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Brexit: a brown girl’s perspective

29 Jun 2016

After the frankly disastrous results of the British EU referendum, my social media timelines were filled with people celebrating or grieving the outcome Britain’s democratic decision to leave. As a grandchild of immigrants who came to the UK from Bangladesh during the sixties, I voted to remain. Beyond the impact immigration has had on my own British identity, my decision to vote remain was a reaction against the viciously false propaganda paraded by Camp Leave and my firm belief in unity over division.

The debate, focused mainly on immigration and “taking back our borders” gave way to a rhetoric that has much deeper and darker implications. One of underlying racism, under the guise of defending our country from criminals and migrants with pitchforks ready to steal our jobs, whilst simultaneously guzzling up benefits and filling our hospital beds. It acted as a false cover for how the Conservative government has undeniably failed us as a nation, and Camp Leave, headed by the likes of Johnson, Gove and Farage held the EU responsible, slandering its street cred with lies and scaremongering. This is deeper than just breaking off from the EU; it spreads hatred through fear and encourages division on false foundations, a sentiment that surpasses just the issue of EU Migrants.

Much like other fellow “Vote Remain’ers” I threw a tantrum via statuses and tweets. I saw posts that said “Happy Independence Day” and “We survived WW1 and WW2 without the EU sure we’ll survive this.” The bitter hypocrisy of such posts and laughable miseducation of the posters infuriated me and sent my inner social warrior on a media crusade. My resentment was further fuelled by the xenophobic tweets, attacking Welsh Remain campaigner Shazia Awan and the tweets of those sharing the abhorrent racist attacks they experienced after the announcement of Britain leaving the EU.

Lacking political correctness, I retorted to such posts with a status sharing the Metro’s online article regarding the impact of Brexit on BAME people:

“It’s so easy for people to sit there and say ‘this is democracy, deal with it’, when they never have had to or have to worry about the colour of their skin or their racial/religious background. You can dismiss the deeper implications of Brexit because you don’t care that deeply about what’s happening in British politics, because you will never be a minority in the country you were born in and because tbh you’re white. So go ahead and make your bullshit racist statuses, and spell Barack Obama’s name wrong and claim you’re not racist because you have black/brown/Polish friends. The only reason ‘your’ Britain was ever ‘Great’ was because it exploited greater nations. ‘Your’ England is one built from the stolen resources, traditions and history of cultures far richer. Fuck your ‘Independence day’ and fuck you.”

A friend commented on my status saying that my anti-racist post was essentially racist in itself and that this was “not the right way to go about it”. But she was in a position to say so because she felt attacked by my perspective, not by the consequences that people from ethnic backgrounds would face after the decision of 51.9 percent of the population. I’m not going to be “politically correct” in fear of offending people that I disagree with. My status isn’t racist; it’s a direct response to the racism and xenophobia I’ve witnessed on social media, something that we are so quick to dismiss as patriotism or banter. I’m not going to be afraid to respond to that, because apparently it’s regarded as racist. Reverse racism isn’t a thing. That’s white privilege talking.

Firstly, to all of Nigel Farage’s cronies’ cheers of “Independence day”: Independence from what? You have no idea of the meaning of independence. Britain colonised the world and now cowers in fear of migrants stealing their jobs and houses. Your independence from the EU is nothing in comparison to the independence of colonies from oppression and exploitation by Britain and other colonial powers.

Secondly, in response to those who believe Britain has survived so much alone: the main reason Britain came out on the winning side of both World Wars was due to allegiance and unity between the European powers, and the loyalty of the colonies that fought Britain’s European war for them. After WW2 it is highly unlikely that Britain would have survived without the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950, which led to the EU. European integration undoubtedly strengthened Britain’s position on the world stage.

To the people sharing posts that say things like “Imagine having fought the Nazis, contributed to Britain and having a 17-year-old gimp saying you’re too old to vote” and posts that associate the loss of lives during the world wars to the EU referendum; there is zero correlation. In all due respect, Grandpa Dave from Feltham, whilst your bravery is undeniably commendable, it was not only you who fought the Nazis and contributed to Britain. Let’s please remember the one and a half million volunteers from the Indian subcontinent, the 55,000 men from Africa, and countless others who fought on behalf of Britain in a European scramble for power. We often neglect the sacrifice and role of commonwealth soldiers who fought alongside British troops.

To @HoadleyMike who tweeted “because you were born and brought up here doesn’t make you ethnically English or British-my assumption stands.” You represent the hate and xenophobia that has been allowed to rise in this political climate. We are seen as second-class citizens in the country we call home. It’s a shame that the fact we hold a British passport refutes your assumption, you troll. To the people harassing Muslims and telling them to “get out and leave”, mate, we didn’t come from Europe, what are you on?

Britain has based its decision to leave is at best a shit choice. You have given way to the rise of xenophobia and racism, all the while trying to deny it. You are saying it is okay to stop the free movement of people because of their race, their identity or because they are apparently a threat to the “greatness” of Britain. You have ignored the cultural enrichment of this nation as a consequence of migrants and racial diversity. You have chosen to ignore, as usual, the rich history of your colonial conquests, despite exploiting them. You fear that migrants will take advantage of your poor housing and benefit system and steal the jobs that you think you’re too good to do anyway. You have completely disregarded the immigrants that work hard and help our economy grow. You want to take back your borders … well I’m taking back my chicken tikka masala, and, for that matter, the Kohinoor.