Racism Ungagged Writing

Racism in the UK

Amber Poppitt

“We’ve had enough of your kind, take that off your head or join Isis”. These were the words spat at 20-year-old Hannah Moustafa by an angry elderly gentleman earlier this month. His “reasons”? She was wearing a hijab. Nothing more.

In may of this year, Daniel Way, 37, was found guilty of racially aggravated assault after he attacked Tomas Gil in Bournemouth Dorset. CCTV footage shows Mr Way charing toward Mr Gil with a plank of wood, belting him across the face and demanding that he “speak English”. Mr May avoided jail for his actions.

“Go back to where you came from, we don’t want you here!”, were the words hurled at 23-year-old Junior doctor Adrienne Kosowski, as he was travelling to work earlier this year. Mr Kosowski’s mere presence in a public space resulted in a stranger firing such verbal abuse in his direction.

In August, a man was arrested in connection with a racially motivated attack on a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry her baby. The 34-year-old woman was verbally abused with racial remarks while shopping at her local supermarket in the town of Bletchley, North London. The man followed the woman into a parking lot where he began kicking her to the ground.

In September, a ten-year-old boy was dragged into a building and assaulted by an 11-year-old & 12-year-old. The boy, who was of Asian ethnicity, was discovered in Bristol around 6pm the same day by a member of the public. Police stated that the attack was racially motivated.

Also in September this year, a group of 13-year-old boys filmed themselves beating up a young boy, chanting the words “smash a p*ki” as they did. The video was uploaded to social media soon after. The footage showed two members of the group attacking while those filming egged them on. The victim can be heard begging “leave me, please, please, please”.

These are just a handful of the never ending tirade of abusive words and attacks committed against folk who are either immigrants to this country, or are of foreign descent. It seems that day after day, more and more attacks like these are being carried out on victims who’ve done nothing more than showing their faces in public.

Even when British born folk attempt to defend the innocent men, women and children who’ve fallen victim to such undeserved abuse, they too are attacked by citizens convinced such attacks are somehow justified.

When Gary Lineker decided to call out the hate crimes on his Twitter feed this month, he received a torrent of criticism. Lineker described the ways in which child refugees from war torn countries – countries our governments were responsible for decimating – he was abused and ridiculed by other users.

Lineker said “the treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What’s happening to our country?” He was met with an onslaught of xenophobic rhetoric by users attempting to validate the racism aimed at these kids.

There’s no doubt about it, racism is on the rise in Britain.

European reports find that hate speech and racist violence are on the up in the United Kingdom. ECRI chairman Christian Ahlund said “it is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time we are see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians.”

“The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outline in the [European] report as a matter of priority”.

Even the Home Office has confirmed that hate crimes have sky rocketed over the past year, particularly since the EU referendum. The report finds that there were more than 5000 hate crimes in July 2016, up 41% since the previous year.

And it’s not just June’s referendum that is to blame for this rise, as these figures have been steeping for quite some time now. So what could be the reasons? Why are so many citizens of “Great” Britain finding it acceptable to abuse and bully those who were either not born here or have families who emigrated from overseas?

One reason might be due to the fact that so many of our bestselling newspapers are vomiting out an entire tired of vile racist headlines day after day. MUSLIMS’ SYMPATHY FOR JIHADIS (The Sun); KEEP OUT, BRITAIN IS FULL UP (Daily Express); THEY’VE STOLEN ALL OUR JOBS (Daily Star); WHITE MEN TO FACE JOBS BAN (Daily Express); BBC PUT MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU (Daily Star); HUNDREDS MORE UK MUSLIMS CHOOSE JIHAD THAN ARMY (The Times); IMMIGRANT BABY BOOM COSTS £1 BILLION (Daily Express); THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL WORKERS CLAIMING BENEFITS (Daily Mail); BRIT KIDS FORCED TO EAT HALAL SCHOOL DINNERS (Daily Star); MIGRANTS TAKE ALL NEW JOBS IN BRITAIN (Daily Express); SEND IN ARMY TO HALT MIGRANT INVASION (Daily Express); 311 LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN OUR SCHOOLS (Daily Express); ROMANIANS STEAL MAN’S HOME (Daily Express); IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME (Daily Express).

With newspapers like the Sun, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, etc peddling nonsense about how our economy and culture are being “taken over” by ethnic & racial minorities; it’s no wonder so much xenophobic rhetoric is bleeding into mainstream popular opinion.

Furthermore, seeing as our country (as well as the rest of the world) found itself victim to one of the worst recessions of recent history 8-years prior, and seeing as or country is being governed by individuals ideologically hell bent on stripping our public services down to the bone, it’s little surprise that the world is looking so diabolical at present. When our media decides to turn the blame of such horrors away from the tax-dodging millionaires and politicians responsible for financial and economic disarray, pointing the finger instead at minorities; it’s therefore inevitable that the misinformed are going to lash out at the wrong folk.

These papers are accusing the less fortunate for disasters caused by the most fortunate. If the media blames racial minorities for all the problems of today’s world, then society’s going to grow more racist. They’re essentially telling society that every ounce of misery felt is all thanks to a group of people who are apparently destroying our culture and economy.

