The Exclusivity of Inclusivity – A Take on Class

By: Em Hubberstey
Photograph of a Leeds staff/student solidarity demo. People line the steps with placards.

Left-wing rhetoric is clear on the desire and shared goal for inclusivity; for those from varying sexual orientations, gender identifications, races, ethnicities and abilities to share in equality gained through ensuring systemic justice. Movements supporting this are often celebrated within academic institutions; solidarity can be seen through society involvement, democratic practice within student unions as well as increasingly explorative methods in inciting action and civil disobedience. A  stronger network has arguably never been so present in allowing for social and global issues to be addressed.

A problem arises when ensuring activism is accessible – despite this argument presenting perfectly adaptable to differing oppressed minorities (with respect to differing, individual challenges), I will focus here on the exclusion of the working class. My belonging to this demographic suggests hope for an accurate, interesting portrayal. Irony can be found in the fundamental aims of activism to ensure inclusivity, emphasis placed on ensuring a ‘safe space’, assigning individuals a metaphorical stage in which to express captivating thoughts and beliefs whilst in practice, continuously remaining inaccessible for groups of students often viewed as absent and misguided. Through logistical mishaps in the timing of climate strikes which see working class students pine to present as ally’s to Mother Nature whilst held hostage in low-comfort, low-paid work. Through political languages in which every second word spikes confusion and misdirect. These messages are lost on those who still struggle to shake ‘chav’ slang; unable to present as educated individuals who are able to harmonise swirling thoughts of passion into clarity and empowering messages. Through liberal elitism often perpetuating pressures to ‘fit in’ with your status quo of ‘hippies’. This translates as the inaccessibility of ensuring sustainable behaviours such as purchasing designer garments from gold mine charity shops exclusive to notably more ‘attractive’ towns and villages.

With the hope of bringing shared experiences rather than presenting my own ‘victim-hood’ – we should remember to ensure empowerment over accepting a society which sometimes feels like it’s very existence is a threat to our capabilities and thought patterns – I’m hoping anecdotes will allow for illustration. Thinking back to my attendance at Power Shift – an event ran by People & Planet seeking (and massively achieving in) running workshops surrounding activism – I felt honoured in regards to meeting incredible, like-minded people. Despite this, feelings of inadequacy arose when conversation meant exposure to advanced concepts on social theory which I felt wildly beyond my capacity to understand. My confidence dropped in situations where tipsy chatter around the night-time campfire explored the depths of politics – an area my under-achieving secondary school failed to educate me in. Guilt-ridden anxiety has arose within me where I’ve needed to request to alteration of action planning to accommodate my, at times almost full time, employment.

To counteract this dismal realisation, I’d be highly ignorant to my own privileges and the overwhelmingly incredible social bubbles I have been able to seemingly effortlessly emerge myself into if I did not credit behaviours that I have identified as progressive in allowing for inclusion. Lifelines have salvaged my confidence where my open-minded brothers and sisters have reached out to educate me about the concept of ‘accessible language’. This validates my worries of appearing uneducated; reassuring me in that my thoughts and contributions are credible to conversations. I vividly recall a friend at the aforementioned activism building event commenting on her privilege in receiving private tutorage at a young age. Fellow society members take accountability in ensuring my involvement in action planning and consistently step in where I cannot. These are qualities admired in others which I am able to transfer within my own family. This same patience and adaptability now exists within my own household where political knowledge is passively retained from bias media outlets; revolutionary in negatively influencing working class peoples who lack capacity in allocating time and finances to question this. Furthermore; affordability of activism and training demonstrates practices of social movements consistently divert from the status quo of champagne socialism.

I believe to be fortunate enough that privileges later in life have allowed for this perspective; to the extent where I may be bold enough to claim my upwards movement on the (arguably outdated and oftentimes hazy) socially constructed ladder of class. Your working class friends and allies may not always express the need and appreciation for creating space – for patience offered in educative conversation, for financial aid in ensuring we are able to show up and for acceptance regardless of existing within a society with tendencies to exclude the ‘other’, however this is present. I believe it to be important to identify barriers faced by those who’ve faced lesser educational and financial opportunities and would hope this text to be a small reminder of how empowering actions from individuals and collectives are able to be in creating inclusion for the working class.

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