We are witnessing not an apathy for politics, but a hunger for change from the template

by Chimene Suleyman

It is possible to understand that associating with someone who does not favour the marginalised is not unequivocally an admission of being racist, a woman-hater, or anti-gay rights. It may not excuse the individual from blindly aligning and enabling a repressive structure, but that is for them to deconstruct at their own pace. We have learnt by now that we cannot shout down or educate fast enough and we are suffering for it. But, for this very moment, so be it.

Hilary Clinton said of Trump’s voting-base: ‘To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the “basket of deplorables”, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.’ The number might not be quite so large — who knows, it may even be higher — but it is worth noting that although Clinton is perhaps not wrong, such inflexible grouping in politics is of little benefit to any of us.

This is not to pick on Clinton, nor to undermine her. She has not said anything beyond what many of us have thought. Can we by now assume that racists, sexists, and those with hateful bigotry in their understanding of the world identify with the politician, actor, neighbour with much the same view? Of course. We have accepted that racists vote for racists, that xenophobes will see only the perceived benefits of fewer immigrants when presented with a vote to Brexit. Ask yourself what good pointing this out does. Think for a moment where that leaves the rest — disenfranchised white working class, immigrants who supported Leave, or Hispanics who will vote for Trump?

chimene-nov-media-dversifiedThere is nuance here. We have come to assume that supremacist bigots vote Right, and minorities or the socially conscious vote Left. There is much truth to this but let us try and understand it another way: Expecting minorities to represent a certain politics is dehumanising. The assumption that they will vote only to protect, for example, their race and not, say, for their own understanding of what is economically more appealing, is to remove from them human complexity and perceived ambition. Simply put, there will be Muslims who support Trump, immigrants who vote Tory, just as there are white liberals who voted Remain who still use the n-word. Our politics may be a pretty good place to start when we are trying to gauge a person’s place on the spectrum of prejudice to woke, but sometimes a good place to start, is all it is.

We are witnessing not an apathy for politics, but a hunger for change from the template. Working class communities on both sides of the Atlantic do not see themselves represented in the so-called socialist Left. This is still high-society speaking not with us, but at us with a language that for many, most in fact, does not fit. For plenty, Brexit was a protest vote, two-fingers up to a London that has never much cared about the inner-workings of England beyond its suburban periphery.

To simply say that everyone who places a vote with the Right is a bigot of some kind, is to ignore the pleas for straightforward politics. For many, Trump is that. As was UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Unvarnished, accessible discourse from men who have convinced crowds that venomous intolerance and telling the truth are the same. For it is transparency that many are craving — politicians who do not lie, who say what they mean. And men who are unashamed of views that do not make them look good are at least not pretending to be ‘likeable’, merely ‘genuine’.

Of course, even these men are fabricated. Trump and Farage have each lived with a kind of wealth and privilege that even the comfortable middle-classes cannot imagine. But their brand of simplicity and honesty is filling a political gap that the Left are frankly not addressing. It is lazy, perhaps smug of the Left to cast an entire voting group as simply unworthy and beyond saving. It was this type of arrogance that left Britain’s Remain faction with barely a campaign.

There is racism amidst communities of colour, suspicion of Islam from others who have themselves watched white supremacy at play, just as there are white socialists who are more patronising towards the marginalised, than helpful. That is to say, none of this is binary,  there is not a formula by which we can assume how people will vote today, or in five years, or why. The Right are not doing well across much of the world because more people suddenly became bigots in their very core, but for reasons the Left has a duty to explore and attempt to put right if we are to restore balance.

It is unquestionable that those who voted Leave and for UKIP, and those who will vote for Trump have co-signed their name to a presentable kind of fascism, but in many cases that is all it is. And without addressing the elitism of parties elsewhere we will continue to watch a rise in what is otherwise a terrifying and destructive time for every single one of us.

All work published on Media Diversified is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not reproduce, republish or repost any content from this site without express written permission from Media Diversified. For further information, please see our reposting guidelines.


Chimene Suleyman is a writer from London. She has written about race for Media Diversified, The Independent, IBTimes, The Pool, The Debrief, to a name a few. She has appeared on BBC Newsnight and BBC radio. She is a contributing essayist to best selling book The Good Immigrant, and her poetry collection Outside Looking On was featured in a Guardian’s Best Books of 2014 list. She currently lives in New York.

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