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...because it's not always black & white
Why focus on the Black and ‘Latino’ voters who didn’t vote for Biden? Look at who overwhelmingly voted for Trump.

I won’t deny that I’m chuffed with the results of the US election. It might make Twitter more manageable too; less chat around the latest projectile-ALL-CAPS-tweeting from a narcissist in the West Wing.

But let’s rewind. Even in early 2016, it seemed difficult to believe that someone like Donald Trump could achieve such high office. When he did, the next election couldn’t come soon enough. Four—very long—years later, it did.

Trump may have lost, but it wasn’t by much; across the country, some 70 million people ticked his name on their ballot. Some reports focused on Florida, where the Cuban community voted in larger numbers for Trump. The Republican party have, over the years, steadily likened the US Democrats to socialists, imparting a sense of ‘I didn’t leave communism in Cuba to find socialism in the US’. But such reports also lumped communities into one—for example, highlighting the ‘Latinos’ who voted for Trump. But Latinos and Hispanics—different in themselves and made up of Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and many more—are no more a homogenous group than ‘Asian’ or ‘brown’ voters are. Who do you mean? Chinese? Indian? Pakistani? Bangladeshi? Korean? Maldivian? A bit like ‘BAME’, it’s kinda lame.

In the UK, I’m always surprised by how many Gujarati people (the predominantly Hindu-Indian immigrant community that I belong to, whose overall perception is of having ‘done well’ in this country) feel we should be proud of Conservative MP and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, because she is ‘one of us’. The other week, family members were surprised to hear that I was unenthused at the prospect of Rishi Sunak as our next Prime Minister. That he’s from a party I’ve never voted for, whose policies I despise, and who—as an individual MP—has voted for actions which harm marginalised and vulnerable groups, didn’t come into it. But should I be surprised that they rated him? Of course not. British Hindus and Sikhs are actually more likely to vote Conservative than British Muslims, for example. There are nuances in every demographic.

Immigrant communities don’t all think the same; we are political thinkers and we don’t all lean left. Not all skin-folk are kinfolk. It’s true that shared experiences create similar values (and therefore, obvious allegiances) and also, that ‘traditional’ right-wing policies aren’t a natural home-ground for most immigrants. But there will be those whose experiences—in upbringing or other factors—mean they vote differently. Grappling with the intersections of race, wealth, class and so on, are crucial here.

In the case of the US election, Trump was ousted because Black, ‘Latino’, Native American and young women of colour voted in huge numbers for Biden. The end result was largely thanks to relentless, targeted, grassroots campaigning by Black women (the most marginalised and unprotected demographic, 90% of whom repudiated Trump) such as voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams, in Georgia. In 2018, Abrams lost her bid to become Governor of Georgia, amid widespread claims that her rival suppressed votes, but she went on to create Fair Fight; an organisation addressing—yep, you guessed it—voter suppression. What a flex.

Over 84% of Black people voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. A CNN poll suggests 66% of the ‘Latino’ vote went to Biden, even if Trump increased his share by 4% in this broad demographic. Biden also increased the share among the young, with 61% of people aged 18-29 voting Democrat. More specifically, 86% of Black, 82% of Asian and 73% of Latino youth voted blue. In Michigan, youth voter turnout tripled from 2016.

And in some Arizona precincts, 97% of Native Americans voted for a Biden-Harris ticket. In the Navajo Nation, in the northeast area, voter registration is a huge issue, partly because reservations do not usually have a physical address. But over the last year, the Rural Utah Project registered over 4,000 Native American voters in the state by working with Google to let people use their GPS coordinates to register. It should be noted that the majority of Indigenous voters live in urban areas and therefore aren’t included in voting statistics from tribal lands. (Incidentally, Native candidates also did well, with new firsts in elected office).

Meanwhile, exit polls suggest that 55% of white women (and some 60% of white men) voted for Trump. That’s a higher percentage and in higher numbers than the 52% of 2016. And while he retained support among white voters without a university degree, he lost ground with voters whose family income is under $100,000 a year, and gained support among the wealthy—which tells you something about who people feel he is helping. It also tells you that the wave of black squares we saw across Instagram in June belies a troubling issue of performativity, when it comes to tackling systemic racism. Where was the focus on that?

Ultimately, what ‘Latino’ or ‘Black’ communities didn’t do in this election isn’t the issue. It’s a red herring; one that covers up ingrained racism in white society, reinforces damaging stereotypes, and shifts the blame back onto ‘brown’ people. Those communities are made of many parts; they're not a monolith and do not vote as a block (although these groups overwhelmingly turned out for Biden-Harris, as might be expected). The press hasn't focused on who enabled Trump to get as close to re-election as he did, and why—and it shows on the ground.

Both of us keep getting messages from white friends who were ‘shocked' and 'appalled’ by the statistics, but were quick to claim Kamala Harris’ appointment—as the first woman, Black woman and person of Indian-American origin elected to the White House—as a victory for all women. Yes, we should celebrate collectively (especially, during a time we’ve been starved of good news). But, let's get real; not all women fought, and these oversights just brush the Trump under the carpet. 

In fairness, though, in voting him out, Americans achieved something that many of us have not been able to. The British government's latest report into whether it has upheld its Black citizens' human rights, published quietly at 1am yesterday, was damning. It was an admission that the UK is institutionally racist—and that it has seeped into every corner of our society. 

So, people of colour are not shocked. This election tells you everything you need to know about systemic racism, and how—across all forms of media, around the world—we are guilty of dressing it up, instead of dealing with it. It’s time to wake up, smell the coffee and do the work.

Shivani and Meera


P.S. If you missed any of our past six newsletters, you can read them all here.


