The elephant in the room – Macklemore’s”Same Love”

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Yeah, yeah yeah…. I will address the ‘elephant in the room’ before I finish my article on homophobia in hip-hop.  I don’t want to talk about this track again.

Some would assume I would be praising this track as a milestone in progressive discussion regarding homosexuality.

I actually hate this track.  It’s an absolute failure of a track.

While I believe that the track comes from positive intentions and did indeed fuel more discussion on homophobia in hip-hop, it absolutely fails at what it was intended to achieve.  Homophobia in hip-hop is a very complex issue and one that needs to be handled with care.  The track to me comes across as incredibly preachy and borderline racist.

If the track inspired you then more power to you.  But in my honest opinion it’s a mess of a track.

The response from a large majority of the older members of the hip-hop community was negative as Macklemore himself fails to address his privilege as a straight white man in the music industry.  Some criticism was definitely racist and homophobic (criticism from professional has-been big mouth Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian being the most infamous), though there were definitely a fair number of legitimate concerns (though sometimes covered in ignorance and lack of care for the gay community).  There is a massive problem with tarring all members of the hip-hop community with the same brush as there are many rappers who are pro-gay rights and it can be safely assumed there are many rappers in the closet; afraid to come out.

Whilst there are huge issues regarding attitudes to homosexuality in hip-hop and indeed in the black community (I disagree with Kelly Fox at Guerilla Feminism on her suggestions that homophobia in the black community is a “myth”), the main problem with the track is that it simplifies the problem and directly points the finger at hip-hop.  He looks for a scapegoat rather than analyse society as a whole.  This is a move that can be perceived as pointing the finger at black people. Macklemore washes his hands of any privilege and doesn’t include himself in any critiques. Regardless of how fucked up homophobia in hip-hop is, the question is that “is Macklemore really in a position to start wagging his finger at black people?” The whole track feels like a middle class white man from the suburbs approaching a group of random black people whilst tutting his head in shame and screaming out “us white people are more moral than you animals.  Shame on you”.

A massive issue also is his reckless use of the word “faggot”.  He ignores that as a straight white man he is in no position to decide whether using those words is ok.  It has a total disregard for the feelings of the people he is talking about in the first place!   It reminds me of RA the Rugged Man’s (who I like to call RA the Republican Man) use of the word “nigga” in some of his tracks.  What really gives him the right to use that word (another topic for another day)?

Regardless of all this I believe Macklemore’s actions were well intended, but poorly thought out. Same Love was a track that could have been an amazing critique and analysis of homophobia in the culture, but instead it fails.

How about the inclusion of gay rappers on the track?  Giving them a voice?  People who  actually probably have first hand experience of homophobia and have a total lack of a voice in mainstream hip-hop media?  Revolutionary idea eh?

Also I am unsure of how gay people will feel about the collab with Melle Mel in 2015.  A man whose lyrics in the famous track The Message included: “Got sent up for a eight year bit. Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag. Spend the next two years as a undercover fag”.  Whilst I see what he was trying to achieve (giving ‘legends’ the recognition and attention they deserve), it really is a case of practice what you preach.  Is Macklemore really concerned about the gay struggle?

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Lost hope and disgust (kind of a ‘part 2’)

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I need a space to post my feelings.  Somewhere safe where I can rant and rage.  Sorry this post will be more personal.  I wanted to write a detailed analysis of white working class anger and the EU referendum in Doncaster.  I finished part one but have failed to write a part two.

To be honest I lost interest.  The whole analysis of the situation was just too depressing and  Post-EU referendum I feel even more so.  When I woke up after four hours sleep after reading the results I was crushed.

69% decided to leave whilst only 31% wanted to remain.

Unlike any other referendum and political poll we had this felt much more personal.  It was the final blow to the little pride I had left of where I came from and the hope I had staying in this country.  I felt ashamed and  disgusted with my entire community.  That morning I truly felt like a minority in my borough.  I felt that I didn’t belong and that I was no longer welcome in a borough which my grandparents came to from Jamaica in during the 1950s.  What would they have said if they were alive today?  It felt like that 70% majority of people were telling me “get back to where you came from” (even though I was born in this country).

