Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com
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During both the first and second world wars my family came under suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or Anglicising it to something like Henkey.
The reason was that we were at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.
Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen for some time.
Frankly I blame Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.
By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.
They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.
This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.
But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality in a supermarket queue and telling the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.
It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.
So what should be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.
But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in dynamic, prosperous, modern society it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.
The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.