A stifling concern for race relations and community cohesion are official figures telling us that hate crimes have risen since Britain left the EU. Challenging mediums through which hate speech travels is a vital step to changing perceptions, but whilst facts and figures can help us develop a picture and understand trends in cultural relationships, sometimes the first-hand opinion of real people is the most valuable way of empathising with a societal issue.
Here at the Keep The Faith MCR we back Manchester as a city of tolerant diversity, which we believe can act as an example to the rest of the country. To produce this segment, we scoured the streets looking for people living and working in Manchester to share their opinions with us on post-Brexit race relations.
“It didn’t feel like a campaign in a country like the UK. It felt like 1950s America at times.”
Our first #FacesOfManc are Waqar and Salma Amin, a couple living in South Manchester.
KTF: What did you notice about cultural relationships after Brexit?
Waqar Amin: “There was a bit of a dip in relationship I would say straight after Brexit, where I personally felt a bit of anxiety among certain parts of the community, but it has evolved, it has changed back to where we were previously. I don’t personally think it’s the people. I think most of the time it comes down to the press, the media, the tabloids – people’s thinking methodology can get affected by it. But that’s just the minority. The majority, in Manchester in particular, are very good in terms of public relationships. It [the Leave campaigns] didn’t feel like a campaign in a country like the UK. It felt like 1950s America at times.”
“I think the new generation have a better understanding of the way the world works.”
Ayah is a Libyan-born student at MMU. She told how dissatisfied she was with the media handling of Brexit, but was adamant that hate speech should be confronted.
KTF: What do you think about the way the media has handled race related issues during and after Brexit?
Ayah: Very poorly so far. It’s become a focus, both during and after the Brexit campaigns. It increased hate crimes against anyone who isn’t white and English in the UK so I think the media has been handling it very poorly.
KTF: Will it have any lasting impact on race relations in Britain?
Ayah: I don’t think it’ll have any lasting impact because most of the people who are initiating the hate crimes are older, so I think the new generation have a better understanding of the way the world works. However I do feel like now people who are hateful have a voice in the UK, which can be very negative for the future.
KTF: What can be done to mute that voice?
Ayah: I don’t think it should be muted, I think it should be debated with.
“I think race relations became a disproportionately sized factor in the whole debate.”
Pete is a second year History student living in Manchester. As well as contributing to a spike in hate crime, Pete highlighted how the immigration-centric nature of the debate wrongly equated Brexit voters to racists in the eyes of some people.
Pete Mole: Q – How have race relations been impacted by Brexit? I think race relations became a disproportionately sized factor in the whole debate in that there was a huge emphasis on things like UKIP and immigration. There was definitely a spike in racial hate crime, but some people tried to conflate Brexiters to racists when they’re not necessarily the same thing.
“We haven’t challenged enough some of the race hate rhetoric that we’ve seen coming from the right of politics.”
Our final face of Manchester is Andy Burnham. As a Member of Parliament for Leigh and candidate for Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) Mayor, Andy splits his time between Manchester and Westminster. A passionate supporter of cultural integration, he told us he is concerned about race relations, highlighting the narrative of some politicians as a contributing factor to post-Brexit racism.
KTF: What state are race relations in since Brexit?
Andy: “In a fragile position. I challenge people on my side of politics for allowing that to happen. We haven’t challenged enough some of the race hate rhetoric that we’ve seen coming from the right of politics, we haven’t listened enough to local people and their concerns around issues to do with immigration. We’ve left a vacuum and sadly it’s being increasingly filled by the likes of UKIP and others.”
From speaking to our #FacesOfManc, it is clear that relationships between cultures took somewhat of a blow during and after the EU referendum. What we also gleaned however, was a certain level of optimism that through collective pressure on the individuals and institutions that perpetuate hateful dialogue, we can begin to move forward.