I am terrified what a “thumbs up” and acceptance of xenophobia and racism within already disenfranchised white working class communities will bring.  What will be the result when they feel immigration is not being reduced?  Who will be to blame next?  I feel as though I live in a culture which promotes excuses (e.g. just because these xenophobic and racist attitudes are a result of years and years of industrial decline, being ignored, poverty and going from a relatively homogeneous community to a much more diverse one); an attitude which in my experience ends with victims feelings and pain too often being ignored.  The saddest thing to see was the obvious distress and disappointment a lot of people on my social media feed; young/progressive minded and intelligent people yet to realise their full potential who are determined to support integration, peace, love, intelligent analysis and compassion.

I am no stranger to racism either.  I can remember my earliest experience of racism in primary school when another kid called me a “nigger”, though was forced to apologise.  It cemented in my brain that I was definitely different to the rest of the kids; me, my sister and another black kid being the only black faces in the entire school.

I can remember my first job at Mood nightclub in Doncaster, which a member of staff openly stated to me that he hated “those really black people” but stated “I was ok” (which i stupidly at the time didn’t do anything about just to keep the peace and because I didn’t have the confidence to report racism.

I can remember being beaten up on Doncaster’s North Bridge by a group of white lads with bottles who chased me down the street screaming nigger, leaving my hoodie and face bloodied up.  I was then refused help at the Chinese Takeaway, probably them assuming I was just “trouble”.

I could write more but this really needs to be brief.  All these feel like they happened yesterday and small minded comments regarding immigrants, people of certain religions and general petty nationalism force me to remember these again. It is hard for me to disassociate racism and  xenophobia from the rhetoric of the leave campaign.

It seems as though a lot of other young people from ethnic minorities feel the same as me; expressing absolute fear for the future.  Quoting a user from Twitter:

“Racists are going to feel more empowered as a result of Brexit.  It’s a scary time to be Brown in Britain.  It is not a laughing matter”.

This report from another Twitter user (a news reporter) which is a bit more closer to home  (Barnsley, a town with a similar demographic which is just around 15 miles away):

“Been standing here five minutes. Three different people have shouted “send them home” (https://t.co/cVvmYvC73o)

The fact that the majority of people who voted leave (baby boomers) probably won’t be around that long to truly experience the impact of this decision truly leaves a bad taste in my mouth which I will probably still be able to taste 10 years from now.  It is completely and utterly unacceptable. We will from now be an isolated little island.

What is worse for the baby boomers who voted leave is that they believe they are truly “taking back control of their country”.  Like it’s a win for the working man.  I feel better hearing that a significant number of ex-miners that experienced the 1984-5 strike see that these people have been conned by the political elite (something so obvious in Nigel Farage’s interview on Good Morning Britain with Suzannah Reid straight after the results were announced).

All the white working classes who voted to remain have done is give in to fear-mongering; the idea that when those “bloody foreigners” leave the country and minorities shut up, reject their culture and embrace the culture of the white working class the country will prosper.  There has been a total disregard for statistics, actual facts and analysis from professionals and experts; though with as much shit they had gone through in the past (I have always been told stories about how violent and devastating the miner’s strike was) and the amount of anger and disillusionment they felt they all probably just went past them.

Of course I can’t let this, the total lack of support and my decline in mental health affect me and cause me to just give up.  I need to carry on living and focusing on my personal goals; carrying on lifting, learning the piano and focusing on my PhD.

Of course this is only the beginning and the fight isn’t over by a long shot.  The Scottish reaction to this and whether it triggers a break up of the United Kingdom interests me.  If Scotland leaves and decides to stay in the EU I would be very attracted to living there as Glasgow for me is an amazing place to live where I feel welcome with open arms, plus working in the alcohol rehabilitation field there would be incredibly interesting.

Staying positive and keeping my mind off this for me is the key.  We all need to find a happy place even if that means letting go.  We need to seek happiness and not let politics get us down.  Yes I may be a hypocrite saying that but hopefully I will heed my own words.

 

White working class anger, Doncaster and EU referendum – how the hell we got to this(part 1)

 

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I feel it is necessary to post my analysis of what is happening in Northern ex-mining / working class communities such as Doncaster at the moment. The situation this country is facing at the moment  (either leaving the EU or remaining in the EU) will change politics in the UK forever and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The EU referendum campaign is getting uglier and more depressing by the minute.

I feel is a perfect opportunity to discuss politics in white working class areas more.  I am aware that though I was born here, I am analysing these areas as both an insider and outsider due to my afro-caribbean heritage, my educational background and the fact I have only moved back into the area from Leeds around 3 years ago. 

