Following the UK vote to leave the European Union, there were reports of an upsurge in both verbal and physical attacks on people who are either EU nationals, or British from an ethnic background. I cannot emphasise enough how such attacks, are completely unacceptable. Indeed, it is the duty of both politicians and society as a whole, to not just condemn them, but actively work to attempt to halt further such episodes.
As the grandson of a Polish/Jewish refugee on one side, and a Romany Gypsy on the other, I’d suggest that I’m the perfect example of a modern day Brit. But, in view of such attacks, I’m going to ask whether my own heritage makes me any less British than the next person? Of course not.
We Brits should be justly proud of the sanctuary that we offered to the Huguenots, Ashkenazi and Ugandan Asians, to name but a few, who proudly took the chance that we gave them, and are a perfect testament of our diverse heritage.That offer of sanctuary is very part of who we are as a nation, and well underlines Britain’s own part in world history. It is because of that role as once controlling the largest empire known to man, that we naturally offer sanctuary to those in need. Indeed, my grandmother, a proud, working class cockney, opened her home to a Hungarian family who fled the1956 revolution. I’m immensely proud of her for doing that.
The dark days of the mindset of “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish” are thankfully, long gone. Any budding Alf Garnett needs to get over it - Britain is a multi-racial society, and when we fulfil our true potential, it will be aided by getting away from the climate of political correctness that tries to differentiate us with labels such as “Black British, Asian British” and the like. There is no better a time, than that afforded us on the back of our Brexit vote to be getting on with just being “British”, irrespective of our own backgrounds. Do I cheer any less when Moeen Ali takes a wicket, as opposed to, say Stuart Broad? Of course not. They’re both English cricket internationals, playing for their country, and that needs to be the end of the matter - (Except of course, when considering that Mo plays for Worcestershire, so that makes him favourite in my book)!
Those who choose to think differently would do well to understand that the region that I represent in the European Parliament, the West Midlands, returned the highest Brexit vote across the whole UK, with 59.3% of the voters turning their backs on the EU institutions. The biggest headline of the night came when Birmingham, “The city of a thousand trades”, voted in favour of ‘Leave”. This raised plenty of eyebrows amongst both the media and political class, but during the course of the campaign, when campaigning in inner city Birmingham, I quickly appreciated the strength of opinion amongst our Afro-Caribbean and Muslim communities on how they understood that the world is far bigger than the European Union. Furthermore, the great campaign run by “Muslims for Britain”, led by the excellent Saqib Bhatti, underlined precisely how a different generation of Brits, broke the stereotype that took a communities’ political opinion for granted. This has been happening for far too long.
Whether the perpetrators of these recent attacks like it or not, Britain has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and it’s my contention, that today’s multi-racial society, with many British citizens who benefit from their very own family and business connections spanning the globe, places us at a huge advantage as we adopt a new international strategy, better engaging with the wider world.
This is the ace up our sleeve, that can only aid the Brexit dividend that will, by it’s very definition, re-affirm who we are as a nation, and what it is really means be British.