THE BLOG

It Seems That White People Still Think We Are A Priority

14/11/2016 11:37
Carlo Allegri / Reuters

White people voted in the EU referendum and the Presidential Election. I'm sure you were aware of that, but it's an important thing to acknowledge because it was white people's voices who were heard the loudest throughout both of these elections. In fact, it's the thing that brings the two together the most; they were two very different elections, but they both heard one loud voice shouting no.

As a group we voted for many, many complex reasons, but it's hard to argue that a worry over immigration didn't play a huge part. In the UK the discussion over immigration has been rising over the past few years, but Farage placing himself in front of that 'Breaking Point' poster reminiscent of Nazi Germany really started to cement how decisive it was going to be for the election. Similarly, Trump's 'Mexican Wall' comments were the beginning of an election that centred itself around fears of immigration, Islamophobia and a bunch of other things that ended up in one large melting point of issues over 'race'.

And these issues - this fear - is understandable, despite how easy it can feel to dismiss. White people are afraid of the changing landscapes of their country and their lives. Change, particularly when you are not in control of it, is scary. In rural parts of the US and UK that are predominantly white, they see the face of their country changing, and changing quickly. The ideas that were important in the eighties and the decades before aren't a priority anymore: in Britain, the support behind white workers like the miners has dissipated and the factory industry is dying, but the concentration is now more on LGBT rights and Black Lives Matter, which are much more prevalent in cities and places of greater diversity.

Similarly, in America, these changes seem so far away from the issues that face their daily lives that they don't feel like it's their country anymore. It's not the place or the ideology they called home when they were younger. Familiarity is safety, and they have voted for a return to familiarity. Although the change isn't necessarily actually happening in the rural towns of both countries, they see the shift of the country, and people are feeling forgotten and neglected: hence the 'whitelash' vote.

And while these feelings are legitimate, it's important that as white people that we remember that the political landscape is changing, as it has always done. This time however, it's just moving away from us. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the system has been rigged in our favour - we've done the talking, the decision making, and at the expense of nearly every other race. The political landscape shifting, the spotlight moving to other issues is important, necessary even, because we have silenced people for a long time. I mean this quite literally - white people have a tendency to talk over people of colour, telling them how they should feel or why their fears aren't legitimate. It's why political commentator Danielle Moodie-Mills' claim that Trump's win is 'white supremacy's last stand in America' feels entirely accurate.

To continue to fight this change is futile: the human race has moved around the world for centuries, overcoming all sorts of hurdles. Fighting it will indeed make it more difficult, but it won't sort all of the problems out that white people face, and it will just make life that much more difficult for people who aren't white. That goes for people of colour wanting to come to America and the UK, and the people of colour already living there. These votes have made Muslim women afraid to wear their hijabs in public, made Latinos afraid of what will happen to their families. Within a day of Trump being elected, an American woman posted on Facebook that a man tossed water in her face and told her 'I can't wait until Trump asks us to rape your people and send you back over the biggest damn wall we're going to build. Go back to hell, wet back.'

Voting for Leave and for Trump has had a direct effect on these people's lives, and to give them a voice doesn't mean that the problems that white people go through are delegitimised; it just means that right now, concentrating on people of colour is more important, more so than ever now that they're in so much more danger. We've held the spotlight for a long time, so to give that up means equal the playing field that bit more. With the result as it is, we've shoved our way to the forefront again, and to continue to fight for us as a priority is to cause so much unnecessary misery.

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