If your reaction to being called racist, is racism, then the accusation was correct.

Cambridge-ACS-1

Cambridge African-Caribbean Society

 

The most ironic aspect of calling out white supremacy and racism is always the reaction. No matter how polite and logically articulated, or brash and vengeful the Black person voices their discontent, the reaction seems to follow the same lines.

Disbelief, denial, disrespect and racism itself. There’s nothing so guaranteed to ignite accusations of ‘race-baiting’ whatever that is, and unleash abuse and intolerance from the usual suspects of Twitter trolls and the Daily Mail, and even white liberals and ‘allies’ as just calling it out. The story of 20-year-old, Black Cambridge student Jason Osamede exemplifies this. Rashan Charles, a black man, was murdered by the police last week, whether he was a drug dealer or a drug user, a criminal or a law-abiding citizen, like Edson Da Costa, a few weeks earlier, all the Metropolitan police saw was their blackness and exercised an illegal role of judge, jury and executioner that does not exist in any British legal framework that I know about. While I don’t know Jason’s thought process, I know his rage too well, tweeting “ALL white people are racist. White middle class, white working class, white men, white women, white gays, white children they can ALL geddit”.  When the news and social media are a constant stream of anti-immigrant vitriol and videos of police brutality against black men and women have a sickening regularity, when the political climate has both major parties committing to the harshest possible Brexit and tearing from Europe in a xenophobic, isolationist political project, when racist acid attacks are scarring people of colour and the culprits are not being apprehended immediately and when racial tensions are rising so quickly, it is easy to understand and accept the premise of the controversial tweet without condoning it’s message.

Jason Osamede is not a bad person, and given racism requires both power and prejudice, he is not racist either. Rather in a fit of rage, he has uttered a fundamental truth in this country, that white supremacy still exists in Britain and that this is undeniable.

Let’s look at recent events. Protesters in Dalston, fighting their own cathartic battle for justice against police brutality and unaccountability have been painted as the villains, the ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’ in their own neighbourhoods. Whilst the police who stand across the road from them are the white knights of law and order, and gentrifying middle-class visitors plaster their shock and horror on social media that ‘they never knew it was so bad here’. Why is the media, which is overwhelmingly white and middle-class so quick to attack the protestors but never to address the institutional racism and brutality of the police. Once again, one need not condone the violent actions of protestors in damaging their own neighbourhoods and businesses to accept and understand the causes of their behavior. Likewise, when one looks at the reaction to Jason’s tweet, it is hard to find any sympathy or support for the same white people he blanketed as racists. Apparently, Jason is a ‘cunt’, a ‘racist’, an ‘illiterate’ it doesn’t matter that he attained 4 A*s at A level, his enrolment was a ‘quota’, and his presence was somehow a politically correct conspiracy. Never mind, that bias does exist in higher education, and this is towards aristocrats, royals, white applicants and those with white sounding-names, privileged backgrounds and connections; Cambridge is hardly a hotspot of black and underprivileged students. But also, where said positive discrimination exists, it is entirely justified to redress the imbalance of black students and voices in academia. Those were the less overtly anti-black comments I saw.

 But beyond that, I am slightly surprised and really disappointed, just as the seemingly friendly guy who appears nice to pull a girl and then calls her a ‘slut’, ‘ugly’ or a ‘hoe’ after he is rejected reveals his true misogynist colours. White Britain has revealed that being called racist is a license to question our intelligence, to abuse, ridicule and hate us and to plaster our face on the Daily Mail with the intent of destroying one of Britain’s best minds for his sin of unapologetic blackness.

Advertisements

Contrary to Popular Belief, White is not always Right.

I have always tried to call out racism where I have seen it, I am a black man and these negative experiences have not spared me either, despite my relative privilege in terms of British citizenship and being articulate, defying much of the stereotypes and fodder used to demean black men by media and society. Of recent, Britain has developed a climate of racism, xenophobia, fear and tension. This is not to purport that racism was non-existent during the last decade, but the overwhelming narrative was to pretend that it was, that multi-culturalism and tolerance of diversity had succeeded. That immigration was accepted for its social and economic benefits. That movement/parties like the BNP or Ukip or the EDL, were anomalies and that the great majority of British people, of white people were on our side at the end of the day.

But I cannot say with confidence, that this is still the case. Whether, it was Brexit, racial hate crimes, Trump, and the hard-right narrative on immigration as some sort of social ill, I was still willing to believe in the pleasant illusion until I was impudent enough to lay a comment on the Stormzy-Lukaku debacle. This was a stupid incident where two iconic, successful and most importantly distinctive black men were muddled in The Herald, a national Irish paper. This is entirely not uncommon, wherein black people or people of colour more generally are seen as the same person. Despite our height, weight, accent, shade or all of our respective individual features, somehow to the average white man or women, we all look the same. That was what annoyed me and seemingly Stormzy too, who tweeted ‘I don’t find none of this funny btw don’t wanna sound like the party pooper who missed the joke’.  He’s right it’s not funny, it’s racist.

