More than ever, we need to be a community that respects and celebrates difference
This week I am supporting national Hate Crime Awareness week. It's an important date in the calendar, and each year I welcome the opportunity it gives me to talk about hate crime and the unnecessary pain and suffering it causes.
For most people, hate crime is difficult to understand. That one person can be so hateful to another - being verbally or physically abusive towards them, destroying their property or belongings, threatening and intimidating them simply because they are seen as different - is beyond most people's comprehension. It is the minority that do this.
To abuse or attack someone because of who they are, and because they are different to you is inexcusable. It denies the basic right to be an individual and live life as who they are.
Sadly, hate crime is not something that happens elsewhere. It happens here in Wiltshire, in our towns, in our communities, to our neighbours, our friends, and our colleagues. As individuals, and as a community, we should be respectful and embracing of each other's differences and the diversity they bring.
In the current climate where we are all living much closer together we should be considering how we can truly support each other, regardless of race, transgender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. In many cases, the last few months have seen the sense of community strengthened and grow, and together we need build on this ensuring that our communities are open to those with different beliefs, different abilities and who speak different languages so we can all continue our education on diversity and so no one feels isolated or alone.
I really feel for everyone who has missed out on important celebrations this year; in particular our communities will feel the loss of the events that celebrate difference, raise awareness and educate, such as Pride, Black History Month and the Mela to name a few. Though I am pleased that even in this difficult time with COVID-19 we were still able to hear the voices of the Black Lives Matters movement and that this conversation can still continue.
Our county still remains one of the safest places to live in, but we need to make sure it is a safe place for everyone. Together as the community of Swindon and Wiltshire we need to stand up to hate crime, to report it if we see it and support and encourage those who experience it to do the same.