It’s been a turbulent time in the UK for the past few years. The UK population had a difficult task on its hand: to vote between two polarising candidates.
One the one hand, we could have been supporting insitutionalised anti-semitism. On the other, institutionalised racism against black and brown people. On all sides of the fence, democratically elected members of parliament have been suspended consistently for anti-semitic comments, Islamaphobia and homophobia (often being secretly reinstated when the media wasn’t looking). And, that’s not to mention national inquiries into anti-semitism and the Wind Rush Scandal being deemed racist by the High Court (we’re yet to see anything change as a result).
And that’s just on the front line. Under the bonnet, on the streets, things have felt even bleaker.
With passion riding high on the front stage, people have risen to the occasion on the back stage. The days of debate seem to be over, with the population being polarised by hate.
It’s become clear, that for most people, you’re either with us or against us. No matter what side of the fence you’re on. I want to be clear, I don’t think there are any winners here. Each political party is burdening a group of people with fear and uncertainty, to support another.
Days before the election, the BBC and main news outlets across the country announced that up to 88% of political ads were false. The heated debates we were willing to kill people over (yes, death threats have become normal) are based on lies.
Political turbulence across the UK (and, to be fair, internationally) have unlocked a hidden hatred in society. Possibly, it’s always been there, but now, people are happy to voice it. People feel empowered by world leaders to make hate and dissent the status quo.
I’m speaking from my own experience here, I can’t speak for anyone else. In the past few years, I’ve experienced more open racism out on the streets than ever before. From snide under the breath comments through to outright hate in my face. (Honestly, someone telling me I deserve to die doesn’t even cover it). That’s not taking into consideration the marches, the graffiti, the slurs and the torrent of memes and media depictions.
I’ve spent time food banks, homeless shelters, with social housing tenants, listening to how their lives have changed in recent years. It gets bleaker still. I’ve spoken to refugees, asylum seekers, and people on zero hour contracts, and I can promise you, there’s no one working harder for a better, safe life. I’ve put my ear to the ground and listened to the heartbeat of the country and it’s terrifying.
The worst part is; we can’t have a conversation about it anymore. We’ve lost our way to openly talk about the most vulnerable situations and to the most vulnerable people in society, without it becoming a politically polarised conversation. We can’t share our fears outside of our echo chambers without an onslaught of abuse, hate and bullying. We’re quick to label the people we disagree with, we’re quick to put them in a box, we’re quick to unlock our hidden hatred and hate them until they’re silenced.
And, this is true for every political leaning. It is running through party narratives, political discourse and our conversations at the pub.
Every racist meme, every misogynist joke, every ridicule, every name called, every shut down, every share — unlocks hidden hatred. Whether you meant it that way or not, you’re enabling hate to be passed on, to take over to become a part of our culture and society.
But, the sun rises after every dark night.
It doesn’t have to be like this. We can be better. The time for change is now. Commit to calling it out. Whether you agree with them or not, call bullying out. Call out the degradation, the unnecessary hate, the name calling, the defensiveness, the ignorance. Open up the conversation. Change the conversation. Listen. Be kind. Be gentle. Be empathetic. Take the time. Don’t type in a rush. Understand perspective, history and culture. Don’t rush in with in an opinion. Don’t assume. Don’t conclude. Read. Talk. Repeat.
The time is now. We can do this. We can bring people back together. We can rebuild burnt bridges. We can restart the conversation and the debate. We can bring some honesty back to democracy. We can try.
If we don’t, nothing will change.
And I’ll still keep being scared that someone on the street, is going to threaten to kill me because I’m brown.