The political landscape here in Doncaster at the moment feels incredibly uncomfortable and anti-immigrant sentiment and right-wing politics in my personal opinion seems to have spread. The main question we should be asking is how did this come to be in areas that always leaned towards the  relatively more “left wing” Labour movement? What can we learn from history?

 The majority of media focus has been on what I see as “angry white working class people”; the views of ethnic minorities including those from Asian, black, Jewish, Irish Traveller, Roma Gypsy and Eastern European communities unfortunately pushed aside often by the media. I have witnessed an obsession with the image of white English working class wanting as Michael Gove drones on a million times “to take back control” (the teachers he fucked over during his time as as education minister are saying the same at the moment about their workload). 

If we were to listen to economists, academics and other ‘experts’ it can safely be said that an overwhelming majority state that leaving the EU would as a result make working people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds worse off and the statistics and research is clear.   Bad for individuals and bad for business.  Leaving the EU is if we look at the statistics and analyse history a bad move. If we use common sense –  leaving the single market and making trade more difficult with neighbours means those neighbours will find business elsewhere (just ask China about the benefits of opening up to trade).

Statistics and numbers are not in favour of the Brexit camp, however Brexit campaigners seem to have learned a lot from the SNP during their Scottish Independence campaign which seen all logical economic cases against Independence brushed off as project fear and Tory party lies; lies stirred by the powers that be who are trying to hold back good folks fighting for a better society.  What I have seen when it comes to arguments made by reputable and well respected academics, graduates, economists, professionals (medical, etc) and other experts in various fields is the brushing off of their advice; politicians almost screaming to the public that experts more than often seem to get things wrong and are mostly biased and out to oppress the public.  This has resulted in feelings of confusion, distrust and fear among people in ex-mining communities who are often ignored by politicians and academics, economists and other so-called ‘experts’ in the first place.

In the context of the Doncaster area mistrust of ‘professionals’ can be seen to be exacerbated, especially when all the various high profile cases to hit the area are taken into account.  Well known conflicts such as ‘the miners strike’, cases such as Edlington (which resulted in Doncaster being labeled nationwide as dysfunctional, social work professionals demonized and the first Local Authority to have their social services taken from their control), Donny Gate, English Democrat Mayor Peter Davies and recent developments involving South Yorkshire Police (Hillsbrough, etc).  The Independent puts it bluntly stating Doncaster has “an unwanted notoriety for failing children’s services, political corruption and industrial decline.”

The so-called ‘experts’ often do not know how to engage with the white working class in mining areas.  Tension between ‘experts’ and people in mining communities is nothing new and can definitely be reflected in past studies of these areas.  Past research of mining communities has been criticised for giving a distorted picture of the case study areas they were analysing by residents and prominent figures in the chosen case study areas.  Field notes by Warwick and Littlejohn (1992) from an interview with a local trade unionist and Labour councillor address this issue regarding the most prominent research into culture in mining communities Coal is our Life by Dennis, Henriques and Slaughter (1969).  They express the participant’s feelings of betrayal regarding the portrayal of his community; emphasising the argument that “outsiders continually get the place and its people all wrong” and that the researchers involved in the Coal is Our Life study only looked for evidence which would support the stereotypes and preconceived ideas they had about the area. 

“They had seriously betrayed the trust that had been showed to them, bitten the hands that fed them with information.  The place was represented as a cultural desert, full of drunken, wife-beating miners who only thought of beer, baccy and betting, Rugby League, football and girls of low morals” (field notes, 1981, quoted by Warwick and Littlejohn, 1992).

The simplistic explanation given through mainstream media to often describe this phenomenon is simply that these areas (the north in general) are not very diverse, are full of angry and racist working class people (mostly white men) that have been ignored by Labour in favour of middle class people living in cosmopolitan Southern cities such as London, Bristol and Brighton where people reap the benefits of a ‘multicultural society’ and a better economy. Whilst there are truths in these they simply do not do justice in explaining in detail as to why these areas seem to have embraced the “Brexit” campaign more than lets say nearby regional capitals. 

What is often ignored is the complex histories of the areas that the white working class populate; addressing issues of industrial decline, historically low educational engagement, the decline of traditional masculine jobs, the rise of the service sector, the boom in the warehousing industry and relatively more homogenous communities.

The brexit votes from ex-mining communities are rather votes reflecting a long period of frustration, tension (both racial and class based) and a result of fearmongering.  The white working class in these areas are experiencing transition and a fear of change.  To understand why the white working class in these areas are seen to be more in favour of a ‘Brexit’ it is important to understand the history and geography of these areas.

