2016 has left a stain not only on the political landscape but also one that’s marked a hard line between peoples personal views and values. Faced with the ‘spectre of a filter bubble’ and living in an ‘echo chamber’ as some are calling it now – are we just perpetuating bigger divisions in a constant loop that just filters out challenging voices? Voices that are now screaming about black power vs the power of white working class rage?
Are we just reinforcing old segregation laws and apartheid but this time in realtime and on social media. Are we only comfortable to exist in ‘safe spaces’ that don’t discriminate us by race, gender? Or are we just working out some kind of class rage – post-austerity? Questions upon questions, have us all shook up and all while we try and figure out how in this information age we’ve ended up with very little information and a whole lot more noise.
After searching and searching to hear and read different voices speaking out about the shock election results in the U.S and referendum results in the UK, it’s had me thinking about where we go from here. We’re in an even more crowded space then ever before, in a media landscape that’s just pushing us further into our own ‘bubbles’. So many talking points out there but who are we actually talking to?
Listening in to a conversation in the ‘About Race’ podcast, I noticed a comment from CNN Money’s Tanzania Vega who points out the hypocrisy of the long running classist narrative that consistently lectures people of colour about ‘pulling yourselves up by the bootstraps’. Stereotypes enforcing images of working class people as lazy benefit cheats living on welfare and most commonly applied to people of colour? So why all this fuss about white working class rage now?
“When do communities of colour get to act out class rage?”
We may never get to unleash our own class rage, but when Public Enemy released ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ and ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’, this was the first time Hip-Hop had used it’s voice as an expression of rage. Referred to as the CNN for black people, Public Enemy had a loud voice that spoke for the disenfranchised generation of the Reagan era – the same one that Trump wants to bring right back.
Today we’re looking at this strange and immediate shift in the media towards empathising with a new white identity politics. A strange kind of crisis centred around this fear of white exclusion as they ponder the very real ‘fear of a black planet’? Changing values that instead of looking inward at systems of discrimination are instead targeting immigrants, people of colour and other religions for widespread economic problems.
Media coverage post-brexit feels bereft of any introspection about real British values. Digging around post-Brexit if we look at the inherent values of voters, it’s looking like a pretty dark reflection of hate-platforms like the Daily Mail and UKIP. Taking a look at voting patterns, its clearly illustrated that a larger majority who voted leave, also saw multiculturalism, feminism, the Green movement, globalisation and immigration as a force for ill. That’s right, ‘Take Back Control’ meant reducing the problems of a shrinking middle-class by blaming people of colour, women and environmentalists instead of capitalism.
What is also becoming apparent is that Trump voters in the US and Leave voters in the UK weren’t simply a downtrodden and disgruntled majority, but also educated enough to make their decision after a hard-headed look at the risks – and it’s a majority that’s also predominantly white.
But, while the raging on social media continues, are we now expected to wait another 4 years before we take action? Or should we look a little closer at our own actions towards the mainstream media, advertising and social media?
Socially diverse subject matters and values, are now as divisive as ever. When Trump talks about making America great again, it’s a pushback against the prospect that white people will become a minority in 25 years? As right-wing parties try to tackle this insecurity, do we really expect to see more tolerance or many more platforms reinforcing negative stereotypes?
“The roadman, the gay party-boy, the oppressed Muslim woman.”
Lets be honest, actual real change in the creative and ad industries to make significant steps towards diversity look like a long way away. An issue that’s pretty much relegated to the ‘yeah shut up we’ll have a panel’ type of situation. Gemma Germains, founder of Well Made Studio, puts it bluntly in creative blog It’s Nice That;
“Our images, words and ideas are consumed worldwide, yet only 5% of our adverts feature socially diverse subject matter. Those who do get a speaking part are often subjected to stereotypical representations. The roadman, the gay party-boy, the oppressed Muslim woman.”
The BBC continues to reassert problematic stereotypes, reinforcing perceptions of young black youth. The headline simply reads “African-Caribbean boys ‘would rather hustle than learn”. This quoted from a speaker at the National Union of Teachers, who claimed that black boys were performing poorly at school due to a ‘hustle culture’ – “Boys are more interested in hustling, which is a quick way of making a living, rather than making the commitment to study. This is a supposed to be a street thing which is a male thing.”
The ‘street thing’ or so called ‘roadman’ image, fails to take into account real working class challenges despite studies and reports that contradict those stereotypical claims. What we’re actually looking at is a real fall in entrepreneurialism amongst Black Africans and Black Caribbeans, who are “more likely to be in poverty than average, but do not appear to use self-employment as an alternative.” But who is actually looking at the reasons why?
And then we have this Facebook problem, infact the entire problem with social media use has suddenly caused an awakening about the new global power hands at play in Silicon Valley – “For people who like an orderly, predictable world, this is the scariest thing about Facebook; not that it may be full of lies (a problem that could potentially be fixed), but that its scope gives it real power to change history in bold, unpredictable ways.”
We’re ignoring issues about privacy, surveillance and big data and yet the media are somehow surprised about the power and influence of social media over us? So what’s next you ask?
Turn on Ghostery now and block those trackers. Deactivate that Facebook account – go on make a small step to denying them those fat advertising dollars. Most importantly start reading your ass off. We’re facing a whole new world order, a digital one that while you’re Snapchatting is getting ready to pull the rug from right under you. Sound scary? Well don’t be scared, get prepared.