‘UnBrex My Heart’

Post-Brexit results – What does this mean for British and Non-British POC and for those of us currently experiencing an identity crisis?...Irish Passport Anyone?

‘Should’ve got that British passport while I had the chance, dammit…I wonder how much it is now..’

Let’s rewind to 23rd June, it’s 5:00am, I repeated this phrase to myself for about an hour, calculating, listening and feeling utterly helpless and as the tiredness and despair started to sink in as I stared at the screen watching the news as the leave vote started to gain majority and inevitably win, not one tear shed from my eye, in a weird way I expected the result. I knew it was coming but at the same time I couldn’t believe it was happening, like an outer-body experience I was watching myself watching the screen, like a scene on Gogglebox, I sat next to myself and would just keep repeating ‘You knew this would happen, you should’ve got that passport last year, idiot,.’

Exhausted, I went to bed only to wake up to hear about the resignation of David Cameron and the nation’s shock that the UK voted to leave the European Union. We are out… I mean they are out? Wait, so what does that make me and the many other UK residents with an EU passport?

My Identity On Paper vs How I Identify Myself.

I was born and bred in London, to a Spanish mother and a British born Caribbean father, they were unmarried and during the law at the time of my birth my mother had a choice to apply for either a British passport, dual nationality or Spanish nationality, she chose the option of a Spanish passport. I have had Spanish nationality all my life. At the age of 10, I moved and lived in the north of Spain with my mother for 6 years. I was identified by others as ‘the black English girl from London’. Returning to London, the city that I consider to be my home and that forms an important part of my identity, I soon realised that my idea of what my nationality was did not reflect what was on paper.

Sorry, I’m afraid you can only vote for the local MP elections. As an EU citizen here you are not eligible to vote in the 2015 general elections or this year’s 2016 EU referendum, or even apply for a British passport for that matter. Well, you can, but you have to ‘neutralise’ yourself, abandon your current Spanish nationality and pay hundreds of pounds for a British passport. We no longer offer the dual nationality option. Also- how do we know your mother was here legally? Do you have any proof? –  Response from Home Office after my application for a British Passport was denied.

This response not so long ago from the Home Office came to mind and rang loudly in my ears while staring at the screen on the 23rd of June.

I thought of all the individuals young and old, just like myself that were watching helplessly, uncertain, not knowing what their EU identity might mean in the future within the UK.

Visa you say?

‘Don’t  worry you won’t be affected, you are already here, you should be alright’. Don’t worry? Of course, we are frightened, as the fear of the unknown creeps into our daily thoughts, I’m sure a lot of people slept on this referendum by ‘not worrying’, expecting the remain vote to win. Well, we are here now so hold on tight as the nation rides on this roller-coaster of instability and unexpected events. There are no exceptions on this ride; we are all on it, the British, the EU, the non-EU and not to mention those that will be hit the hardest in the aftermath of the Brexit campaign, POC; we have all been strapped in by the leave voters with no one operating the ride, as POC we are positioned at the very front  carriage, our hands gripping on the barrier bars with our eyes tightly closed and holding our breaths, here it comes..as we surge down the ramp into the cave of Hate Crime, we are hit at an alarming speed and potency with racism, threats, verbal abuse and even violence.

An article in the Guardian stated that the polls suggested the possibility of the Vote Leave campaign making significant headway amongst the BAME community! They may have been right! What made the minority groups vote Brexit? Did they feel threatened by all the new minorities arriving and the false rhetoric that all immigrants come to do is to ‘take their jobs’; the jobs they themselves have worked so hard to finally get or are struggling to maintain?

I can’t help but look on as BAME citizens who exercised their right to vote and voted leave were shooting themselves in the foot.

‘Go back to where you came from!’ – ‘Back to St Mary’s hospital baby unit?’…

‘I voted leave, so I could get rid of people like you’.-  Phrases like these have been talked about, shared and tweeted on social platforms and reported in the media by all included celebrities such as Jamelia speaking out on disturbing reports of racial abuse in front of her young girls, and the reports continue to increase daily.

I am fearful of the fact that women of colour may be most affected Post-Brexit and targeted more than others, as more and more cases are reported. We must act now.

The EU is far from perfect. The system has failed and the amount of reform that is needed is immense, but this was not the right time to leave.

The UK leaving the EU has only just started the domino effect of separatist notions and of the far right’s ideologies encouraging citizens to ‘take back their countries.’  

This was not the right time to leave, on the back of such a disgraceful campaign using immigration that has brought existing racial hatred to the surface, legitimising racism and xenophobia, islamophobia, even homophobia. The conversation and the debate should have focused more so on the EU’s effect on the UK’s economy, housing problems and security, but the anti-immigrant rhetoric positioned POC and not the current Government as the ‘enemy’.

One thing is clear, as we stay glued to the screen and check our notifications daily, there’s still a lot of uncertainty and confusion sweeping the nation. Things will never quite be the same. It’s the beginning of a new reality and it’s time we all organised, it’s time we abandon our passive bystander traits regardless of our nationalities, we are citizens in this society and we still form part of this society. When you witness Hate Crime, report it. Too many stand by in silence and condone these acts or refuse to get involved, unless of course, it affects them directly. We should not stand by and we must not ignore this.

Tiffany Webster