We are the other
On the 23rd of June, I found shelter against the flood inside a bar. The woman next to me asked me if I had voted. I told her I went to the polling station with my card to find my name crossed out.
I wasn’t elligible to vote for a referendum which had the potential to fuck up my future.
The woman told me she was afraid the Brexiters would win. I’v often been pretty accurate with my political forecast. So I assured her Britain wouldn’t leave the EU. People can’t possibly vote against their own interest and onto a bleak, uncertain future that is going to be even worse, right?
I was dead wrong. I woke up this morning and learned that people can, and will. When you have nothing, or so little, you have nothing to loose. I guess this is how many disempowered Brexiters have felt.
Brexit feels like a troll, a big joke taken too far. I am one for jokes and trolling, but it feels like being in an alternate reality.
The British people have spoken and we must listen. They don’t want us here. Us, meaning non whie people, EU citizens and brown migrants. Intersectionality is always complex, and the Brexit sent a clear message that the majority of people in this country don’t want people like me, EU citizens, in this country. But it’s not like they’re dying to welcome Black and Brown EU citizens either. So we are twice unwanted.
I know realize what a cruel irony all of this is.
As a writer, the creative industries I work in are pro-european. They thrived thanks to European funding and Now, I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to keep my job. In time of uncertainty, employers are not going to take the risk of hiring EU citizens that may not even have the right to remain in a few years. Like many of other, I’ve been a part of the creative industries for years, and now the career I’ve build is in jeopardy.
Because I’ve only lived in London and Scotland, the pro-european attitude I’ve witnessed and got accustomed to is not representative of the country. I thought I knew that, but I didn’t expect the euro scepticism and bigotry to be that strong. It is ironic because by being so blind, I’ve just shown that I’m part of an elite which doesn’t represent Britain at all, despite being working class.
I don’t consider myself an migrant because I’m fully aware of my privileges as a French citizen. Until Brexit became a reality, I didn’t have to apply for a visa. I could study cheaply, work and travel freely.
I hadn’t the pressure of finding a sponsor or getting married in order to stay in the country. I didn’t had any restriction to work and travel for jobs.
Obviously, I was also limited in some issues: I am not eligible to apply to some jobs and schemes reserved to British citizens like Creative Access.
I am a EU citizen, but I am also working class. I grew up in a French council estate and this is where so of my family remains. My class didn’t changed when I moved in the UK. But contrary to non-EU citizens in the same situation, I was afforded some protection: being covered by the NHS when I became sick and had to work less. But being working class means surviving on doing low paid jobs and cheap labour, jobs that most people who voted Brexit wouldn’t want. Now that the UK is leaving, it means potentially applying for a visa to stay. And unless you can prove that you earn enough to stay, working class EU citizens would have no choice than to leave.
Like so many other, I have spent the beginning of my adult years of my life and career in this country. I have build a new life, made new friends, found new chosen families.
What would happen of all of us, all these people who children and careers and spouses with British nationals? Who have so many ties in other European countries? They gambled our future and now, like my friend Marianne told me, they don’t even know what they want to do with the « freedom » they’ve acquired.
No one knows. Try to call the Home office : their lines are overcrowded, and they admit they don’t even know what will happen of the rights we have acquired as EU citizens. I’ve met a few others Europeans, who told me they can’t go home, and will move to Germany, if things go worse.
Many of us, like my friend Marianne, were « mentally prepared to that eventuality, but not practically. We are in limbo, unaware of where we stand. Our life plans have changed ». Yes it have. The lives we’ve planned and worked for have been put on hold, our future altered drastically. » The Uk is not the safe heaven we thought it would be. « We thought we were safer » writes Giulaine Koulani.
We are not.
I can still go back home, or the closest I have to a home, which France. That, on itself, is another privilege that many migrants don’t have.
However, I’m fully aware that the reason so many Black and Brown EU citizens have moved to the UK because of the rise of racism, xenophobia and islamophobia in other countries such as France.
And now, the country we moved in doesn’t even want us.
“I’ve never felt less welcome in this country” – these are the terrifying words I’ve heard far too many times from migrants and UK-born people » writes Maya Goodfellow (https://mediadiversified.org/2016/06/24/ive-never-felt-less-welcome-in-this-country-maya-goodfellow/). And she is right.
The UK, especially London seemed full of opportunities for us who couldn’t thrive in the rest of Europe. Well, it’s an illusion that has died today. They don’t want us either.
Markets are already tumbling because of the uncertainty. What is to be optimistic about an uncertain future? Inflation and a potential recession may very well hit Britain. And when it happens, and that less jobs will be available, pe Brexiters will report their anger and resentment to Brown and Black people. And this time, not even being from the EU will change anything. The irony again is that regardless of nationality and race, working class people are in the same boat, as many of us suffer from the massive wealth gap. But facts don’t matter in elections anymore.
I guess I was too optimistic, thinking that the fear of the other xenophobia and scaremongering only worked for a minority of people. It doesn’t.
I’m not an optimistic person, but even the direst situations have a silver lining. The Brexit is one of the few situations were I simply can’t see one. Today, the English flag is raised everywhere. It scares mr. I should have known better than to trust that we could all live together.
For Black and Brown people, it means that we have to unit because in a increasingly xenophobic and racist society, you won’t be less oppressed based on the colour of your passports.
Many of us woke up this morning in shock. Some Brexiters apparently didn’t expect to really leave the Europe. They feel sorry, ashamed by what they’ve done. Well, it won’t concern them since they’ll be dead in 20 years.
They won’t have to face the consequences of potentially fucking up our future, as young people.
We, young Black and brown citizens didn’t have a right to decide on our future.Us, however, will have to face that bleak reality.
Anti Blackness and anti Browness is global. We can’t close our eyes anymore.
United we stand. I believe it. I’ve always believed it. And we, black and brown people need to do so as we’re facing a bleak future.