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Pandora’s Post-Referendum Box

What can we do to curb a minority of racists emboldened by the vote to leave?

Rattan Bhorjee

Naked Politics Blogger 

Well done Britain. ‘Take a bow’. Not only have you put the UK’s very existence in jeopardy but you have also brought us years of socioeconomic uncertainty. Most worryingly perhaps, a tirade of race driven abuse has swept the country, bringing scenes thought to have been left behind in the 1970s hurtling into the present day. So please, let’s go out onto the stage and soak up the applause, or rather in this circumstance the racist slurs, and let the bouquets/chaos rain down upon us.

I campaigned unwaveringly for this country to remain in the EU as I knew that staying in would be better for me, my family and my country, both now and in the future. I also guessed that if we did indeed leave, immigrant communities, especially from Eastern Europe, would feel some degree of backlash. However, I could never have imagined the Pandora’s Box of race driven attacks that has been opened since Friday’s result.

Now of course I know that it’s plainly nonsensical to believe that 17,410,742 people in this country are bigoted racists. It’s also nonsensical to ignore that immigration is a concern for many people, especially with the unrelenting rampage of inflammatory right-wing front pages who recently, have looked like they’re campaigning for Britain to leave Earth rather than simply the EU. Fear of the next ‘invasion’ of billions of immigrants whose heinous crime is speaking a different language, having different coloured skin and/or different religion, obviously making them incompatible with British culture. Surely they know some crafty way of becoming millionaires off the benefit system whilst simultaneously stealing every single job in the country. However, I’d argue that it’s equally ludicrous to believe that Brexit hasn’t given some people the opinion that racism is now legitimised.

Reported hate crimes in the week after the Referendum have increased five-fold compared with pre-referendum levels. It has to be remembered that this is perhaps the tip of a very menacing iceberg, as hate crimes are significantly underreported, meaning the 331 incidents that have occurred this week are probably nothing close to the actual figure.

Incidents have ranged from a US Army Veteran being told to ‘go back to Africa’ on a tram in Manchester, a Kashmiri Halal butchers being firebombed in Walsall, to Polish school children being handed leaflets calling them ‘vermin’ in Huntingdon, to your humble narrator being instructed to ‘go home’ by two men in a van whilst, conveniently enough, walking home.

The referendum result and the poisonous rhetoric that was riled up by many Leavers has created a climate where intolerance has become tolerated and turned into something that is horrifically commonplace; where unspeakable words have now become as routine as the groans of shame of any England fanthis week. And perhaps most worryingly, where the extreme views that every single person coming through our borders, whether they are a refugee, student, skilled-labour or otherwise, is a rapist, sponger or criminal are now being seen as legitimate lines of argument and brought increasingly closer to the everyday. With the Government playing ‘musical leaders’ and opposition preoccupied with a game of ‘who can resign the fastest?’ a political vacuum has been created which for the time being has been filled with extremism, bigotry and intolerance which is thriving without restraint.

It’s hardly unreasonable to presume the very people who coaxed us through this deep dark tunnel, promising light and bundles of £350m growing on treesat the end, would have some strategy. However what is actually the end of the tunnel is an intercity train heading straight towards us, supposedly driven by Boris ‘Caesar’ Johnson trying to get as far away from the mess he orchestrated as possible. Every single one of the top faces of Leave that have campaigned so tirelessly for their cause haven’t got a clue between them about the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, Gibraltar’s border, Calais, continuing compliance with all EU regulations for free-market access, re-issuing passports, Britons abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legislation to be torn up and rewritten… The list goes on and on and on. All they are clinging onto now is their meaningless phrase, ‘Take back control’, which has driven the country to one of its darkest chapters in terms of race relations in living memory.

It wouldn’t be surprising that most people living in Britain feel like hostages, locked in the back of the car against their will, driven by someone we do not know headlong towards the exit door of Europe, and as an ethnic minority I have never felt as anxious for my safety and the safety of my family and friends. But even when the racist attacks do stop, I and countless others have seen a side to this country that I am now sorry for thinking was dead and buried long ago.

As much as I despise the result of the referendum, unless there is a dramatic change of events taking us elsewhere, such as the endless lies of the Leavers being taken into account, we must all accept it and in that try to come together as a society over the hate and bigotry of what is undoubtedly a very loud minority, but a minority nonetheless and try to answer the question: What now?

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