The capital and regional capitals vs. everywhere else (Doncaster)

One important thing to address is the diversity of these areas often defined by the media as ‘working class’ communities. Often enough no distinction is made between towns such as Doncaster and cities and in the case of the north, the region is often clumped together and simply defined as ‘the north’.  Like these communities are all the same.  There are significant differences between Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and areas of industrial decline such as Barnsley, Doncaster, St.Helens, Wigan and Castleford.

Mining areas such as those in the Doncaster region are unique due to relatively lower levels of immigration linked to the nature of industry and business in the area (Doncaster Town Centre itself during the eithteenth and early nineteenth centuries were dominated by the leisure industry, in particular by Doncaster Racecourse). 

The regional capitals of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield despite still annoyingly depicted as being ignored and relatively more homogeneous areas that are still stuck in the 90s are now arguably be cosmopolitan, diverse and thriving cities with growing economies and increasing investment from the private sector.  In case of Leeds, it is particularly known for it’s legal and financial sectors; boasting the largest functional economic centre outside of central London.  The city also boasts an established, reputable Russell Group University (Leeds University) and also Leeds Metropolitan University which bring with them large student populations in mainly areas of North Leeds.     All of this means these areas have relatively larger numbers of residents that can be defined as young middle class professionals (my God, let me never use that word again). 

There are also historical factors to take into perspective as areas such as Leeds and Manchester and even to an extent nearby towns such as Huddersfield (which can now arguably by seen simply as a commuter and University town) experienced immigration on a large scale from Commonwealth countries such as India during the Industrial Revolution and also later in the Twentieth Century large numbers of Afro-Caribbean immigrants settling in areas such as Chapeltown in Leeds and Moss Side in Manchester, which to this day still boast high numbers of people of Caribbean descent.  Worries of immigration are higher in areas with relatively little immigration as UKIP’s lack of success in areas such as London and other major UK cities proves. 

*Part 2 coming soon*

 

 

The “vinyl revival” and young people

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I’ve always wanted to give my perspective on the increasing popularity of the vinyl format.  If you were to listen to the media and also take a visit to a city centre high street you’d believe so.  I’m from the UK, so this article will be from a UK perspective.

Vinyl especially in the UK has experienced something of a “boom” in these past years.  One interesting suggestion that people make is that it is young people who are buying vinyl more and abandoning streaming and MP3 downloads.

If I was to assume straight away without research I’d assume it is mainly the urban gentrifying white middle class hipsters buying Depeche Mode albums (yeah I fucking hate Depeche Mode.  Come at me bro) and whatever 80s new wave band have been considered cool by trendy blogs and websites.  Then again I don’t really want to answer the question of who is buying vinyl.  I want this blog post to make it clear who is definitely not buying vinyl – young people.

My memories of the early 2000s vinyl scene

One thing I need to emphasise for those not in the know (those new to this) is that vinyl never died and rose from the dead like a zombie.  It is completely ignorant to act like the format was dead before this ‘revival’.  The format has never went away.  Vinyl has remained at the heart of hip-hop culture for me and a lot of people who got into hip-hop culture back in the 90s and early 2000s.   Madlib on the track “Crate Diggin'” perfectly sums up hip-hop’s love for the black stuff. As a hip-hop head the early 2000s  I have fond memories of the vinyl scene back then.  I’d go into backstreet record shops in the likes of Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield and buy 12-inch hip-hop, jazz, funk and soul singles.  They were places almost exclusively used by DJs (the main clientele), producers, hip-hop heads, ageing Northern Soulers, and old men.   There was just something great about the whole experience.  You’d go into your favourite store, pick up some records you’re interested in, listen to them using the listening booth (remember them?) and you might even if you’re a regular get some recommendations and knowledge from the staff.  This is how I got into Sun Ra, Task Force, Grover Washington, Madlib, Mike Mainieri and Jehst just to name a few names from the top of my head.

The difference I find between record shops back then and today is that back in the early 2000s record shops felt as though to me that they were places run by hip-hop heads for hip-hop heads (the majority of those that I frequented).  These were less trendy places often down some relatively darker side street and most likely not fused with cafes and the like.  If you  were a relatively young person  who bought vinyl everyone assumed you were a DJ.  You were an oddity.  Nobody touched vinyl and nobody wanted it.

