Hate Killer 3000! campaign reminds bystanders in the Czech Republic how to stand up to hate
Have you ever witnessed somebody assaulting a passenger on public transportation just because they believe the passenger is Romani, or attacking a woman standing in line at a checkout counter just because she's wearing a hijab? Did you later say to yourself that you could have done something - but you didn't know how?
Award-winning Czech actor Hynek Čermák has now joined a campaign by the In IUSTITIA and ROMEA organizations called "You Can Help!" (Můžeš pomoct!) to show us all how to approach such situations. The ROMEA organization decided to undertake this campaign in response to the fact that people in Czech society are gradually becoming accustomed to the presence of hateful commentaries and content not just in the online environment, but also to bias attacks happening offline as part of daily life.
The reason most people stay silent about what they witness is not necessarily because they are not interested - another reason people fail to speak up is because they lack information and don't believe it is possible to effectively combat such hatred. "Taking a public stand can cultivate the behavior of others, even if we very often assume it won't help," said Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization.
"Your bravery can encourage others. It's important to speak up, to take action instead of pretending that you don't even see what is happening," said the ROMEA director.
"The victims need to know there are people here who will stand up for them, including in public. Through this campaign we are doing our best to wake up the silent majority," Ryšavý said.
The Publicis Prague agency and its creative director Richard Kolbe are helping to implement the campaign. He clearly explained his motivation for launching the campaign as follows: "My grandfather used to say that Czechs are racists."
"For a long time I refused to believe that. However, today I have no choice but to say he was right," Kolbe said.
"We have gone from that disgusting phrase 'I'm not a racist, but...' to the absolutely monstrous phrase 'I'm a racist and I'm proud of it'. The worst thing about this is that it basically doesn't even bother anybody that much here," Kolbe said.
"It bothers me a great deal!" said the Publicis Prague creative director. Bias attacks - including those where no physical injury is caused - greatly interfere with the lives of victims and their loved ones.
That impact is even greater when the assault is witnessed by others who ignore it. "Attacks targeting an unchangeable personal characteristic have an unfavorable impact on the experience and psyche of the person who has been harmed," explained Kateřina Baňacká, who is a project manager at the In IUSTITIA organization.
"Such attacks are of different intensities, they can range from ridicule to death threats. The perpetrator chooses a victim on the basis of his biases, exactly because of the group the perpetrator believes the person he is harming represents," the In IUSTITIA staffer said.
"These attacks cannot be ignored and tolerated. Bias violence is not just an attack on an individual, it is an attack on an entire group, and it is especially an attack on democratic values," said Baňacká.
The main message of the "You Can Help!" campaign is that groundless assaults - whether physical or verbal - should never be ignored by witnesses, and in the campaign, Čermák shows what kind of opportunities exist in situations when one witnesses an attack of this kind, whether on public transportation or on social networks. "My personal experience of the past few years is that if people witness violence, they frequently do nothing about it, and that makes me angry," the actor said.
"Sometimes situations happen where it is necessary to get physically involved in defending somebody against harm. If one is not physically able to do that, one should decidedly not remain indifferent to what one has seen," the actor said.
"I can call the police and help the victim that way. This campaign can make people reflect on that," Čermák noted.
"We should return to the values that direct us to defend those who are weaker than us," the actor said. For more detailed instructions on how to behave in specific situations while staying safe, take a look at the campaign website, www.muzespomoct.cz.
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