I can’t list the backlash against my tweet, there were far too many older white men enraged (not confined to just that demographic though) but all were along the lines of typical white-privileged ignorance, being told that ‘my ignorant cries of racism is pathetic, not to mention wrong’ and I was exacerbating ‘problems with your victimhood’. Is there a genuine belief that the people who challenge racism or call it out, aggravate the situation? Would slavery, segregation, police brutality and hate crimes be better tackled by a pact of silence? Obviously not.

Whiteness does not like to be corrected. Just as with all forms of privilege, be it male, wealth or straightness, it rues the day that one of its victims raises a challenge. The defensiveness of tone and aggression exemplify a feeling of victimhood when said privilege is called out. Despite the fact that Grime emerges from a very much black British experience, contextualised in the poverty and marginalised communities in this country, it has achieved against all odds, mainstream appeal. Whilst this isn’t necessarily  negative, it does however raise the issue of whether the new white, middle-class who flock to see Skepta at wireless, and who bust out the lyrics to Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’ are our allies, or do they see black culture for a trend and the people themselves as the enemy.

I don’t know, I do know however, that politicians are individuals entrusted with the fate of our country, and that they rise from our communities with a duty of responsibility to defend the interests of all segments of society. That’s why the words of the Conservative MP for Newton Abbott, Anne Marie Morris hurt so much, on the same day as the Stormzy issue. Words carry great weight, and ‘Nigger’ with such a history of malice, pain and wretchedness has no place in the mouths of our parliamentarians. Particularly, if those parliamentarians look the same as their forefathers who brought such misery to black people. But I am not annoyed so much by Anne. Rather I do not blame her as an individual, racism in Britain is insidious and polite, it brings with itself tea and scones and delights itself in creating a climate of fear and intimidation through covert means. Did the Tory MPs who sat beside her, John Redwood for example, not know the inappropriate nature of the word? Or did they resign themselves to knowing that no matter the hurtfulness, this scandal would blow over, it was simply an accident and no harm intended. Same as with Stormzy.

Whiteness is not always rightness. It is also not always wrongness mind you. But as a society, as a country and as a nation, we must come together and that means a conversation about the troubled direction Britain is going down. It also means, the voices of colour and the voices of whiteness must be heard and justice served for all communities.

Institutional Sexism got you down? According to the Tories, just get an apprenticeship!

WASPI  campaign

The plight of women and structural sexism is one that as a society we are only beginning to fully overhaul, but less well-known is the particular plight of women born in the 1950s, who face the travesty of being denied their rightful pensions by a sharp rise in the state pension age from 60 years old to 66 years old with little to no notice. This is dishonourable not just because it treats the hard work and endeavours of women over a lifetime, with cruel disdain not just once with the original Major Government 1995 State Pension Law Act which put forward this ill-planned legislation aimed at equalisation of the State Pension Age for women and men, but twice with the Cameron Government’s own 2011 State Pension Law Act. This Act actually accelerated the timetable so women’s state pension age would hit 65 by 2018 and both men and women would have a retirement age of 66 by 2020, meaning some women would have to wait an extra 18 months to receive their state pension.

This is already a bad situation which penalises older women unfairly, and is symptomatic of the Conservative government’s approach to women who disproportionately suffer the consequences of austerity Britain in employment and living conditions but also older women who seem to be so disrespected that the pensions minister, Guy Opperman actually suggested rather than reform these laws that cut one of society’s most vulnerable constituency’s, affected women should just take up apprenticeships as a route to re-employment. In all seriousness, these older women many of whom are educated, have had tough working lives ad careers and are on the brink of retirement, are supposed to be sated by the “extended apprenticeship opportunities” offered by the Conservative government.

This is wrong.

Fortunately, WASPI (Women against State Pension Inequality) have been a resolute campaign group in highlighting the inadequacies of the government in providing justice for older women and have managed to engage thousands of members and acquire the support of 180 Members of Parliament. Their position for the transitional arrangement of a ‘bridging’ pension to provide an income from age 60 until State Pension Age for all women affected is fair and just, and would bring long awaited equity to the pensions of these women. A petition filed by WASPI Voice, a sub-grouping of WASPI, calling for immediate access to their state pension at a reduced rate and earlier, was able to receive over 20,000 signatures in support and necessitated  a response from government outlining the somewhat baffling position that “Working longer can improve and maintain physical and mental health – evidence shows that making adjustments and changing working patterns can help older workers to manage health issues and stay in work,”

A society where one can work their whole lives and never receive requital is unfair and as much as the Conservative government believes sexism and inequality is either non-existent or justifiable, the WASPI campaign and that of their prominent supporters in parliament such as Mhairi Black, Graham Jones, Keith Simpson and Paul Flynn will bring justice to those being denied it.

 

Another

Scribbled Lines

Who declares war inspired by faith, says human life is worthless before God or rotting ideals of waste,

I will not question injustice anymore, rogue souls, terror and horror have eyes of just ice.

This land has never been colder than when the melting pot of diversity became a crematorium of blackened poverty.

