UK after the referendum: ‘There is a poisonous anti-foreign sentiment in the air’

The Guardian asked Eastern Europeans and ethnic minorities in the UK to share their experiences after the EU referendum result:

I feel scared after the referendum. In my workplace I have heard people saying things, such as: “Pack your bags and get the fuck out.” Followed by, “If you want I can give you a suitcase.” This referendum has not led to communities coming together in any way – the opposite has happened. Now I feel worried about me and my daughter’s future in Britain.

When I was growing up in Poland I experienced racism because my father was from the Middle East. I don’t want my child to feel the same sense of exclusion I did. Three years ago I decided to move permanently to the UK because it’s such a multi-cultural place. Since coming here I have joined classes to improve my English and learned about the country’s culture and history. My whole family used to love England, but now I feel disappointed. I had no idea so many people hated us so much – me and my family have never done anything wrong in England: we have never claimed benefits and we pay taxes, we respect English culture.

I have never had any problems in the UK until now. I feel like an unwanted guest and I have now decided it is time for me and my family to move on. We don’t feel safe any more. It’s very weird how this country has turned completely against us.
Anonymous, 31, Somerset

My blood ran cold when I heard we were leaving. I live in a small town in the north-east that voted 65% to leave. The Brexit campaign made me feel like an alien, an outsider, like being brown was now bad in England. I was excluded from the debate because I was up for debate – somehow I had become up for national debate.

Recently I spoke to a mum I know from my daughter’s school who has just recently moved from London. She says she isn’t happy here as the people are not very open and friendly.

Having been born and bred in England, my nationality, my birthright, has been suddenly called into question. I am fearful for my six-year-old daughter living in a place where people are being told on the street to “get back to your own country” or to “start packing”.
Sam, 34, Middlesbrough

The result has left me feeling like an outsider. As a child, I grew up in a predominantly white, working-class area, and ignorant comments were almost made on a daily basis to me. As a mixed-race child of Oriental and European descent, I felt like I had to prove myself. My mother was put off teaching me her native language as a teacher told her it would stop me from progressing and “confuse” me. I was ashamed to show off my culture.

Seeing the active persecution of ethnic minorities and immigrants, I’m scared that those feelings of isolation and alienation that I experienced as a child will come back. But on a bigger scale, to the point I fear for my safety. I walk down the street now and I’m worried that people think I’m an outsider and that they want me gone.

I’m scared to go to my home town to visit my parents. I’m scared of how people will treat my white father for being married to my Oriental mother. I am scared that she may be attacked. I feel safer being in Manchester, but there is this poisonous anti-foreign sentiment in the air.

Brexit has allowed some people to believe that their intolerance and racism is now justified. I was in Manchester city centre and a woman glared at me in disgust. Whether or not it was to do with Brexit, I am now vigilant and cautious when I used to be carefree and happy. It all builds up and as an ethnic minority I don’t know if people accept me anymore. I used to be proud of this ethnically diverse country. Now I feel scared of it.
Khristi, 23, Manchester

Print Friendly, PDF & Email