rasizam, racism.jpg
Photograph: Photo by John Duffy, used under CC BY

About a quarter of British people have witnessed racism in the last year and more than two thirds of them regret not challenging the perpetrators, a survey found.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust interviewed some 2,000 adults, with 25 per cent saying they had witnessed at least one "hate crime or hate incident based on race or ethnicity," it said in a report published to mark Wednesday's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they regretted not challenging those who committed "acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are," the report said.

"The theme for the thousands of Holocaust Memorial Day events taking place across the country today is 'Don't stand by,' and these figures show just how important that message is," said Olivia Marks-Woldman, the trust's chief executive.

The report said 22 per cent of respondents reported witnessing an incident "based on religion or beliefs," while 12 per cent said they had been the victim of a hate incident.

Younger people appeared more willing to intervene, with 17 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds saying they had verbally challenged people responsible for abuse, compared with 7 per cent of respondents in the 35 to 44 age group.

"Today is about remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, but it's also about finding ways to make sure they can never happen again," Marks-Woldman said.

"We know that silence and indifference in the face of discrimination and hatred allows persecution to take root, so we want to encourage people to stand up and speak out, in the way many brave souls have in the past," she said.

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