A good look at ourselves

Wendy and I were talking this morning about the results of the first year of our grooming research/survey. (Wendy is our counselling psychologist.)

When I set up our survey, I deliberately avoided race and religion questions. I think people are people.

Wendy encouraged me to add questions about ethnicity and religion. I realised I had been afraid to include those questions.

I have had to take a good hard look at myself, and am about to step into the fire…. It’s an uninformed look, and a plea for help.

I have come from a diversity and inclusion type school of thought, but having read some of the information put out by CharitySoWhite my thinking has changed. Only activism can change things, and just trying to be inclusive, in the face of what’s happening in the US right now, doesn’t seem enough.

I’ve happily written about Shamima Begum being groomed. This was particularly Islamic issue. What was so bad in this bright young woman’s life that going out to join a terrorist organisation seemed better? (And yes, I’m aware that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.) I felt, but didn’t dare voice the thought at the time, that it was racism and the uncomfortable status of muslims in our society that might have made going away seem attractive.

At the time of writing the survey, we were living in a society where anti-Muslim feeling was rife. We’d had bombings, Twin Towers, Lee Rigby, Paris and other ‘Muslim’ atrocities.

I was queued up in a coffee shop in Reading when a gentle mannered woman wearing a hijab felt the need to apologise to me – a complete stranger – for what was happening, to distance herself from it. I felt sad, and we chatted for a while, but frankly I should have been angry on her behalf. She should have been able to queue in exactly the same as I was, without having to give account – especially in Reading which has always been proudly multicultural. No-one blames every Christian each time a white ‘Christian’ does something.

Moreover, with all the talk of ‘Asian Grooming Gangs’ I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire, add racism to the mix. I can see now that this was just as inadvertently racist as not including those questions.

(Of course, it’s not just people of colour who experience racism – it’s also traveller communities/gypsies. Immigrants. Jewish people and people from other religions, including Pagans.)

How to put this right?

Here are my thoughts:

  • we will add those awkward questions to our survey and address issues head on;
  • it’s #VolunteerWeek, and whilst all volunteers are welcome, I would love someone with a deep understanding of race issues/racism to come and give us a hand to get it right;
  • we will use more inclusive images around the website. (I’ve been wary of suggesting that these groups might be groomers and adding fuel to the fire);
  • I am investigating the possibility of offering a black (or brown, or both) counsellor/psychologist free training in helping/handling grooming cases.

And here’s the tough one. I am well aware of the number of women who have been groomed into (legal in the UK) marriages by people already married under Sharia law, who wanted nothing more than their British passport and half of their targets’ wealth. I really need some support from within the Muslim community to help me address this and tackle it.

Help me out here, folk. What else can we do?

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