Life Style

Role of Community Leaders in Preventing and Responding to Racial Harassment and Violence

Racial harassment and violence has been a significant issue in the modern era where minority who lives among a majority gets treated unfairly purely because they belong to a certain racial segment and it has caused many minor scale as well as major scale riots around the world. Scholars and community based organizations have defined racial harassment and violence in many angles they can be elaborated as follows. British Refugee Council, (2008) defines racial harassment as attacking, intimidating and insulting a certain individual or a group of people based on their colour, race, ethnicity or nationality. As per the definition presented above racial violence has a broader definition than being limited to a scope of a race where it includes unfair treatment caused based on the colour, ethnicity as well as the nationality which defines elements of a broader majority. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, (2009) racial harassment is a situation where a certain individual is bullied/ bothered/ threatened/ unfairly treated due to the race/colour/ ancestry. Further, in elaborating the definition of racial harassment, Ontario Human Rights Commission, (2009) states that racial harassment could occur in relation to birth place, place residing, religious values, ethnicity as well as the language that is used to communicate. Hence, it can be stated that racial violence is not limited to the scope of violence arising as a result of unfair treatment based on the race of an individual but it also connected to other broader areas such as language, ethnicity, birth place, nationality and religion. Therefore, any mistreatment/violence caused as a result of above mentioned factors can be categorized as racial violence. In further analyzing the nature of racial harassments, scholars have different views and can be elaborated as follows. According to Ontario Human Rights Commission, (2009) racial harassment can occur in situations such as making jokes related to a certain race, insulting those who belong to a certain race based on their racial identity, publishing cartoons and other artworks to offend certain race and naming people/using calling names for people which are aimed at offending their racial identity. Further, in categorizing types of racial harassments, British Refugee Council, (2008) has presented 04 broad types of racial violence and they can be explained as follows. Verbal harassment is where an individual is racially offended by making offensive remarks or comments about a race or verbally threatening based on the race. Second category is molestation where a person is offended by making racially offensive telephone calls, throwing garbage at them or any other activity conducted to irritate the minority. Third category is the physical violence where certain minority is physically attacked or their properties are damaged as they belong to a certain race. Fourth and the final category declared is racist graffiti where a certain minority is offended using written or drawn content such as cartoon, billboards and leaflets. Hence, any racially offensive act which falls into any of the above mentioned categories falls into racial harassment or violence.
In considering the occurrence of racial violence in UK, it has been commented to be significant as it has become a regular phenomenon of the life of minority population who live in UK. According to a survey carried out by Institute of Race Relations, (2002) most of the racial attacks are carried out by school children or teenagers in UK who belong to the majority of the society and since they are the successors of the future, alerts have been made about significant racial violence into the future as those school children and teenagers become adults. Situation is explained to be even worse when it said 20% of the racial harassment in UK is connected to neighbors where most of the victims know their attackers. (Institute of Race Relations, 2002) Since it is related to the neighborhood and day to day life of the minority in UK, actions need to be taken to prevent racial violence in order to make a peaceful living for minority.
Racial harassment is not seen as a new issue in UK as there have been many incidents in the past which has caused black mark on the history of racial equality in UK. Starting from race riots in 1919 which caused the death of Charles Wooten in Liverpool, racial violence against Jewish refugees who arrived in early 1900s and significant harassments against black people in 1950s which was induced by politicians have given rise to an era of racial harassment in UK. (Institute of Race Relations, 2002) Until the time where Stephen Lawrence was killed in 1993 by a racist gang in East London, the law making authorizes were not concerned about racial harassment. However, soon after the murder and subsequent reports laws such as Crime and Disoder Act with enforcement via National Racial and Violent Crimes Task Force were created even though the practical application is at question. Even though laws were created to prevent racial harassment in UK, there has been significant increase in racial harassment complaints lodge in the police, where in Metropolitan police area there have been 11050 in 1998/1999 period which has risen to 23346 in 1999/2000 causing 110% increase from the previous year. (Institute of Race Relations, 2002) Further, it is identified that that out more than 35% of the racial attacks in UK are launched against Black, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities who account for only about 7% of UK population where only 0.3% against white community. (Institute of Race Relations, 2002) Since a minority of the country is attacked significantly, it is a must to explore the possibilities of reducing the racial violence for the betterment of the communities and this report wishes to explore the role of the community leader in preventing and responding to racial harassments.
