I wasn’t going to mention Brexit in my blog, mainly because I still don’t properly know how to feel about it. But posting about anything else right now seems too light with the weight of the Brexit still heavy in my mind.
It’s been a week since my life – and millions of other’s – was unwillingly pushed towards a change. Brexit is no doubt the biggest political leap that has happened during my lifetime. A week ago, at 9am, when I finally got enough courage to open my phone and take a look at the voting results, I felt like I was falling. Like the rug had been pulled from under my feet and for a moment I struggled to breath. I didn’t cry. I had cried for the last couple of weeks before the vote every day, scared of what happens to me and people alike, who don’t have a secured place in the UK to crab on to when the country tries to drain us out. Scared of what it means for my career, which I was planning to build in the UK. Scared of the atmosphere and what the vote says about the Britons’ attitudes towards immigrants. But I had always managed to calm down after realising that every single English person I knew was going to vote Remain. It had been a no-brainer for them. “Of course I’ll vote Remain”, they would say. “I’m not stupid.”
But while staring at the headlines that screamed Leave campaign’s victory in bold red letters, I felt numb. People called me and asked me how I was doing, as if I had just lost a loved one. I guess I had, if my future counts as a loved one. I told them I was fine. “I have to go, I’m going to bake brownies.”
Anger. That was my strongest feeling after the numbness cleared and I was aggressively stabbing the just baked sheet of brownie. Looking at the numbers of the vote, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the young people in the UK, who voted in just to be pushed aside by the elderly, who, it seems to me, based their vote in the patriotic idea of making the Great Britain great again or securing themselves better health care, since “all the money that is sent to the EU could be used for NHS”. Ironically, both of these ideas fell apart instantly after the result of the vote was published. The money is not going to health care. And since Scotland is willing to abandon the union, the Great Britain will be less great than it has been since… what, 18th century?
With the economy taking a dive, I can’t help but wonder who the real winners of this vote were. Racists, it seems to me. Whereas in Finland, the country has been gradually sliding towards a situation where it’s more “ok” to be a racist than a “tolerant”, the UK released the Kraken in one night. The loud minority of the Leave supporters who based their vote solely on their desire to kick everyone who is not 100% British out of the country seems to have taken the voting result as a sign that at least 50% of the country agrees with them. They now think they are entitled to say their racist opinions loud and clear and scream at the faces of foreigners to cause fear, since “they won”.
The number of racist incidents has multiplied in England in a week. As privileged as it is to say, I never thought that as a white EU citizen I could be an object for xenophobia in England, the country that I love so dearly and that I always thought was welcoming to people with different backgrounds, who want to work, pay their taxes and build their lives here. The video that was filmed in a tram in Manchester, which includes young men verbally attacking an American man, who has lived in England for “longer than the boys have existed” and telling him to “go back to Africa” is a scary example of the mind-blowing everyday racism here. Polish immigrants have taken the most severe hit by being the largest EU immigrant group here, but the xenophobia doesn’t end to them. Everyday I hear stories of English people asking for a different customer server as “the immigrant doesn’t speak proper English”, older people leaning towards immigrant families in public transport and telling them to “pack their bags, since you’re going home. Haven’t you heard? We voted you OUT” or people attacking others verbally or even physically for speaking foreign languages at a public place. Children being attacked by other children, insults written on school walls, grown up people squeezing hateful notes and animal faeces through immigrants’ mailboxes and job seekers being told that “EU immigrants are not hired here”.
I haven’t personally been a victim, but that’s because I haven’t really gone outside. I have allowed the stories of my immigrant friends, internet conversations and news headlines to scare me into thinking the world is hostile. It’s stupidity from my part, but I have become paranoid. I could have sworn, that when I went to the doctor’s yesterday and my name appeared on the Next Patient screen on the waiting room, the other patients, who had previously just glanced at the screen to check if the name was their own, now raised their heads and looked around to see what kind of an immigrant that weird looking name belongs to. “Is she Polish?” “Is she here to benefit on our health care?” I could see the heads turning as I started walking towards the door and feel the eyes of toothless proper pub-loving men on my back as I walked towards the consulting rooms. No one said anything. But I held my breath. Afterwards I was thinking that the whole situation was probably just in my head. But I hate the fact that fear has taken such a large amount of my thoughts.
After finishing my brownies my anger started to fade away. I’m scared, yes. I’m uncertain and worried. But I am calm. There’s nothing I can do now than wait for the Brexit to continue, see what kind of deal I’ll get as an “EU citizen” and collect courage to face the xenophobia that might continue for a while here. It doesn’t stop me from loving the UK or eating scones with my tea. I fear that I’ll have to prove that I’m worthy to live here every single day after the Brexit, but I’m lucky to have a pretty amazing safety net here. Btw, I just heard of this Safety Pin idea, which I think is pretty cool.
Now, I’ve said something about Brexit. I’m moving on to lighter subjects, since I can’t bare to dwell on this.
I hope you’re doing great, wherever you are!