When I left my native France at the age of 18, I was full of dreams and hope for the future. I was pursuing a dream I’d fought long and hard for. The United Kingdom represented a country of togetherness, diversity and tolerance. Beyond that it was also the thrill of adventure and the unknown that intoxicated me. If America was too far and too expensive, the United Kingdom was the next best thing, right? Turns out it was the best thing that ever happened to me. The most defining and enriching experience I’d ever lived. Five years later, the souvenir of those times – when the United Kingdom was united – is bittersweet.
The reality is I didn’t see it coming. I was so full of hope. So naïve. So naïve to think that moving countries would make things different. The human condition is the same, wherever we go. A quick look at the latest news makes me realise that my own condition, as a black woman – French yes, but black first – will be the same wherever I go.
There is so much to say regarding Brexit. I could talk about the way many young British people feel robbed of their future by the older generation. But really this piece would be like any other diatribe you could read on the subject. Still the reality is this: I am living in a country where 52% of people want me gone. What can I say? That I wish people realised that immigrants mean well? That we are not stealthily, mercilessly hunting their jobs? I could. But the time of assertion is long gone, as the verdict came to pass, and that there is nothing else I can do to convince people of our good will for our own lives and deepest affection for what once was their welcoming country.
As the verdict came in that day, I felt prickly heat around my ears, a blush across my cheeks. The kind of heat that makes the room feel tighter. Waves of heat. As I rushed one hand to my mouth while reading the results, I could not help but think that I was watching a country bring about its very own demise. Death by hope.
Spinoza once famously said that “Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear”.
Fear. It spreads fast, contagious like the plague; it robs people of their logical thinking – and it always sounds justified. I fear because I am? I refuse to reduce humanity, Britain in this instance, to this dark and so misgiving depiction of itself. But fear is the cheapest and most efficient way to convince people to commit irreparable damage. And they did. Although there are no human causalities to count in this case, I now question the viability of what once was the essence of the United Kingdom: inclusion.
Article contributed by Solenne Kamba