On Monday 14th November 2016, I was invited by CBC radio Vancouver’s Early Edition to discuss the parallels between the spike in hate crimes following the Brexit vote in the UK and Trump’s win in the US.
Having opened up our Facebook group to the US, it was immediately apparent that many people were experiencing the same anxieties and concerns that we did here following an incredibly divisive campaign and the lasting harm it could lead to post results-day.
Here in the UK, our research in conjunction with PostRefRacism and iStreetwatch showed that following the 23rd of June 2016, 51% of incidents of abuse in the UK directly referenced the EU referendum with phrases such as, “it’s time to go home”or “we voted you out” so here, at least, we can trace a direct link. Given the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hateful and often violent language favoured by Trump campaign, we in the UK were not surprised to see similar consequences in the US.
It’s the normalising and rationalising of what we saw during the EU referendum campaign and even more during Trump’s campaign that is, to my mind, the most worrying sign. We have now seen two major political campaigns that have been successful despite their best attempts to dehumanise, demonise and scapegoat other groups of human beings. To pretend that this is not empowering racist and hate groups in the UK, US and indeed across the world is incredibly foolish. I have always maintained, and continue to do so, that not everyone who voted Brexit or Trump are racist or xenophobic; but the type of hateful rhetoric that has been deployed has become so normal that people are able to dismiss or minimise it’s importance when evaluating who or what to vote for.
So what now? It’s time politicians and people of influence, no matter how they or their party voted, unite in a clear coalition against hate. On matters such as immigration, it’s important our politicians listen to concerns of the electorate, not shut down debate, or seek to shift responsibility and offer positive, constructive solutions. It’s time we stopped allowing hateful opportunists to seize upon people’s discontents and fears and lead the debate. It’s also key for civil society to unite at grassroots level and apply pressure through campaigns, lobbying politicians and community initiatives to combat bigotry and prejudice and show it’s not welcome in the places we live.
In short, we need to see an end to the complacency that has led to the normalisation and rationalisation of bigotry and prejudice at every level of our society. What has been demonstrated in both our countries is that despite living in a western liberal democracy, we are not immune from hateful intolerant forces that seek to divide us and turn us against one another. Above all, we need to start working harder to ensure these forces do not grow stronger. We can no longer take for granted that everything will be ok.
You can listen to me make some of these points here:
-Yasmin Weaver (Co-founder, Worrying Signs project)