As defined by Axner, (2012) community leaders are the people who voluntarily take leadership to provide well being and development of a certain community. Community leaders hold resources (not necessarily financial resources) to contribute for the wellbeing of the community while taking taking initiative to develop the livelihood of the community. Since racial harassment needs to be prevented for the wellbeing of the community, use of community leaders can be justified and there are many instance in the past where community leaders were used to promote the racial equality around the world and some of those incidents can be elaborated as follows:
The greatest living example of a community leader who struggle for racial equality is Nelson Mandela who fought for the equal rights black and white people in South Africa. As explained by Collette, (n.d) synopsis of Nelson Mandela’s effort to remove racial discrimination can be explained as follows. During 1960’s black people in South Africa were harassed and ill-treated in every possible way where the Apartheid Law in the country divided the community into 03 where 03 different sets of laws were created for the governance. The law created for Black people was clearly aimed at discriminating them from the rest of the society where even they had restrictions over visiting residential areas of White people. Further, on 21st of March 1960 69 black people were killed by South African police during their protest against the racial harassment which later caused the declaration of International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination by United Nations as a part of the success of Nelson Mandela’s effort to voice against racial discrimination. In his effort to eliminate racial discrimination, he showed great courage and commitment for the cause where he travelled around the world to voice out his cause, while risking his life. He was given lifetime imprisonment as a punishment for voicing out his opinion against racial violence; however, he was freed after 28 years. Throughout his effort, he was highly committed sacrificing his personal life to promote racial equality and his charisma attracted many people who rallied with him for the protest. Also, he had the ability to influence people through his words as well as actions and ultimately he was able to bring equality for the Black people living in South Africa while being honored with a Nobel Prize.
Another, great example of a community leader who fought against the racial equality is Martin Luther King Junior whose story can be elaborated as explained by The Nobel Foundation, (1964). Martin Luther King’s effort for the racial equality in USA started as a result of a black woman who was harassed by white people when she trying to get into a bus which was labeled as only for whites. King and his supporters started a bus boycott which ran for 382 days forcing the courts to abolish the procedure of racial segmentation of buses. All these efforts were supported by his great charisma and the ability communicate effectively. Further, he was able to lead a peaceful march of a 250000 to Washington DC who were promoting the racial equality and he delivered his famous speech “I have a Dream” during the march which inspired many people around the world. His commitment, charisma and leadership made him abolish many laws in USA which discriminated Black people in the community and brought racial equality for them. As explained above, there are many community leaders who have become successful in controlling the racial harassment in various parts of the world. Every community leader has a role in preventing and responding to the racial harassment and violence and it can be outlines as follows:
Visioning the Future without Racial Discrimination
Every leadership starts with the leader envisioning the future where he needs to start inspiring his followers to follow. Therefore, in preventing racial harassment and violence, community leaders from UK needs to envision a future where there is no racial harassment or violence. Envisioning the future has led many community leaders who fought for the racial equality to be a success. As an example, in his effort to make America free from the racial harassment and violence, Martin Luther King dreamed big and during public speech named “I have a Dream” at the peaceful march to Washington DC he said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. (Axner, 2012) In carefully analyzing the statement made by King, it is apparent that he had the future envisioned where the community is free from racial violence and the future generation could live with racial harmony. Since he had the future envisioned, he was able to work towards it and achieve it creating present racial harmony in the American community where it is now developed to an advanced situation with a national president who is a Black American. In further discussing about the vision of community leaders who fought against the racial violence, Nelson Mandela sets another valid example. As per Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, (2012) during is protest to remove racial violence, his vision was to destroy apartheid while building a country in which everyone has equal rights while granting all adults the right to cast their vote in country’s election to select the government. He strived for it and ultimately was able to abolish racial discrimination policies in place and it all occurred as a result of him envisioning the future at the beginning. Thus, it is a must for every community leader who steps into prevention of racial harassment and violence to have a vision with regards to the cause.
