The ‘Whiteness’ of alternative facts

Many individuals were shocked and appalled by Kellyanne Conway’s, counselor to President Trump,  statements yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. Here,Conway claimed  that  the White House had put forth “alternative facts” to ones reported by the news media about the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd.  While Chuck Todd seemed literally unable to stomach Kellyanne’s conversation ( it was exceptionally  hard to watch Conway pretend Saturday’s marches  were about Obama and not Trump..yes, we all know Trump  just got into office but he has  been tweeting for what feels  to millions of women-globally- like forever… ), major news outlets such as the New York Times tackled this Trump reality update head on, claiming that while ‘alternatives’ were interesting- maybe knowing the real facts,would be more useful?

Would it actually  be more useful  though? It is all well to criticize the new administration’s willingness to put forward an ‘alternative reality’ when it sees fit, but it needs to be recognized  that this is a daily reality for people of colour, paritcularly racialized women of colour, when confronted with allegedly ‘real facts’ about the way politics works and the true innocence of western neo-liberal democracy when it comes to racial inclusion/exclusion. Here are two  ‘alternative facts’, we’ve been subjected to this past year on either side of the atlantic:

  1. The  American election was not about gender or race, it was about ‘class’:

‘To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. ‘Are you assholes listening now?’- David Wong

Though this excerpt  from Cracked.com, may not be representative of informed news journalism, with the sentiments of this humour post shared 255613 times on Facebook alone it is highly representative of what the general public chose  and continues to accept as fact. As noted  by Eric  Sasson,  while it is factually accurate  that many rural voters who once  backed Obama in 2008 and 2012 , voted for Trump this past election, these voters  made up only 17 percent of this year’s electorate. The voters Clinton really lost—the ones she  truly needed behind her —were college-educated whites -> White men went 63 percent for Trump versus 31 percent for Clinton, and white women went 53-43 percent, so when you see signs like …

16142774_10154006654546152_7397200340960365816_n

that is what they are candidly referring to.

2. Brexit was also about the working class and not really about race…

“By forcing Britain to quit the EU they have given a bloody nose to an elite that views them with contempt”- 

Across the pond, the revenge of the rural voter rang a similar bell in the hearts of political commentators speaking on the  Brexit crisis ( everything is still not fine). Some went as far as to openly downplay race alogether, as seen in Adrian Hart’s elqouently titled piece here, where ‘reverse racism’ for Hart might even be the real culprit. However,  referencing Professor ‘s commentary in her interview with the Sociological Review on ‘From the UK referendum to the US election: Class, Race and History’ , both race and class  have played an intersecting role in the history of the United Kingdom, particularly in relation to the development of mulitculuralism. The idea of Brexit voter’s wanting their country  back, a notably predominately white-working class-island country, played a major role in the Brexit vote, yet in itself is a myth, as Bhambra explains in her interview. This is because, according to Bhambra, citizens of colour, those of  ‘darker nations’, have always been a part of Britain not predominantly  as’ immigrants’ or ‘refugees’, but as people with legitimate claims to rights and benefits. Historicaly, within Britiain, irregardless of whether you were born within the United Kingdom or its colonies, you have almost always  been granted the right to citizenship. Such factoids could explain why those with a higher level of education, voted to remain within the EU. Maybe it is because they have a better understanding of their own history?

brexit-1

This is not to suggest that you need to attend university to know more about who belongs and who doesn’t, but rather to  point out,  as Bhambra rightfully does,  that  with an informed  critical analysis of history  it becomes clear that race and class are not oppositional forces. To suggest that Brexit voting had nothing to do with race, is to ignore the hard truth that the history of class in the UK (and the US) is heavily racialized.

I am currently reading Richard Dyer’s  (1997) book  called  WhiteIn his chapter on the matter of whiteness , he writes

‘White people have power and believe that they think, feel and act like and for all people; white people, unable to see their particulalrity, cannot take account of other people’s; white people create  the dominant images of the world, and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image…”  ( Dyer, 1997:9).

I find this quote  significant as a racialized  person  presently watching the news and witnessing the anger and frustration on social media over the falsifying of facts in the wake of this new administration, since political news coverage has been, in my  opinion inclusive of  ‘alternative facts’ for a very  long time.  As a person  rotating between the United Kindom and North America for the past 12 months, witnessing  two  full campaigns  against ‘Muslims’, which has come to mean ‘Muslim looking-Foreign -Refugee-Maybe?’ more than anything else, witnessing a continued insistence that ‘black lives matter’ is an American problem only or even  a continued disbelief in racial bias being part of the problem  altogether despite the overwhelming amount of evidence , and lastly  witnessing a UK MP murdered over her pro-immigrant stance ( in the alleged race war ongoing in the UK) alongside multiple hate crimes occuring in the United Kingdom, the United States, and my native country of Canada….all the while still being told by colleagues/friends/students that I see ‘race’  only because I want to see ‘race’.

Why should we now be surpised that a politician who seems almost religiously guided by, surviving and thriving on  white privilege , now sitting in the oval office one of the world’s most powerful thrones, also feels powerful enough to challenge reality itself?

Maybe it is about time an institutional fall-out over ‘alternative facts’ comes knocking on all our front doors, rather than those of the select few who have had to sit patiently through a year of denial in conversation?

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