Solidarity is required as attention turns to those who wish to further divide communities and seek legitimacy for prejudice and hatred
Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) is concerned by reports of an increase in examples of prejudice towards migrants, and those perceived to be migrants, that is largely being attributed to Thursday’s decision to leave the European Union.
Historically, there has often been a ‘spike’ in more visible acts of racism following a high profile incident or event and whilst this naturally both unacceptable and deeply concerning, it has also been typical that focus on this type of escalation disappears just as quickly, with little done to tackle the underlying conditions which have created it.
SRtRC believe that as a society we must continue to stand up against the kind of prejudicial incidents reported in the press this weekend and not allow a media narrative to suggest that racism and discrimination are somehow an inevitable consequence to the decision to leave the European Union.
There have long been people who seek divide; to create fear and mistrust, to find a target for their own concerns and frustrations. There is a real concern that those who hold such ideas will feel supported by the results of the referendum and that we will see an escalation in threatening, aggressive and hateful behaviour.
It is essential that we continue to oppose such behaviour, irrespective of the way individuals chose to vote or their thoughts on the UK’s relationship with Europe. We must challenge those who act in a discriminatory way, by reporting their behaviour and by standing together with the intended targets of their actions.
We must also remind those keen to paint the UK as never more fractured that society has always challenged the presence of these ideas and attitudes. We mustn’t allow those who may now feel that their voices are amplified to drown out those who recognise the rights and contributions of people who are part of this country.
On Saturday, a small far-right presence again descended on Newcastle, as it has done there and in other cities throughout the UK for a number of years. Once again, those looking to promote fear and hatred were opposed in much greater numbers by those who stood together in unity.
SRtRC believes that we cannot allow racism and prejudice to be normalised, to be seen as a natural consequence of a decision to leave Europe. The charity has witnessed growing anti-immigration sentiment throughout the past few years and has seen this manifest in the words and actions of a minority of people, be it in classrooms, workplaces or other aspects of local communities.
In 2014 SRtRC surveyed the opinions of almost 6000 young people across England and revealed examples of growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiment which suggested that young people were vulnerable to influence by both media and political narratives.
It is now more important than ever that we show that such views have no legitimacy. It is not acceptable to treat someone badly or differently because you suspect them to be from another country or that they are in someway less entitled to the human rights protections afforded to them. It is not now, nor has it ever been acceptable to tell someone to ‘go back to where they come from’ or to ‘get out of the country’.
SRtRC will continue to educate young people and adults about racism, prejudice and discrimination and create conditions in which people can look critically at societal and political narratives and deconstruct them. In doing so we must be honest about the history of racism and oppression and the many factors and decisions which have contributed to and supported the establishment of inequality.
Racist and prejudicial ideas and attitudes do not develop overnight, nor in the space of an uncertain few weeks and months. As narratives, media focus and public consciousness continue to fluctuate, education will be the constant and consistent means by which we can support the continued rejection of hatred.