Brexit continues to dominate political debate, with many of us growing increasingly disinterested as discussions continue with little progress being made. The United Kingdom’s separation from the EU has the potential to disrupt business and trade, but it has already negatively impacted life in the UK for countless individuals. Hate crimes are on the rise, and this is being increasingly associated with Brexit.
It’s been reported that the British police are preparing for a dramatic rise in reported hate crimes following the nation’s withdrawal from the EU in March. This is hardly surprising – after the referendum, the number of reported hate crimes rose to an alarmingly high number. That’s right, following the Brexit referendum of June 2016, Britain saw the second biggest spike in hate crimes, surpassed only by the terror attacks committed in 2017. Whilst the attempts to prepare for an increase in such crimes is not surprising, it remains disappointing that such measures are even necessary. The Independent reported a young student being stabbed in the neck for speaking Polish. When such violent attacks are carried out on an individual purely for not conforming to the perceivably restrictive English “mould”, the question must be asked whether we can truly call ourselves the modern, forward-thinking nation that we would like to consider ourselves to be.
Social media has undoubtedly played a part in the alarming spike in the reported number of hate crimes committed against non-English individuals. Keyboard warriors are able to band together and create a more widely recognised rhetoric of hate and intolerance that is able to reach a wider readership. Some have speculated that social media has aided the normalisation of hate, with many becoming desensitised to the emotional and physical suffering inflicted on innocent citizens. That does not, however, negate the fact that 96% of flagged crimes are still physical. The Independent also notes that these crimes not only include physically harming the victim, but also damaging their home and property. To many people, this statistic is nothing but shocking and sickening. Moreover, it’s unrepresentative of the values that the United Kingdom claims to hold dear: tolerance and egalitarianism.
Quite rightly, many despise Trump and the wall that he wants to see built. It stands for exclusion, societal fragmentation and the ultimate erosion of human freedom and liberty, but isn’t that the very essence of what these hate crimes are doing here in the UK? Whilst we won’t be seeing any physical walls being built in the future to separate “us” from “them”, by failing to acknowledge and condemn these hate crimes, we passively permit them to continue. To be singled out and either verbally or physically assaulted because of your nationality, religion or ethnicity implies that you are not welcome in this country, and further entrenches the “us” versus “them” mentality. Regardless as to Brexit and whether we leave or remain, it absolutely remains the case that everybody is equally as human and has the right to respect and safety. That should just go without saying.