Content warnings: xenophobia, racism, racial slurs
You’d think that after more than three decades of multiculturalism in the UK, racism should have, more or less, become a thing of the past. Yet bigotry has decided to rear its ugly head once more after the recent EU referendum, with many of those who voted for Brexit, in particular those from a working class background, feeling the result has given them the right, and indeed social acceptance, to begin verbally chasing out migrants, in some kind of vague collective bid to “get [their] country back”.
Since the Thatcher era, multiculturalism has long become the norm in the UK due to the fact that economic migrants have always played a crucial role in enabling the neoliberal policies largely affiliated with Conservative governments. This neoliberal agenda was often executed at the expense of the working class who, since the 1980s, have built up a significant number of frustrations. Britain’s infamous colonial past notwithstanding, many from the nation’s working class industries, such as fishing, seem to feel that they’ve been on the unfair end of the European ideal in the long run, and that immigration has burdened the country with a range of political, social and economic problems.
Since the EU referendum result, there has been a 57 per cent rise in reported racist incidents within the past week. Former chairwoman of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi warned that, following the “divisive and xenophobic” Brexit campaign, immigrants and their descendants were subsequently being stopped in the street and ordered to leave Britain. Many individuals whose families have resided in the UK for multiple generations have also increasingly found themselves at the end of racial and xenophobic abuse.
..bigotry has decided to rear its ugly head once more..
High profile media personalities have also found themselves being targeted. One example was prominent BBC news presenter Sima Kotecha, who expressed shock at being called a ‘Paki’ in her home town of Basingstoke, Hampshire. The 36-year-old claimed she hasn’t heard such racist language being used since the 1980s. Fortunately, the significant outpouring of support for her on Twitter has demonstrated that racism remains largely untolerated in the UK.
In Huntingdon, Polish-origin school children have been receiving cards referring to them as “vermin” who must “leave the EU”. Some of these have “thoughtfully” come with a Polish translation. Meanwhile, British Muslims living in London have voiced “unease” and “fear” in post-referendum UK; Channel 4 News reported that an unidentified Barnsley man admitted to voting to leave ‘to stop Muslims coming into the country’:
“It’s all about immigration. It’s not about trade or Europe or anything like that, it’s all about immigration. It’s to stop Muslims coming into this country. Simple as that,” the man was reported to have said. Unfortunately, no-one told the gentlemen that immigration from Islamic countries has absolutely nothing to do with the EU. Nonetheless, those from Barnsley who opted to leave the EU made up seventy per cent of the areas voters.
What does the future hold? Presently, no-one really knows.
In fact, the anti-Europe sentiment was exemplified best by the recent behaviour of England football fans, ironically enough, prior to their team crashing out of the European Championships to Iceland. Based in the French city of Nice for the last-16 match, fans were filmed by the press chanting “We’re not in Europe anymore”. It wasn’t the only Brexit-inspired chant they came up with, with another group of fans singing “Fuck off Europe, we all voted out”.
And with post-Brexit drama focusing largely on the Game of Thrones-style scenario being played out with Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party on one hand, as well as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove on the other, few have really bothered to ponder the long-term economic implications that come with cutting off movement of European citizens to the UK, and vice versa. Is there a plan being drawn up to maintain Britain’s economic growth now that the flow of migration has been cut short? Can there finally be an alternative to constant austerity and neoliberal policies that have largely defined Tory rule throughout the decades? It seems an immensely challenging task at hand, with over 100,000 banking jobs said to being lost in London alone in the near future.
What does the future hold? Presently, no-one really knows. What we do know is that the country faces a lot of political, social and economic turmoil as a result of the rather short-sighted collective decision from the elderly and the working class in favour of Brexit. Perhaps it’s time Britain finally starts to address issues of inequality practically and constructively for a change, rather than continue to lay the blame on the immigrants as it always has.
Featured Image: Twitter, David Olusoga