Will #KnifeFree chicken boxes help young people?
The Home Office has announced their most recent campaign to 'tackle' knife-crime in the form of #KnifeFree branded boxes in chicken shops. The campaign uses one symptom of poverty to 'address' another, plays into racist tropes of Black people loving fried chicken, and is not only an insult to the communities that are most affected by serious violence, but also does nothing to address the root causes which allow violence to manifest.
On the website of All City Media Solutions - the marketing company behind the boxes, they explain why chicken shops were chosen for the campaign, "Never has there been an opportunity that can target the youth, ethnics and urban city audiences with ease. Never has there been an opportunity to target them at a time when they're traditionally hard to reach" (All City Media Solutions, 2019).
The reasoning behind selecting chicken shops is revealing. It is unlikely that the decision would have been given the go-ahead, had there been people that are affected by serious violence, or any substantial number of Black people involved in developing the campaign strategy. This is apparent from their use of language, referring to Black and Brown people as "ethnics," to the underlying racist assumption that knife crime is a "Black issue," rather than a symptom of state-sanctioned austerity, poverty and inequality.
Supporters of the #KnifeFree campaign have pointed to evidence submitted to the Youth Select Committee which identified "chicken shop grooming" as a tactic used to lure children into crime (Evans, 2019). However, there is no evidence, or logical reasoning to suggest that arts and crafts chicken boxes will do anything to stop this. If anything, the campaign is likely to further alienate young people and makes another misguided assumption about young Black men and boys which will only serve to further demonise them (for other examples, see assertions about grime / drill music, Black artists and knife crime).
The government have a responsibility to tackle the complex issues which have led to young Black men in London being disproportionately likely to be victims of violent crime. To date, their attempts to deal with the issue have been insensitive at the least and often made matters worse. From the Met police' racist "gang matrix" database, to the worsening over-representation of Black people at all stages of criminal justice processes, young Black men are consistently fed the idea that they are inherently bad.
If the government and those that work on behalf of them really wanted to take action to address the issues which young Black people face, they could provide young people with real and financially feasible employment opportunities, fund projects which create space for them to explore their identity, increase positive representations of Black people in the media and take action to dismantle the structural barriers which prevent young Black people from fulfilling their potential. Young people need real opportunities and the Home Office #KnifeFree campaign is frankly derogatory and insulting.
All City Media Solutions (2019). [online] Allcitymediasolutions.com. Available at: https://www.allcitymediasolutions.com/our-story [Accessed 27 Aug. 2019].
Evans, S. (2019). Chicken shops are a hotbed of heroin and grooming so it’s not racist to target them to tackle knife crime, says ex-gang leader. [online] The Sun. Available at: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9727695/chicken-shops-hotbed-heroin-grooming-knife-crime-ex-gang-leader/ [Accessed 27 Aug. 2019].