more visible and better understood, and we have seen the toxic narrative of ‘victim-building’ allied to anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-migrant rhetoric. Global movements, rooted in the online world, have established and emboldened far-right networks across many different countries.
This increasing prevalence of hate crime is something that HuffPost UK has extensively reported on, from a Muslim woman having her hijab grabbed in Oxford Street, abuse on Ryanair flight, in which an elderly black woman was verbally abused by a white man to ’no blacks’ being spray-painted on the door of a Salford family.
And many people of colour feel that the discrimination goes to the highest levels of our society – the Windrush Scandal saw dozens of black British people of Caribbean and African descent living in this country suddenly stripped of their right to be here, essentially criminalised and told to ‘go back to where they came from’ by the state.
During Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, in a bid to crack down on immigration, the words ‘go home’ were literally printed on the side of vans, deployed up and down the country as part of the ‘hostile environment policy’ against migrants in the Home Office.
Last month, President Trump’s used that very same phrase against four BAME US congresswomen – all of whom are American. His ongoing anti-migrant stance has been well documented; mere months ago he ran Facebook ads stoking xenophobia.
In both the US and UK, we know that to be a migrant or visible minority means to automatically be under scrutiny when it comes one’s immigration status.
And, yet, in the UK it isn’t always as plain as being told to ‘go back home’. Often, the inference that non-white people don’t belong in this country is more subtle. For example many, including this reporter, can attest to being asked“where are you from? [...] no, where are you really from?” sometimes by a seemingly well-intended questioner.
Despite the veneer of British politeness with which the question is often posed, it still perpetuates the notion that Britain is only home for white people of English heritage. And the growing frequency of this question, this ‘othering’ of certain members of our society, paints a bleak picture of just how much the threat of nationalism looms in the lives of British people of colour.
We want to join our US colleagues in ensuring this shift is documented and reported, and that the experiences of people who are subjected to these questions are written about.
If you have been told to “go back to where you came from,” or words to that effect, or you’ve witnessed such an incident, we would appreciate you telling us about it via the form below. For now, because we need to give some focus to this project, we are looking for incidents that occurred between 23 June 2016 and June 15, 2019.
Through collaborating with HuffPost US and Canada, we at HuffPost UK want to clearly reflect the breadth of rising fascism in our countries and re-emphasise, as ever with our reporting, that this must be addressed.
Please include your contact information, so a reporter can follow up with you to investigate the incident.
The form is not a report to any police force or government agency.