The Brexit debate has made Britain more racist

Anyusha Rose writes: For evidence that the Brexit debate is normalizing British racism, look no further than the country’s most enduring national treasure: the pub.

Last weekend at a pub in London’s Soho neighborhood, I got talking to a middle-aged couple. The conversation soon moved to the senseless slaughter of MP Jo Cox at the hands of a terrorist. Killer Thomas Mair was homegrown: a white working-class man from the Scottish “burgh” of Kilmarnock.

Why Cox, asked the bloke. Why couldn’t he have killed a foreigner? Then he gave me the once over and asked, “Where are you really from?”

Six months ago, I would have found his comments shocking. But the Brexit debate has not just challenged the way we conceive of sovereignty. It has legitimized the poisonous campaign vocabulary of U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage and his “breaking point” propaganda.

Farage is the same leader who once said his party would “never win the n—-r vote”, and defended using a racist word for Chinese people in live radio broadcasts. In March, he fueled antagonism toward foreigners when he claimed that mass male-on-female sex attacks were a “nuclear bomb” waiting to explode because of the United Kingdom’s “high” immigration levels. (Police records show that sexual assaults have decreased by half since 2006.) Last week, Farage linked the upcoming Brexit vote to the refugee crisis explicitly, and unveiled a poster featuring a queue of Syrian refugees captioned “Breaking point: the EU has failed us.

This rhetoric has had a poisonous effect. Because of the Brexit campaign, racism is no longer racism – it’s legitimate opinion. The idea of “getting our country back,” once considered a crass empire throwback, is now causing ripples of bigoted glee. [Continue reading…]

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