Be a Listener to Victims
A good community leader is built as a result of his ability listen to what is being said in the community and by the community. Before venturing into prevention of racial harassment, community leader needs to understand the problems and current situation of the victims. Therefore, he needs to actively listen to what is said by the victims of racial harassment while understanding the backgrounds for it. As an example, as said in Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, (2012) during the time of apartheid Nelson Mandela listened to Black people who suffered everyday from harassment. In fact, he was actively experiencing it as he was one of them. Since he was listening to the claims of the victims, he had an in-depth understanding of the problem and he was able to effectively communicate it to respective international parties to obtain relief. As another example, in his actions to eradicate racial discriminations from America John F. Kennedy was an active listener of black community who brought up the bus boycott with the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. (Oracle Think Quest Education Foundation, n.d) John F. Kennedy listen to the claims brought up by the victims such as harassment in public transport services and he amended laws of the country while bringing new laws such as The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 in order to suit the needs of victims of racial harassment. (Oracle Think Quest Education Foundation, n.d) Thus, it is a must for all the community leaders who venture in to prevention of racial harassment to understand the situation of racially abused communities and act upon prevention.

Design the action plan
Being a community leader who is acting upon racial equality, they need to have an action plan to achieve the goals that were envisioned in the first step. In other words, to create the racial equality, the leader needs to know what exactly needs to be done to achieve the ultimate objectives. Having an action plan makes the leader dedicated to the cause and he is aimed at achieving milestones which were proposed in the plan. Martin Luther King in his protest to bring racial equality in USA, had a clear plan which started from bus boycott which was followed by peaceful march to Washington DC with 250,000 people and many other subsequent protests which grabbed the attention of the American president John F. Kennady who finally granted the racial equality. (The Nobel Foundation, 1964) However, it is also said that the plans that were proposed by community leaders are not always right and they learn from the basis of trial and error. Thus, even though there is a plan, there can be failures and it is the role of the community leader to correct those errors and strive for racial equality. As an example, in his attempt to make his voice heard about racial harassments in South Africa, Nelson Mandela has to travel around the world speaking to several people but most of the times his attempts failed and he was jailed for 28 years. (Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, 2012)
Bring inspiration
In engaging the community towards preventing racial harassment, community leaders need to be able to inspire his followers/victims as well as attackers. In other words, the community leader should be able to motivate victims to gather to voice out their opinions. As an example, Martin Luther King was able to bring inspiration to the Black Americans through his inspirational speech “I have a dream” while the majority in the community was in inspired by those words who later considered granting them racial equality. (The Nobel Foundation, 1964) His words were so inspirational and there was a huge gathering for the bus boycott. During his speech at the boycott, he continuously emphasized that he was appointed to serve them as a spokesman and even if he stops the movement should not stops its actions. (Carson, 1994) These inspirational words kept motivating black Americans to fight for their rights even after Martin Luther King was assassinated 1968. (Carson, 1994) By his words, Martin Luther King was able to bring inspiration to the Black American community at that time and even at the present he is considered as a motivation by many racial equality activists after years of his existence proving the strength of the inspiration that he has brought for his community. Hence, it is a must for the community leaders to bring inspiration to his followers/victims while being another inspirational voice for the attackers/majority to listen to.
