Brexit is pretty terrifying for a number of reasons. What’s happening with the economy, who’s going to lead us through this and will we still be in the Eurovision? I joke, obviously coming last in the Eurovision is the least of our worries right now, but to be honest, I’ve got more pressing concerns than the economy, too.
Ever since the EU referendum results effectively legitimised the racist and anti-migrant or refugee sentiments of a worrying proportion of the population, I’ve had to hear stories of European school children being told they’ll have to ‘go back to their own country’ (yep, I’ve heard that one before), see racist graffiti scrawled across a Polish centre in London and listen to a Sikh doctor be told to go back to Pakistan (I talk about what it’s like to be a ‘curry scented bitch IRL’ here, in case you’re wondering what that feels like).
As mixed-race Indian and white British myself, my immediate thoughts after the referendum results were for my friends, family and any non-‘British’ minority, whether that be in terms of race or nationality, living in the UK right now. You can’t have missed the album of racist incidents doing the rounds on Facebook (118 and counting), and sadly have probably had friends post their own experiences online. I haven’t been verbally attacked (yet), but my Czech friend was told, after asking an older lady sitting by a road if she was ok, that she was more ‘okay than you are. You're the one who has to leave our country now’. Notice the ‘our’ in that sentence.
As for my British-born Indian friend? She’s been verbally abused three times since Friday in public spaces, and not a single person stood up to help her. As she tells me, ‘Racism existed before Brexit but now people believe that 52% of the vote is a mandate to be openly prejudice. They have interpreted the outcome of the election to legitimise their bigotry and do not fear recourse - as there isn't any condemnation from the Leave campaign. Sadiq Khan however, is speaking out against hate crime and reassuring Londoners that the met police are briefed with a zero tolerance policy. He is truly acting as a beacon of hope in these dark times. It fills me with sadness that I talk about "next time" because the reality is that I will probably encounter another emboldened racist again’.
I’ve been in tears on more than one occasion over what’s happening so visibly in Britain right now. Racism is an age-old issue that’s ever-present in our society, and it’s naïve to think that these incidents only started post-Brexit. What is terrifying is the mindset that a majority ‘leave’ vote somehow means that these actions are ‘OK’ or representative of the general population. My light skin and ambiguous race means I will probably not be targeted, but I’m scared for people of colour. It doesn’t even matter if you hail from outside of Europe – right now, we’re all ‘foreigners’ in this divided country.
You cannot change the colour of your skin, and you should not change your religion based on pressure, fear and terror – we need to pull together and stand up for our migrant population, as well as citizens who are British, born and bred, facing prejudice for not being ‘pure English’. Because newsflash, none of us are.