Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard about the Home Office’s new initiative to launch “#knifefree” chicken boxes. I was a tad confused at first and thought since when did chicken boxes come with knives? But what the poorly phrased campaign intends to do is include a “short message on chicken boxes to deter people from knife crime.”
My first reaction was surely the goal here is not to reduce knife crime – this must be a publicity / PR stunt. There is a long-running stereotype that black people loveeee chicken and that black people are violent. So this campaign rolls two stereotypes into one, black chicken lovers go to chicken shops, so let’s write to them about stabbings whilst they eat their chicken.
I won’t dispute that the current knife crime statistics clearly show that black youth are more involved and that black youth do tend to frequent chicken shops but out of all the ways to tackle knife crime how has this taken the forefront as the way forward? How effective will a message on a box of chicken really be? A common response to this is at least the government is doing something and not just sitting back, my response to that is doing something just for the sake of being able to say “we’re doing something” is not helpful. We need a genuine attempt that actually hits the nail on the head, rather than the government moving like a bull in a china shop.
But what if the government doesn’t have the solution? That’s understandable, because this is a complex predicament which can’t just magically be resolved. But to roll out these #knifefree chicken boxes in my opinion is really scratching the barrel in terms of effective ideas. A common theme that comes up time and time again but appears to be falling on deaf government ears is to address the cuts on youth services such as youth clubs, youth initiatives, youth opportunities and intervening earlier by including non-violence / anti knife crime into the school curriculum somehow. However, these ideas cost and the government seems unwilling to spend. For all the noise made about the “knife crime epidemic”, if funding matched the amount of noise made I would actually believe there is a genuine attempt to put a stop to the “knife crime epidemic.”
So what would truly be more effective? I asked someone who has first hand experience and could provide a direct insight.
“It’s about fear and revenge – carrying weapons to protect myself. People make ignorant comments such as “these senseless and meaningless crimes’ – but when you’ve had a friend or family member stabbed and want to get revenge it’s personal, there’s nothing senseless or meaningless about it.”
“Actually include those living and breathing the situation – attempt to use negotiation and diplomacy techniques. Hire volunteers to go into the affected neighbourhoods that look like me, speak like me, have had similar experiences and can understand me. Ultimately these mediators can act as a buffer between rival groups within the community. I could understand where this person was coming from, and whilst practically speaking there are problems I can see with the solution suggested, these can be worked on and a compromise reached which integrates aspects of the suggested idea and other ideas.”
But the government has failed to include those that can provide knowledge and experience. The group that decided on the #knifefree chicken boxes appeared to have failed to take into account different opinions and suggestions of the same audience they are trying to target. Who would have thought that a group like this didn’t think or bother to carry out market research?
Someone asked me why complain about a campaign that is trying to reduce knife crime? Because we live in a democracy and whilst the government can’t be perfect, if I don’t agree with a campaign and I question the sincerity of it, I can voice it.
Overall in my opinion this is a cringeworthy clumsy, short-sighted and misguided campaign at best (and a racially targeted campaign at worst) which fails to acknowledge the root causes and relies on dated stereotypes to solve such a serious issue. To me there’s an agenda here and this just doesn’t seem to be a genuine attempt to end knife crime at all.