The Grenfell Fire

Look at Grenfell Tower and see the terrible price of Britain’s inequality, by Lynsey Hanley

The appalling destruction of Grenfell Tower and the lives of so many who lived there has exposed what society, in its heart, already knows: our housing cannot continue to be subject to the market’s desires, needs or fluctuations. If some housing is regarded as being more valuable, more desirable, corners will always be cut in the places where there is less financial return. The same goes for people: the most disadvantaged always suffer most from the mistakes of the powerful.

In an inner-London borough as rich as Kensington and Chelsea, social housing is at once integral – in that it forms a massive proportion of its housing stock, and houses a large number of its working residents and families – and yet invisible. This means tenants could warn, repeatedly and with escalating fear, that the building they lived in was a death trap; it meant they felt harassed and intimidated by the landlord and subcontractors during the recent renovation; and it meant, ultimately, that they would be the victims of possibly criminal levels of neglect. …

What happened at Grenfell tower is political—and the residents knew it, by Maya Goodfellow

Before dawn had broken on the Grenfell Tower block yesterday, the chorus of voices had already begun: don’t politicise what’s happened. But housing is deeply political and Grenfell encapsulates how.

The death toll from yesterday’s tragedy is still rising, people are still searching for the missing relatives and friends and residents who survived lost everything they owned—all because of a fire that could likely have been prevented.

The deadly Grenfell fire broke out in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in the country. But it wasn’t one of the area’s many million pound luxury properties that was eaten up by flames; nor was it wealthy residents who were forced to throw themselves from burning windows. This was a block of social housing and many of the people living there were on low pay. And they were wise to what could happen in their home.

Time and again they pleaded with the council and with Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the company that manages social housing in the borough, to deal with their severe safety concerns. Reporting problems over issues from wiring to boilers, they were ignored persistently.

A Very Political Tragedy, by Dawn Foster

In the richest borough of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people in social housing, many on low incomes, were killed and injured in a fire that could have been prevented or contained. Rather than diverting blame from those responsible, or treating it as an act of nature, our responsibility is to ask why it occurred.

Time and again, residents reported serious concerns about the safety of the building to the management organization, the local council, and the member of parliament (recently unseated in the general election). They were met with silence, and several told me on the scene they were convinced it was because they were poor, living in a rich borough that was determined to socially cleanse the area as part of a gentrifying project.

Today’s fire in Grenfell Tower is not outside of politics — it is a symbol of the United Kingdom’s deep inequality. The block of 120 apartments housed between 400 and 600 people, some in very crowded conditions. Tenants reported problems with elevators, emergency lighting, wiring, and boilers. Even the most minor improvement required constant badgering. People were given the message that they were lucky to have any home at all, let alone in a borough that harbored such wealth.

The classist, racist disorganisation at Grenfell Tower is disgraceful, by HANNA DOKAL

… What is a shocking display from the media to many is unfortunately not a surprise to local community affected by the fire. Many of those lugging bin bags full of important supplies look around at the lack of officials and all come to the same conclusion: “You know why they aren’t here yet? We’re migrants, immigrants, refugees.” Although there has been some coordination from emergency services, the acute absence of local authority delegation and coordination on the ground is difficult for the community to digest.

For residents, it becomes difficult to understand the situation as anything other than classism, even racism, as they stand organising amongst themselves, unaided, in the poorest and most diverse part of one of the richest boroughs in London. Kensington and Chelsea is one of the smallest London boroughs harbouring some of the most expensive houses in the world. Yet, it also has pockets of poverty which are somehow overlooked due to the glamorous reputation perpetuated by shows like Made in Chelsea and Forbes lists detailing the prices of some of its homes. Today though, it is clear that in this tiny borough the wealthy and the working class live side by side in starkly differing conditions. The borough’s façade melts away as quickly as Grenfell Tower did in the early hours of this morning. …

Grenfell shows just how Britain fails migrants, by Nesrine Malik

The police tape that lined streets around Grenfell Tower told a tale of two cities. Multimillion-pound properties with perfectly manicured front gardens stood under the shadow of the still smoking and charred block. Throughout the night before, in church halls, civic centres and mosques all around, residents had gathered to sift through the donations and give comfort to dazed survivors and their friends and relatives.

It was impossible to look at them and not see the obvious: they were, overwhelmingly, Arab, Muslim or African. They were European migrants, black British, refugees from the developing world – some of them second generation – and asylum seekers, sharing the tower with the poor, white working class of London. It was impossible to listen to the languages spoken on the phone to loved ones and not hear that these people were those often filed as “other”. It was impossible to read the names of the dead and the missing and not see that they, or their parents, were displaced from elsewhere. The first victim named was a Syrian refugee, Mohammed al-Haj Ali. The list is now extending into a roll call of the marginalised, the maligned and the disenfranchised. …

When I worked for KCTMO I had nightmares about burning tower blocks, by Seraphima Kennedy

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, a harsh light now shines on the organisation that managed the block, and others in the area, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

People have said that this was “a disaster waiting to happen”. I shared their concerns. I saw them from the inside.

