Dear IRR News subscribers,
After years and years of struggle against racial hostility to new migrant communities, we are back there again – albeit post Brexit, which, seemingly, has taken the shame out of racism. And now, just like in the 1970s, communities up and down the country are experiencing an upsurge in racist and fascist violence. The IRR wants to help organisations at the grassroots by building up a national picture. Can you help us by sending regular updates about what is happening in your community?
Even before the contest was started, it was clear that the EU referendum would embolden racists and encourage violence against migrants and BAME communities. Immigration was always going to take centre-stage, given the way that the anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism and anti-EU slant of the tabloid press had been feeding Nigel Farage’s UKIP for at least a decade. Nor could anyone be surprised that politicians (with a few honourable exceptions), whether Leavers or Remainers, were prepared to swim in the same tide.
The rest is well known. Ever since the referendum result was announced on Friday 24 June, acts of hostility and violence have taken place in every part of the country. Police data suggests that there was an immediate 57 per cent increase in reported incidents in the four days after the referendum.
But the IRR’s first review of the national picture suggests that police figures are a substantial under-estimate. On social media people are describing incidents of hostility and racial abuse across the country where perpetrators taunt passers-by on buses, on the streets, in workplaces, or from the safety of their vehicles, with comments like ‘get packing’, ‘white power’, ‘time for you to leave’ or ‘get out, we voted Leave’. These incidents are most probably not reported and most certainly not prosecuted.
History teaches us that if such open hostility goes unchecked, it can quickly morph into something much worse. And there have also been numerous reports of physical assaults and attacks on BAME-run businesses and cultural centres.
The IRR’s first week of national monitoring, suggests that those behind this outpouring of vile abuse are overwhelmingly white men; their victims are firstly migrants from eastern Europe, followed by those from BAME communities. We also note the number of incidents reported to have taken place in schools, where children have been taunted and ridiculed by classmates. We have written to the NUT to discuss what can be done about this.
We hope that in this very serious situation we can provide IRR News subscribers with regular updates on the national situation, as well as the fightback (see event below). But in order to do this most effectively, we now need your input too. Send us links to stories in local media, or, simply, write to us, telling us about incidents that you have witnessed. The Post Ref Racism Facebook page and Twitter hashtag (#PostRefRacism) are also amongst those collating incidents.
All around the country, ordinary people are doing their best to make migrant communities and others under threat feel supported. We can build on that.
IRR News traditionally closes down for a month in the summer, but during this period, we will continue to keep you informed of the most important post-Brexit developments.
Institute of Race Relations