Two weeks after the UK voted out of the European Union, the dust has not yet settled. With the PM quitting, the Sterling dropping, and no apparent Brexit-plan — the aftermath has left many feeling uncertain. In a tense climate of racial commentary and unprecedented abuse, Brexit, thus far, has not been favourable.
Born and bred in South-East London, to immigrant parents, I’ve grown up in a city accustomed to a melting pot of nationalities, cultures and religions. From the Indian local stores, Italian coffee shops, and Caribbean hair salons, to the Turkish and Polish supermarkets. The vibrant capital has thrived socially and economically because of multiculturalism. It is what makes London so unique among European cities. We even have our first British, Muslim mayor.
At least, that was before the EU referendum result on 23rd June. Suddenly, a dialogue about the single trade and reclaiming sovereignty turned in to an ugly, xenophobic campaign against immigrants — blaming them for all the country’s failings. Ask the majority of British people their reason to vote out and the common response is, “immigration.” So ill-informed were their views that the historical result became a catalyst for an increasing level of race hate crimes: the rate has doubled in the last two weeks.
The latest figures show 599 incidents of race hate crime were reported to Scotland Yard between 24 June — the day the result was announced — and 2 July — which means police were receiving an average of 67 reports a day.
My Facebook timeline was inundated with posts from my black and Asian friends who had been racially abused in the street and told to “Go back to where you came from. We voted out.” News flash... we were born here!
My heart was breaking for my beloved London. Is this really what a post-Brexit future looks like?
When a Polish community center was vandalized with the graffitied words, “f*** off” — it was meant to intimidate and frighten — but something amazing rose out of the chaos.
Londoners arrived at the center with armfuls of flowers and cards bearing messages of support. Dozens of pupils from nearby schools turned up with handwritten cards — and the center received gifts and hundreds of supportive emails from all over the country. Such acts of human kindness restored my faith.
Just the other day, parents from my own local community gathered in the park to host an event called Picnic for Peace to tackle bigotry and promote multiculturalism. More than 200 people turned up to show solidarity. And there have been similar demonstrations of community cohesion to stamp out the venomous rhetoric.
Acts like these show a defiance and optimism that we can rise above such turbulent times.
I’m feeling hopeful. Hopeful that our shared values of unity and tolerance will not let the bigots divide us. It is the most powerful message we can give. As unique as we are, we all stand as Londoners.
Our morale may have been battered, but our spirits will not be broken.