A vote to leave must not become a green light for racism: hate crimes must be stopped at the source

As the turbulent aftermath to the United Kingdom’s departure of the European Union rumbles on, many of us are both terrified yet enthralled in what might happen next.

Parties engaging in civil-war like conflicts with each other, Leave campaigners backtracking on pre-referendum promises, and the UK’s loss of its triple-A credit rating all dominated the headlines over the weekend.

Yet reports of a sharp increase in hate crimes since Thursday’s referendum, however, may be the most chilling outcome of a nasty campaign that ultimately evolved into personal agendas, personalities, and hatred from both sides.

Reports of Polish families in Huntingdon being compared to verminNeo-Nazi stickers being spotted around Glasgow, and several examples of EU citizens resident in the UK to “go home” sadly emanated the exact type of hatred that was espoused to the UK public from senior politicians and media organisations in the run-up to Britain’s historic decision.

The British public cannot be held completely liable for these beliefs, though. When the reader is explicitly told on a daily basis that foreigners really are rats, that the United Kingdom is at ‘breaking point’ because of immigration, and that migrants are more likely to drain state welfare than anyone else– which was quickly proven to be false- then there should be no surprise that there is toxicity towards migrants seeking to live in the UK.

The very fact that the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU on the basis of immigration should come as no shock, either- with politicians such as Nigel Farage playing on the electorate’s fears of terrorism, and the Leave campaign making sure to highlight the possibilities of terrorism because of membership in the EU, the British public’s opinion was largely swayed by fears of migration from the Middle East.

I believe Britain’s decision to vote to leave was not driven by the hate-fuelled agenda shown above, however- there are several valid reasons for country severing its ties with the European Union. The issue comes when the far right racists believe that because the majority agree with their views on immigration, their expression of hatred is legitimised.

Despite these racist, abhorrent individuals believing that the majority is on their side, Britain is simply not the place for personal attacks to occur on the grounds of another person’s race or religion. It does not matter whether you voted leave, remain or abstained from voting entirely: the attacks on working migrants who have valuably contributed to our society must be condemned.

The denouncing of these attacks must start at the head of the proverbial snake- the scaremongering politicians, campaigners, and media organisations who divide the British public on a daily basis must be prevented from isolating the diverse multi-cultural British society any further.

While both the Brexit and remain campaigners continue to shoot themselves in the foot, the UK public must pull together in times when there is no leadership to lead the war on hate crimes. When leave campaigners claimed to want to ‘take their country back’ from the EU, it should be highlighted of the thousands of migrants who worked to make the UK the way it is today. This is the true way to overcome the cloud of racism that is overshadowing the referendum debate. Or maybe I’m just optimistic.

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