A baby falls from the 9th floor, a beast on instinct, reaches, grabs, saves, who is he?

Who was tossed to oblivion?  Man, child or  your God who watched?

The truth must come out about Grenfell Tower, the truth must be heard, is there now no one who speaks power to truth?

We know what happened, murder, contemporary, recent, prescient but also the murder of us all,

’cause if you murder my heart and love, then your celestial dictator will cast aside to hellfire,

like the flames of that tower rose higher, higher, higher.

Thinking Unusually

My Mama is a Prophet,

She Gave to the Future,

She put prophecy before profits see, she had a baby, a nine month gamble on me,

I am so grateful that I repay her love and affection not being a lawyer as her or a businessman like my father but by writing poetry. My dreams border nothingness so I fuck up commas like Future.

Stare at me, start from my eyes and pree my dimple, my smile and my mind  oh no amount of mainstream media or colonial education or demo-crazy that elects capitalists can kill me. I am not Kenny.

I’m Unorthodox and in me, you can feel the essence of an African, a man who’s ancestors were born free, a free man, hair untamed like Huey. Newton or Boondocks,

You cannot televise me.

You cannot control though you can call me a loony.

Though I was a white male, I would be a George Clooney.

Passionate and Political, This society would rise and applaud, with charisma like mine you could never be bored.

If I was a white male, no woman could reject me, if I was a white male, Britain would elect me.

Maybe, in this May-hem, I have become confused. It could be the case that my optimism would be abused, if I was a radical and indomitable, with black skin and a white mask,

the police would still shoot to kill me.

Britain still has a race problem, Acid Attacks are the latest proof of that

This country has never been a safe space for people who look different, act different, speak different or embody characteristics different from the white, male, wealthy establishment. Terrorism is political violence and particularly when targeted at innocent people just trying to make the most of our short lives is utterly despicable. Terror attacks in recent years have made this native Londoner fear for his safety in his own home; the uncontrollable sense of unease when a package is around and the owner is indeterminate is something all city dwellers and especially Londoners can relate to, given the recent horrors of London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester.

But attacks on the marginalised and vulnerable communities of immigrants and people of colour more widely, as well as, the visibly religious minorities of Islam and others are different. They are different not in pain, agony and the sick sense of dread they impose within us. No, they are different because they for one particular moment, the idea that we are all in this together, Black, White and Brown, Rich and Poor, Native and Immigrant is disbanded and an ugliness rises from the depths of the society we have embraced that makes us feel alien, neither stranger nor native in the supposedly ‘United’ Kingdom. Though there has been a rise in racist violence, hate crime and general racial tensions, there has always been such injustice present beneath the illusion that a post-racial peace had dawned in our ‘multi-cultural’ nation. The truth is, even London, emblematic of cosmpolitanism and diversity, with over 300 languages spoken in its schools is an imperfect society. Living in East London, though I had always been cursorily aware of islamophobia and racist currents, particularly in my borough of Barking and Dagenham given a history with the BNP, a strong Ukip and Leave vote and generally a lot of socially conservative, old white men I was more shocked and bewildered to see that acid attacks were, or rather, are so numerous. I had always thought it was a fringe act of cruelty.

But no, Newham and Barking and Dagenham are the collective acid attack capital of the UK. Acid attacks are not ‘normal’, for lack of a better term, violence aimed at causing physical pain and fleeting discomfort, their aim is to disfigure and to instill mental trauma and terror over a lifetime. The resurgence of knife crime in the capital, and the fact that of the 11 deaths via a knife so far in London, all were black has meaningful implications for the political and social climate which has produced such ignorance and violence within which even schoolchildren like Quamari Barnes are not safe to wait at the bus stop after a school-day. There are deep and painful implications for black community, who are disproportionately the victims of underrepresentation, the economic violence of austerity Britain, unemployment or low pay, discriminatory trends in education at all levels and perennial victims of a prejudiced police force as highlighted in ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. How these factors may have played a part, I don’t know but it is important to critically evaluate structural factors before strictly the individual.

But acid attacks. They are one of the worst methods of violence simply because acid is so readily available as a weapon and its usage is never accidental; without excusing knife violence it can often be seen as either an item of self-defence in the roughest, poorest parts of our country or a tool of death whirled out in a blind rage to cause pain. Acid attacks are not like that. Acid attacks are premeditated and carefully planned avenues to inflicting horrifying lifelong pain, Resham Khan, was one victim of an attack aimed at ruining her beauty and confidence as a brown woman and dehumanising her. Her bravery is tweeting about it just 3 days after the attack on her 21st birthday shows that no racist attacks can succeed where hundreds of years of white supremacy have failed. 

I have no solutions or answers but I thought it was heartbreaking to read that this small irrelevant borough where I call my home could be second highest nationally for something so horrific. My heart goes out to the other brown and black people who must now bear a new burden on our minds fearing that the next white male we see may be so contorted with hatred, they would cause us lifelong agony, and I fear for the young people of my generation who will never complete their dreams or fulfil their passions due to the brutality of a knife or the people scarred and traumatised by the cruelty of acid.