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Monday, August 15, 2016

The racist legacy of the Brexit campaign

The Independent reports on the views of a church minister who grew up behind the Berlin Wall and who fears being seen as an intruder in Scotland following the Brexit vote.

The Rev Aniko Schutz Bradwell, who leads the Humbie with Yester, Bolton and Saltoun congregations in East Lothian, said the rhetoric of politicians in the Brexit campaign seems to have "made it legitimate to use racist language". She says she is more nervous speaking German in public since the vote.

The Reverend Bradwell is not alone in her anxiety nor is it ill-founded. Back in June the Independent reported that more than a hundred incidents of racial abuse and hate crime have been reported since the UK voted to leave the European Union. Many of the alleged perpetrators cited the decision to leave the EU explicitly.

The Institute of Race Relations details some, but not all incidents on its website. They highlight a new report compiled by activists from three social media platforms and published by #PostRefRacism which analyses 645 racist and xenophobic incidents reported to them following the referendum vote.

They say that cases reported to social media platforms were largely verbal abuse, though incidents involving physical violence or threats of violence accounted for 14 per cent of cases, within this:
None of this is accidental of course. As Miqdaad Versi says in the Guardian:

The EU referendum result has perhaps emboldened racists by leading them to believe that the majority agree with their views on immigration and legitimising such public expressions of hatred. For this, the political elite must take responsibility, after stoking a divisive referendum campaign that demonised immigrants by spreading fictitious scare stories, all the while pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Despite Boris Johnson once saying he was pro-immigration, his campaign focused its message on immigration, creating unrealistic and unachievable expectations of what migration figures could be. Not only did it falsely claim that Turkey was about to join the EU but it also claimed that Turks were in some way a threat to our national security, highlighting its proximity to Iraq and Syria on a poster. There are no two ways about it: such messages must either be the work of duplicitous demagogues or incompetent and irresponsible migration scaremongers.

Let’s not forget Nigel Farage’s risible anti-migrant “breaking point” poster, which was even reported to the police for allegedly inciting racial hatred. As Sayeeda Warsi told the BBC, “This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or useful in the short term but it causes long-term damage to communities” – a prediction that is unfortunately being proved correct.

This xenophobia was reinforced by national newspapers, who throughout the first six months of 2016 carried dozens of anti-immigration stories.

Leaving the European Union is going to be traumatic but we will find a way through. The damage to our society of the legitimisation of racism will take much longer to heal.
Whilst canvassing during the 2015 GE, 2016 Assembly elections and then in the referendum campaign - several voters, without prompting, gave me their candid views and opinions on the EU. Not once did anyone mention sovereignty, lack of democratic accountability, etc.

All that I heard were the words, immigrants, asylum seekers, Muslims, over here, taking our jobs, our benefits, free council houses, lets control our borders, lets send them home, blah, blah, blah. I even heard two anti-German rants! I'm still not sure whether this was a response to Angela Merkel, or if it was a residue of ill feeling from the WW2 era.

One or two of the older voters even reminded me that 'Enoch had been right all along'.

Oh, I live, by the way, in a part of North Wales, where the immigration rates are 2.5%. 97.5% of the people in my constituency are UK born.

So - It seems clear that reality on the ground did not match the facts, and that the main factor involved in shaping this racist agenda seems to have involved a daily diet of either the Sun, the Express or the Mail.

Clearly it worked.
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