Children whitening skin to avoid racial hate crime, charity finds
NSPCC says racial abuse and bullying of children in UK has risen by a fifth since 2015-16.
Children are whitening their skin to try to avoid a rising tide of racial hate crimes, in which even babies under one year old have been targeted, a charity has said.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said racial abuse and bullying of children had risen by one-fifth since 2015-16 to more than 10,000 incidents recorded by police last year.
The charity said some callers to Childline, its telephone help service, had tried to change their appearance by using makeup to whiten their skin.
Some children told counsellors they kept their pain a secret from their parents because they did not want to upset them.
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The NSPCC figures were compiled from freedom of information requests to police forces across the UK. The charity said children aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be affected.
It found that in 2017-18 there were 10,571 offences recorded by police as race hate crimes against children under the age of 18, about 29 a day. The previous year the figure was 9,752 and in 2015-16 it was 8,683.
One 10-year-old girl told the NSPCC: “I’ve been bullied ever since I started school. The bullies call me nasty names; it makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.
“I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don’t understand because I’m from the UK. I’ve tried to make my face whiter before using makeup so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”
Tolga Yildiz, a senior Childline supervisor, said: “Children can experience this at school, out of school and online. They come up with different ways of coping.
“We hear that they tell a teacher, it stops, and then it starts again and they are not confident to report it again.”
The true figure is likely to be higher. Five police forces did not respond to the FoI request and police chiefs believe racial and faith hate crimes are underreported.
According to the NSPCC, another girl, 11, said: “I’m being bullied at school because I’m Chinese. The other kids say that my skin is yellow, call me names, and it gets me really down.
“I hate the way I look so much, I think if I looked different everyone would stop being mean to me and I’d fit in. I’ve tried to change the way that I look by using eyeliner so that I fit in more. I don’t want to tell my parents because I think it would upset them.”
One 16-year-old girl from a Muslim background said: “People call me a terrorist and keep telling me to go back to where I came from. I dress in traditional Muslim clothes and I think it singles me out. I usually just put my head down and get on with it but it’s getting to the point now where I genuinely feel like I might get attacked.”
It is the latest evidence to suggest a rise in racism in British society, which appears to have increased from about the time of the EU referendum in June 2016.
Research revealed last week showed 71% of people from ethnic minorities reported facing racial discrimination, compared with 58% in January 2016.
Atiyah Wazir, a Childline counsellor, said: “It is just as heartbreaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different. These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren’t tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings.”
The Liverpool Echo on Wednesday reported that an 11-year-old boy, Ashley Davies, was called a “slave” and the N-word by children at a school in Cornwall after moving there from Merseyside.
The child told the paper: “It makes me feel kind of sad because I am just trying to make friends. I’ve had loads of comments from people who don’t want me there. When I wake up in the morning, it’s like a burden.”
His mother, Natalie, said: “The school have said they talk to the other children but it keeps happening again and again.
“I am not saying all these kids are horrible racists but this is moulding my son now for how he is going to see the world. I think the school are trying but they don’t know what to do.”
Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, said: “This criminality will not be tolerated. Police-recorded hate crime has increased in recent years. This is in part due to improvements in police recording, as well as spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks of 2017.”
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