Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 18th October 2017

Seventeen years ago, the Human Genome Project, the international effort to map out human DNA, announced they had completed a draft of the human genome and reiterated the old saying ‘there is only one race — the human race’. Race has never had any meaningful scientific definition, yet science has never been at the core of why some people hate those they consider them to be different.

It’s too easy to be pessimistic, we should celebrate the great progress which has moved us from racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic attitudes being the norm within living memory to becoming, at least overtly, legally and socially unacceptable.

Just last weekend, we had the opportunity to celebrate the range of cultures we have in our town through events put on by DIVERSECrawley, a new group established as part of our 70th anniversary celebrations. The seven decade history of Crawley New Town is one of outsiders coming from all over and making a home together, our diversity isn’t a threat but an opportunity to experience the many cultural offerings of our varied people.

Yet, we must never forget a significant number don’t see this as progress, and social battles fought and won are rarely won forever. We now have a man in the White House who believes it’s acceptable to ban people from the US based upon their religion, we see bigoted parties gaining support in elections across Europe and closer to home there has been a surge in hate crime following the EU Referendum.

This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week, an opportunity to remind people hate crime is alive in Britain today and that it mustn’t go unchallenged. Indeed, we must always challenge hate, but in doing so we cannot become hate-filled ourselves. By all means report the crime, yet do not hate the criminal, as it is only love and patient understanding which can begin to change minds and propel society forward. If we want to bring an end to hatred we should remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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