David Wearing writes: “I’m not a racist, but…..”; “I haven’t got a racist bone in my body”; “it’s not racist to have concerns about immigration”. We’re all familiar with Britain’s broad repertoire of phrases for denying or downplaying prejudice. But with a fivefold increase in reported hate crimes since the Brexit vote, it is no longer tenable to sweep this issue under the carpet. We have to be honest. This country has a problem.
It is frequently said that, because a majority voted for Brexit, racism and xenophobia cannot be a significant part of the picture. This is consistent with the popular misconception that these forms of prejudice are restricted to the margins: a few far-right boot-boys, 1950s throwbacks and a handful of the socially maladjusted. It is a profoundly naïve assumption.
The proportion of people admitting racist views to pollsters is 29%, and given the social taboo around racism, the true number is likely to be higher (recall, for example, the UKIP councillor who said she had a problem with “negroes” because there was “something about their faces”, while simultaneously insisting that she was “not a racist”). A quarter of Britons say immigrants, including any British-born children, should be “encouraged” to leave the country – echoing the standard ‘send them back’ demand of the far right. A further 30% of those polled could not say that they definitely disagreed with that position. These figures are dismaying, but will only shock those who have never experienced racism, and the widespread complacency about it, for themselves. [Continue reading…]