On Friday morning I woke up at 7:02am and in my first few waking moments, blinked at twitter. No. Surely not. Tears sprang into my ears before I’d even fully processed the information, both the shock and the doubt merging with the disbelief. The UK has voted to leave the EU. Even as I read the facts through blurry, angry tears, my mind was refusing to accept the information.
My very first thought was how the UK will now look to the rest of the world. A lot of people talk about the UK being great and internationally beloved, but personally I’ve struggled to see that; our colonial history, our blind monarchial devotion, our dodgy deals with morally questionable countries and regimes. In lieu of Brexit I am sure we will appear bitter, twisted, xenophobic, unfriendly, unwelcoming, elitist, pompous and outdated.
My second thought, almost immediately after the first, was “I’m not really English. I don’t look British. I can go somewhere else and pretend I’ve nothing to do with it.” Never in my life have I thought that. In fact, I have spent YEARS preoccupied with my race and my identity, trying to consolidate the country I live in with my own personal heritage and my varied experiences here. Friday morning marked the first time in my life I decided to just put the UK to one side, to view England as an erroneous entry in the data of my identity. My background is Scottish, with no actual ties to England. Perhaps now I start making that distinction.
I spent the rest of the day and much of Saturday alternating between weeping and pure anger. I voted Remain. All of my friends, my family, my followers and the majority of government are staunch Remainers. I did not hear a single Leave argument that was clear, articulate or based in fact. I DID see scaremongering from the press, overtly racist propaganda, and fantastical lies from Boris, Nigel and co. I agree that of the 17 million Leave votes, not all can be racists, ignorant kids, Daily Mail believers or pissed off ex-labourers sticking two fingers up to parliament. Some of the Leavers must be intelligent, decent people. But where the hell are they? Why are their voices so silent? If Leave is so great, why aren’t you bothering to try and explain it to us? I look repeatedly to those whose opinions I most value and revere, and every single one of them is expressing shock and disappointment.
It just feels like a slap in the face. A cold, isolating slap in the face to the young, to the mobile, to the non-whites. In just four days, hundreds reports of racist abuse have been reported and you need only spend a few minutes on Twitter and see Facebook to see countless more incidents that will likely go unreported. For me personally, it’s hard not to remember being spat on by a guy with UKIP rosette 3 years ago. Try and convince me that’s not going to continue on a growing, national level. Every racist voted leave. I don’t for one second believe all of the Leave voters are card-carrying UKIPS with Union Jacks tattooed on their shoulders, but if you’re not racist, why ally yourselves with that? Why not run 50 miles in the other direction?
Over the last few years I have felt more and more disgusted by this country; and less and less inclined to defend it. Less inspired to look for good, to respect it, to be a part of it. I wrote about my growing frustrations last year as the level of racist abuse and encounters I received started to rise. My post went viral; I am very far from alone in my fears. What will happen now? I’m ashamed to have to list ‘British’ as my nationality.
Here is a nation quickly proving itself to be confused. Leave voters seem split already between those expressing bitter shock and regret, those who didn’t understand the ramifications of leaving the EU, and those who have posted abusive letters through letterboxes and spray painted “black cunt” on their neighbours houses. I’ve not seen a single Leave voter expressing joy with the outcome. I don’t get it. Isn’t this what you wanted? What did you think would happen? You’ve thrown everything away and you’ve not even happy? Democracy has spoken; just loudly enough to cause irreversible damage before falling weirdly silent and retreating backwards into the corner.
Ultimately, it’s hard to accept the calls for unity, the MPs telling us to put to one side our misgivings and anger and hug each other, healing society. Embrace those who would spit on us and mark our doors with crosses? Instead, the prejudiced are acting like they’ve been given a license to kill whilst the young google immigration laws around the world and frantically try to secure dual nationality where possible. Why would we stay where we are unwanted and isolated just to watch our futures get repeatedly slaughtered in front of us?