Racism. Xenophobia. Bigotry. Chauvinism. Intolerance. Prejudice. These are not subjects that are often discussed apart from a quick, “Racism is mostly gone now,” followed by an almost desperate full stop. They make people feel uncomfortable, leaving a bitter taste in their mouth. I hope you will forgive me for having no sympathy for such feelings because I am tired of hearing excuses. In the wake of the EU referendum hate crime, which was a serious issue before, rose by 57%. As a multicultural country, we need to have a discussion about this and we need to do something because it’s only getting worse.
On the 5th of July, the Metropolitan Police announced that since the referendum there had been approximately three reported race related hate crimes every hour in London alone. To be clear, I am in no way accusing every leave supporter of being a racist bigot, but many of the Leave campaigns angles were pandering to xenophobia. Take for example the argument they made that Turkey and other middle eastern countries would join the EU and the UK would be ‘flooded with hundreds of thousands of immigrants from turkey’. A couple spokespersons even insinuated that this would be a security threat because of course anybody from the middle east could be terrorist. UKIP continued with their usual slogan of “we are a colourblind party”, using this to justify advocating the scrapping of racial discrimination laws. The EU referendum did not cause this sentiment but it pushed it into the spotlight, legitimising racist views. You only have to look at Katie Hopkin’s column in the Sun where she advocated using gunships to stop asylum seekers entering the country, or Zac Goldsmiths unsuccessful campaign to become Mayor of London based on racism and prejudice. Islamophobia is rife throughout our contemporary political discourse. The Orwellian Prevent program has been introduced into schools which forces anyone of middle eastern descent to check whatever they say in case they get reported for “signs of radicalisation.” After the referendum, a Polish man was beaten to the point where he has a permanent eye injury, just for not being English. This cannot go on. The list of examples gets longer and longer weighing heavy on our collective shoulders.
This has also raised another issue I would like to address briefly. EU nationals have not yet been guaranteed a place in this country when the UK leaves the EU. Last night the House of Commons passed a motion 245-2 to secure the status of EU nationals in the UK. However, Theresa May, the current frontrunner to be the next Prime Minister has not echoed these sentiments and neither has the government of the day. This is an absolute disgrace to the point where even Nigel ‘I’m not racist but..’ Farage and Boris Johnson have called for May to secure the status of EU nationals.
We are seeing systematic racism and xenophobia that starts at the top and has leaked down throughout our society. But we can do better than this. There’s been a campaign where people wear safety pins to let anybody who is being racially abused or who feels unsafe, know that that person will ensure their safety. Because as someone who has suffered from verbal racial abuse, all you want is someone to stand up for you. The only thing worse than the person shouting at you is the deafening silence from everyone else. You can make a difference, oppose racism at every opportunity because we are so much better than that.