The scary thinking that drove Brexit isn't unique to the U.K.

51% of the U.K. — a majority, by a slim margin — has voted to leave the European Union.

It's a historic decision that is sure to reshape the U.K.'s place in the world and have huge implications on the global economy.

In fact, the British pound has already fallen 10% — to a 30-year low — and Asian and American stock markets are currently tumbling.



Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the decision.

David Cameron resigning his post at 10 Downing Street in London. Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images.

Although the vote is nonbinding and was extremely close ("leave" won with 53% of the vote in England and only 52% in Wales; "remain" won in Scotland and Northern Ireland), Cameron's exit signals a dramatic shift in the way the U.K. will be governed from now on.

"The British people have voted to leave the European Union," Cameron said in his exit speech. "And their will must be respected."

How the so-called "Brexit" (British exit) will affect the rest of the world remains to be seen, and its true implications will take years to come to fruition, but one alarming fact is emerging as the dust settles.

Underneath the vote is an all-too-familiar rise in xenophobia, anger, and a fear of immigrants.

Between 1993 and 2014, the immigrant population in the U.K. more than doubled, from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million — many coming from India and Pakistan, but many more coming from other European countries like Poland, Ireland, and Germany.

The European Union, which has many functions, serves as a kind of facilitator to immigration. Citizens of the EU can more easily migrate to other EU member-states.

Immigration across various countries within the EU spiked between 2004 and 2014, increasing from 25% to nearly 50%. Such an influx in immigration caused a lot of tension, and as of a 2013 survey, nearly 60% of Britons stated that they wanted immigration to be reduced a lot.

Chart via The Migration Observatory, University of Oxford.

Enter Nigel Farage, who is sort of England's version of Donald Trump. He's the leader of UKIP, which is sort of the U.K.'s Tea Party.

Farage and the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) essentially became a megaphone for the anti-immigration movement and, in turn, the Brexit movement.

Initially an irrelevant punchline in the '90s, UKIP has risen to prominence over the last couple years and has become less and less funny. In a 2015 election, UKIP received nearly 4 million votes.

Sounding familiar yet? How about this:

“There is an especial problem with some of the people who’ve come here and who are of the Muslim religion who don’t want to become part of our culture. So there is no previous experience, in our history, of a migrant group that comes to Britain, that fundamentally wants to change who we are and what we are. That is, I think, above everything else, what people are really concerned about.”

That's Nigel Farage speaking about Muslims in an interview from March 2015.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images.

Farage has also spoken of "Romanian crime waves" and immigrants stealing British jobs.

The data on immigration to the U.K. disagrees with Farage's claims, however. New immigrants to the U.K. haven't brought a crime wave. In fact, between 2013 and 2014 there was a drop in crime.

All of this anti-immigration rhetoric has been a huge factor in the growing support for, and eventual vote in favor of, Britain's exit from the European Union.

Many, though, see the new restrictions on EU-to-EU immigration as a bad thing.

As a result of the Brexit vote, "the younger generation [in the U.K.] has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries," wrote a commenter on The Financial Times. "We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages, and experiences we will be denied."

The Brexit vote was incredibly close, and looking at who actually voted to "leave" is revealing.

Areas with high working class populations turned out in record numbers and largely voted to leave the EU.

Incredibly, the Brexit movement has convinced people to vote strongly against their own economic self-interests, a phenomenon that's been observed stateside among Republican voters in the working class.

British citizens are currently watching in anger and horror as their pensions plummet and their stocks and investments go into free fall — which will have devastating effects on everyone — including those who voted in favor of Brexit.

In another frightening parallel to sentiment we've seen this election season in America, some Britons are saying they voted "leave" just to stick it to the establishment, not thinking their side could actually win.



Here in the U.S., we've seen the rise of similar sentiments to those espoused by UKIP and Nigel Farage in our own politics over the past few years — and especially in the past few months.

Despite data showing that immigrants don't cause any rise in crime or steal our jobs, or lower our wages, the Tea Party (and presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump) has gained traction on the assertion that they do.

What Trump and Farage and their respective parties have in common is that they capture an idea that is rooted in fear. Specifically, the idea that their nations are being stolen away by immigrants who want to take jobs, commit crimes, and generally wreak havoc for the people who "belong" there.

That type of nativism has proven time and time again to be dangerous.

Strange things happen when xenophobia and nationalism meet an exciting new demagogue — especially when polls, pundits, and voters don't take them seriously.

Come Election Day in November, Americans should remember what happened as Brexit unfolded — and learn a lesson from what is happening in the U.K. right now.


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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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