Of Musings and Wonderings

{April 6, 2013}   ‘Hate Crime’ – Will It Really Make A Difference?
You're A Goth, Harry.

You’re A Goth, Harry.

For those who don’t know, police in Manchester are now recording attacks against goths, emos and punks as hate crimes. This has come about due to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, set up in memory of the young woman killed in 2007. Some may see this as a step in the right direction. As for me, I don’t know, I’ve always been a bit conflicted by the idea of ‘hate crimes’. And I don’t think it’s clear what effect this may actually have in Manchester.

‘Emo’ became pretty big when I was a teenager. And yeah, I had the fringe, I wore black, and before emo became a thing my good friend and I would usually get called ‘moshers’ by chav/townies/whatever the hell they were called back then. Then it was emo. Then it was kids younger than us (we were only 15/16) going “Why don’t you go slit your wrist, emo?” This happened when we were walking around our hometown, when we were on the train, anywhere really. In school, we had a uniform, but that didn’t stop some people from throwing remarks at us, though these were usually, strangely, more personal attacks than the emo/mosher ‘insults’. We lived with this day in, day out. I put up with bullying in school for reasons even now I don’t understand. (It stopped when my mum called the school after I came home crying one day. Having someone jab you in the back with a science stool, and the teacher do absolutely nothing, was the last straw.) So, that’s my personal experience.

Thing is, I grew up. I still wear black jeans, I still have my band tops and still buy Famous Stars and Straps hoodies, Atticus t-shirts and all the stuff I wanted but couldn’t afford as a kid. And I wear that sort of stuff on nights out, when there might be grown up versions of the kids I encountered years ago, drunk. Luckily, the rock-type places aren’t right next door to the types of places they might go to, but even when you do pass them – as everyone heads to the same taxi ranks – nothing happens. But people will always be dickheads. No matter what I’m wearing, whether I’m coming home from work in my work clothes, or in casual clothes on a Friday, I sometimes get comments from a group  of kids who often hang out by the station (and by kids, I mean kids. They’re like fourteen). I just laugh it off. And I’m lucky, in that now, it’s a lot easier to do that.

But that’s me. Like I said, I’m lucky.

My brother spent last night in A&E with his mates. He wasn’t injured, but one of his mates had been jumped – again, by a group of kids – and beaten up. The same kids had thrown a lighter at his other mate when he was coming out of a shop. As he went to dodge it, he slipped, broke a beer bottle and sliced open his hand. And my brother, his mates, they’re not teenagers. My brother turns 30 next year, and his mates are near enough around the same age group. As they bandaged up the guy’s hand, the kids stood around, laughing, calling them long haired mosher freaks.

So what difference would it make if this had been classed as a hate crime?

To me, hate crimes have come into force in an attempt to protect those who have historically been targeted for reasons they perhaps cannot help; whether it’s because of race, religion or sexuality. One comment on one of the Guardian ‘Comment Is Free’ articles made the point, based on something they had seen, that if two people were attacked, one black and one white, because of how they dressed, the white guy could go get a job, a suit and walk safe, whereas the black guy couldn’t change the colour of his skin. Is that really the point though? Surely the point of bringing this in is to make people feel safe, to feel like they can be themselves no matter what they wear, how they look like or who they love.

Arguably, it could make people feel safer to go to the police. If someone is attacked for being a goth/emo/punk, maybe they feel they won’t get any attention from the police, they would perhaps feel they would be brushed off. If I had ever been seriously attacked as a teenager, I think I would have felt this. But even with this new classification, even knowing the police MIGHT take them more seriously (because there’s nothing to guarantee they will) will they still report it?

It’s all well and good saying the police will be stricter with people who commit ‘hate crimes’, but – and this is why I’ve always been confused – how do you define hate crime? My other brother, a year younger than the one I talked about above, got beaten up when he was a teenager for no other reason than a couple of guys didn’t like him. He didn’t dress anywhere near as ‘alternatively’ as me or my oldest brother. Neither did his friends. Yet they were still targeted, relentlessly. The police never did anything. If it had happened to me, and this hate crime classification had been in force, how is that fair? Why would an attack against me be taken more seriously than an attack against my brother?

Yes, we need to fight racism, homophobia, sexism – especially when it turns violent. But where is the line drawn? And why does there have to be a line? If I got mugged and beaten up on my way home from work, and if someone else – maybe someone goth/emo/punk – got mugged and beaten up, what’s to say it was because of the way they dressed? In some cases, I think it might be hard to say well, that’s a hate crime and that isn’t. Because to do something horrible to another human being, no matter the reason, surely it’s ALL hate crime? Whether you’re black, white, gay, straight, goth, chav, townie, jock, punk, mosher, preppy…does it seriously matter?

And this may only affect the consequences. It does nothing, really, to deter these incidents. Hell, if this came into effect here, and I was a little more goth/emo/punk than I am now, then I think it would just make me more scared. It would make me feel more that I was being targeted, that I had to be careful what I wore and as a woman,  I feel like that’s a message I get enough, thanks very much. I’ve always worn what I want, what I like, and damn whoever cares. And I’ve got along well with that. But if I was suddenly made more aware of these hate crimes, then it would just make me think there were a hell of a lot more people out there committing them than I was aware of.

