One of the saddest aspects of this whole referendum has been the increase in racially motivated attacks in Britain.
I am saddened that instead of acknowledging what has happened this month, social media has instead been filled with those continually repeating the claim that the leave voters were not racist for voting how they did when responding to these attacks. It has been trotted out almost as commonly as when people say “I’m not racist but…”. The worst line I’ve heard was the accusation the media had hyped up the number of attacks to suit their agenda.
Of course there are plenty of “real” and “decent” people (as Nigel Farage referred to them on referendum night) in the leave camp. However, we can’t ignore that their campaigning also attracted the very worst of Britain too. Those who have handed out postcards about “Polish vermin”, those who have shouted at people to return home, or daubed graffiti on buildings in areas of multiculture or multifaith. Racism has always been a problem for our country, but now it seems to be surging. The numbers from the police paint a clear picture.
It’s utterly heartbreaking, and it’s left me in despair. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though.
What fired me up the most in the last few weeks of the referendum campaign was not the talk of the economy, our links with Europe, or what our future could be. That was discussed until everyone was blue in their face.
It was travelling through North Norfolk seeing the number of “we want our country back” boards, put up by UKIP members. Some from UKIP would argue these boards had a number of meanings, but it was clear from the responses I got to my angry letters in the press, they clearly meant immigration. The divisive and inflammatory language was explicitly clear to see. It only got worse as Nigel Farage unveiled his big billboards in the final weeks.
I was heartened that in among letters of disagreement I had a few tell me they had read my pleas to vote against this kind of politics, and voted remain, but I fear by then most had been stoked up and it was a little too late. Unfortunately, the result of Brexit (supported by 52% of the country) means some individuals have used this as justification to echo the sentiment expressed on those billboards.
Earlier today I read a tweet where someone was relieved the changes meant those who have applied to study in the UK this year will still be able to. As I read further down his profile I then read how he was questioning his decision. Not because it might be more financially difficult, or because there might be a more complicated process, but because he had read about the intolerance in the country.
Both sides in this referendum need to rise up against these attacks. No one should take a blind eye about it, no one should try to excuse it. If we do, we’re part of the problem. We need more kindness.