Like many others, I feel that in recent years there has been a re-emergence of old divisions, historic fears and community tensions which we’d hoped had long been left behind. Artificial divisions based on borders, on religion, on ethnicity, have seemingly been brought back into focus, rather than those human and basic things which unite us.
Whether it is the ugly side of the immigration issue unlocked by Brexit, the fears promoted by terrorist attacks from political and fundamentalist extremists, or the current national and international re-emergence of anti-Semitism, forces that divide us seem more present than they did a decade or so ago.
The appalling ‘Punish A Muslim Day’ announced in letters to Muslim MPs, is one of the worst and latest examples. Perhaps this has always been there, perhaps this has never gone away. Perhaps the advent and anonymity of social media has given it a forum in which to flourish. Perhaps the arrival of populist leaders in the wake of the global economic collapse ten years ago has emboldened these corrosive voices. Perhaps these fears and prejudices are inevitable, but we should work to challenge them. No-one should be asked to account for, or take responsibility for, the actions of terrorists, extremist groups or foreign governments because they share the same nationality, faith or ethnicity. Each of us as individuals deserves to be judged on our own actions towards others, deserves to be treated with respect, deserves not to be met with prejudice.
All of us, consciously or unconsciously, bring a bias to all our interactions based on a wide range of factors, whether that’s age, how someone dresses, skin colour, perceived gender or religious belief. None of us would want ourselves, our friends or family members to be discriminated against, abused or worse physically harmed because of these things.
All of us should work to overcome those biases, prejudices and preconceptions. That isn’t ‘political correctness’, it’s treating each other with the decency and respect that are surely at the heart of our values. If you judge a book by its cover you will inevitably read, and learn, very little, and be all the poorer for it.
Cllr Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove Council