Speaking to Emotions of the people
As a part of being inspirational, community leaders must communicate with victims as well as the attackers in his effort to prevent and responding racial harassment. In communicating, he needs to speak to the emotions of the people, which would make the community felt about the importance of the cause of eliminating the racial discrimination. As an example, ex-president of Palestine; Yasser Arafat who was engaged in preventing racial violence against Palestine Muslims was considered to be an emotional speaker and he was able to convey his message to attackers/majority community in such a way that it sparks their emotions. (With Much Courage and Peace, 2012) His success in negotiation was solely dependent on him being able to speak to the emotions of victims (Palestine Muslims) as well as attackers. Therefore, community leaders who engage in racial equality activities should speak to emotions of listeners who would subsequently act upon their request to prevent racial violence and harassment.
Educate attackers as well as victims
One major option available for resolving violence is educate the attacker as well as the victim. In educating the victim, racial equality activists need to ensure that they speak of the reasons why they are being attacked and how to handle a situation of violence. Community leaders should keep in their mind never to promote attacking back or any other sort of violence among the victims. By educating victims of how to respond to a situation of crisis, they will be assisted and as the next step, racial quality activists should educate the attackers. In speaking to attackers, community leaders should use their charisma to tactically explain why they should stop racial violence while indicating the fact that minorities are also human who should be treated with sense of humanity. As an example, in bringing racial equality for Black Americans, Martin Luther King Jr had to educate several parties from the attacking side; i.e. white community in order bring a solution. He had to directly liaise with the American president John F. Kennedy who belonged to the White community and come up with a solution for the racial harassment. (Carson, 1994) Additionally, he had to educate the Black community who were the victims of the violence as to how to respond to a situation of violence and not to be aggressive at the attacker in order to promote harmony. (Carson, 1994) He was able to educate both the parties while striking a balance which resulted in a victory with the declaration of Civil Rights Act Of 1964. Thus, every community leader who engages in promoting racial equality should have skills to negotiate and educate the victim as well as the attacker while striking a balance between what is being communicated.
Never to offend attackers
Educating and negotiating with the attacker is a main role of the community leaders engaged in promoting racial harmony. However, in dealing with the attackers, community leaders need to be careful as to not to offend the majority community as it would result in even worse crisis. In educating the attackers, community leaders should always try to promote the sense of humanity instead of purely trying to highlight the faults committed by the majority. Rather, they should speak to the emotions of the people involved in attacks and promote that they should consider using qualities of people to rate them rather than using racial differences. In his effort to promote the racial equality in South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s comment was that he has fought against white dominance as well as black dominance just to create democracy for all human beings. (Collette, n.d) Mandela never offended the white community even though his community was attacked by them. Thus, his diplomacy succeeded and he was able to bring racial equality for South African Black community. Therefore, community leaders who wish to engage in racial equality activities should learn sense of diplomacy from Nelson Mandela as it is vital for the success.
Deploy Commitment for the Cause
As discussed earlier, being a community leader working towards racial equality requires commitment for the cause where there can be situation to maintain the cause above self interest. During the his attempt to bring racial equality in South Africa, Nelson Mandela had to undergo 28 years imprisonment where his personal life had to be sacrificed. (Collette, n.d) There can be situations where community leaders have to deploy commitment risking even their life to achieve the cause of racial equality and there might be pile of barriers which needs to be addressed too. Hence, a great deal of commitment needs to be deployed as a matter of priority which would act as the foundation for success.
Change Perception
Most of the times the racial harassment is occurred as a result of the attitude of the majority community where they tend to think that colour and language differences make people inferior to another. In other words, the majority community tends to think that they are superior to the certain minority groups in the society which would have caused as a result of concentration of power, high representation among the population, financial wealth as well as beliefs from ancestors. As an example, after the September 11th attack in New York, Muslims in US, UK and European countries were heavily discriminated simply because they were presumed to be terrorists by the majority community and in fact it was a myth which caused significance deal of violence and discrimination towards Muslim residing in above mentioned countries. (The Christian Science Monitor, 2009) Further, American, African and European white community perceive that black community as a set of people who are born for slavery where they tend to discriminate them simply because it is the traditional that is brought forward from the past. Therefore, the community leaders need to actively engage in changing the community perception about minorities where majority needs to be convinced that even minority communities are also also a human who needs to be treated with sense of humanity. In changing the perception, community leaders must educate the majority community that race, colour and nationality should not act as differentiators in the community where the equality among humans needs to be promoted.
