SPECIAL REPORT:‘Leave the British race and join the human race’

SUS-150324-093132001
SUS-150324-093132001

When faced with racism and other distasteful sides of life, many of us talk a good fight but far too few step up and take a stand.

Crawley Campaign Against Racism logo ENGSNL00120110930110827

Crawley Campaign Against Racism logo ENGSNL00120110930110827

Such was the case in 1976 until a seriously ill teenager called on the men and women of Crawley to turn their backs on hatred.

Danny Martin was just 16-years-old when he died, weeks after his plea to “leave the British race and join the human race”had resulted in the birth of the CCAR.

His mother, Barbara, kept his legacy alive for almost 40 years until her death on February 28.

It wasn’t an easy task.

“Life is difficult in many ways at present but racism will stop us getting to real answers.”

Jill Hathaway, chairman of the CCAR

CCAR member Erik Shopland recalled how the National Front attempted to stage a major demonstration in the town in 1981, bringing in outside support.

Thanks to the work of Sussex Police, the gathering, in the station car park, fizzled out.

Earlier that year, the offices of the Crawley Council for Community Relations (CCCR), in Station Road, were severely damaged by fire.

This was followed by its temporary office, in London Road, being daubed with racist slogans.

Now, with the National Front little more than a stain on Britain’s history, the CCAR is preparing to move on without Barbara.

But how much of a difference has the group made – and is it still needed today?

Sheikh Najeeb Rahman, of the Crawley Ahmaddyyia Muslim Association, said: “It would be wrong to believe that there is no racism in Crawley, but it would be right to say that through the works of the CCAR, this has been minimised to a large extent.

“CCAR has worked tirelessly to rid society of hatred – for that what racism is. Often, those on the receiving end do not have a voice and are often a minority group. CCAR is the supporting hand for such victims and for that reason they play vital role to make our society a better place.”

Jill Hathaway, chairman of the CCAR, said people had told the group they were still needed.

She said: “Managing any differences is part of normal life, as long as we’re reasonable, but the national press use hate headlines and some political groups who choose easy scapegoats, such as immigrants, as a path to gaining influence with the general public.

“Life is difficult in many ways at present but racism will stop us getting to real answers.”

Unfortunately, while there is little doubt the CCAR has made an impact, the group’s dream of not being needed is a long way off.

In February, Sgt Peter Allan, of Sussex Police stated Crawley reports more racial hate crime than any other local authority in East and West Sussex, except Brighton. Between April 1 2014 and February 2015, that figure stood at 203 incidents.

Founder member Queenie Hopcroft, of Northgate, said Crawley had been “ahead of the game” in 1976 when it came to tolerance and community cohesion.

She said: “I remember when we were invited to the Home Office and there were people there from Birmingham and Bradford and they had nothing like us and I realised we were way ahead of the rest of the country.”

So why are the figures so high for report incidents of hate crime? Perhaps it is simply because such crime is less likely to be tolerated in Crawley and people are quicker to report things.

The alternative answer is that the message put out by Danny Martin 40 years ago has gone unnoticed by the people of our amazing, multicultural town.

And that is unacceptable.