Combatting hate in youth work

Combating hate in youth work


The run up to a general election has already seen the whipping up of racist ideas. The potential beneficiaries to this political posturing are the far right, fascists.

Combating racism among young people means soundly attacking the ideological and physical aspects of racism in the cultural playground young people inhabit. Sport, music, literature, religion, clubs, film, education are all areas where the fight against racism has led to the undermining of the far right and a healthy basis for youth activity.

Where community workers have concentrated their activities towards an active vibrant multicultural direction successful group activity has been the reward.

Camden United was a little known non-league youth football team in North London set up in the winter of 1994. Initiated after the unfortunate death of white teenager Richard Everitt that was symptomatic of an increased racist climate in the local area. The first tryouts reflected tensions in the area. An uncompromisingly mixed team, both players and supporters saw the practical benefits of playing as a team. Camden United have gone from strength to strength and this year hope to qualify for the Dana Cup in Denmark.
Last March saw the official opening of the Youth Club 4 The Blue in Bermondsey South London. Racism has been of constant concern in the local area. Taking this on board the young people who initiated the club set out its main aim, which is to attract young people to use the facilities “regardless of race, religion or sex”
Dave, the centres development worker, says this will mean discussions and workshops on the issue of race. Furthermore, other youth workers conduct detached work that will mean going into estates and building rapport with youths to encourage their support for the club.

Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) is presently one of the UK’s most a popular bands whose popularity not only rests on a fusion combining “The sound and fury of Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, meet Jungle and Killer rock ‘n’ roll “ as their own publicity describes. Gigging in Toulon, France, and parts of the UK where racists have been known to attack, ADF have attracted 1000’s of young people and marginalize local fascists. As community activists, the band members takes their relentless anti-racist activity into the schools, college and community groups through ADF Education Development where they conduct workshops on diversity and difference.

A firm understanding of how racism works to deny and impede access to youth facilities to black young people by creating a hostile atmosphere based on race hate, is the first requirement a youth worker needs in challenging racism. Actively combating racism in youth work means translating anti-racist policy on paper into an accessible and readily understood requirement of a healthy youth space.

All youth workers and youth are responsible for challenging racism and creating a policy on anti-racism. If you’re a youth worker of a club in a catchment area with a high proportion of black and Asian young people, yet only white youths tend to frequent the club then you have a race problem. Resentment over who has what will create friction that will eventually overflow into confrontation. Involvement is the key. An anti-racist policy drawn up and agreed as an entry requirement by staff and young people to the club and taken to young people in the local area will not only give excluded young people the confidence to join the club but will signal to those festering these backward prejudices that racism has no place in their club, their school, or pitch. An Anti-racist policy must be kept alive not just reiterated when the problem arises. Look at your club, do its facilities and activities encourage and reflect diversity and difference. Staffing, posters, games, food, music, religion, sport and literature can reflect a multicultural image, which visually and psychologically show young people, staff, and the community the reality – the UK is mixture of many cultures and in our youth space we celebrate this.

When racial conflict arises in the wider community then raise it as a discussion in the club don’t pretend they don’t exist. Discussing racism, explaining how it works to delude and divide young people and the community this goes a long way in winning vulnerable minds away from the cul-de-sac of racism.

How does your community or youth group combat racism and far right-wing activity?

In 1995 Searchlight Educational Trust launched “When Hate comes to town”, a community handbook designed to give practical support to community groups opposed to racism and fascism.