Saturday, 25 June 2016

We CANNOT Allow Racism To Divide Us.

Me and my little sister with our grandparents.  
Our grandfather came to the UK from Cyprus.

There are a lot of things that I speak out against.  Not because I just like shouting my mouth off (although a good rant now and then is healthy, if you ask me), but because it's right to speak out against them.  Those things include homophobia, Islamophobia and all forms of abuse.  Many of the things I speak out about (abuse aside), are things I have not personally experienced.  For example, I talk about tackling racism, but I had never experienced it, myself.

Until today.

Now, I'm fully aware that I have a massive amount of privilege.  I'm white, straight, cis and whilst I might not be wealthy at all, I have a roof over my head and an income of my own.  In no way, shape or form, is what I experienced this morning comparable to the racism that affects others in the world and I want to make it very, very clear that I am not about to try to paint myself as the tragic victim, or elicit waves of sympathy from communities who've had it far, far worse than I could dream of.  No.  All I want to do is talk about it.  Because the truly frightening thing about what I experienced today was that it came from fellow Brits.


Yesterday, I offered my thoughts on Britain's decision to leave the European Union.  They are, after all, my thoughts.  And seeing as I share them with sixteen million other people in the UK, I didn't feel that I shouldn't share those views.  I won't lie, I expected some comeback from Leave voters.  I expected to be told I was wrong, that this is a fantastic opportunity to make Britain "Great" again and that I should shut up.  And, sure enough, I woke up to several tweets saying exactly that.  What I did not expect, was abuse and - worse - racism.

And I got a truckload of it.

Bizarrely, the first round of abuse came from America.  I was "a dumb bitch," a "whining c*nt" and an "ungrateful idiot."  I was, they told me, failing to see that I had gained my country back.  Although, I'm pretty sure it was here when I woke up this time last week, so...  Anyway, every single one of the US-based trolls had Donald Trump in either their profile pictures, bio descriptions or their cover photos, so I figured it stood to reason that they would leap to the fanatical "MAKE BRITAIN GREAT AGAIN" side of things, without much to back it all up with.  Like butter from a warm knife, it slid off me pretty easily.

Then the British attacks came.

"EMMA TOFF!"  One simply said.  Now, I get it.  I'm an English speaker and I'm aware that "toff" refers to someone "posh."  And I'm aware that a lot of British people voted "Leave" based on the idea that they were somehow sticking two fingers up to the elite in doing so (and let's be real; this isn't a government who have put the working classes first ever, so nobody could blame anyone for being dissatisfied with the status quo and wanting to make a statement).

But my surname is "Tofi."  It's Greek Cypriot and, if you're interested, it's pronounced "Toe-Fee."  Throughout my life, I've had people call me "Emma Toffee," "Emma Toff," "Emma Too-Fee," "Emma Toe-Figh" and so on.  At school, it was deliberate.  As an adult, I'd like to think that I just happen to have a name that very few people can pronounce correctly on the first go.

So, with a worrying, niggling feeling in my stomach, I decided to respond.  I asked whether the person in question was calling me posh (and explained that I'm not), or whether they were reducing themselves to taking the mick out of my surname, based on it being obviously not British in origin.  I wanted it to be the first one.  I wanted - so badly - for them to respond, attacking me for their perception of me being wealthy and privileged, hence voting Remain.

What I got back, was this:

But... But... What did my ARSE do to you?!


Maybe they had originally been calling me "posh."  Or maybe they had deliberately chosen to sink to the playground level of mocking a surname that was unfamiliar.  Either way, there was no alternative manner in which to take the response.  I had a non-British surname.  I was, by extension, "not as British" as this person.

Now, I know what they all say.  "Don't feed the trolls" and so on.  But, well, since we're on the subject, I am part Greek-Cypriot and I do have a fiery side that makes itself known from time to time.  So, biting my tongue (as much as I could), I explained to this person that I was British born and raised and I contribute to our economy etc, I just happened to have Greek heritage. 

They responded:

But...But... I'm not even wearing pink in my profile pic...

That's a British person calling me, a fellow British person, "foreign."  Because my surname's different.

