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Student Voice: A rise in racism since Brexit?

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By Sara Haywood

Since the UK voted to leave the EU last week, there has been a noted rise in hate crimes and racial abuse, with many of the perpetrators seeming to be using Brexit as an excuse to display their barbaric views. Just this week, our very own city suffered as a result of these attacks when a video of three men yelling at a mixed race man to “go get deported” surfaced on social media. It would seem that racism in the UK has now become a ‘normal’ everyday activity that everyone can take part in. And it’s not right.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned these actions, calling them “despicable” and urging that these hate crimes be stamped out. But, while we’re still coming out of a campaign fuelled by lies and fear, it seems like these attacks are only just the beginning. The Polish community in particular has suffered immensely over the past few days, with graffiti being sprayed at a Polish community centre in Hammersmith and laminated ‘anti-Polish’ cards anonymously distributed outside schools and homes in Huntingdon. London’s Polish Embassy was said to be “shocked and deeply concerned” by these attacks and have called for Polish nationals to report these incidents to local authorities.

Kamila Jagla, a Polish student at Manchester Met said, “Being a Polish citizen, I’ve had my fair share of bullying and racism thrown at me since moving to the UK but it’s never been intolerable. Following the recent EU Referendum results however, it seems like they now have the right to be more aggressive towards people they believe to be ‘not British’ because they now feel a majority of the country shares their views on immigration.”

Others have faced direct aggression on the streets. Lily-May Foley, a Malaysian part time student, faced a slew of verbal abuse in Manchester on the day of the results:

“I was waiting to get to Piccadilly and two Caucasian men were going around the streets being rowdy, shouting, ‘We won, we won!’ They came up to me and shouted ‘**** off home, you Paki!’ but were then chased off by police officers. The last time I faced any abuse like this was back in 2012, but it happened to me quite regularly back then, so this incident was no big deal to me.”

Certainly, for some people like Lily, incidents like these can be shrugged off. But for others like international student Katina Petrou, who flew back home to Germany to see family just before the Brexit vote, there is a fear for their own safety and how the UK itself will turn out. Petrou spoke of a “Pre-war mood” making waves throughout Europe currently, and fears of how Manchester will be when she arrives back for university. A Tumblr blog entitled, ‘This is What You Have Done, Brexit’ even details and collects harrowing stories of public racial abuse from users, further increasing fears and anxieties.

But in the midst of the post-Brexit blues and rising racism, there is a glimmer of hope. The viral video of the Manchester tram incident has now resulted in the arrest of the three perpetrators involved and social media users have now begun the ‘safety pin movement’ to try and combat post-Brexit racism and represent themselves as an ally and a ‘safe’ person to EU migrants. These may only be small things right now, but it is the small things that make all the difference.

Sara Haywood is a third year English and Creative Writing student. Find her blog here.

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