Maddie Wallace draws attention to the disturbing spike in racist and xenophobic incidents that has occurred since the EU referendum.
This week I’ve been talking to my sons about racism. I don’t want to have to talk to 9 and 10 year olds about something as inherently disgusting as racism, but they’re old enough to know it exists and I wanted to know how they’d deal with it if they saw it at school, particularly given the amount of children who have seen it in UK schools in the last few days.
‘Why would anyone be racist?’ said Zaki.
‘People who are racist probably have brains the size of walnuts,’ said Sami.
The vote to leave the EU has given a small minority of idiots the idea that they now have a majority of the country behind them in their bigoted views, and their vitriol has been vomited out on walls of community centres, shouted at school children, and right here in Portsmouth – behind the war memorial, where the words “UKIP DIRTY POLISH” were daubed in white paint.
Police have reported a 57% rise in hate crime since the referendum result, and that is not going to go away over night. Unfortunately my sons now inhabit a world where encountering racism is a very real possibility – we all do. A Facebook group called Worrying Signs was started the weekend after the referendum as reports started coming in of racist attacks. The group currently has almost 34,000 members, and has comiled hundreds of posts containing experiences of first hand attacks, photos of abusive comments and stories of people’s experiences right here in “Great” Britain.
So what should we do if we see it? How should we react if we are on a train and witness a racist attack as happened on the Manchester tram? What should my sons be doing if they see someone in the park being insulted like that?
On the one hand there is a need to reassure the victim that they are not alone, that not everyone thinks like that, and that you are there to support them. But on the other hand it’s important not to antagonise the racist bully. The obvious and probably safest solution is to film it, so the police have more chance of arresting and charging the perpetrator. I told my sons to tell a teacher if they’re at school, or come home and tell me if they’re out playing.
A friend of mine suggested earlier that we should all collectively come up with a chant to shout at racist pricks and I think the best one is the #notinmyname hashtag being used on Twitter to refer to the decision to leave the EU. Imagine someone on a bus starting to shout racist slurs at someone only to be confronted with a bus full of decent people chanting ‘Not in my name’ at them.
Because that’s the thing at the moment. The small number of racist arseholes out there think the result vindicates their way of thinking. They have become bold and vocal. With both of the main political parties in turmoil no one is standing up and saying, ‘No, this is not OK’, so it’s down to individuals to stand up to racism. It’s down to communities to pull together and support people who are most vulnerable to this. It’s up to us as a country to educate this bigoted, xenophobic minority so that future generations don’t have to grow up seeing abhorrent attacks on their fellow citizens.
Image available without attribution from Wikimedia Commons.