“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it’s black.” You’ve probably heard this familiar quote of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. Yet, as witty as the words are, something still smarts as a tad unfair. What if I wanted a white car?
The logical dissonance in Ford’s famous biographical quote reminds me of the recent appointment of Caroline Dinenage to Minister for Equality. British Conservative Party MP, Dinenage has a certain view of equal rights that doesn’t sit right with what most would perceive to actually be ‘equal’ rights.
Far transcending national affairs, the fight for equality continues to gather momentum on the world stage. Over the past century, there has been a great deal of positive change: votes for women, civil rights movement and, today, changes in LGBT rights. Yet, inequality continues to be rife. Take America, for example. Within the last six months, police brutality against young black men has sparked (rightfully) several riots in Fergusson and Baltimore, to name but a few. It’s the year 2015, we have never been so advanced in so many arenas - business, economics, technology, architecture - and yet racism’s archaic and ugly head still remains, causing civilians the world over to cry out, “America – Oh America, what are you doing?”
The masses aren’t blind to inequality. Groups on the internet fight for people’s rights. Recluse bloggers’ site of choice, Tumblr, is filled with so-called social justice warriors (or SJWs). Social network sites are the new picket protest. Sure, their nascent movement has lost some meaning thanks to the incendiary nature of teen blogger vitriol. Yet, the disparate youth of the interweb have pushed Black Lives Matter, and supported and publicised support for equal LGBT rights.
With all this in mind, the UK is desperately in need of a visionary politician tasked with representing equality within the global sphere to turn these public cries into government action. Instead, it has a current Minister for Equality whom many consider to hold anti-LGBT sentiments, particularly regarding gay marriage, as evidenced by her opposing the Bill when it first came before the Commons in 2013. Dinenage, who didn’t turn up to the final vote, now reports to Nicky Morgan at the Department for Education, who similarly voted against the Bill for Gay Marriage. Returning once again to Ford’s famous utterance, one can detect the unsettling irony: Any person can have any equal right that he wants so long as he’s white and heterosexual.
There is hope that Dinenage and others in similar positions may have a change of heart, especially considering the recent gay marriage ‘yes-vote’ in Ireland. History attests that there is always a class underfoot of another. Should this be the way of the world? No. Can you do anything to support equal rights for all? Yes.
However, it isn’t just about expecting the top-down approach often assumed of the British Government, to make the necessary changes. Sure, it is concerning that those leading the progress are far from liberal-minded. But it also needs to begin with you and I if we can expect it to rise up and take charge in the minds of the government too.
After all, they are a small minority working for a very large majority. To retain their jobs, it is important that they take heed of what the public think. They will only start doing this if our voices and opinions are loud enough. So to begin, it must start in the way we behave in our own lives, with the people we’re in contact with. Go on, be good to someone. Make someone feel accepted and welcome that may otherwise be ostracised or left to feel alone.
We can all begin that change now. It’s as simple as the saying “treat others as you’d expect to be treated.” Equal rights should be happening in the right way for all people right now – and from everybody at every level of society - yes, Dinenage, that includes you too!
Words: Aaron Lambley
Image Source: Human Rights Campaign