The value of the British pound may have gone down following “Brexit,” but the number of reported hate crimes have gone up. As of June 29th, a week after the polls closed, those numbers were up 57% across the country. Britain has long had problems with racism and xenophobia, but just like in the United States, those problems have long seemed less than they are, and just like in the United States, a xenophobic political campaign not only cast more light on those problems, but emboldened hate-filled people to make their voices heard.
Much of the campaign to get people to vote leave at the polls was built on xenophobia, specifically that immigrants were to blame for the UK’s problems. Those claims are unfounded, as such claims always are, but they worked, and by a slim margin the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
And not surprisingly, even before the polls were closed, people were telling “foreigners” to get out. The United Kingdom has a diverse population, and many people of color were born and raised there, for generations even, but that doesn’t matter to racists. Logic and reality never do. And the attacks aren’t limited to people of color either. Polish people make up the largest group of EU immigrants living in the UK, and they have faced a lot of hate speech since the vote.
Parliament has decried the actions across the board, and Prime Minister David Cameron has introduced plans to increase the reporting of hate crimes and the enforcement of hate crime laws. He maintains that this isn’t what Britain does, but that’s not entirely true, since it’s obviously happening in Britain. But Cameron and others are trying to respond to a problem that many expected following the vote, but perhaps not at this scale.