I have been very happy (if being happy is the right emotion for me to feel) to see that Zara Shaen Albright has written two blogs relating to the EU referendum and ethnic minorities/racism. She wrote one on the 29th June and another on 1st July. In both articles, particularly the one written on 29th June she eloquently explains something that many “ethnic minorities” who voted for Brexit have come across.
I was active in campaigning for Brexit. I was out in Brixton (right in mouth of the pro-EU lion I know), Croydon, Streatham and central London on stalls with others telling people why I think the UK should leave the European Union. I enjoyed my experience and the company of the people that I was with. I also found it challenging and in some occasions violent.
I found it challenging because many people you speak to have a habit of judging you, patronising you or trying to attack you. Yes trying to attack you. I was attacked in Brixon for expressing my views on why Brexit should prevail. Many of you may listen to LBC and may have remembered hearing a story about a man and his friend in Brixton being physically attacked and called ‘Nazi’. I was the friend of that guy. A lady took it upon herself to try to kick me but ended up stamping on my foot instead. The most interesting thing was that I was just trying to answer her questions but she kept on interrupting me.
Another man on a bike threatened to hurt me (stab me if memory serves me correctly) simply for being in Brixton discussing the EU. He said ‘don’t come and bring your politics here fam’. I kindly reminded him of my right to freedom of speech and to stand on any street on this island that I choose to and discuss whatever I choose to. He seemed more angry with the world rather than the EU referendum though. These incidents rather annoyed me. The idea that because you don’t like what someone says gives you the right to physically attack them seems to be prevalent in the world today. Whatever happen to good old fashion civility of walking away and choosing to not associate with people who have views you despise?
Another thing was being judged. I had a lot of people assume things about me without even getting to know me or my reasons for voting leave. I was called all the names under the sun; ‘racist’, ‘Nazi’, ‘xenophobic’, ‘Islamaphobic’, and the like. Most of these people would walk past our stall and just yell these names at us. Some had the clever curiosity of asking us questions before launching an avalanche of abuse at us. I was struck by the fact that for many of them, wanting to leave the EU was a terrible idea because people who they despise, want to leave. It was a though there was an attempt to paint me in association with them. Racism by association if you will. I even had one guy that suggested I was getting paid by UKIP so they could have black faces on the street campaigning to leave as some kind of PR exercise. The interesting thing is that I would never suggest that because people are voting remain they are on the same side as David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, or Nicola Sturgeon. It would have been analytically lazy to do so.
I think the real racism came from these people that walked past. I had white people walking past pointing at me yelling names. Maybe these people should take a trip down memory lane to the 60s when white people used to do the same to blacks; pointing at them in public and yelling names at them for expressing an opinion. I even suggested this to a Home Officer worker and his girlfriend who yelled racist at me. He was so shocked and appalled that I would make such a link. The thought that he, a oh-so-nice individual who works for the Home Office could be no better than racists in the 1960s was shocking. Especially as I, being a Brexiter, am the real racist one (!) (not those that told me because of the colour of my skin I can’t vote for Brexit of course).
But perhaps the most interesting was the patronising and quite often racist sneers I got from many people. I don’t want to make this about Left and Right but there was a strong snobbery from across spectrum about wanting to leave but more so on the Left. I have found the Left’s ideological position always sees people as members of particular groups rather than as individuals. A form of identity politics one could say. They see people first as being a member of a racial, religious, gender, sexual and age group and treat people accordingly (often not equally). Couple this with the fact one of the biggest issues during the referendum campaign was immigration you have identity politics made to look like compassion, as if they are the defenders of all immigrants and minorities.
It comes cloaked in a form of moral superiority. Many of them claimed that I hated immigrants without asking me my reasons for wanting to leave the EU, as if immigration could be the only reason why over 17million people voted to leave the European Union. Many of them also claimed I wanting to turn the clock back to some ‘Little England’ era and many of them spoke to me as if I ‘didn’t understand’, as though I was uneducated and couldn’t possibly have a clue. I remember one woman, ever so gently grabbed my forearm in a consoling manner and spoke to me how teachers speak to primary school children to tell me about my ancestors and grandparents (most of which I was aware of).
However, what was most interesting was a ‘true colours’ moment from many of the opponents. I was shocked as I thought many of those people who disagreed with what I was saying, particularly those on the Left, also disagreed with racism. Apparently not. I had people telling me that I can’t vote for Brexit because I am black (Hmm, shouldn’t vote a particular way because of the colour of one’s skin). I had one guy say to me that he is surprised that me of all people was voting for Brexit (he had a stall next to us but it was about socialism. Maybe that’s where the collectivist mindset of seeing me black first individual later comes from) and I also had a guy place the side of his hand on his eyebrows so as to block to sunlight from his eyes and said ‘I’m just trying to see properly if you’re black’. I just wonder what their reaction would have been had a white person had said this.
These are just some of the experiences I had during the EU referendum and not all of them were bad experience. Nor do I just blame all the people on the remain side. I’m sure there are some individuals on the leave side who are patronising, judgemental and racist. It is just interesting the way some individuals on the remain side have treated me, Zara Shaen Albright, and many other ‘ethnic minorities’ who wanted to see a UK exit from the European Union.
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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty