Foundation host webinar on online hate crime


West Ham United and the West Ham United Foundation recently held a public webinar in partnership with the Metropolitan Police, where special guests discussed racism and hate crime; a rising issue in our society. 

Police Constable Suzanne Stanbrook and Foundation’s Senior Education Officer Cormac Hanrahan hosted the talk and were joined by a panel consisting of Show Racism the Red Card Vice-President and former Hammers player Leroy Rosenior MBE, Councillor Darren Rodwell (Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council), rapper and author Guvna B and WHU Foundation CEO and The Second Curve Network lead, Joseph Lyons. 

Hanrahan has written the following piece, sharing some of the key discussion points and experiences from the webinar…

Whilst racist incidents still happen face-to-face, the country has seen a rise in racist and hateful messages being shared online. We are living in an increasingly digital world and over the last year our primary source of communication has been online.

Recently, the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Reece James, and Romaine Sawyers all reported receiving racist abuse on social media, and the PFA have reported that some players are now deleting their online accounts. This issue is much broader than football though and it continues to grow. Therefore, having conversations around these subject matters is increasingly important as is showcasing support for people to safely challenge these behaviours and actions.

PC Stanbrook kicked-off the webinar by providing insight on what hate crime is, stating: “Hate crime itself is made up of five characteristics: race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and faith. If someone is called a derogatory name in any of these five characteristics that would be considered a hate crime. Hate crime can happen anywhere, but it is becoming more prolific online.”

Councillor Rodwell identified this as a unique problem as social media has access to you wherever you are, commenting: “The problem with online hate crime is that it feels a lot more personal because it is coming into your home and your safety net. We need to say to the online community that they must be prepared to do something about the racist and hateful comments that we see online.” 

“When I was in school if someone was racist or said something hateful there were consequences. When you are racist or hateful online there are not as many consequences, and when there are no consequences people have no fear. When you have no fear, you can say whatever you want which is a dangerous thing”, noted Guvna B.  

Rosenior added: “My first experience of racism online was in television. They wanted me to have a Twitter account, so I set one up, but as soon as I came off air the amount of abuse that I got on social media was incredible. It felt personal. I have been through a lot, I have been playing in a game and screamed at by thousands, racially abused by thousands of people, but one person in one bedroom with the touch of a button really did hit hard.”

Equality is embedded across West Ham United and we have a zero-tolerance stance on all forms of discrimination. With the online world seeping into all areas of life it is crucial that we educate young people in the community that prejudice, racism or hate crime is unequivocally unacceptable.

The Foundation’s Stop the Hate programme does this by delivering workshops to children and young people in schools and youth centres across our local community. These workshops focus on themes around anti-racism, unconscious bias, extremism and preventing hate crime; so far reaching over 3,000 schoolchildren this season. Positively, 81% of students who have attended workshops have stated they are now confident in reporting hate crimes.

As someone who has experienced abuse and also works as an educator on the Stop the Hate scheme, Rosenior gave empathetic advice to anyone who has been the victim of racism or a hate crime, saying: “The first thing to do when someone is racist to you is talk to someone and report it. If someone is the victim of racism, they can often internalise it and think it is about them, but it is not. Talking about your experience not only does you good, but it does good for a lot of other people as well. By you being brave and talking about it means there is a good chance the same thing will not happen to someone else.”

As the conversation drew to a close it was evident that, ultimately, as a society we need a multi-faceted approach with depth and this was highlighted by our CEO, Joseph Lyons, who remarked: “If you put a plaster on social media and you ban people for racist comments, it does not mean that their opinions have gone away. We need to make sure there is a common value of decency in society. This isn’t just stopping social media platforms from allowing racism and discrimination, this is about us as a community coming together to stamp out hate and be a more tolerant society.”

You can watch the full webinar in the video player at the top of this page.