This week racial profiling has taken a turn that, quite frankly, is a joke. The government have announced a scheme in which real stories of the effects of knife crime will be printed on the insides of chicken boxes from high street chicken shops. Read that again, and try to tell me that a genuine government belief that targeting those who buy boxed chicken is the perfect way to reduce knife crime, is not racial profiling at its most ridiculous.
Alarm, offence, and outrage has surged across social media since this announcement, so it begs the question of how it got through to legislation in the first place. The immediate reaction of the public, and of Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, has shown that this is not a universally accepted idea among our diverse population, and yet it crept through the Conservative government without enough backlash to even halt its support. So why is this their decided method of targeting London’s knife crime problem? And why do they not see how ridiculous this is?
In doing this, the government are entirely belittling the endemic underlying issues that cause knife crime, and thus the deaths of over 40,000 people last year. Knives are not guns, they have other purposes and it is not as simple as banning them. You cannot buy a knife in the UK if you are under 18; this does not mean under 18s aren’t finding and carrying knives, whether to use offensively, or protectively. Therefore, knife crime is a lot deeper than telling chicken shop customers that people die from being stabbed – we all know that. The communities that are most affected by knife crime, such as the black communities in London that the government seem to think they’re covertly targeting via Chicken Cottage (our old friend racial profiling), are more aware than most of what happens with knives and loved ones.
Over £50,000 to put their stories on chicken boxes is frankly putting a finger up to the communities from whom youth services have been cut for years. A more rational and helpful way to reduce knife crime would be to inject money into the local, community-based projects that are regularly run by people who have lost loved ones to knife crime, or have themselves felt the need to carry knives. What people need is not the government looking at knife crime statistics and thinking: knives, black people, chicken shops. That’s beyond a joke. Communities need open and frank conversation between people who understand the problem, and understand the individuals who are drawn into the gang violence and drug dealing – fuelled, might I add, by a heavily middle-class cocaine habit – that ensures knife crime thrives.
On some level, you can almost understand the attempt, and at least it is an attempt to do something about the crisis, but it is simply adding to the problem. Sadiq Khan halted ‘stop and search’ in 2015 for this very reason – and it is something you simply cannot understand if you have never been in a situation where you have been racially profiled. You cannot understand what it is like to constantly be expected to do something, or be something, because of the colour of your skin, and you can’t imagine the impact that has on a person. So what I absolutely won’t do is sit back and watch people who could never understand this say that they don’t see the problem with the government’s anti-knife campaign being based in chicken shops.