Since the vote in favour of Brexit, there has been a reported rise in racial abuse suffered by members of the black community. While the EU and the UK’s presence therein has no direct linkage to or implications for African or Caribbean countries, to the minds of many, the vote to leave the EU was synonymous with a vote against immigration; both from within the EU and outside of it. Clearly, there is more to the EU than the issue of freedom of movement, moreover, it is clear that – irrespective of what some may attach personally to Brexit – the move to leave the EU is of no direct consequence to the immigration status of Africans and Caribbeans legally.
The wider issue here is thus that the Brexit debate has been hijacked by xenophobes and, in turn, has forced members of the black community to approach the subject of Brexit on a largely reactionary basis, that is: because we are black, we feel that we must reject what would appear to (at least partly) be a racist discourse and therefore support “Remain” arguments. While this is understandable, it has worryingly led black social actors away from the actual questions of society and policy that Brexit poses.
In the context of the now imminent June general election, this reactionary discourse among ethnic minorities risks further fuelling the dominance of misplaced Identity Politics in ethnic minority voter choices, many potentially seeing “Soft Brexit” policies as somehow more “Pro-minority” or “Anti-racist”. For a number of reasons stated below, I posit that when approached purely as a matter of policy, Brexit could otherwise be viewed as an opportunity for the black community at large.