Unhappy With The Election Results? Leaving The Country Won’t Fix Anything

Racism may look different in other countries, but it exists basically everywhere

Unhappy With The Election Results? Leaving The Country Won't Fix Anything

by Bridget Minamore |
Published on

The morning after the election, my social media feeds were filled with a chorus of 'let’s all move to Sweden!' as my lefty friends tried to process the fact that the Tories were back in power - Labour had swung too far to the left (apparently), and the British electorate proved themselves to be far more conservative (with a small c) than any of us had realised. Sweden is lauded as some sort of socialist utopia by us Brits – we’ve all seen the Facebook memes that show Scandinavian countries as a mix of feminist political parties, open-air prisons on islands and something about how they didn’t let the bankers get away with causing the financial crash. I don’t know the specifics (does anyone?) but I do know that whenever the left talks about leaving the UK because the right appears to be taking over, my heart sinks.

The thing that people seem to be forgetting when they talk about pissing off to Sweden (or anywhere else) is the simple fact that for a lot of us, leaving the UK literally is not an option. It’s particularly not possible for those of us most affected by the surge of the far-right: black and brown people, people with disabilities, immigrants, people who aren’t rich.

I can’t leave the UK because, well, where would I go? Going ‘back home’ to Ghana where my parents are from isn’t gonna work when I feel at my most British whenever I visit my family there. The first time I applied for dual citizenship, the Ghanaian government turned me down for ‘having weak ties to the country’, and a part of me thinks they were right. Five trips to Ghana over the last decade doesn’t exactly make me a model citizen, does it? Ok, so Ghana’s out. Where else? It’s pretty difficult to get into places like the USA and Australia (understatement of the decade), South America and the rest of Africa might be slightly difficult when I can only speak English, and as for the rest of Europe? UKIP is nothing in comparison to the likes of the National Front in France, or Golden Dawn in Greece.

It’s always irritating when people who don’t deal with it in their everyday lives forget racism exists pretty much everywhere...

I guess we’re left with Sweden then. Feminist socialist Sweden, where white celebrities go on TV to defend the use the N-word, students hold mock slave-auctions in blackface, and finance ministers can happily cut up a cake that’s golliwog-black and in the shape of a woman’s vagina. While someone fake screams in the background. Racism might look different in different countries, but it’s always irritating when people who don’t deal with it in their everyday lives forget racism exists pretty much everywhere.

This whole thing leads back to the way so many prominent voices in movements for social change are as privileged as the people they rail against. If the election campaign taught me anything, it’s that white, wealthy, able-bodied, men will find a way to dominate almost anything. Since the election, I’ve found myself annoyed at both sides. On one hand we have people joking about leaving, forgetting about those of us who can’t. On the other, we have the people organising marches every weekend to ‘protest the system’ and ‘stand with x’, words that forget many marginalised people are simply unable to ‘get out and fight’. Disabled activists have responded to this rhetoric with the Twitter hashtag #wecantmarch, a social movement I hope will lead to a focus on the people who use it. People of colour who are disproportionally targeted by the police, immigrants at risk of deportation, people with disabilities, even people who don’t have the money/means to travel and risk arrest – we might not be as visible as the white boys who most often take to the streets, but we’re still here. It’s so easy to be negative about social media, but for so many who can’t march physically, Twitter is a way for voices to be heard.

So, I’m not going to try to go to Sweden, or wherever. No matter how awful it can be, the UK is the only real home I have. Obviously nobody has a responsibility to stay here but flippant jokes about how we all need to leave the island to Nigel Farage and his UKIP cronies remind me that so many people rarely step outside of their own privileges. Whenever you say 'let’s all go to Sweden!' all I hear is 'let’s leave the people who can’t leave behind.'

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Follow Bridget on Twitter @bridgetminamore

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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