On a grey summer’s morning, 24th of June, a few weeks ago, I woke up to a nation that had decided to leave the European Union. The UK chose, via a referendum, to exit the EU. This vote will famously be known as the ‘Brexit’ and comes with massive controversy, especially since many people didn’t even know what this change meant for them, for their families and for the future of their children.
As a voter, a citizen of a global community and a mother, I voted to stay in. I strongly believe that the journeys my forefathers took were not done to segregate and separate, but to unite, succeed and prosper. It is because of their voyages that I now live here in the UK.
My father was raised during the colonial period when Africa was ruled by the British. My grandfather was raised during the British Raj when India was ruled by the British. He emigrated from India to Africa in hope of a brighter future and a better-quality life.
I was born and raised in Kenya but am supposedly Indian by default of my parent’s heritage. Yet, I had never been to India or understood what it was to be Indian. I thought because we ate Indian food and spoke Punjabi, we were different; I was to be Indian. Over all these years, I had struggled to find my true identity. An Indian child raised in Africa, and, because of the colour of my skin, it was ostensible to others that I was not Kenyan. My friends and classmates had darker skin and I had to constantly fight the attention which my lighter skin tone drew on me and the misconceptions that I lived a better life than my fellow citizens. For a ten-year-old girl, this was a much debated topic within her mind, especially when asked where I was from or who I was. It was like a voice inside that never quite agreed with me and always questioned my true identity.
Growing up and given the opportunity to travel across the globe – from the African continent over the deserts, into the Americas where I would end up spending a good ten years of my life, and eventually to here in the UK – I affirmed who I was. I realised that I was not just a citizen of a global community but a citizen of an expansively huge community that, like me, lives in a time where borders are no longer lines drawn to divide a geographical land.
We live in a time where these very lines that once divided, now unintentionally seem invisible and over-mapped by a digital connectography of human interactions which cross these borders linking the world together with a mere click of a finger. Like many others, I am highly diluted by this digital era; an era which my son will inherit and continue to challenge and advance towards a brighter future.
Will my son, however, understand this journey and the diversity I have respected which has given me my identity?
On this morning, as I sipped my cup of Earl Grey, I thought to myself, have I moved forward whilst the world around me is moving backwards? Will my son be influenced by the decisions of half the nation who chose to divide and blame. How will this divorce affect him and his understanding of humanity? I was and still am deeply concerned about the impact Brexit will have on him.
Brooding over, with no evidence of a concrete plan l whatsoever, the short term impact in some ways are observed, Brexit has already influenced our immediate lives. I was sharing lively opinions and thoughts with dear friends over a meal when one of my friends said, “I had to pay for a baguette in France and I was so conscious of other people when pulling out a ten pound note”. We have become a laughing sensation on the Internet and our every move is watched upon with mockery. The sterling pound value has taken a hit, businesses have been affected and anxieties are sky high. A sense of being British has also taken an exit, as I now appear coy and cautious for fear of being judged or presumed to be the other half who chose to segregate.
We are constantly reminded that our decisions will impact us (UK citizens) the most: all our imports will soon take a price hit; property values are guesstimated to fluctuate in confusion; and our everyday living, food, drinks and even the innocent bar of chocolate will be affected. Our carefree shopping spurges will have to be re-examined. Looming ahead is a recession we could have avoided.
Anger shadows the capitalistic pride London boasted of, which was created by a diverse society that grew a megacity. Where once we were beaming with multiculturalism and secularism, we are now faced with the irony of a country that echoes “British jobs for British people”.
Will my son see less European nationalities in his classroom because, sadly, now many immigrants are in fear of staying in the UK? Masses are unsure, uncertain and fearful; many are now considering moving back to their countries or to another EU country for that matter. Will his generation not fully understand the cultural diversity that I have got to enjoy growing up? Will we always be in Europe but not a part of Europe? Will he be seen as an outsider?
As I mentioned earlier, I am deeply fretful about the message this decision will give, the long term implications that Brexit will have on our future generations, on my son. According to multiple economists, Brexit will dent the economy, but it is not the voters who voted out that will suffer. It is the youth, the generation Z, the fresh out of college and the unskilled natives who will be impacted the most.
Many immigrants who work in pink and blue collar jobs may leave the UK and this in turn will create a void that will have to be filled by Brits who maybe don’t necessarily enjoy these jobs. This means there will be large unemployment with regards to the jobs that UK residents don’t really want to fill; either this or a significantly higher hourly wage will be demanded.
From socio-economic changes to lifestyle and a higher cost of living – tied in with an increase in the prices of exports – our saving capacity will be hampered and overall our kids will be at a disadvantage. It has not been predicted how long both the high unemployment rate and high pricing will remain an issue, but rumour has it that it could continue for up to twenty or more years – long enough to make it harder for my child to enjoy a normal and decent standard of living. The British Treasury also says that unemployment will rise by around 820,000, which is a very frightening number.
Maybe the worst is smoking in up in the air now, the overcast nebulousness, sense of uncertainty lurking in the mist. The improbabilities outweigh the probabilities. Uncertainty does not have to imply a dark future ahead of us – it can pave the way for new opportunities and new voices which will lead young people to new openings in life.
Many of us are stoic but somewhat numbed by the course of events, and I know the results of Brexit will be felt for years and years to come. The vote that disunited us from the EU will also lead to a broken kingdom. Scotland seems to have been forced to make a harsh choice: be with us, shackled, or join the EU.
I live in hope. I don’t believe we will regress, we will move forward, but I am fearful that our social values will pivot and our cultural values will not be as accepting as when we were part of the EU. However, I can shelter my little boy. But we both have to dodge the curveballs that come our way, continue to look up ahead towards the sunshine and feel its warmth, despite the realities that paint our horizon.
I will have to teach my son to paint, give him the possibilities of different colours and the courage to pick a brush and repaint the horizon. We have a vote, we have a voice, and we will continue to have endless possibilities of choices – we only have to hope we make the right choices.