Why it's time to stop associating bigotry with working class people - Jacob Farr

Since Brexit there has been a worrying trend from all corners of society where we treat working-class people as if they are incapable of not being bigots, writes Jacob Farr

In the aftermath of the Brexit campaign, those with an interest in politics tried to justify working-class areas voting for leave as they simply did not know any better.

There was a feeling the anti-immigrant sentiment or arguments with no basis – like Turkey joining the EU – were just opinions the lower socioeconomic class were not intelligent enough to fight off.

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Now the same argument and theory has reared its ugly head, but this time during the Scottish election.

Former boxer Alex Arthur was forced to apologise for his social media comments (Photo: Alba/PA Wire)

It occurred after former boxer Alex Arthur joined the Alba Party and announced that he intends to stand on the Lothian regional list.

But instead of delivering a knockout blow to one of Alba’s opponents in his first few hours as a politician, Mr Arthur was found seeking a stoppage from his corner after historic social media posts came to light.

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The Commonwealth Games gold medallist and former WBO super featherweight boxing champion was found to have abused Romanian beggars, AIDS sufferers and the travelling community in the recent past.

When challenged on this, Mr Arthur doubled down and exercised the old used-up trope of having communicated poorly.

He admitted his views have since changed on vaccines, but he doubled down on his other comments, saying: “I am a working-class boxer who shoots from the hip. I don’t have spin doctors. But I want to clarify some points and apologise for any offence that could have been avoided if I’d thought more about my words.”

Mr Arthur was rightly condemned for the above views by many on social media. But there was a concerning volume of comments from those who had bought his excuse and tried to insinuate that elitism was at play.

One comment read: “This is how working-class people talk.”

This is a concerning opinion for a number of reasons, but most importantly because it insinuates that working-class societies are places where racism, bigotry and ignorance are fermented and exported to the rest of society.

But this could not be further from the truth.

Working-class communities have traditionally had a sense of pride in being inclusive, open and welcoming to various backgrounds and demographics.

After all, working-class movements have historically offered their solidarity to those most marginalised in society – for example, migrants and those battling prejudice.

We need to get out of a mode that associates racist and bigoted views with uneducated, low-income individuals.

The truth is that bigots exist all around us. It comes from degree-educated politicians standing in front of Nazi inspired posters and from the brick layer down the road.

There has to be a concerted effort to be able to call a spade a spade.

The narrative that allows for working-class people to go unchallenged on their beliefs and to be rightly called a bigot when they exhibit the characteristics and language of one must change.

This is 2021. We should not have politicians abusing the most vulnerable in society regardless of the social class they belong to.

It is simply not good enough to believe that working-class people do not know any better. We do.

Jacob Farr is a Community Reporter at the Edinburgh Evening News. This article was originally published in our sister title, The Scotsman