A New Year is upon us and a new wave of racism, bigotry and xenophobia is meant to be stalking our land. That’s according to a Sky poll released on Monday which proclaimed that ‘Britain is more racist and less happy since Brexit vote’. If this made you check your pulse and wonder what racism has started coursing through your veins since June 23rd, fear not. The headline does not reflect reality but simply some peoples’ perception of reality. It is the result of a question in the poll which asked people not whether they felt more or less racist since last June, but to answer the question ‘Would you say Britain is more or less racist than a year ago?’ To this question 57 per cent said ‘more racist’ with just six per cent saying ‘less racist’.
I can understand why some people might have come to that conclusion. More than a half a year of headlines and opinion pieces interpreting the vote to leave the EU as one great big racist hate-crime will have that effect on people. But is it true? This is a question many people proclaim themselves interested in, while very few demonstrate anything much in the way of follow-through.
I have written here before about the strange claim that, emboldened by the Brexit result the British people suddenly turned against the gays. Indeed in October I posited the more likely possibility that rather than the ‘Leave’ vote turning people homophobic, it is more likely that the constant urging by the police and other authorities that minorities should report ‘hate-crimes’ and should report as hate-crimes anything they ‘perceive as such’ may – when added to the lowering of the bar for a hate-crime to ‘something mean somebody said to me on social media’ – together provide an altogether more likely explanation for the figures.
On Sky on Monday, I found myself discussing the poll with one of the professional race relations industry types called Atul Hatwal from the ‘Migration Matters Trust’. It was Hatwal’s job to insist that the ‘Leave’ campaign had made Britain racist and that as a result of the majority opinion of the British public a wave of previously barely-suppressed racism had broken out across the country. He claimed that on trains and buses up and down the land you can hear racism breaking out. When I said that I doubted this he did the usual thing of explaining that this might be because of my skin pigmentation. I suppose it’s possible. But despite the awful pinky-whiteness of my ears these ears do still work, and if I heard someone on a train or bus railing against other people because of their skin colour I think I can safely say that I would not only hear it but would – like the vast majority of the rest of the British public – have something to say to the offender.
My fellow guest also produced a fascinating statistic, claiming that ‘between June 2015 and September 2016 there was a rise in over 2,000 racist incidents.’ I think this was his slightly garbled version of the statistics to be found in the chart here which claim that hate-crimes are rising year-on-year. This, as I have said before, may be because Britain is becoming more and more fascist, or it may be that the bar for hate-crimes is being lowered and that there is a concerted effort to persuade ‘minority communities’ to report anything and everything as a hate crime.
Anyway, after my exchange with Mr Hatwal I once again found myself wondering whether I shouldn’t get in on this whole hate-crime business. As a victim, obviously. I am not a great consumer of social media, rarely read Twitter messages and don’t waste time with Facebook and so on. But I reckon that if I put my mind to it and read every comment by everybody who writes about me on social media, sends me emails and writes about what I write and say across the internet I could get up to that 2,000 racist incidents single-handedly in about a fortnight tops. And that’s before we get onto the other hate-crimes against me. Of course if you put your opinion out there then you should expect to get a fair amount of opinion back and accept that not all of it will be glowing. I neither bemoan this fact, nor ask for pity. But I could. Perhaps all the people who write to me calling me a ‘honky’ (among the more publishable terms) are not just sad little seat-sniffers to be ignored but racist persons committing a crime against my person who I should report to the police. I’m not sure that the people who abuse me for being white would necessarily be regarded with the greatest seriousness by the race relations industry and nor would I necessarily become the next poster-boy of the hate-crimes industry. But that would not be my main disincentive. That would be the fear that I might single-handedly clog up so much police time that the entire force had no opportunity to investigate rapes, robberies, murders and the like.
And of course there’s another downside. Not just that the police and I would have to spend many months sorting out which of the crimes were racist and which homophobic before most likely deciding to put them down in both ledgers. The real downside would be the fact that if I was single-handedly responsible – as a victim – for doubling the number of racist hate-crimes then a little while down the road I might find myself on another programme with Mr Hatwal or one of his colleagues and they would be explaining that the reason why hate-crimes in the UK had soared yet higher was because of people who voted Brexit. So I would be at one and the same time both the most substantial single victim of the racist hate-crime wave and also – as a ‘leave’ voter – a primary cause of it.
There is a third-way of course. Which is that people who disagree with each other on matters of political governance might stop pretending that everyone of a contrary viewpoint is a fascist or causing a rise of fascism. But I recognise that this is probably too much to ask.