I stopped screencapping and started blocking the most disgusting commentators at this point, which is annoying, because this is where it descended into nightmarish "leave our country" style nastiness (yes, someone actually told me to do that), when the troll got their fellow racists involved.  There were cries to "listen to the actual British people," as though I wasn't one of them.  There were people calling me derogatory names - "bitch, c*nt, twat" and so on.  And by this point, it had nothing to do with my thoughts on wanting us to remain in the EU.  It was based on my surname.  It was because I was, supposedly, "other."

It got personal.  One vile person even told me that they "can't tell whether (I'm) male or female," then referred to me as both "HE" and "she" (yes, the "HE" was capitalised).  For reference, my name is "Emma" on Twitter and this is my Twitter profile picture:

I can see how you'd be confused.


When I visited the original troll's page, in order to mute them (on the whole, I prefer to mute, rather than block, as nothing gives me more satisfaction than knowing a troll is probably still screaming into a void, with their words never reaching me), they were telling an equally racist friend: "Some far-left extremist bitch is attacking me."  Being infuriated and hugely upset by this point, I replied to both the troll and their friend, reminding them that I hadn't attacked anyone, but was refusing to tolerate their racist remarks.  Their response was to remind me that I'm "not even British."

Except I am.  I was born here.  Aside from a brief spell in Germany, whilst my father was in the military, I've lived here my whole life.  I drink tea, I get short-tempered over bad grammar on the Internet and I can explain the offside rule.  I am as British as they come.  

Am I proud of my Greek-Cypriot heritage?  Of course.  I love that it makes me a bit different and I even love the unruly curls it's blessed me with.  I would be a fool not to love part of my family history.

But I am British, first and foremost.  And to be attacked, patronised and abused by my fellow countrymen and women, based on nothing but the fact that I have a Greek surname, is a disgrace.

I was being calm, but I deviated...

Look, the vote has been cast.  It's done, now.  What we need is to become united to improve the situation we're currently in.  The pound has crashed, we're going to have an unelected Prime Minister and there's talk of another Scottish referendum and a Northern Irish one.  If we're going to make big changes that could define Britain for decades, we need to make them together.  And that means we have to work with one another, not against each other.

Already, in the past 24 hours, there has been too much talk of people snapping "pack your bags" to their fellow citizens, based on their ethnicity or even religion.  On buses, in offices, in the street...  Even a channel 4 journalist tweeted that as he stood in a town centre, ready to report on the referendum results, three people yelled "send them home!" within the space of fifteen minutes.  Already, we've had a woman on the teatime national news, proudly declaring: "It's the immigrants - get 'em out!"

Newsflash, guys:  Xenophobia is not going to make Britain "Great."

I mean, let's look at how STUPID racism and xenophobia is: you can't even tell whether someone's British or not!  My surname is Greek, but I'm a Brit.  Someone else might be wearing a burka, but of course they can just as easily be British.  A person who moved here from the EU years ago and has been working legally, contributing to our economy and enjoying British culture may consider themselves to be adopted British.  And if we think logically - hard for racists, I know - very few people can trace their heritage back and find only British ancestry.  We've invaded and been invaded over the centuries.  Our blood is mixed.  WHERE DO YOU WANT THE LINE DRAWN?!

I saw a woman on Twitter casually announce "I voted Leave so we can kick the Poles out - they're stealing our jobs!"  And then I did an eye-roll so hard that I almost saw the back of my skull.

At this point, it's best to welcome the insanity this result is driving me towards.

Here's the deal: if someone Polish - or from bloody anywhere outside of the UK - is here legally, working, contributing to society and our economy, then guess what, Little Miss Racist 2016: THAT'S ALLOWED.  We're a multicultural society and it's something to be proud of!  And if you can't see how much you rely on imports and creations from other cultures, you need to forcibly remove your head from your damn arse.  Ideally, yesterday.


Look, I'm not tarring everyone with the same brush.  I know and care for people who voted Leave.  Just because I am wildly opposed to their choice, doesn't mean I'm going to label them unfairly.  Not every Leave voter is racist and it would be completely wrong to judge them all by the foul-mouthed, intolerant actions of a few.

But the fact is, those few are there.  And we cannot - must not - ignore that fact, if we want to recreate a United Kingdom.

As one person yelled at me in shouty capitals earlier: "GET UP, SOLDIER, WE'RE LEAVING!" (I know, I laughed, too) That's the gist of it.  The die has been cast.  We're very unlikely to wriggle out of this; it's happening.  That's democracy - like it, or lump it.

