Open Your Mind - Speak out Against Racism
European Action Week Against Racism 2012
Speak out Against Racism
All across Europe political groups and subcultures that feed off racist ideologies are on the move, penetrating mainstream politics with devastating consequences for the minorities targeted. The impact of racism and discrimination on our societies today is significant: It affects all of us in various ways whether we are its subjects or objects making social cohesion impossible and paving the way for conflict.
But racism and discrimination is not only advocated by the openly racist. The tendency to divide and categorise minorities into over-generalised groups is deeply embedded at various levels in our societies and in our everyday activities. It can take the form of a disdainful glance in the subway of one of Europe’s cities or arise from one of the structural mechanisms that make true equality across Europe impossible. But while it is a human condition to bear prejudices with us, it is not a human truth that we need to live our lives as slaves to them.
Combating racism and discrimination requires reflection on these different forms of racism and the many ways they can poison our minds and societies. However, what we need most is the courage to speak up against racism wherever we see it: in our streets, at our schools, on the football stadium or within state administration. We have to stop turning a blind eye and covering our ears to what we know is wrong.
Inside this poster are some examples of different types of racism and discrimination that occur across Europe, as well as examples of best practices for combating them. The examples reflect the two main challenges of the antiracist movement: combating the racists on the one hand, and combating the racist practices that exist in our societies on the other. Let us refuse to be blind, deaf and silent in the face of racism and break free of those restraining hands. The injustices we see around us can be changed, but we need to reflect, seek information and act upon it. This poster is a call to do so.
Why 21 March?
It is the International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, established by The General Assembly of the United Nations in 1966 following the brutal murder of 69 protestors in the South African township of Sharpeville in 1960. The massacre occurred during a protest against the apartheid laws of the South African government, a regime systematically enforcing racial inequality and segregation. Today racist murders and violence are still frequent and racial discrimination continues to be found at every level of our societies.
Every year around 21 March, the UNITED network coordinates the European-wide Action Week Against Racism and calls upon the international community to bring an end to racism, discrimination and intolerance. We urge NGOs, community organisations, schools, local councils and all manner of groups and individuals to join forces and confront racism with direct action. Whether by organising activities, supporting others or spreading the message, we can encourage ourselves and others to open up our eyes, see racial injustice around us and speak out against it. With our minds and voices, racism can be eliminated.
For more information: www.unitedagainstracism.org
The Popular Platforms of Racism
Music is an extraordinarily effective tool for expression. It reflects upon our social realities and defines the times we live in, even to the extent where certain bands have been labelled as a ‘voice of a generation’. For those reasons music has proven to be a significant and profitable tool for promoting racist agendas aimed at spreading hatred and prejudice. Via the Internet music can be distributed faster and cheaper than ever, enabling racist musicians and their organisers to target and reach out to whole new audiences. Concerts provide social settings where peers can meet and enjoy different bands of their ‘scene’, and new potential followers are recruited.
In the same way that music is used as a platform for hate, racism has found its way into European football. Stadiums are used as megaphones for spreading hatred and hooliganism as a tool for spreading fear and violence, as the intense experience of belonging that football can give us is misused for spreading racism. But there are ways of combating the spread of racism through these popular platforms.
Reverse the Perspective!
Music, football and other popular activities have an enormous potential for creating cohesion, establishing intercultural dialogue and spreading the antiracist agenda. Organisations like Football Against Racism Europe, Never Again Association in Poland and Foundation for Subjective Values in Hungary have achieved great results using music and football for promoting antiracist values. Show Racism the Red Card UK and The Congress of National Minorities of Ukraine marked last year’s Action Week with large-scale football tournaments and Italian NGOs APS YARD and Cantiere organised a series of eclectic reggae and hip-hop concerts. Many others have made great manifestations against racism in stadiums and concert halls across the continent. You can visit www.lovemusichateracism.com, www.farenet.org and www.srtc.org to seek inspiration and organise your own event where your communities can celebrate diversity.
Hate Speech & Hate Crimes
Following the growth of right-wing extremism in Europe hate speech and hate crimes are on the rise. Though hate speech and hate crimes are different concepts they are deeply connected: the first is seen as an action that seeks to incite to violence and/or prejudice against certain groups and the second as the act of violence itself. According to OSCE-ODIHR, hate crime is “a criminal act motivated by bias towards a certain group”. Although we can define these concepts, we often face difficulties in identification and documentation when combating them both.
