The choice of the British electorate to leave the European Union is quite a turning point, not just for Britain, but also for Europe. While we’ll discuss how to move forward, what concerns me most is the scars left behind by the political campaigns.
Some have labelled the campaigns as ‘tainted with racism’ and ‘anti-immigrant rhetoric’. Others say it is legitimate for people to wish to assert their independence and culture in their own homeland and that it does not necessarily imply hatred towards other races and cultures.
Either way, following (what has been termed as) a ‘quite bitterly fought contest’, fears are that it could leave a lasting legacy of division. There are already concerns and anxieties in our society, with many people feeling vulnerable because of the fear of all kinds of xenophobic or racist backlash, as being seen and reported currently nationwide.
In such a context, it is worth noting that:
(A) All those who voted for Brexit did not vote because of immigration alone. Still, one cannot deny that many (if not most) British citizens, including some immigrants themselves, feel strongly against the ongoing levels of immigration. We have to hear and accept that.
(B) Not all, but many immigrants feel that the British do not like us. We are not wanted here. We have to hear and accept that too.
(C) 84% of the British public supports letting EU migrants stay – including three-quarters (77%) of Brexit voters (read more online at http://www.britishfuture.org/articles/15131/). This sends a clear message to the extremist minority, some of whom are treating the Brexit victory as a licence to attack and harass migrants and minorities, that the British public deplore their actions. We need to hear and accept this part of the reality too.
Understanding that it is very difficult to legislate or control how people feel or must feel, one thing is very clear that in the post-Brexit Britain, it is in our hands now to shape the future, for us and for our next generation(s).
I would like to believe that most of us want Britain to be what it has strived hard, over recent years, to become - i.e. a tolerant, diverse, multicultural and prosperous nation.
As we have been doing in the past, we need to continue offering even more positive channels now, for people to come together locally, to build trust in one another and to work together to effect positive changes in our respective local communities. We must stay confident in our ability to ‘live well together’ and ‘live well with difference’.
They may say, “It won’t be easy”.
But was it ever easier before? (Those involved in this work know it. Don’t we?)
Still we did it.
Looking back 50 or 100 years, we know we have come a long way.
So, let us keep at it.
Let us continue our journey.
David (Johny) Jonathan, Coordinator, GRASSROOTS