But know this: whatever road we travel down from this point onwards, we have got to be travelling together.  Not with a few of us sticking our nasty little heads out of the window, gesturing at "foreigners" to turn their cars around and "get back to their own countries."  Not with people on the Leave side refusing to condemn the racist actions of a minority in that group (it's all well and good saying "nobody needs to speak out against nastiness, because everyone just knows it's wrong," but frankly, a lack of outcry just seemingly legitimises that nastiness).  And, as hard as it is, not with the Remain camp labelling everyone who voted Leave a racist and moving forwards with negativity and hate.

Regardless of which box you ticked, we're all in this together, now.  Whatever happens, happens.  We can either unite to force through positive changes as a result of the referendum, or we can sit and bicker, reducing one another to something as ridiculous as their bloody surname.

We must all stand up to decry racism, regardless of which way we voted.  We must all understand that Britain is a multicultural society and that people can identify as "British" and have this country's best interest at heart regardless of their heritage.  We have to work together to decide what we want, going forwards.  We can't become a bitter, intolerant society, because that will benefit precisely nobody.

The nation is divided.  We cannot allow racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia to divide us any further.  




















4 comments:

  1. I am so sorry you had to go through all those nasty trolls. It just goes and shows you how ridiculously blind people like Trump supporters are. And I thought Justin Bieber fans were stupid. Clearly I was wrong. I've had people come at me on Twitter for sharing my strong views too and believe me it really hurts when they get personal such as saying you're not a citizen of your home country, make fun of appearance, etc. Sometimes that's why I keep my strong political views to myself. (not saying you shouldn't, because like I said, these words you say, is something that should be spread out there) I live in a multicultural country. I'm proud to admit that I'm a Canadian citizen and I have ancestors from Ukraine, India, Poland and the UK. Does that make me not Canadian? Hell no. This is what I can't stand, like how how does your country leaving the EU make it "great" again? When Donald Trump says "we will take back America.." take it back? From who? Umm newsflash, it was never taken away from you, him and his followers are just so xenophobic and racist that it's not even healthy. I grew up being different from others because of my appearance and personal tastes and was frequently shunned and bullied by my peers. This is the same thing only more extreme, I think that no one, I repeat NO ONE is entirely pure American, Canadian, British, etc. Everyone's always going to have a background that comes from another country. Does that mean they should be deported back to where they belong? No it doesn't, like you said. Syrians are coming into my country to seek refuge from war, they can't just be booted back to where they came from, their country's at fucking WAR. In a few years they will eventually become full-fledged Canadian citizens...or however it works to become that in my country. Anyway, like I said, I'm sorry you had to go through that, and haters obviously have no life, but you know what they say...sometimes when you get them...it means you're doing something right....no matter how damaging their words can be. Best thing to do is politely address them or cut them off and move on. :)

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    1. I'm so sorry you went through bullying; I know from my own experiences how lousy it feels! :(

      Yeah, I can't help but wonder sometimes whether trolls are noisy because they're rattled. I get told not to respond to them, but sometimes what they're saying is so damaging and dangerous that I feel like I *have* to respond, you know?! I love muting them, though. The idea that they're out there, screaming into a void just makes me chuckle...

      It's frightening, though. Obviously not all Leave voters were racist (I know quite a few people who voted Leave and they're lovely people, no matter how vehemently I disagree with their politics), but the trouble is, that racist minority who voted Leave for much nastier reasons now think that because they won, their views have been legitimised. That's an incredibly frightening thought, because hate has no place being legitimised. :(

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    2. I totally understand that, if it gets too personal sometimes you feel the need to respond to tell them off but year it's hilarious muting them so they look so dumb talking to someone who won't answer. Makes it seem like it's more useful than blocking.

      Those who voted Leave who are racist yeah they think they have all the power now and try to attack anyone who disagrees otherwise and that's what makes it scary, what if this happened in real life? I saw your tweet in response to someone about Brexit and all the nasty replies, it got. That's rough, especially those coming from fellow Brits. :(

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    3. I think that's what upsets me the most - this is nastiness coming from people I was born in the same country as and have predominantly the same ethnicity as. We're supposed to a united group, but instead Brexit has us at each other's throats. It's horrid.

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