Hate speech refers to a discourse that aims to incite hatred and prejudice, and given this nature it can be found in numerous forms. It can be expressed verbally or in written statements by practically everyone: your national politicians, the mass media, a blogger or even your neighbour or peers. It can then be redistributed to the wider public by traditional media platforms or via the Internet and the social networks that have rapidly enhanced information and communication flows over the past decade. But hate speech also takes more lucid forms than words and writing. Symbols are the most powerful communication tool that have ever existed, and symbols of hate meant to convey rage and hatred can be found in many forms, varying from a graffiti tag to a sticker or a tattoo in the back of a head. Thus, we are not just facing the blatantly racist provocateurs, but a whole variety of actors and tools that are meant and used for spreading racist agendas. When combating hate crime we face yet another problem of identification. An act of violence is easily recognised, but it is often difficult to prove that the incentives behind it are racist. For this reason the official numbers for hate crimes across Europe only show us the very tip of the iceberg.
Europe needs consistent and continuous monitoring of hate speech and hate crime. Without real knowledge of the actual numbers of hate crimes occurring and the development of the racist discourses that we challenge, we are fighting an invisible enemy. OSCE produces an annual report “Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region: Incidents and Responses”. They urge NGOs to cooperate by submitting hate crime data and annual calls for submission are distributed by UNITED. In the field of monitoring, different national and regional campaigns have had great success recording this activity. Zara Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit, for example, uses the Action Week Against Racism as a platform to present its annual report on racist incidents in Austria. It is important to cooperate and share data with other regions; together we can gather the information needed to raise awareness about the rise of racism across Europe!
Unlike hate speech and hate crimes, institutional racism is not about the racists, but about racist practice. It can be described as differential access to the goods, services and opportunities of society because of colour, culture or ethnic origin. When the differential access becomes so central to the institution, it becomes common practice. Once it is established as a societal norm it is difficult to rectify. Therefore, combating institutionalised racism is at the same time addressing injustices deeply embedded in our societies and preventing new forms of discrimination from establishing themselves in such a way.
In order to combat institutional racism we need to address the way we define and understand both the term ‘institution’ and ‘racism’. The institutions responsible for the discriminatory acts can include private, public and governmental bodies and, in some instances, a combination of several of them. The racist discrimination is most likely performed unknowingly; it is often not a deliberate aggression but ‘the way we conduct affairs’. We need to open our eyes to these established practices. Although institutional racism is frequently subtle, unintentional and invisible, it is highly potent and harmful for the minorities targeted.
Education is the Key
One of the most frequent and successful approaches for combating institutional racism is through monitoring and education of the people who work and act within those institutions in question: whether it is schoolteachers, policemen or business leaders. Combating institutionalised racism is hard, we need to free our minds to look critically at all that we accept as standard practice. But luckily most of us share a common trade: once we recognise our irrational fears and prejudice as what they really are, we are prone to changing our behaviour.
The British organisation National Police Racism has combined efforts of monitoring and education in their fight against police racism in the UK. For inspiration see their webpage at www.nationalpoliceracism.co.uk
Everyday Racism - Connecting the Dots
Like institutionalised racism the concept of ‘everyday racism’ is not about racists, but about racist practices as common behaviour in society. It can take both smaller and bigger forms, but everyday racism often appears quite harmless compared to the more openly racist acts of hate speech and hate crime for example. But even if the violation of a victim’s civil rights might seem small, the degrading and dehumanising nature of everyday racism inflicts serious damage both on the targeted groups and our societies as a whole. Challenging everyday racism is challenging the subtle presence of racism in our normal activities, but there is a further need to open our minds and see this everyday racism in the bigger scheme of things. In the words of British social scientist and author Lena Dominelli, it is ”It is the subtle presence of racism in our normal activities, coupled with our failure to make the connections between the personal, institutional and cultural levels of racism which make it so hard for white people to recognize its existence in their particular behaviour and combat it effectively”.
UNITED we Have a Voice
In combating racism in Europe we must face two challenges: the racists and the racist practice. Through collective action and sharing good practices we can oppose both and fight against the injustices they cause. Together we can speak out for another future. Join the campaign and become one of thousands of voices that fight for a Europe free from racism!
UNITED Can Offer You the Tools to Speak Out!
In activism one thing is certain: size alone does not determine the impact or success of an event or project. Being active against racism does not necessarily require large organisational capacities, big budgets or years of experience in fact, even the smallest event can make a big difference, and all that is needed from you is creativity and the will to act.
As you start developing and preparing your activity there are some basic questions you should reflect upon. Depending on how you choose to frame your activity the following questions provide a good starting point:
• What is the character of your event/project?
• Who are you targeting and how?
• What are your goals and how will you achieve them?
• Who are your potential partners in action?
Answering these questions will enable you to sketch out your event and create a plan of action. Whether you seek inspiration, wish to draw on other activists’ experiences, you are looking for potential partners or need various sorts of campaigning materials, UNITED has a range of tools to offer you:
The UNITED list of activities
Every year UNITED publishes the list of activities for the annual action week against racism. Here you can find inspiration for your upcoming activities in different events happening across the Continent. You can also use it to find out about activities planned in your local area. Go along and support them, or even better, team up to make a bigger impact in your communities!
