I came to Scotland over a decade ago as a teenager. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, just an acceptance letter from a Scottish university in my hand and a badly packed yellow suitcase. I didn’t plan on staying so long.
I had a job and friends in Canada to go back to after graduation, but I didn’t want to leave. I put it off and put it off, and before I knew it I had been here long enough to be “naturalised”. Whatever that means. It’s such a strange term for being “allowed” to remain.
Some of my friends aren’t so lucky. Depending on how this referendum goes tomorrow, some of them might be forced to leave by the end of this year. They have friends and family, partners and children here in the UK, but that doesn’t matter one tiny bit because their individual lives don’t matter to those in the “Leave” camp. We’re just numbers, right? Just extra people that Britain doesn’t have room for. I have friends who have been accepted to study here, who are waiting for their acceptance letters from university, who have dreamt of coming to Scotland their entire adult lives. But they’re just numbers too, aren’t they?
My family moved to Canada as immigrants when I was too young to even know what an immigrant was. Communist China wasn’t a place they wanted to raise their child, dad said. Girls aren’t treated as equals in China and I wouldn’t have the same opportunities, mum chimed in. It wasn’t easy for them. I can’t even imagine what it was like, but I know that we very nearly didn’t make it out as a family. My life could have been very different. My life would have been very different. The freedom I have, writing this, posting this on my very own blog and having access to unbiased views (or even just different views) on t’internet? I take it for granted. When I was little my mum told me stories about what it was like to live through the Cultural Revolution, and I didn’t believe her. They were just cautionary tales, I thought. Don’t be too vain, don’t be materialistic, be a good girl. I didn’t realise until I was in high school that THESE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They happened to real people. They happened to my own family. They are not just numbers, numbers of immigrants literally dying to leave their homes because what is happening in their own countries is so devastating that to stay just isn’t an option.
I have yet to hear an argument from the “Leave” campaign that don’t boil down to a sour stance on immigration that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The same people who are so dead set against “foreigners” coming here think it’s their god-given right to enjoy a Czech beer with their Italian pizza, and nurse their hangover with an Indian curry the next day. Maybe they’ll stop off for a Turkish kebab as they drunkedly stagger home. They’ll drive a German car and watch American sitcoms, whilst texting their similarly racist cohorts on an iPhone produced in China. They won’t see the hypocrisy.
So I’m lucky. I’m lucky I am Canadian and I’m lucky I am a UK citizen. I am lucky that I am allowed to vote tomorrow, unlike many of my friends whose lives and futures the result will directly affect.
I will be 100%, unapologetically, unequivocally voting to #REMAIN.