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Writing Tip of the Day

Something we’re learning each fortnight is that reading really is the key to better writing. We all know this, as writers, but sometimes we forget just how impactful it can be. It feels we’re never quite reading enough, but when it comes to wanting to write better travel features, political op-eds, articles specifically about race, bias or other issues, seeing how others do it is so key. Read way more than you write, read widely, read mindfully, read deliberately.

Pay attention to turns of phrase, feature structure, sentence length, and story-telling (even in the simplest and shortest of features.) Great, informed writing should make you feel braver in developing your own style, creating your phrases, and using your voice.

The Sense Check

"Should people of colour always be asked to write about issues around race or events in countries they are originally from? For example, if we want to run a feature around South African women of colour in winemaking, would it be considered tone-deaf to give the commission to a white writer?"

Meehika Barua

Meehika Barua
Freelance journalist for British Vogue, The Guardian, Glamour, The Independent and others, she focuses on culture and social issues, as well as lifestyle and fashion.

“It is insulting to commission a white journalist to write about a community they don’t belong to. It is about amplifying voices of the marginalised, rather than stealing opportunities from them.

At the same time, people of colour need not be put into a box—there has been a lot of ongoing conversation happening about how white people get to write about anything and everything, whereas BIPOC journalists only get to write that one piece on their race or identity. I have personally been turned down by editors who will commission when I have something to say about South Asian culture, but then reject fun pieces like ‘How to ask for a raise during a pandemic’ that have absolutely nothing to do with my race.”

Jamie-Lee Abtar

Jamie-Lee Abtar
Executive Director of BAME Women In Travel (CIC). A proud Bajan, she is a marketing and tourism development strategist and an expert in Caribbean travel.

"I think, fundamentally, what Black journalists and bloggers want, is to be included across the wider spectrum of travel media in the same way as their white counterparts. I don’t believe they have a problem with writing about racial issues, but this shouldn’t be the only time they are commissioned to write articles. They are talented, well-travelled and educated, and can articulate on any given topic in the travel space.

However, when commissioning writers for specialist pieces, it's so important to note their background and credentials, and how that will translate to your audience. It is key to becoming socially and culturally aware, and avoiding a faux pas; such as, asking a white writer to tell the stories of women of colour."

Want to ask a question (anonymously)? Send away! Please email us here and we'll try and tackle it in an upcoming newsletter. We also welcome any feedback or comments.

Did You Know?

Britain has had 55 Prime Ministers to date, going back nearly three centuries—and they have all been white. But could anyone, despite their background or the colour of their skin, take the country’s top job now?

In 2016, the actor David Harewood conducted an exercise for the BBC in which he investigated the obstacles facing Black Britons in rising to positions of power and influence. He did this by analysing data on previous Prime Ministers to calculate the odds of children from different backgrounds becoming one in the future.

He found that the odds of the average white child becoming PM are one in 1.4 million. For a privileged, privately-educated white child who goes to Oxbridge and settles in a top profession. however, the statistical odds of becoming PM are just 1 in 200,000.

Meanwhile, the latest annual report by the Social Metrics Commission showed that nearly half of British Black, African and Caribbean households were living in poverty, compared with just under one in five white families—with the government estimating that the path from childhood poverty would reduce their earnings by 15-28%.

So, just how socially-mobile is the UK? For the average Black child, the odds of becoming Prime Minister are one in 17 million.

Spotlight on...

If you’re missing travelling, as we are, and all the great gifts and souvenirs you’d pick up on the way, you might want to check out this fantastic new project from award-winning travel writer, speaker, photographer and entrepreneur, Lola Akinmade Åkerström. Through Local Purse, you can meet and chat to guides, hosts, and artisans from around the world face-to-face with a personalised live video shopping experience. It’s an excellent way to support people whose livelihoods have been, in some cases, devastated by the pandemic. An ethical, exciting way to get those Christmas gifts, and it definitely beats Amazon.

Journalism may be an elitist industry, but plenty of organisations are trying to change that. One is PressPad, an award-winning social enterprise founded by journalist and documentary filmmaker Olivia Crellin that's wants to lower the financial barrier of entry into journalism. PressPad connects young journalists with work experience in London with experienced journalists who can offer a spare room alongside top-notch advice. At present, that means two weeks’ free accommodation followed by a period of affordable rent, which PressPad ask media organisations to pay for. They also connect interns to each other. As they say, “It’s mentoring, networking and accommodation all rolled into one.”

Reading Room
BUSTLE: Photography via Getty BUSTLE: How shadow-banning affects people from different communities

What would you do if your work, your body, or your life choices were deemed to 'go against community guidelines'? asks Paula Akpan.

Gal-Dem: Image via Canva GAL-DEM: Black American non-voters are heavily criticised, but can you blame them?

Asking Black people in the West to choose between the 'lesser of two evils' is offensive at best and dangerous at worst, says Che Scott-Heron.

Pointer: AP Photo/Steve Helber POYNTER: What should the media do with President Trump’s false election claims?

Doesn't there come a point when repeating unproven claims, even while 'debunking' them, does damage? asks Tom Jones.

AMERICAN VOGUE: How Naomi Campbell Changed Modeling Forever VOGUE (US): How Naomi Campbell changed modeling forever

Author Afua Hirsch talks to model and activist Naomi Campbell about representation in the fashion industry and the trope of the 'angry' Black woman.

“White exceptionalism is the belief that because you have read anti-racism books and articles, listened to social justice–based podcasts, watched documentaries on the effects of racism, and follow some BIPOC activists and teachers, you know it all and do not need to dig deeper.”

Layla F. Saad, author of ‘Me and White Supremacy’

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