‘Fast-forward’ to 2016 and the obsession with nostalgia is in full effect.  I wouldn’t even call it an obsession.  I’d call my generation’s and everyone before mine’s obsession  more like a fetishisation.  We can’t get enough nostalgia.  Unlike the generations before us we can fulfil our nostalgic dreams whenever we want and never be forced to let go.  Want to watch Dogtanian?  You can do that.  Want to buy one of those incredibly 80s shirts that Will Smith wore on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?  You can do that.

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One thing I notice about record shops today is how most record stores in my local area now reflect the gentrification of the city centre and inner city regions.  Something that also appears to be a ‘thing’ also is the “record cafe” which fuses coffee, craft ale and food (most likely to be overpriced).  This is a world away from gritty backstreet shops not trying to be chic and vintage to appeal to the middle class masses.  Most importantly – no listening booths.

Vinyl and young people of the 2000s

One thing that is important is my definition of young people which is anyone under the age of 21 (I suppose you could stretch that to 25).  The major push factors for young people and ‘newbies’ who want to make their first vinyl purchases are among these things:

  • Price – I won’t go into detail on why prices of vinyl are so high (I could be here for decades), but the fact is that high vinyl prices are not attracting your average young people into buying vinyl.  There is no driver when most releases are reissues and are priced £20 or higher, which is insane pricing.  It was high prices of CDs in the first place that was one factor in the boom in music piracy in the late 90s and early 2000s. I can remember in 2003 seeing a Wu Tang Clan album for well over £25 on CD.  Why buy Adele’s album 25 on vinyl when you can stream it or download it directly to your phone from iTunes?  You can even get a legal copy for £10.99 or an audio CD for £11.99 on Amazon.

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  • High start-up cost – Getting started is expensive.  You can buy a cheapo turntable, but if you really want good quality sound and don’t want to fuck shit up you need a turntable, a good stylus, an amp and speakers.  Doing a Google search makes it hard to not go into audiophile territory.  Some might argue that a turntable, amp and speakers may be cheaper than buying the latest iPhone or tablet, but with the iPhone and tablet you are getting more value for money because you can use these for a wide variety of tasks.  What is a turntable setup?  A setup that allows you to play music. Plus an iPhone and tablet are smaller and more portable and convenient.  There isn’t no waiting for music.
  • Reissues – What cannot be ignored is the massive wave of re-releasing albums by major labels.  Stuff that your average young person would most likely be less interested in.  For every new release there are hundreds of reissues and this hurts indie labels and more importantly artists.  Of course not all reissues are cash grabs by greedy record labels.  There are a few reissues that come out that are obscure records that for the first time are more widely available and without the relatively high price tags collectors demand for the original copies.  Also a few reissues also include unreleased material, instrumentals and remixes.    This article by Vice (yeah they’re usually hipster as fuck but I like this one) goes more into detail.
  • Inconvenience – Things that is often overlooked are factors outside of price and the like that push people away from buying vinyl.  One big factor in my opinion is the financial issues effecting young people today.  We are a generation that cannot afford to buy our own homes, meaning we are either stuck renting or still stuck living with or parents.  This means our living spaces are smaller and we’re moving around more than the generation before us.  Vinyl is heavy, takes up too much room and a portable format unlike MP3s that can be put onto one small laptop or phone.

Vinyl may be a good thing for the majority of businesses such as Sainsbury’s to embrace in the short term; catering to nostalgia obsessed baby boomers and those from generation X, but in the long term vinyl is over.  Vinyl is not making a massive comeback among the younger generation.  Don’t get me wrong because some young people are buying vinyl (most likely young people who can be identified as being in “niche” audiences), but for the majority (your average Joe and Jane in the public) they are most likely using streaming services whether that be paid services such as Spotify and Apple Music or free services such as Youtube or even Spotify free (with the adverts).

Jimmy Cliff once said – “Don’t jump on the bandwagon. It ain’t gonna last too long”.

The majority of young people don’t give a damn about the superior quality of vinyl.  Lets cut the shit.  If you were to walk around the malls and trendy streets of Leeds City Centre and ask everyone who looks under 30 how they listen to music the most likely answer won’t be vinyl.  An acceptable level of quality, portability, convenience and cheapness is what the younger generation want.  This is why the Jay-Z’s Tidal is failing to attract customers.  What average young people actually give a damn about audiophile quality and if I’m wrong and they do, can you say that they’ll have the expensive audiophile equipment to hear the difference?

