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:
- 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 …
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”- Brendan O’Neill
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 Gurminder K Bhambra‘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?
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 White. In 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?