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Why is no-one stepping up to help the victims of hate crimes?

26 Oct 2015

Last weekend 24-year-old Siana Bangura was on a train in Liverpool when a white man verbally and physically attacked her, calling her, among other things, a “black cunt”, a “nigger bitch”, “a slave” and “a fucking black monkey”.

“It was a quiet journey until the last 45 minutes when a big, fat, racist white man started to intimidate me. He started calling me all the racist names under the sun and then eventually hit me,” she says.

“There was a train full of people and they did nothing until one person came along, late in the day, to do something. I raised hell, and here we are.”

There has become a pattern over the past few weeks, in which we have seen three high-profile incidents of racist and Islamaphobic abuse taking place on public transport in England.

Last week a woman admitted to racially abusing a pregnant Muslim woman on a bus in Brent, after a video of the incident went viral, and a few days later an elderly Muslim man was filmed being told to “go back to his country”, that he will get a “pig’s cock” shoved in his mouth like “big Dave” and that his kids “love black dick” on a bus in Tottenham.

The common theme? Although the video footage of the incidents on the buses may well be misleading, as on the Liverpool train, no one jumps to the aid of the people being abused. The other passengers sit in virtual silence, or sniggering, while angry words tumble out of ignorant mouths. In Liverpool, Siana says that some passengers even told her to “stop making a scene”.

“There’s been an increase in these types of attacks on people of colour on public transport,” she says. “I wouldn’t have wanted a massive pub brawl or anything but it would have been good if people had stood up for me from the beginning when he was violent with his words. He called me a nigger bitch, a slave, a black cunt, a black bastard, a monkey – all of those things and more.

“It was textbook shit, and everyone just sat there. He tried to spit at me and that’s when I got up and was like ‘I’m not fucking having this’, because clearly no-one’s going to do anything. And then he hit me and I hit him back, basically.

“People should have shamed him into silence. Instead they tried to shame me into silence.”

What perhaps makes her case stand out however, is that she is an articulate, British-born poet and writer who has been more than able to use her voice to raise awareness of the incident – condemning it on various news outlets, including Buzzfeed and Black Ballad, as well as her own active social media accounts. The other two victims were almost certainly immigrants and likely did not have easy access to the same resources.

The other fact that makes it stand out is that, as Siana says: “On the surface these black people have been the perpetrators of racism, or rather prejudice, whereas I – although it hasn’t been caught on camera – was the victim.

“Man, even with that I didn’t use any racial slurs in that moment because there’s no excuse for it. Even though all the white people were behaving like trash, to be honest.”

Siana’s “righteous anger”, as she puts it, hasn’t just stemmed from a singular incident. Just last week she was the victim of a separate hate crime, when she was racially abused by a taxi driver in Uxbridge.  While, as many other BAME people in the UK can attest, it’s the insidious, structural and cultural racism and microagressions that can really get under the skin, these examples show that outright racism still does occur with regularity.

Anti hate crime charity, Stop Hate UK, received hundreds of phone calls reporting racially motivated hate crimes in 2014/15 – and ironically all three of the incidents noted above happened around the UK’s national hate crime awareness week (10 October – 17 October 2015). In 2013 there was the woman on the tram shouting, “What has this country come to? A load of black people and a load of f***ing Polish”, the year before, the woman on the tube telling a fellow passenger, “You Africans take our council flats.”

Stand out in these situations. Don’t let somebody be racially abused in front of you. Don’t let the microagressions pass. #SolidaritywithSianaBangura.