I’m White and Straight. How Can I Help Minorities Get Heard?

Brexit day looms. True, we’re not really any closer to any resolution, but the arbitrary date of 29 March 2019 draws closer regardless. Time waits for no man, or in this case for no ridiculous nostalgia-driven delusion dreamt up by any equally-deluded politicians. Time is reality’s hardest fact, and with its passage the longing for a return to ‘the good old days’ reads more and more like a wish for whiteness; the presence of The Donald in the White House only reinforces the West’s apparent rejection of the globalism it created. Whilst it’s very true that few Leave-voters are clearly racist, as are few Trump supporters, their collective chants of ‘British sovereignty’ and ‘#MAGA’ nearly always come across as desperate assertions of white dominance, as demands to return to a time of whiteness’ peerless control.

As a white person, the side-effects of their emotive nationalism, intentional or otherwise, sit uncomfortably with me. After all, their vocal tweets and videos, permanently documented and easily accessible, are becoming quintessential white culture. It’s impossible to discuss modern Western politics without reference to the growing surge of far-right white populism. In the face of such a powerful tide, it’s easy to lose hope in what remains the dominant culture of the West. I certainly have done in the past.

I do believe there is hope, whatever the media make of the very real rise of populism on the left and right, both significantly smeared with allegations (and evidence) of discrimination and suppression. Communities marginalised by mainstream white culture have been making great strides in organising a collective voice, one fantastic instance being the uptake of Pride marches across the UK. Yet to say the elevation of minority voices is a task only for those communities is in my view reductive and irresponsible – white society has a role to play as well, regardless of the intolerant faction surfing Twitter looking to be outraged. To sit back now would be as harmful as actively attacking those communities.

Mainstream society is determined largely by whites (white men, even more specifically) in the West, especially its media and politics. Such a situation is unsustainable, of course, however the power this bestows upon each white person might be larger than you think. In the past, this ability was used by political and capitalist empires to suppress minorities, hinging on the common white person’s execution of their will. Luckily, in the 21st Century, there’s little such pressure remaining. People fortunate enough to be in positions like mine are free to listen to whoever, watch whoever, and financially support whoever we like. This is a great responsibility which, if used in collaboration with the growing voices of minority cultures, could revolutionise Western society.

It sounds hyperbolic written here, yet the impact may match that intensity. If the currently dominant white culture employed its energy to other cultural narratives as it did to its own, providing a space for such stories to be heard, for once listening and responding to such cultures rather than overruling or ignoring them, no amount of tweeting or matching baseball caps could overcome that. In my view (and I’m aware that my view is mine alone, and not necessarily the voice of any collective), what needs to happen is the realisation amongst white society of just how much it benefits as a result of the suppression of other narratives. By comprehending the scale of this power imbalance, it can begin to be deployed to include rather than exclude other voices. Essentially, the power should be used to enact change, using itself as the fuel, reaching a more equal and tolerant society where whites are not infused with such oppressive potential. White privilege should be a tool of its own demise.

I’m not demanding that all whites should go out and buy, see, listen to every product of minority cultures. That’s impossible for any one person. But just by opening yourself up to these other stories, by learning about their lives and their issues, by seeing them with the same eyes you see your own, equality can only come closer, no matter how much propaganda the far-right spout out. Of course, always bear in mind that the dominant society is not enabling other voices, only facilitating them. Whiteness has played a dominant part for too long – it’s time for other voices to be heard. It is a two-way collaborative process, chipping away at the exclusionary wall from both sides.