“It’s not EU, it’s May.” That was a message that I saw written on a chalkboard outside of a pub as I walked back from class in London on March 29. The message was in reference to how on that same day, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, which effectively begins the formal process of Brexit. Brexit, the U.K.’s planned withdrawal from the European Union, has had a continued presence in international media coverage and daily presence on all U.K. media platforms. Despite the 2016 referendum vote occurring in June 2016, the formal process of leaving the EU will take up to two years, set to conclude in March 2019, according to BBC News.

The decision to vote Leave last June was reflected by several desires of those who voted for Brexit. The BBC News article further explained that those in favor of the U.K.’s departure stated that they felt the EU was repressing their economic, sovereign and democratic capabilities, and that they wanted to reclaim these powers. However, a significant factor that has received staunch criticism is the desire by Leave campaigners and voters to regain Britain’s full control of its borders, which would limit the number of people from other EU countries entering the U.K. to live or work. Brexit not only reveals how the U.K. views immigrants, but it also reflects our global culture’s perception of what immigration means for our job markets, as well as how immigrants affect our social climate and our notion of safety.

Following the 2016 referendum, more than one hundred instances of hate crimes and racial abuse were reported in the U.K., according to The Independent. Additionally, it was reported that the acts were EU-related by alleged perpetrators. In certain neighborhoods on the day of the referendum result, signs such as “Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin” were distributed in the respective mailboxes of Polish families, according to The Independent, prompting fear and the understanding that the socio-political context would be shifting now that the Leave campaign won the majority support of the people.

The spike in hate crimes in the U.K. following the 2016 referendum would then be mirrored months later when hate crimes spiked across almost all 50 U.S. states in the 10 days following the U.S. 2016 Presidential Election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization. The anti-immigrant sentiment is not condensed to one area, but is evidently part of a much larger problem, which is exacerbated by our global leaders vilifying groups of people as “the other.” Immigrants are then painted with a broad brush as coming in to take our jobs and compromise our respective nations’ security, and through that rhetoric, the general public feels validated in expressing xenophobic remarks or on a separate level, “taking action” against particular groups of people.

Perhaps Niall Ferguson for The Boston Globe put it best when he said that Brexit should not be referred to as a divorce, but rather as a schism. A schism, by definition, is a division between parties caused by differences of opinions or beliefs. Ferguson explains that normally, both parties seeking a divorce have set goals: namely child custody and redistribution of property. Therefore, regardless of how acrimonious a divorce may become, the ultimate goals tend to be presented in a glass box. More so, it is impossible to view Brexit in the same way, because although we have seen other countries in the past, and currently our own, behave similarly toward immigrants, it is still largely uncertain where we will go from here. Schisms, much like hate, are deeply rooted and more so, are both generally long lasting and unable to be resolved in a set time frame. Therefore, while leaders, supported by their base, continue to capitalize on the fears of the people, the fears are not morally valid and they should not reflect how our different countries view people who may, by culture or appearance, be different from us.

About The Author

-- Online Editor-in-Chief Emeritus-- Digital Journalism

One Response

  1. Richard Keefe

    “…later when hate crimes spiked across almost all 50 U.S. states in the 10 days following the U.S. 2016 Presidential Election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center…”

    The SPLC never claimed an increase in hate crimes, which can only be determined by a court after a trial and conviction. The SPLC claimed to have received more than a thousand reports of alleged “hate incidents,” such as graffiti and spoken slurs, but its reporting suffered from several methodological flaws, which the company has acknowledged through several subsequent disclaimers.

    1. Except for a handful of incidents reported in the media (a number of which, sadly, have proven to be hoaxes) ALL of the SPLC’s reports have come to them via an anonymous web page on the company’s website where anyone can “report an incident” without providing any verification.

    2. While claiming 1,100 incidents, the SPLC has yet to make the list public to journalists for verification. There is no way to know what was reported or even how many reports were actually made. All we have is the SPLC’s word on it with no proof.

    3. The SPLC didn’t set up its anonymous web page until the day of the election, so there is no way to know if the rate of alleged incidents has increased or decreased in the months before the election. When you start at zero any increase becomes a “spike,” and any claims made after November 8 become “post-election” by default.

    The whole point of the exercise was to somehow tie the alleged incidents to the election in the public’s mind.

    4. On November 15, the SPLC published a disclaimer on the company website where they themselves admit that:

    “These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal.”


    Dec. 16: “The SPLC made every effort to verify each report, but many included in the count remain anecdotal.”


    January 24, 2017, SPLC Intelligence Director Heidi Beirich in a Slate podcast:

    “I would imagine that a share of the incidents we have collected, right, will eventually turn out to be based on nothing, or, a bit of hysteria fueled by the fear people felt after the election. I mean, I think that is a fair point. I’m sure that as we dig in the data that’s exactly what we are going to find out.

    I still think… when all is said and done, that we will find that a lot of this stuff was substantiated. But it remains to be seen, right? It remains to be seen.”


    As Dr. Beirich observes, it really does remain to be seen how many of the incidents can be verified. Under the current system, David Duke could urge his followers to make hundreds of anonymous claims against minorities. How would the media handle those reports?


    Big claims require big proof, which the SPLC has yet to provide. Trust, but verify. It’s what used to be called “journalism” in the old days.

    adjective: anecdotal

    1. (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.



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