Processing Brexit: Feeling like a second-class citizen in the only home I’ve ever known
Writing: Halina Beduhn
So it’s official. Britain is leaving the EU and as a nation has officially given its blessing to the rampant nationalism that has been plaguing the continent for the last few years.
Though there has been a lot of chat in regards to the motivations of Leave voters I can’t help but believe that it goes little beyond the pathetic and unrealistic desire to restore Britain to its former imperial glory. Remember when colonialism was all the rage and slavery was cool? Yep, that’s the “Great” Britain I remember too. Of course along with that came incalculable wealth and world dominance but at what price? War, rape and pillaging I believe were key factors in maintaining that position.
Well, I’m probably getting ahead of myself, I mean it is 2016 after all; now it’s all about small-scale hate crimes and subtle racism.
Now that I’ve got my initial rant out of the way, I’d just like to give a little context to my outburst. I was born in Germany to German parents but moved to the UK when I was the tender age of five. My mum basically won the lottery of employment opportunities and secured a job in the delightful city of Liverpool (now don’t misjudge my subtle sarcasm as a lack of Scouse pride, but in the early 2000s the Pool was admittedly a bit of a shithole).
Growing up German in the North West of England was certainly easier as a white European than it surely was for other minorities but it did have its ups and downs. Xenophobic slurs and Nazi jokes were commonplace, particularly in my preteen years. However, by the time I reached secondary school the physical and verbal abuse had largely waned and was gradually replaced by the usual teenage angst that most adolescent girls experience. I honestly felt like England was my home and I identified with the culture more so than I did with my native German one – as I have done ever since. I learnt to read and write in English. I have forged the most meaningful friendships with English people. I fell in love for the first time here, in England. Most, if not all, of my formative experiences occurred in the UK. This is my home. This was my home.
The result of the referendum has has hurt me. I have taken it extremely personally. For those of you who voted to Leave and are wondering why I feel this way, I only hope I can give you some insight as to why.
There is no doubt that the British government has let the working class down since it’s ascent to power six years ago. I understand the economic and social repercussions that conservative policies have had on the British public. It is easy to see why people were confused and frustrated; someone needed to be held accountable.
Sadly, through cunning manipulation of circumstances, by both fringe politicians and media outlets, the target of this public resentment became immigrants. The political manifestos of radical parties such as UKIP, formerly considered to be ludicrous, suddenly began to make sense and actually look appealing to many Britons.
I naively and somewhat arrogantly gave none of this a second thought. I’m European, I thought, I’m not really an immigrant, this doesn’t affect me. Even right up until the day of the referendum, the London-Liverpool bubble in which I lived protected me from the harsh reality of what was to come. Watching the results come through was heart wrenching. The realisation that Brexit was actually happening was deeply disturbing to me. I couldn’t understand how people could be so stupid. But now I do. I understand perfectly that the potential economic and social benefits of leaving the EU outweighed the xenophobic, racist and fascist consequences of Brexit in the minds of Leave voters.
Why have I taken this result so personally? Because these consequences are inextricable from the choice, regardless of the possibly innocent motivations that people had. You voted because you hope (futilely) to make an FTA with China? Then you voted for fascism. You voted to control British borders and protect the nation from an influx of immigrants? Then you voted for racism. You voted for increased sovereignty and freedom from the totalitarian EU? Then you voted for xenophobia. I don’t give a flying fuck if the consequences weren’t your motivation, you voted for them if you voted Leave.
I guess my outrage is all well and good but it really is just for my own personal satisfaction. The real disgrace stems from the actual outcomes of the referendum; the extreme hit taken by the British economy, which had a greater impact than the 2008 crisis; the loss of free movement by both EU and British citizens; and the possible de-unification of Britain itself with talks of a second Scottish referendum – to name but a few!
The uncertainty that prevails is unnerving and I am genuinely frightened as to the future of mine and my Mother’s existence in the UK. I also worry about my British friends who voted Remain and have now been royally fucked by their fellow countrymen and women. I’m truly sorry for you and I wish I could have been given the opportunity to cast my vote. Maybe our futures could have been different.