The referendum on our membership of the European Union has opened up a Pandora's Box of race hate. It has been the catalyst for a rise of xenophobia and racist attacks. More and more incidents have been reported since the result was declared, with the National Police Chief's Council showing a 57% increase in reported incidents.
Many politicians have been at best slow to speak out, at worst silent in the frantic aftermath of a Tory leadership election and a Labour Party at war with itself. They fiddle while the country burns.
Despite all the vile rhetoric, the vote was not a racist "no" to our diversity. The vote to 'Leave' was a result of frustration and despair experienced by many who felt they were not being listened to. It was a desire to gain some control in a rapidly changing world of rising house prices, growing inequality and cuts to public services.
It has however let loose what has been bubbling underneath for years. It has been stoked by UKIP and politicians from both Left and Right who have pandered to them. But perhaps more importantly those same politicians have not taken responsibility for the social, environmental and economic crisis that we face, let alone provide solutions. It has suited them to instead lay the blame for our problems at the doors of others - whether it be Europe, the poorest, the disabled or migrants.
Those with eyes to see would have spotted that long before the referendum, hate crimes were already increasing, Racially, homophobic, transgender and religiously motivated attacks, as well as those against the disabled, were all growing in frequency. But the referendum campaign with its ramped up rhetoric and the vote to Leave has given it a new legitimacy - as has the failure to speak out clearly in its aftermath. We are reaping what has been sown over many years.
The regressive forces responsible must not be allowed to get away with it. We must fight to win back the country that was open, tolerant and accepting of others, and in which we thrived.
In my own borough of Lambeth, we have reaffirmed our pledge to fight to protect Lambeth's migrant communities and celebrate Lambeth's multicultural identity. The Green Party nationally too has urged that we come together to defeat all forms of intolerance.
But if we are really to defeat it, we must also join together as progressives to stand up to the dangerous narrative that preceded it. If we do not, future generations will look back and judge harshly for a lack of leadership at this most pivotal of moments.
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