A friend of mine told me last night that she was recently insulted for being a foreign migrant in the UK. As she had finished a phone conversation during which she had to spell her surname, the man next to her on the bus looked at her full of hate and said something rude suggesting she should go back to her own country.
Another friend of mine, who blindly supports Brexit, had told me few days before this happened, in a conversation about xenophobia and freedom of expression of migrants on the issue of the referendum, that if anyone receives ethnic abuse or violence, they must report it to the police.
This is wishful thinking, and quite frankly, naïve. Our police forces cannot deal effectively with this kind of low level, yet highly perverse and hurtful violence. They are overstretched and they would struggle to catch people like that man on the bus and get any kind of meaningful redress from him. Most people I know share this belief. In fact, I have heard of xenophobic behaviour in the past and I cannot recall one single instance in which ringing up the police was even suggested. To me, if things are getting to a point in which police intervention is needed to tackle xenophobia, yet victims do not feel that bringing the police in would help, it is clearly too late for the politicians and the State to tackle the issue effectively.
Of course, many of these xenophobic rude people must feel that they are just expressing their national anger resulting from the horrible effects of migration and membership of the EU. They replicate, in their own language and code, what the right-wing newspapers have been telling them for the last 20 years about migration and the EU. But the same is true of other Tory and UKIP xenophobes who, as members of the middle classes, have learnt to coach their nastiness towards migrants in a way that would not get them into any kind of trouble. No name calling, no swearing. And, of course, this xenophobia can take many other shapes. Do you remember the French Lady in Question Time last week who was shut down by a fervent audience when she said “well, we are all Brussels”. (She was trying to challenge the belief that there is an evil entity trying to control the UK personified in UK Brexit discourse as “Brussels”).
Are there Brexiters who are not xenophobes?
Of course there are, I know some nice normal people who want to leave the EU, but they should acknowledge that if it was not for all the “patriotic”, anti-EU and anti-migration propaganda of newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail over the years, UKIP and the Brexit campaign would not have prospered in terms of number of supporters and voters as much as they have. Perhaps that would give them a better understanding of what type of country they are promoting by supporting Brexit.
What about the Brexit right-wing elites, the ones behind all this, the ones who would never share a bus with the man who insulted my friend?
We must remind them that they have come this far in their political and business aspirations on the back of a rabidly xenophobic horse which their media have spurred. It is their responsibility, more than anyone else’s, to help us to put down the beast they have nurtured as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t think these elites are up to the job. Besides, if Brexit wins, they will be too busy over the next ten years trying to desperately negotiate new business and trade deals, for themselves and/or for the country as a whole, to care about anything else, never mind social cohesion and peace.
Image credits: Hope not Hate