Britain, we are constantly told, prides itself on its tolerance and fair mindedness. In the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union, that pride has been shaken to the core and tolerance seems in short supply. The racists and xenophobes we always knew were there have felt buoyed and the micro and macro aggressions that had been reserved for black people and Muslims have been extended to include Poles, French people and anyone else who doesn’t seem ‘British enough’.
The campaign to leave the EU lifted the rock and out crawled all manner of swivel-eyed sneering bigots. A lot has been written already about the genuine fear that anyone who can’t trace their families back to the Doomsday book have been feeling and it’s important not to get swept away in a whirlwind of hyperbole that only serves to frighten many and further embolden others.
At the same time, now more than ever it’s important that we acknowledge what those of us on the anti-racist left have known for a long time and highlight the incidents of bigotry and racism that are blossoming. The system we live under, the media we are soaked in and the politicians we are governed by have all sown the seeds that are bearing ugly fruit on our streets.
Black and brown people know what it’s like to have their concerns ignored and their tones policed. We have often been made to feel silly for making a fuss or taking a stand. That needs to end too. The shock that many white liberals are expressing at the levels of racism that have been unleashed just goes to show that they really haven’t been paying attention for all of these years.
Some of shock people are feeling is down to the echo chambers that many of us have built around ourselves on social media. We only hear voices that sound like our own so we believe that everyone thinks like us. Some white liberals don’t consider that they are racist and don’t experience racism and so for them, it doesn’t exist.
It’s important for me to say that I’m not by any means suggesting that all Out voters are racist, far from it. Many hold perfectly valid concerns about sovereignty and the direction the EU is going. This isn’t important anymore. The Brexit vote is over. We lost. I’m now concerned with supporting the people who are hurting and worried.
We need to fight hate with love. This doesn’t mean loving the bigots, it means remembering our shared humanity and our common purpose. It means looking out for each other rather than locking ourselves away. Let the bigots hate, they always have, but we’re not built like that. We need to smile at strangers, give up our seats on the train for those who need them more. It means being good neighbours and showing that, no matter how it seems, we are not a hate-filled nation.
It will need work from those who claim to be our allies too though. White liberals need to be brave enough to call their friends to account for posting Britain First statuses or for going on anti-Muslim rants. For too long, the main work of anti-racists has been preoccupied with helping the mainstream feel better about themselves.
As Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams said on picking up his Humanitarian Award at BET Awards last night (Sunday)
“The burden of the brutalised is not to comfort the bystander”
We don’t have time for that anymore. We have enough work to do watching each others backs.
Some ideas of how and which organisations you can materially support here and here.
New Labour strikes back
Ideally there would be a strong political force we could unite behind to move Britain into a new era, but in a disgusting show of self-interest and sour grapes, the Labour party has decided that this is the moment to tear itself apart.
The same Labour MPs who ignored the non-London working classes for 30yrs are now trying to blame Jeremy Corbyn for not winning them back in 9 months.
Less than a year ago, Corbyn astounded the pundits to become Labour leader with a massive mandate. Hundreds of thousands of new members joined and finally the party looked like it was going to provide a viable opposition to Tory/New Labour consensus which had dragged the working people of our nation into the dirt and held them there since 1979.
As I write 34 member of the shadow cabinet have already resigned and every few minutes a new worm turns. It’s hard to see this as anything other than the party establishment getting its own back on a leader that simply didn’t like.
The turncoats are claiming that Jeremy lost the referendum but 64% of Labour voters voted to stay. This is almost as good a result as Nicola Sturgeon achieved in Scotland. His chief mutineers, Hillary Benn and Margaret Hodge both saw their own constituencies vote Leave and Corbyn’s Islington had a 50,000 majority in favour of remain.
Those of us who want a party that genuinely puts the working people first need to get behind Corbyn, who says he will run in any forced Labour leadership election. If Boris Johnson comes top of the Eton Mess and wins the Tory party leadership, he will not make the same mistake as Gordon Brown, he’ll call a snap election. Labour needs to be ready to take power. The resigning MPs say this can’t happen under Corbyn but I don’t believe this for a second.
This coup cannot be allowed to succeed or party politics will return to the shades of blue choices we’ve been faced with for most of my adult life.
I urge those who, like me support Corbyn’s vision for our country to contact their Labour MPs and reiterate support for the parties leader.
Having said all that, I’m a little sheepish about calling for the electorate to act since I was very vocal in desire for Scotland to stay part of the union during their last referendum.
At the time I said ‘Don’t leave the party Scotland, help us change the music’. Since the Brexit vote, I feel a bit embarrassed. It’s like they stayed by the DJ refused to take Justin Bieber off the turntable.
Now I say, go, good luck, send us a postcard from Europe.
Reasons to be cheerful
My silver lining may be wrapped in cloud but life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you deal with it. With that in mind, here are 10 reasons to be happy about the Brexit vote:
- David Cameron’s tears
- The Tories’ austerity agenda will be put on hold while they try to unravel the mess they’ve left the nation in.
- Right thinking people might be galvanised and now realise they can’t just sit back and hope for the best
- Britain has one less entity to blame for its problems
- More British players will get a chance to play in the Premier League, so our club teams will get worse but our national teams might get better
- Holidays to Europe will become exotic again
- House prices might come down a bit, for those few with jobs
- George Osborne won’t ever become PM
- The crashed pound means exports will be cheaper making British good more attractive, until the tariffs kick in
- Like the Iraq War, we’ll eventually get to say ‘I told you so’
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White Men Dancing is a weekly column. Kiri Kankhwende and Maurice Mcleod keep an eye on Westminster. Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
Maurice Mcleod is a social commentator with Jamaican/Swazi heritage. He is director of his own communications company, Marmoset Media, and writes regularly for The Guardian and The Spectator among other titles. He has commissioned for the Guardian, Media Diversified, Engage Magazine, Open Mind, Single Step and Voluntary Voice. Before setting up Marmoset, he had a 15-year career as a national newspaper journalist working for The Express, The Independent, The Voice, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times among others. He is also a trustee for campaign group Race on the Agenda. Maurice often appears on Sky News as a talking head and writes about social issues, race or politics.