Post-Brexit Britain and Safety Pins

So Brexit happened a couple of weeks ago. This is the UK we’re living in.


A common question in the almost-continuous post-Brexit chat that has followed Thursday 23rd has been “How do you feel about it?” or “Have you made your peace with it?”

I don’t know how anyone can answer that conclusively, especially in this 24-hour news era. It’s like saying “How do you feel about this tornado that’s just hit your hometown?” It’s terrible, it’s scary, it’s going to damage people’s livelihoods, and everything is going haywire. But no one has a clue what’s going on, so until the dust settles, we just have to wait and see how bad it’ll be for the next five years.

In short:

In situations like this it’s always good to listen to those who are less privileged than yourself, and one of the main groups of people that will suffer here are migrants. Hate crime has increased enormously, and it doesn’t seem to have been a temporary spike. Theresa May, front-runner for the Tory leadership contest and potentially the next Prime Minister, has refused to guarantee current EU migrants in the UK the right to remain.

Everything may be going to shit right now, but if you, like I, are in a position of privilege, here is a thing you can do that will help those more disadvantaged than yourself.

So here’s a piece from a friend of mine, Tabassum, who is a south Indian, Muslim immigrant who works for the UK’s civil service.

“Dear every person I know who’s currently in the UK and doesn’t look like a migrant:

“Please wear a safety pin.

“It’s not like I haven’t experienced mild racism in the UK before, but this referendum seems to have legitimised the fact that migrants are now apparently open targets. I’ve had friends have racial slurs yelled at them, openly, on streets and Tubes and buses, and apparently 52% of the electorate endorsed this.

“I am suddenly so very angry and so very terrified.

“Home isn’t home anymore, it turns out, and public transport is a waking nightmare of not meeting anyone’s eyes while making sure I’m near other people of colour because at least we can maybe have solidarity in numbers.

“Seeing a safety pin is a nice little reminder in this weird scary new world that actually, maybe it’s not everyone.

“At a time when the politicians are too busy ignoring their responsibility to their electorate, it’s a welcome reminder that Britain is made up of decent people doing decent things, every single day.

“To everyone who thinks I’m being a little melodramatic here – its not even that race crime is up 56% that terrifies me so, it is that 15 days ago one of these people caught up in this rhetoric shot and stabbed an MP in broad daylight, and, in the collective fugue state following Brexit we seem to have somehow stopped being horrified by this.

“To my well-meaning liberal friends who’ve been engaging in earnest debates about whether really a safety pin is enough and whether going along with it is discouraging bigger, more long term action aimed at tackling xenophobia and racism – I love you but get over your fucking privilege.

“Of course bigger, more direct action is needed. A lot of the people who voted to leave and who will be hardest hit by the ramifications because they felt overlooked and disenfranchised did so because they have been let down by every major public I institution in this country. We need better education, more public infrastructure, a less virulent media, dots joined up between globalisation and colonialism and the economic benefits of migration and whatever else.

“But actually, where all of this starts is in the next two days, and two weeks and two months. It starts with everyone taking whatever small step they can to say ‘Not in my country and not in my name‘.

“If even one person sees your pin and feels a little better for it, a little less like an unwelcome leech and a little more a part of the community, then good job, and let’s get to work on the bigger things.”