I was born in 1946 so have spent my whole life, a few postings overseas excepted, in modern Britain. As a child in a leafy south London suburb casual racism was rife. My father’s golf club did not allow Jews to be members and the offensive insult “Jew Boy” was far from uncommon. Whilst I did not see the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour” the sentiment was rife in this overwhelmingly Tory borough. There was an underlying xenophobia in the 1950s which denigrated anyone who was not a WASP (English, White, AngloSaxon, Protestant).
I escaped West Kent when I went to University but many of my contemporaries stayed behind. They were the hard core of the “Leave” vote in the 2016 referendum and supporters of Nigel Farage (who grew up just down the road from where I was born). Not all were racists but they were not far away from deserving this descriptor. Remember I’m talking about fairly privileged middle class people here. Well, if narrowly, educated. Financially comfortable these particular xenophobes.
If the post war products of leafy suburbia could grow up with prejudice in an overwhelmingly white, “Christian” and middle class environment then what about the people of the West Midlands and the Northern Cities? When they were born their homes were in singularly WASP areas. But gradually newcomers from South Asia fundamentally changed these towns. Liberals like me might welcome the rise of multiculturalism – but bigots like Farage condemned it. UKIP was predicated on a discriminating and racist ideology.
When the number of people attending Mosques in an area far exceeds those attending Churches it is symbolic of immense social change. The south Asian heritage communities may be overwhelmingly law abiding and hard working but it only takes a few vile sex offenders of Pakistani heritage to give the potential to people like Farage to condemn them all.
There is a strong undercurrent of racism across Britain. This is partly out of ignorance – in the leafy suburbs. But it is partly out of familiarity breeding contempt – in the Northern and Midlands Cities. There is no melting pot – the multiculturalism is also separatism. If your basic instinct is to reject the unfamiliar and the different it’s a small step to extend that to residents from Europe who (shock horror) might speak a different language to you. The politicians, including the Home Secretary, who boast about removing freedom of movement know this very well.
Not all pro Brexit voters are racists, but all racists voted for Brexit. If you doubt the underlying prejudice and bigotry rife in Britain then study of the reasons for the Referendum outcome is a good place to start.
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