What’s more is that some from the leave campaign of the June 2016 EU referendum based the core of their anti-Europe argument around the false belief that being a member of the European Union meant endless quantities of migrants were allowed to enter the country and allegedly exploit our education system, national health service, welfare and economy. This further sold the assumption that anyone who moves to Britain from overseas to live and work are only here to sponge and exploit everything our nation has worked to create. Never mind that migrants contribute £25 billion to our economy, and never mind that over 26% of NHS doctors are non-British; in the eyes of Farage and UKIP, all these non-British residents are sucking our country dry like famished leeches.

And now we’ve got a Tory government harping on about how they plan on scolding businesses who hire “too many” foreign workers; shutting the door on international students; telling overseas skilled workers to sod off; favouring workers who were fortunate enough to exit their mother’s wombs on British soil; putting pressure on banks to investigate the living daylights out of their immigrant customers; and further strengthen the message that British-born folk are somehow superior than those whose birthplaces happen to be located outside of UK shores.

Of course it’s not just the systems above who are solely responsible for the rise in racism seen over recent years. There are going to be all sorts of reasons on every level of society which has resulted in the reasons why things have gotten so bad. Social and psychological aspects must be taken into account as well as political and media causes. Nonetheless, when you’ve got popular British newspapers and politicians (both working within as well as outside of Downing Street) blaming immigrants for every disaster of recent years, it’s no wonder so much abuse and hate is pulsing through our society right now.

Which raises the question, what can be done about all of this?

When an ideology or series of ideas – no matter how nonsensical, poisonous or irrational – enters the public consciousness, it’s extremely difficult to come up with a solution which changes such mindsets. It’s not like people can simply go around telling every person holding racist notions that they are wrong, stupid and harmful, as that just serves for making such people more defensive toward their views. Furthermore, changing mindsets doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years – even decades – for a society’s overall outlook to shift and transform.

Still, it’s now more important than ever to start trying to build a dialogue that’s alternative from the “taking our jobs, taking our culture” rhetoric spread by our media and government. We live in a globalised world where the notion of favouring people born on British soil no longer works in the way it may have done once upon a time. Britain needs to accept that we now live in the 21st century. The countries of our planet are rife with multicultural societies where jobs, cultures and public services are made up of people from all across the globe. Nations are no longer closed off lands, but are pieces of a larger jigsaw connected by an interlinked world-wide-web and economy.

Dehumanising and blaming those whose heritage may not have begun on these shores doesn’t solve any problems. It only serves to cause more pain, suffering and damage to our nation and all those who live in it.

It’s time we start reminding those who think otherwise of this fact and push to inform people of the world we live in today. We need to hold news outlets such as the Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Times, Daily Star and The Sun accountable for the poison they preach. We also need to call their headlines out for what they are; racist lies which accuse the less fortunate of causing problems beyond their control.

We also need to force our government to answer to their actions when they assist in propping up the hateful xenophobia that their policies encourage. They cannot be allowed to bully and destroy the lives of minorities.

And to those who think combating racism is somehow a threat to freedom of speech need to remember that racist attacks aren’t simply a byproduct of freedom of speech.

The definition for freedom of speech is “the right to speak without censorship or restraint by the government”.

Whilst this means our governments cannot prevent an individual from voicing opinions which may well be xenophobic, it does not give those said individuals the right to verbally assault, physically abuse or rile up others with dehumanising language that could motivate them to become violent.

Whilst xenophobes have the freedom to go online or converse amongst their peers as to why they think immigrants are to blame for contemporary problems, this does not give them the liberty to hurl abuse at strangers, beat them up, or cause unwanted distress to another.

What’s more, if an individual, newspaper or institution says something perceived to be racist, then they should damn well expect to be called out for their actions by those who do not agree with them. They can’t scream of freedom of speech, only to then grow furious and demand silence when someone uses their own right to freedom of speech in order to challenge or dismantle their claims.

Furthermore, if opinions descend into dehumanising descriptions toward racial and ethnic minorities, then you have to question whether or not their alleged freedom of speech has descended into hate speech.

Referring to groups of people as “swarms”, “vermin”, or “invaders” reduces individuals belonging to those groups into something sub-human; a secondary life form in the eyes of those either uttering such words or those consuming them. People using such language aren’t merely sharing their opinions, they are stripping others of their humanity. Provocateurs motivating hate and violence.

If you depict ethnic minorities as dangerous, as lower life forms, as alien invaders with less feelings than others, you are inevitably going to work people up into a frenzy. The aggressive and hateful claims are going to have an impact and although people need to take responsibility for their own actions, provoking or inspiring others to commit violent acts against people they deem less human than themselves are accomplices in the crimes being committed.

This is hate speech.

The world is a mess right now. Chaos devastates the globe all over. If we want to try and fix the pandemonium encompassing our globe, everyone must pull together and stop blaming those who aren’t responsible for these problems. Racism and prejudice have always been around, however  in a civilised world, we must work to put an end to this hatred, or we risk falling further into madness.


You can read more from Amber here or listen to her on our podcast

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