Brexit has made my hometown unapologetically racist

‘We are all scared – we are being told to go home, but England is my home now’

Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, is a quiet market town with a population of around 20,000. But only a day after the result was announced, hate mail was found scattered around the local schools and posted through the doors of Polish homes.

“Leave the EU. No more Polish Vermin” and “Go home Polish scum” on the reverse in Polish were printed on the laminated cards. Laminated cards.

The EU referendum has undeniably split the UK in half, with 48% voting to remain and 52% voting to leave. Arguably, there hasn’t been such a political earthquake in British history – and while we might take years to leave the EU, the ugly consequences are already appearing. Brexit has given a voice to racists, and my hometown has been the at the centre.

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Credit: @howgilb

Speaking to Irena*, a resident of Huntingdon who migrated to the UK from Poland over ten years ago, she explained the feelings of the Polish community. “We are all scared, the hate mail targeted us especially.” As a result, she wished to remain anonymous out of fear of further racist attacks.

“We are being told to go home, but England is my home now. My children were born here. I have always worked, I have never been involved in crime. I’m scared for our future.”

Although heartbreakingly the most publicised hate crimes have been in my hometown, this isn’t a problem that has contained itself to a few areas. While Huntingdon voted to leave by 54.2% – 3% higher than the national average – it is a considerably lower percentage than towns such as Great Yarmouth, who voted to leave by an astonishing 72%.

All Saints Church in Huntingdon

All Saints Church in Huntingdon

Even before the polls had closed, there were reports of insults being directed at Eastern European workers, with the same message as those in Huntingdon: Britain voted out, now go home.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, reported that there has been a five-fold increase in hate crime on social media, and a 47% rise in police reports of hate crime.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of London, has spoken out against the prejudice in the aftermath of the Leave victory

Andy Burnham, Mayor of London, has spoken out against the prejudice in the aftermath of the Leave victory

It would be outrageous to hold racism accountable for the 17million people who voted leave. There are genuine reasons for voting leave: the level of control that the EU has, among other factors, is a genuine concern. I respect anyone who made an informed decision to vote leave – however, far-right groups such as Britain First have taken the result as an overwhelming support of their own message, and a victory in which “we will have our freedom back”. Brexit has become a pedestal for racists to voice their views, under the false pretence that the majority of the public agrees with them.

It’s not enough to have just voted remain.

Now more than ever, the communities that make Britain so diverse and multicultural need our support. Brexit has made it okay to be racist, and it’s the responsibility of everyone who disagrees to actively condemn the uprising of racist views.

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