Brexit: The Silent Majority Must Speak Up Against Racism and Hatred

A washed away Union flag
A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains lies on the street in London, Britain, June 24. The U.K. is disunited after Leave voters won the EU referendum. Reinhard Krause/Reuters

Right now, Britain is in pain. The EU referendum has split us down the middle. From old to young, London to the regions, those who 'have' to those who 'have not'… We feel like a very Disunited Kingdom.

It will take courage and a lot of hard work to bring us back together again. We are entering uncharted waters. All of us, whether political leaders or the ordinary citizen, must now look ahead and work out not only how our country navigates its exit from the EU, but how we as a nation learn to live with one another again.

Some have decided that they don't wish to live with others, and instead unleashed their hatred on those who look or sound different: there have been dozens of reports of racist incidents aimed at EU migrants and those native Britons who might have brown skin or be from a visible minority community.

Sadly, such bullies seem to have felt energized by the immigrant scaremongering that was voiced by elements of the Leave campaign during the referendum debate. They saw the result as a green light to act out their prejudices and foist their hatred on others.

But we should never forget that these racist thugs are a tiny minority of our society. They don't speak for me, as I'm sure they don't speak for the vast majority of decent Britons out there.

The Britain that I know and love is not racist. The Britain that I love is not full of hate. Of course we have racists and haters, but they are and always have been a tiny minority in our society.

In February Hope Not Hate carried out a major piece of research to understand what the English thought of one another, and of others. It reassuringly found that England was, by and large, a country at ease with multiculturalism and bitterly opposed to race hate and violence. While there were obvious concerns about immigration and in particular the rate of change of such immigration, there was little appetite for a total halt to those coming into the country, and even less for the targeting of people because of the colour of their skin.

British society is being severely tested at the moment and that makes it even more important for the silent majority to speak up against this hatred. We need to show solidarity with communities under attack and demand the authorities take swift and robust action against the perpetrators.

But of course the best way to show the haters are losers is to bring our communities together, especially those where the divisions are deepest. By celebrating modern Britain and showing people from different backgrounds can get along—as we know from our many projects that they can—together we can isolate and minimize the haters.

On Friday, Hope Not Hate will launch a #MoreInCommon campaign, which will seek to bring communities together and celebrate what we have in common. We will be particularly focusing on the most divided communities in our country, the ones where residents feel overlooked and even abandoned by the political establishment.

As Jo Cox, the recently murdered Labour MP, said in her inauguration speech, we have far more in common and there is far more that unites us than divides. We just need to collectively 'wake up' and understand that. Yes, society is under great strain at the moment and there is genuine and palpable nervousness about the future. But if we get organized and speak up for our values and focus around what we have in common, then I'm confident that hope will defeat hate.

Nick Lowles is chief executive of Hope Not Hate.