Thursday, April 04, 2013

Protecting subcultures

I'm listening to Today reporting on Greater Manchester Police's plans to record attacks on people for being part of subculture as hate crimes.

John Humphrys, talking to Sophie Lancaster's mother, pointed out that it's not a measure which would have saved her daughter from the horrible, hateful attack that killed her.

Perhaps. But it was a hateful attack, and should be recognised as that.

And yet...

I'm just not sure how practical the measure is. When I used to have bottles and stones bounce off me on County Road in Liverpool, the hurlers were assuming that I was some sort of hippy. They weren't attacking me because I was an indie kid; they were attacking me because I wasn't one of them. I would still have been dodging bottles if I had been a hippy, or a banker, or indeed anyone who wasn't wearing sportswear with their socks rolled down.

The violence wasn't motivated by any subculture to which I belonged, but the subculture to which I wasn't.

How do you account for that?

And those times when Merseyside Police pulled me over and searched me, cheerfully admitting it was because I wasn't dressed like the other people round those parts and that made me look suspicious: If attacking people because they're dressed in black is worth recording, should the police also be looking at why they use 'wearing other clothes' as a basis for a stop and search?

At the moment, the proposal seems to be more about gathering data than making a difference, so it's a first step. But it's been half a decade since Sophie Lancaster was murdered; you'd have hoped five years would have been time for something a bit more thought-through to have be proposed.

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