The #knifefree campaign is causing waves, but for all the wrong reasons.
Knife crime is a serious and intense issue that is plaguing the UK. It will need cooperative planning, listening to disenfranchised communities and a boost in revenue for the youth services to finally get a hold of this dangerous phenomenon.
So what’s the new plan that has recently been unveiled by the Home Office? Selling black boxes sprouting the #knifefree slogan accompanied by real-life youth stories of knife crime. I maintain, however, that this is the most disturbing idea yet.
Of course, the internet is fighting back. People have taken to social media to point out the ignorance of this plan, which can easily be dismissed as just another senseless initiative by this Government. But the underlying logic is arguably quite perverse.
The fundamental problem with this campaign is the blatant racism that it veils. First of all, it begs the question, why is this only happening in chicken shops? The answer: racism at its finest. It feeds into racist stereotypes of black people liking chicken. Of course, we could just as effectively argue that the reason for chicken shops being used is this: those who commit crime are generally from poorer and lower-income backgrounds and rely on such stores for everyday meals. This way, the message is easily accessible by targeting the main hangouts of poorer, working-class youths. But it is never as simple as that.
In the rampant slave trade during the British Empire, chicken was fed to slaves as it was cheap and easy to cook. This stereotype was then solidified by racist examples, such as the silent movie Birth of A Nation, which celebrated the founding of the KKK and featured a scene of elected black officials acting ‘rowdy’ and ‘shameless’ in a hall, with one man pretentiously eating chicken. This stereotype also feeds into the view of black people being ‘dirty’, as chicken is often eaten with one’s hands, which has subconscious connotations of uncleanliness.
Because of this campaign being marketed for chicken shops in London, we can see how it has used this stereotype under the guise of trying to educate young people — when in actuality it more effectively targets black youths by guilt-tripping them in a racist and futile attempt to push the problem of knife crime solely onto the shoulders of the black community.
This cliché isn’t helped by the disproportionate media representation of black youths in the UK. According to a 2018 report from the Ministry of Justice, less than 25 per cent of knife crime was carried out by people below the age of 18. And yet the ‘stories’ on the inside of these boxes are all examples of young people who have used their free time doing something ‘useful’, to stop themselves from getting involved with knife crime. This approach also feeds into the stereotype that younger generations are ‘lazy’ and is a perfect example of how the British Government is using a generational divide to frame young people for the failure of the system. In effect, the campaign distracts us from the problems that the Government has created by stripping down the funding of youth services and the NHS, and when it cut back the police force – services that could help bring down the rise of knife crime given some proper funding.
The racist perspective that the media generally gives to the black community aptly fuels the obvious bigotry of this shameless campaign.
With 48 per cent of knife crime perpetrators in London being black, knife crime has been carelessly linked to disproportionally poor areas where people struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis and where the concentration of black communities is high. Low-income areas where black people are forced to live dangerous lives due to the systematic racism that they experience that stumps out opportunities, are unfortunately where most of them will frequnetly turn to violent avenues as their only option. This fact is often overlooked as the media and politicians explicate the rising violence as an ‘epidemic’ stemming exclusively from black crime that is on the rise. The #knifefree campaign is just another example of this arrogant and hostile attitude. But when we consider some other recent Government initiatives, such as the plan to amplify stop and search rights, we begin to see how easily the racial divide may end up being exacerbated.
The #knifefree campaign fails to negate accusations of racism. Pointless initiatives such as this will only be unnecessarily expensive and do nothing other than cause a hashtag trending on Twitter. If this is a way for our politicians to show that they are making a difference, then it is a very bad one indeed.