“I’m being bullied at school because I’m Chinese. The other kids say that my skin is yellow, call me names, and it gets me really down.”
That’s the testimony of an 11-year-old girl — one voice in what appears to be a charred tapestry of young people sharing their stories of racial abuse and hate crimes across the UK.
“I hate the way I look so much, I think if I looked different everyone would stop being mean to me and I’d fit in,” the girl continued. “I’ve tried to change the way that I look by using eyeliner so that I fit in more. I don’t want to tell my parents because I think it would upset them.”
That interview is one of many collated by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) from calls made to Childline — its telephone support service — after it published its findings investigating police data on hate crimes against young people on Thursday.
The NSPCC found 10,571 race hate crimes recorded by police against children under the age of 18 from 2017-2018 after a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. That’s an increase from 9,752 the previous year — and up from 8,683 the year before that, according to the Guardian.
That amounts to an average of 29 cases a day — or more than one every hour.
In total, there were 94,098 hate crimes recorded by police in 2017-2018, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales. But it’s likely the true NSPCC figure is much higher since hate crimes are typically underreported, while five police forces reportedly did not respond to their FOI requests.
Makes me feel sick that children in this country are facing such vicious racist abuse that they are whitening their skin. We have got to stop this rise of hate.https://t.co/NMnUhPkjwE— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 30, 2019
The Guardian has suggested there may be a reason for the patterned increase in racism across the UK too: Brexit.
On May 20 it revealed the results of a poll which showed that 71% of people from ethnic minority groups have experienced racism. But five months before the referendum to leave the European Union in June 2016, it was 58%.
The data from the Crime Survey since 2013 also illustrates that racially or religiously aggravated hate crimes rose throughout the referendum campaign, and peaked right after the result. The only other incidents that provoked such an increase were terrorist attacks.
Mark Hamilton, the hate crime lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, acknowledged the influence of the referendum, saying “this criminality will not be tolerated.”
“It is just as heartbreaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different,” Atiyah Wazir, a Childline counsellor, told the Guardian. “These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren’t tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings.”
'Nobody prepares you for the hate you get online... from strangers telling you to go back home or commenting on the colour of your skin.' Blogger Babatunde Ogunsina explains how he tackles online #HateCrime.— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) May 24, 2019
Find out more about hate crime: https://t.co/K8FKhnVIekpic.twitter.com/4WiFsjDyIo
There are also reports from the NSPCC that some children have since used makeup in an attempt to whiten their skin and avoid racial hatred.
“I’ve been bullied ever since I started school,” a 10-year-old girl told the NSPCC. “The bullies call me nasty names — it makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.”
“I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country,” she added. “I don’t understand because I’m from the UK. I’ve tried to make my face whiter before using makeup so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”
“People call me a terrorist and keep telling me to go back to where I came from,” another 16-year-old reported. “I dress in traditional Muslim clothes and I think it singles me out.”
“I usually just put my head down and get on with it but it’s getting to the point now where I genuinely feel like I might get attacked,” she added.