‘You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew.’
(Colours of the Wind, By Stephen Schwartz and composer Alan Menken for Walt Disney Pictures)
For Hate Crime Awareness Week this year the Scottish Alliance Against Prejudice and Hate Crime is running a social media campaign called ‘Prejudice Leads 2 Hate’. With the support of YouthLink Scotland and our new project ‘Action on Prejudice’ the aim is to highlight what we as individuals have in common rather than focussing on our differences.
We all have different backgrounds, faiths, sexuality, ages etc. but should these define us? We each have our own identity which is not necessarily defined by the community or group we seemingly belong to. This is the point where hate behaviour and prejudice often starts – when the perceived group, organisation or community someone belongs to is used as a reason to discriminate against them. Examples we see of this on a daily basis include someone being told to ‘go home to your own country’ because of the colour of their skin or their perceived religion based on what they are wearing. The idea that this country is not that person’s home because of their appearance is deeply prejudiced and makes an attempt to remove that person’s right to be themselves regardless of the facts behind their presence here. It’s an assumption made without knowing the facts and decides that they do not belong and therefore deserve to be treated differently. It echoes the lyrics from Pocahontas above where the individual displaying the prejudice believes that only people who look and believe as they do have the right to be here, to exist in this country.
These incidents happen across the UK regularly and don’t just relate to race. It can be as extreme as someone deciding another person is a terrorist based on their faith or religion, or simply because they wear a headdress. People are discriminated against, abused, assaulted and verbally attacked based on their perceived faith, race, disability, gender, transgender identity, age and much more. It stems from a belief that one kind of person is better and should have more rights than another and is often disguised as wanting equality. But equality is about having the same opportunities and having the same rights as everyone else. Prejudice, in large part, is also ignorance and a lack of understanding about differences. As humans we are quick to categorise people, to put them and ourselves in different boxes.
Action on Prejudice will aim to reduce the use of these boxes and raise awareness of the differences we see in society and why they are not to be feared or ashamed of but something to celebrate. The project will seek and share the stories of people across Scotland, their experiences of hate behaviour, crime and prejudice but also positive stories. We want members of the public to start walking in the footsteps of strangers. We all have the capacity to build our understanding and learn new things about the world and people around us. We want everyone to understand that difference is nothing to be ashamed of and actually, we have more in common than separates us.