The demands for portability and convenience are so important to young people and vinyl just doesn’t meet these needs. One of the most prominent moments during my time as a youth worker from 2012 to 2016 that made me realise where music is most likely heading was when I was mocked by a group of young people for having an MP3 player; them asking me why I’m not using my phone to play music instead.  We’ve come so far.  These were kids were born around 1999 and 2001.  We’ve come so far.  MP3 players are now “old school”.  The Wu Tang Clan are now a group that “my dad listens to”.

I’m not saying that vinyl should die.  I’m saying that we need to quit being so frightened of the future and embrace new technology, but at the same time not forget the old.  Formats such as vinyl can exist along with streaming services and MP3.  Lets not lie to ourselves however.  Vinyl is not the future.  The vinyl scene is one big antiques roadshow where everything is a “collectors item”; alienating the large majority of young people who lack income and want portability, convenience and low prices.

While as a 28 year old I would love to think that kids are embracing something that was so present and dear to me during my time in school and college, I’ve been a youth worker for long enough and it’s just not happening.

 

The curse of coming from poverty to academia

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Not my estate, but *meh* you get the idea.

I’ll make no secret that I’m black, working class and from Yorkshire.  To be more in detail I’m from a council estate and a single parent background.

I can remember the years when we would struggle to even put dried pasta on our plates and moments when we thought we’d be in the dark overnight because ‘mummy’ wasn’t able to afford to put anymore “money on the electric” that week.  Things have gotten better, but relative to other people back home there’s still a struggle unfortunately.  I’m from an area of high unemployment, low educational attainment and high teenage pregnancies.

Fast forward to graduating with a first on completion of my undergraduate studies; I was lucky enough after  (I studied postgraduate before that, but that’s a different story) to gain funding to pay my fees to study for a PhD, something if I was to go through the usual route I would have never have been able to study on.

Why the hell go for a year masters?  That’s a waste of money.  If there’s free money to spend on education why not jump straight into a PhD? Nobody from my area has probably never even done one before!  I did two years on a foundation degree before, had nothing but praise from lecturers so I was confident that I would be able to handle a PhD.

I guess a lot of times I feel as though I’m one of the lucky ones.

Studying a PhD as some will know is relatively lonelier work when compared to undergraduate studies, often stuck in an office (or bedroom) on your own writing (or with a few people who are usually far to busy to socialise)  or outside collecting data.  It’s only after attending academic conferences and meeting other academics where I finally got a reality check.

Everyone was so… well… middle class and white.  There’s nobody who looks like me, is dressed like me, has an accent like me… So yes, I guess you could say that’s when It really hit home that I’m a minority within a minority in academia. Think being working class sucks in academia?  Try being working class and black in academia.

People talking of attending conferences in Australia or Canada or some other foreign country that costs ‘a bit’ with the aim of networking?  I struggled to afford £30 train fare to get to this damn conference on my part-time job and there sure as hell isn’t no money to lend from the bank of mum.  This ain’t no place for some of that working class pride!  I’m “exotic”, somebody who isn’t “from these parts” and the accent and the appearance is a dead giveaway to a load of middle class white academics from some leafy suburban middle class neighbourhood.  Yes you get grad students at times bragging about how broke they are,  but what you will never get people owning up to is if they have a safety net or not (the bank of mum and dad). How are we paying for all of these excursions?  More than often students from a working class or poor background don’t have that.

I find the lack of working class and BME representation funny as I come from the social science field.  Often enough these white middle class academics would talk about the working class and ‘what they get up to’, but yet there are near to no working class people in the conference hall; people who actually come from these areas!

I hear assumptions (from people who clearly have not been in said communities enough), but where are the working class and BME people to challenge these and give their experiences and maybe present their research?  Our experiences, ethical standpoints and cultural backgrounds are not the same.  For example, you cannot assume that black men and women are consuming alcohol in the same places and in the same way as people from white middle class backgrounds.  There aren’t even any workers on the ground from support agencies who work in deprived communities (like where i’m from) invited to the conference to gain (what might be) valuable knowledge that might make a difference.

Working class and black representation in academia, especially in the current political climate in incredibly important.  Assumptions can be challenged by people with direct experience, the quantity and quality of research in these communities could be improved and of course more people from these backgrounds going into higher education and making a difference could inspire the younger generation; letting them know that they can achieve anything they wish.