Defending multiculturalism: why I'm voting Remain

With bigotry and hatred on the rise, we need to value diversity.

Alex Pascall Colin Joseph
22 June 2016

Britain could be drifting from light and enlightenment back to darkness – shifting fortunes into glorious uncertainties with its closest neighbours.

The EU referendum has helped to reveal a body of political representatives who are quite comfortable playing with the lives of a nation who deserve better from those who are supposed to represent them. The mismanagement of facts and half-truths has now led us all to a crossroads in Britain’s future that will only be decided on Thursday. Most of the polls predict the referendum result will be very close.

How can Britain vote to leave Europe? I have observed much of the debate between Bremain and Brexit and have come to the conclusion that ‘Those who have glass windows should never be seen throwing stones at others’.

Politicians in Britain should avoid terms like ‘corrupt’ (I will only mention in passing current investigations into electoral fraud by British politicians during last year’s general election), or ‘they’re telling us what to do’ (Britain has played this role itself with many different nations throughout history). Or the use of ‘us and them’ soundbites when talking about recent migrants (many of whom are propping up vital industries and institutions like the NHS, transport and service industries). These types of hypocritical statements only help to confuse very important issues about the EU. It turns-off the electorate and tarnishes the image of politics in Britain.

EU referendum debates have shown divisions of irreparable damage within governing bodies and splits in communities that are tearing themselves apart because of proven lies fed to them by acolytes of doom and gloom combined with disingenuous campaign strategies.

There is an old saying ‘What you reap is what you sow’. I wish I did nor have to present this quote so close to the eve of the election, nevertheless I am doing so to remind whoever wins that there will be gaping wounds to repair before Britain can reclaim the word the ‘Great’ again.

As I peer into the avalanche of deceit that the EU referendum has helped to expose, I wonder about the values of multiculturalism and how it is now being used by the political elite. I myself come from the Caribbean where out of many we have become one homogenous group, a culture-brand that Europe itself fused in its drive for industrial and economic advancement. Many people from my generation and older who were seen as cultivated ‘West Indians’ were asked to fight the fight for Britain’s survival in the50s and 60s and assist in the rebuilding of its industries, services and shattered economy. We proved to be very valuable despite rejection, inequality and a plethora of other irregularities. Much of the blame for our shoddy treatment back then can be laid squarely on the deliberate misinformation and education of the masses that were made to see immigrants from the British colonies as parasites, coming to take their jobs, their women as well as sponge off the state.

We are now in the 21st century where the age of technology is being used to frighten the nation with false information (deliberately or inadvertently) reversing all the advancements and subsequent benefits that we have gained from multiculturalism and immigration. The current EU referendum debates, focusing on an ‘us and them’ rhetoric shows how little has been learnt from the last big migration to Britain in the 50s and 60s.

How different is the current immigration debate from that of the past? It’s simple, no change except that it now has social media and a 24 hour news cycle to drive it faster and more effectively to what is still an ultimate end-point of intolerance and prejudice.

Distasteful comments about people from different ethnicities is resulting in confusion - the young against the old and disrespect for politicians, especially those who dare to speak out about the benefits Britain gets from those now coming in from Europe and elsewhere. Migrants are often doing the jobs that British born citizens don’t want to do. Migrants from Europe have skills, experience and qualifications that many British born citizens simply don’t have.

I have led a varied and very interesting life so far including work as an urban communicator with my conga drums that I brought with me to Britain in 1959. I have used the drum as a cultural support and have also worked with schools and different educational bodies across the country and in Europe since the late 60s. During my visits to various schools I realised that even up to the mid 90s few schools saw Britain as being part of Europe. I had to explain through song that Europe is a continent consisting of many different countries including the UK. I have also used this technique to bring to life the diversity of the Caribbean and its geographical place within the Americas.

Britain now has a more profound understanding of Europe (whether that view is correct or not I’ll leave it up to you). But positive change (not only in the UK but within the European Union) will only come about by being ‘In it to win it’. The Brexit avalanche of intolerance and scare stories about migrants can only end in trouble. Let’s stay in and fight to repair what we do not like about the EU rather than jump ship and head blindly into a myriad of uncertain scenarios that would follow a Brexit victory.

Take London our capital city for example. It is seen as the ‘cross road of the world’ it thrives and benefits immensely from diversity and the influx of people(s) from different countries. London is a city of envy to many European countries and cities, but one that many people from around the world want to visit because of its diversity and migrants from around the world. Recently London elected its first BME Mayor, Sadiq Khan, whose parents came from Pakistan to the UK in the 60s. Our capital city should be seen as a shining example of the benefits of immigration and diversity that the rest of the UK should strive to emulate.

Diversity indicates harmony between different groups of people – it attracts business and investment from around the world. Valuing diversity and the contribution of immigrants past and present is important. What is needed now is more information and cultural understanding of peoples’ of the world. The UK can not work in isolation and succeed – it needs its partners in Europe. There is much more that unites us as a nation with other nations of the world (including Europe) than divides us.

Britain is at a crossroads. I hope the result of the EU referendum will send out a signal that Britain values diversity, immigration and people from different ethnicities working together. But I fear that the result may signal a return to the darkness and prejudices that many of my generation had to face in the 50s and 60s.

I will be voting remain. Join me.

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