The European Address Book Against Racism
Here you can find the contact information of more than 2300 organisations and magazines active in the fight against racism. If you are looking for possible partners or activists with experience within the field of your upcoming activities the address book is an invaluable tool.
UNITED has produced more than 30 thematic info leaflets that can introduce you to various antiracist topics and best practices, and covers music against racism, football against racism, hate speech and hate crime amongst others. For background knowledge, practical information and tips on how you can tackle these problems this is a great place to start.
UNITED can provide you with postcards, posters and stickers for awareness-raising. To speak out against racism, all you need to do is organise the handout.
Call and ask
There are many years and fields of experience within the diverse UNITED network. The secretariat knows about activities taking place in the different parts of Europe and is ready to help or point you in the right direction. If you have questions or need contacts and ideas, do not hesitate to get in touch.
The tools UNITED has to offer can be found online at www.unitedagainstracism.org. You can also order material online UNITED can send them to you free of charge.
Why Collective Action?
Collective action is the only way to eliminate racism, injustice and inequality. Join the campaign and add your voice to thousands of others; by speaking together we are louder, our message is stronger and travels further.
Racism is not just an isolated act, but part of a collective, continuing system of social relations. It is not always easy to see; sometimes we need each other to point discrimination out to us. Effective antiracism is a joint effort; we start by opening up our own minds and then encouraging those around us to see another future. Across Europe activists are preparing strong and innovative ways to engage with their communities during the Action Week Against Racism, join the campaign! Let us work together to speak out, loud and proud, for equality, respect and diversity.
Get in touch with the UNITED secretariat to order posters and other campaign material for free, inform us about your activities (title, date, theme, place), seek advice and contacts, and keep us up to date on what’s happening in your area.
How UNITED Can Help You
• You can order campaign material, up to 100 posters (2kg material) for free. But if you need more for special purposes, do not hesitate to contact UNITED.
• We will produce a special List of Activities, documenting all the different activities during the campaign and the strength of the antiracist movement throughout Europe. The List of Activities will be updated regularly and is published on our website.
• A UNITED media release will be sent out to all major European press agencies, newspapers, etc. If you feel that we should include a specific media contact from your country in our list, let us know. Journalists wanting to know about specific activities will be informed about events in their country and referred to the organisations involved.
• Call UNITED if you cannot find a partner for your activities. We might know of other NGOs in your country who are planning activities.
• UNITED will produce a European report after the Action Week, including as many of the activities that took place as possible. The report is spread throughout Europe to support NGOs in reporting to their sponsors and to inspire action for next year. You can order copies of last year’s report for inspiration and motivation.
• You can order a copy of the European Address Book Against Racism to find like-minded organisations in other countries, or in your own country. The Address Book also includes a full list of antiracism magazines (also available online).
• You can order or download a wide variety of educational leaflets that provide hints, best-practice and specific know-how about topics relevant for the every day anti-racism work.
How You Can Help UNITED
Announce your activities to us! Send us your flyers, leaflets and posters or links to your campaign activities before they take place it will help us make the media release fresh and exciting. You can also contribute to the post-campaign report, make sure your activity is included and you get the recognition you deserve! Send us reports, newspaper articles, photographs, online coverage and feedback after the event for the European report. The material does not have to be in English.
We Are UNITED
UNITED for Intercultural Action is the European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees. Racism, nationalism, fascism, discrimination, restrictive migration and asylum policies, these issues have a European dimension. It is important to fight intolerance on all levels. Linked through UNITED, more than 550 organisations from a wide variety of backgrounds, from 48 European countries, work together on a voluntary basis. They base their cooperation on common actions, shared activities and on mutual respect. UNITED is and will remain independent from all political parties, organisations and states, but seeks an active co-operation with other anti-racist initiatives in Europe. Through the UNITED network organisations meet each other, work on common actions and share information. European-wide action weeks and campaigns are planned and discussed at UNITED conferences. Like-minded organisations meet each other at such conferences and work together on specific projects and on specific topics. The workers at the secretariat are in constant contact with the network organisations, ensuring that information and proposals for action are processed rapidly.
Information is received from more than 2700 organisations and mailings go out to about 2300 groups in Europe. If you want to get involved discuss the ideas and aims of the UNITED network within your organisation. Let us know when your organisation would like to join or to receive information. And add UNITED to your mailing list!
UNITED for Intercultural Action
European network against nationalism, racism, fascism
and in support of migrants and refugees
Postbus 413, NL-1000 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands
phone +31-20-6834778, fax +31-20-6834582