Yesterday Radio 1 played the song ‘Black’, by Dave, and some listeners complained saying it was ‘reverse racism’ for him to talk about being proud to be Black. I’d say if they see this song as a problem, then it is they themselves that are the problem. Arguably however this is where communication and education needs to open up, and for those who protest to actually have a willingness the learn, and not just complain in an echo chamber.
For decades there have been resistance against expressions of pro-Blackness, mistaking it as anti-whiteness. You can be pro something without having to be against something else. It is not an automatic binary opposition. When you have been told from every angle of society that Black is ugly and worthless, when you find out that is a lie, you want to tell others it is a lie, and express pride in your identity. Public Enemy called this resistance again Black forms of expression ‘Fear of a Black Planet’.
This fear has had some very real life consequences. Taking issues of Brexit and refugee / immigration issues to the side (for the moment), in my opinion, one of the deep seated motivations which fueled the rise of UKIP, was how groups with a right wing agenda exploited the white working classes, to make them feel they had no voice in society. The tendancy was then is to blame the ‘other’ for the lack of their own voice.
The first ‘other’ to blame was the ideology of ‘multiculturalism’, (celebrating difference acknowledging we have different histories and starting positions in contemporary society). “Look at what they get, and how they can say things we never get to say about ourselves.” So to protest this song based on ‘I can’t say this about myself’, is to deny the history and lived experience of why Dave was motivated to make this song in the first place.
Add to this rejection of home grown multiculturalism, a healthy dosage of fear of immigration and anti-Europe sentiment, and it fomented the phenomenon that led us to the political climate we have today. That’s why many people didn’t see the Brexit vote coming, same as the election of Trump, and other populist political gains across the globe. They are not single issue campaigns, so the motivations were difficult to see in alignment at the time. That’s why it is far too simplistic to call a Brexit or Trump vote racist, as it is far more complex than that.
The call for white working classes to have a voice in society is very real and valid. The right wing would want us to believe it is multiculturalism, immigration, Europe, and ‘others’ who are the problem, but the real problem are the ruling elite. It is a class issue, rather than a race or nationalism issue. Economics. Look towards those who controls the money, rather than scapegoat those are struggling to survive, and those who are finding ways to express themselves and celebrating their very existence.
This brings me back to the song by Dave.