Here in my small corner of Japan, the rainy season is in full swing. And although many people complain or talk about how much they can’t wait for the sun to show it’s glorious rays again, I instead reflect on the weather we have back in the UK. I love the cloud cover and the drizzling rain that soaks you through without you even realising. It reminds me of a past life growing up in England. However, those thoughts are swiftly replaced with fear of the state of the country I call home.
In a month’s time, I will end my contract with the JET Programme and fulfil my dream of finally returning home after 2 years. Home is a place you call your own, a place where you feel safe, somewhere that you wish to return to in times of need or loneliness. However, in one swift movement, those emotions have been pulled from under me.
The vote to leave the EU surprised me. I didn’t think that we would be where we are today. The people have spoken, and the vote decided. I know that there are mixed emotions to the outcome, and I believe that everyone has the right to vote and express their opinions, whether it is the right thing for them or not. My opinion is not to devalue any one decision, and wish them the strength for the future that is ahead of us, the power to learn about their decisions and consequences, and the capability to understand what one voice can do for millions of people.
I have spoken to the other Brits around me about the ‘B’ word. We all stand on the same side of the fence. One of them said to me “It will take time for any changes to happen” and the other said “I don’t believe that this is racism”. I agree with them. I mean, I did agree with them. The state of our country may take a long time to figure out what leaving the EU will do for us, and I don’t believe that all the votes were based on race. But, why is it that when the results were announced, race hate problems increased almost immediately?
For those of you who don’t know; I am a British born Indian man. My parents are Indian, but I was born in Harrow in West London. And as a British born Indian man, I haven’t feared my country as much as I do now. And yes, it is my country. My parents, nor grandparents, were immigrants. My grandfather didn’t flee a country torn by war, he instead came to a country which was ravaged by war itself, invited as an aid. But I don’t scribe my lineage on my face. My heart says British, English, Londoner, but my beard, my skin, my nose, my hair (or what’s left of it!) says something else: it says ‘other’. It says foreign. It says racial slurs. It says I must be careful. It says I have to ignore the comments about my presence. It says I am someone who stands out. It says I am not a ‘native’. It says I should “go home” or that “I’m next”. It says to my parents (who then tell me) that I need to shave and be immaculately presented at all times, in fear I will be hurt for looking like something I’m not.
I wish I could say to you that the hate now felt towards race is a new thing, and that the results of the vote have brought out the worst in some people. But the truth is, my race has always been an issue. I’ve been called various words throughout my time in the UK in reference to my ancestry. This is not a new occurrence, but a newly arrived platform. It’s not someone randomly shouting in the street whilst others shake their heads in unified dismay. This is a stage. A large lavish stage for the world to see; bright lights and perfect acoustics. And the first act has begun.
At the end of my contract, I have no other choice but to go back home. Yes, I still call the UK my home. I always will. But instead of the hope I had for a new life, I feel like I am going back in time, to old ways. The fear instilled in me is not understood by many of the people around me; none of them are an ethnicity, British and having to head back. I don’t feel alone or ashamed of those qualities. I believe that those qualities attribute to the wonderful things that I am, and not what THAT small segment of society thinks I am. And that’s what this is. A small percentage of people who don’t understand, or who choose not to understand, what being a minority is. But whilst I, and indeed the small percentage of THAT people, are minorities, their numbers are growing, whilst ethnicities are being abused and reduced.
You may say to me, ‘Be brave!’ or ‘Don’t falter in the face of adversary!’. But you will never know this fear. You will never know what it feels like to be discredited to a lesser human because of the colour of your skin, or your beard, or your beliefs, unless of course, you are an ethnicity too.
Don’t get me wrong; racism is prevalent around the world, against all shades of human. But some of that racism can be escaped from, and some of it can’t. And it’s those of us who can’t, that no longer have a place to call home.
Leaving the EU was a stone thrown into a pond. Not knowing what the ripples would do to the eco-systems under the surface, how rough the waters would be, or how long the the water would take to settle once again. The power of Brexit has been felt by the UK, whether thats the voice of sorrow or of rejoicing. There’s a new racist slur in town. It doesn’t begin with a N, or a P, not even an I, but it begins with a B. And the power it wields is beyond the fear that I, and so many others, now face.
I hope that I’m proved wrong. I hope that together we can rebuild a nation that trusts, that understands and that has a willingness to learn. I hope that my parents don’t feel the crushing fear of rejection from a country they have built a home and life in. I hope that wherever I go, I can walk with my head held high, and not lowered in fear of eye contact or comments. I hope that we can recover from the state of which we find ourselves in. I hope the violence will end. I hope you will read this and think about the use of propaganda, in all it’s forms, and the fires it stokes under those less informed.
Yes, the rainy season is in full swing here in Japan. The rivers run high, the air is thick and heavy, the bugs have all come out to play. The thunder occasionally makes me jump and hide. But it’s nothing compared to the storm I will face when I return home.