Maybe I’m just being cynical, but I don’t think it will stop the people committing these acts. Acts of violence against anyone is hateful enough, and hurtful, and can have physiological consequences no matter how you dress or what you look like. I still tense up if there’s a group of boys in front of me, and I shouldn’t have to feel that way. But I’ve never been attacked, and if I was…I’d like to think it was treated seriously if it was classed as a hate crime or not. I’d like to think the same would happen to both my brothers. Because the one I mentioned who wasn’t as ‘alternative’, he got attacked in Southampton, and mugged, when dressed as a geisha for someone’s birthday. Was that a hate crime? Or just a mugging?

I think hate crime confuses matters. It puts one group of people in a ‘special’ box, and might actually do no more than draw even bigger gaps between one group and another.

But, hey, maybe like I said above I am just being cynical. Maybe things will work out and maybe, just maybe, those alternative kids in Manchester will start to feel safer. Maybe they will be able to walk down the streets without the fear of being attacked or, if it all pans out, the knowledge that if they are, they will be taken seriously. Who knows?

And if you have any thoughts about this, please post in the comments below. I’d really like to know what people think about this whole thing. Think it’ll work out? Or are you as cynical as me? Or, hell, do you think ‘hate’ crime should apply across the board, not just to certain groups?


beatthemtodeathwiththeirownshoes says:

Interesting piece. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, since I saw the news. I was horrified by the case mentioned. It made me sick. I agree that any assault is a hate crime, but if this category MAKES the police do their job (which they don’t most of the time) I’m all for it.
The culture of violence on our streets is out of control. And it is mainly Chavs ( Not all of them.) I think it is because they have a very strong herd mentality and part of that herd mentality urges them to ‘bang’ people out. As punks we strove to be different – that included with our politics. We rocked against racism, treated women as equals, and saved our spite for the real enemy – the warmongering state itself.
The trouble with the Chavs is, they don’t have anyone to teach them. Gangster Rappers, imported from the US, are not good role models. At least Johnny Rotten had something to say, even though it was bitter and rightly twisted!

Thanks for the comment!

I think you’re right. Especially about the police. But I really have my doubts about this making the police take these cases more seriously – there’s still institutionalised racism, after all.

As for the herd mentality…to be honest, I think most groups have a herd mentality to some extent. Yes, alternative groups do what they do to be different but they are still part of a group. I just think at times that herd mentality seems more positive than the one found in some chavs or even ‘lads’. (Add ladettes to that, too). One thing I love about going to gigs, except the live music, is the sense of community. You get people stopping to help others, especially when you might have, say, a group of young adults (and by that I mean 18+) in a crowd, and a few younger teenagers. A kid falls, and the people help them. Lostprophets, 2006, I was 16. And right near the front. Stayed as long as I could and then just didn’t feel well. Kind of swaying on my feet and this really tall blond guy takes my hand, helps lift me up to the bouncers. You don’t get that kind of community in many other places.
As for role models, you’re right. And I think it applies even more to people my age and younger. Look at the punk/emo scene; some of them (at least when I was a teen) lived straight edge lives. Others just…got on with their lives with minimal publicity. Hell, I remember reading about Billy from Good Charlotte and how much he liked Dracula and Anne Rice novels, about Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio talking about Satanism and it’s like…you’ve got intelligent people, talking to kids about books and religion. They sure as hell made me look at myself, at what I wanted to do. They made me want to write, as much as authors I admired did.

As an old punk (I was going to gigs in 1978!) I saw the ‘herd mentality’ asserting itself there too. By ’82 I decided that being part of any ‘group’ especially one that asked me to subscribe to dress codes or behavioural models,was not for me. I can remember the moment my disillusionment set in. My girlfriend and I were waiting outside a venue to watch, The Damned, I think. In the queue ahead were the King’s Road punks, in their bondage trousers, leathers and soaped mohawk uniforms, sneering at people, calling them ‘weekenders’. Punk was already dead.
But at least we got some good tunes and made some good friends.
I wish the legislation would do more, as my own daughter was assaulted, quite badly. Not because she was a goth – she’s not. But because she stood up to a bunch of ‘popular’ girls who were bullying her friend. She had the audacity to stand up for what was right. That is something that never arises out of the herd mentality, but from individuals who have the strength to be themselves. Anyway, she’s cool now, at Uni studying Physics…and they are still trying to be popular. How sad.
I like your site and look forward to reading something from, when you get there. 🙂
All the best

I just don’t get that kind of mentality. It’s why I really didn’t like some of the emo kids a few years back; there was this whole attitude of “Oh, well, you’re not depressed so you’re faking it.” To be honest, some of the best gigs I’ve gone to have had a nice mix – last time I saw Alkaline Trio, there were a few older guys in the back, mainly people around my age (late teens) in the front, and as I was walking out, I saw this kid, a girl who must have been about eleven, wearing an ALK3 t-shirt and grinning madly, her mum or dad (can’t remember which) with her. And I was just like…okay, not all hope lost for the next generation.
It sucks that there’s not a sense of truly great venues around any more though; I went to Uni in Hull, and my dad’s cousin (my dad has family up there) told me “If you get a chance, go to The Adelphi club. It was the place to be back in my day. I saw The Damned there.” And those places just…seem to keep disappearing. I didn’t get the chance to go to the Adelphi, it was always closed!
Good for her! But the only popular thing…it never goes away. It was scary, in Uni, to see how many people still acted like that. Who I was actually friends with for a brief time when I started. Before I realised I didn’t want to hang out with those kind of people. And good luck to your daughter! I couldn’t imagine doing something like Physics! Way too much science for me.
Take care,

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