Promote Racial Harmony
While educating the community to change the perception about racial differences, community leaders should take steps to promote the racial harmony through reducing the gap among communities from different races. Since schooling children and youth are considered to be more arrogant in racial violence, they can be used as a mechanism to promote religious harmony through programs such as cultural exchange programs. Further, activities such as cross cultural understanding programs, mentoring sessions to promote religious harmony, promoting multi cultured classrooms in schools and creating voluntary youth organizations to promote cross cultural awareness can be initiated by community leaders to solve the issue of racial harassment.
Forcing Government to build the law to prevent racial harassment and violence
If trying to solve issues regarding racial harassment using educating techniques is not successful, community leaders hold the responsibility of forcing the the government to create laws to stop racial harassment. Forcing the government also needs to be carried out in a diplomatic way where peaceful rallies and boycotts can be carried out with the leadership of community leaders which would attract positive publicity about the movement to promote racial equality. As an example, Martin Luther King organized a peaceful bus boycott to bring legislation to remove the racial segmentation in public transportation. (The Nobel Foundation, 1964) Further, he directed a peaceful march to Washington DC with 250,000 black people forcing the government to bring equal rights to black communities which ultimately brought up the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The Nobel Foundation, 1964) He held negotiations with the government and then president John F. Kennedy to build legislations provide equal rights to the black community. Further, not only forcing the government build law to ensure racial equality, community leaders also have the responsibility to force the government to abolish any legislation which support racial inequality. As an example, during the 1960s South Africa was governed by the law of apartheid which treated the black community as slaves who were neglected from the society. Nelson Mandela took the initiative to abolish the law of apartheid by forcing the government through his peaceful initiatives. (Collette, n.d) Thus, responsibility of a community leader can work in either way where there can be situations to persuade government to build a law to prevent racial harassment or to remove existing laws to facilitate racial equality.
Enforcement of Law
Upon building the law, community leaders hold the responsibility to enforce the law through police, courts or any other relevant law enforcing body to safe guard the rights of minority. There are situations where in many countries, there are ample legislation to prevent racial harassment but those laws are not being enforced. Therefore, people who belong to the minority is still attacked and community leaders need to take relevant steps to enforce law against those racial harassments. However, this could be treated as the last resort upon educating attackers and carrying out preliminary steps.
The report identified different definitions given to racial harassments and types of the racial harassment where history of the racial harassment in UK and the current situation was explained subsequently. In discussing the role of community leaders in preventing and responding to racial harassment, examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were presented. Further, envisioning the future with racial violence, being an active listener to victims, designing the action plan, bringing inspiration to the community, speaking to the emotions of the people, educate the victim as well as attackers, not offending the majority community in the process of negotiating for racial equality, deploying commitment for the cause, change perception of majority towards minority, promoting racial harmony, forcing the government to build laws to promote racial equality and take necessary actions for law enforcement were seen as major roles that are to be played by community leaders in preventing and responding to the racial violence and harassment in a community. In discussing above mentioned roles, examples from world famous community leaders were presented. Further, in considering the overall conclusion, the most important duty of the community leaders should be to take initiatives to change perception of the majority towards minority of the community which identified as the most significant cause for the racial harassment. Therefore, community leaders should actively engage in programs such as mentoring sessions and cross cultural exchange programs to promote racial harmony while emphasizing that even the minority communities too are humans who need to be treated with sense of humanity.

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