On 23rd of June 2016, 51.9% of the population of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Immediately after, Standard & Poor downgraded UK’s coveted credit rating from AAA to AA due to the country’s uncertain future. Aside from economic and financial costs, rising tensions and intolerance within the country is threatening to incur greater damages to the social fabric of the UK.
Following the vote, data from Google indicated increases in searches regarding ‘brexit racist’ and ‘brexit xenophobia.’ A report by the National Police Chief’s Council stated that reports of hate crime had increased by 42% following the referendum, and over 3000 cases of hate crime had been documented before and after the event. Complaints to True Vision, the online hate crime reporting site was revealed to have increased fivefold. The head of the NPCC has said that
‘It is very clear in the last couple of weeks that more people have been aware of experiencing such incidents than we have had before.’ He also affirmed that ‘hatred not only has the potential to cause serious physical and emotional harm, it damages communities and undermines the diversity and tolerance we should be instead celebrating.’
It is clear that there exist strong ethnic and racial dimensions related to the growing intolerance and violence against people perceived as ‘different’ in Britain. The report on Post-Referendum Racism and Xenophobia analyzed reports of abuse on social media following the referendum and found that a third of incidents was targeted toward people of non-white backgrounds in the UK. Around a fifth of the attacks were targeted towards people of the Islamic faith. Out of the Europeans, Polish people were found to be victims 40% of the time.
What is most concerning is the rise in physical violence and attacks against minorities in the UK. On the 27th of June, a bomb was hurled inside Kashmir Meat & Poultry, a halal butcher, completely destroying the facilities. BBC reports had found that cards were placed in letterboxes in Newcastle with the slogan ‘no more Polish Vermin.’ The hate crimes reached its climax following the death of Arkadiusz Jóźwik in Essex, Six teenage boys had beaten the man in a deadly street attack after hearing him speak Polish to his brother on the phone. Polish community residents are left in fear, according to Ivona Schulz Nalepka, the director of the Harlow Polish School in Essex.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that racial and ethnic tension has risen following the referendum. The massive political campaign prior to the vote had fixated mainly on UK citizen’s concern regarding issues of migration. Politicians from UK Independence party was accused of enlisting scaremongering tactics and divisive portrayal of minorities throughout its campaign to leave the EU. Nigel Farage was infamously quoted linking the sexual assault of British woman with accepting Syrian refugees in the UK. Professor Neil Chakraborti and Dr. Stevie-Jade Hardy from the University of Leicester believes that the growth in hate incidents has been ‘fuelled and legitimized by politicians in the media.’ In particular, the ‘toxic climate’ has created a mandate for ordinary people to ‘blame those who are different for society’s ills.’
Indeed, intolerance is growing in the post-Brexit UK. However, not all hope is lost. Politicians such as David Cameron has come forth to condemn the hate crimes in the UK. The place where Jozwik is now decorated with flowers and letters of peace. In these moments of uncertainty and division, it is important for the people of the UK to stand together for acceptance and cohesion as a society.
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