I remember the vote that led to the creation of KCTMO in 1996, because my mother was a tenant at the time and we received letters about it. I was born and brought up in the south of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on benefits, in an overcrowded council flat. …

We owe it to the residents of Grenfell Tower to politicise this tragedy, by Frances Ryan

In the hours following the blaze on social media, as people began to feel anger as the news unfolded, a common retort emerged: “Don’t politicise the tragedy.” I understand why it would make some people uncomfortable: as families still search for their loved ones, it can seem “too soon” or in bad taste. But there is something very dangerous about pretending residents dying in social housing should not be seen as a matter for the state. What happened at Grenfell Tower is the definition of political.

Grenfell Tower sits in one of the country’s richest boroughs in a city undergoing a scandal in housing inequality: low-income families housed in dire conditions as the area is “regenerated” for investors. That the cladding thought to have helped cause the death of Grenfell Tower residents was chosen in order to make the tower more attractive for the rich who had to look at it from their luxury apartments is almost too horrific in its symbolism.

Wonder Woman: Feminist Film or same old Patriarchy?

 

Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism  by @zoesqwilliams

… Yes, she is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

Women are repeatedly erased from the history of classical music, art and medicine. It takes a radical mind to pick up that being erased from the history of evil is not great either. Wonder Woman’s casual rebuttal of a sexual advance, her dress-up montage (“it’s itchy”, “I can’t fight in this”, “it’s choking me”) are also feminist acts. Wonder Woman is a bit like a BuzzFeed list: 23 Stupid Sexist Tropes in Cinema and How to Rectify Them. I mean that as a compliment.

I wish Wonder Woman were as feminist as it thinks it is: @c_cauterucci

… To me, whatever chance Wonder Woman had of being some kind of feminist antidote to the overabundance of superhero movies made by and for bros was blown by its prevailing occupation with the titular heroine’s sex appeal. Characters frequently note that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who goes by Diana in the film, is “the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.” Her male companions in the fight against Germany’s WWI forces drool behind her back at the notion that there may somewhere be an island full of women who look like her, with no men in sight. When she walks into a room, even dressed in a plain gray suit and bowler hat instead of her usual sensual armored leotard, men go silent and stare. “I’m both frightened and aroused,” goes one character’s response to Diana’s ass-kicking moves, prompting one of the audience’s loudest, longest laughs at the screening I attended.

“Her femininity is part of the story, for the way it makes even the other heroes in the movie underestimate and discount her. But her gender is never the story’s primary thrust,” wrote a critic at the Verge this week. Disagree. By the time the action got too fast-paced and loud for any more characters to marvel at Diana’s fine bod and bone structure, I was about an hour past being sick of the “sexy lady is also hypercompetent” joke. …

The Original Wonder Woman Had Some Familiar Racist Roots by Sesali Bowen

… However, wherever there is a mainstream feminist victory, there are racial undertones that need to be addressed. Women’s March, is that you? Wonder Woman’s epic tale is no exception, historically and as a Hollywood Blockbuster. Noah Berlatsky at The Establishment did a great job of documenting the intentions of Wonder Woman’s creator William Marston on creating an ideal woman. That woman was white and, Berlatsky noted, based on some casually sexist essentialist ideas about women.

In fact, women of color typically only showed up on Marston’s Paradise Island in heavily stereotyped representations. I would go so far as to argue that the introduction of Phillipus — the Black woman who trained Wonder Woman in combat when she was young and served as an advisor to her mother, Queen Hippolyta — in 1987 had him turning in his grave. Serves him right. By casting Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress to play the title role in this film, Jenkins and the producers are also deviating from the white blueprint made by Marston. …

Hollywood’s ideas about audiences are outdated. Wonder Woman’s record-smashing debut proves it. by@alissamarie

Whether or not Wonder Woman smashed the patriarchy this weekend, it certainly smashed records at the American box office, raking in a whopping $100.5 million in ticket sales.

That huge pile of receipts busted the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. (The previous record was held by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which made $85 million in its 2015 opening weekend.) It also debuted in the top spot in many countries, including China, where it made $38 million. ….

In 2016, just 7 percent of the 250 top domestic grossing films were directed by women. Among high-ranking roles on film productions (like producers, editors, writers, and cinematographers), that number was higher, but not by much: Only 17 percent of those roles were filled by women. …

Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable, by Emily Asher-Perrin

Imagine you star in a movie that is widely considered to be one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. The movie has your name in the title. You are the character whom the whole story revolves around, a story told to a sick little boy in need of a distraction as he lays in bed, home from school. You are the two most important things for a fictional woman to be according to societal standards: beautiful and marriageable.

And you’re also a princess, because that’s how these stories always work. …

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987. …

Is Wonder Woman the feminist superhero film we’ve been waiting for? @thepooluk

…. The film does have flaws. It’s a little too long and there is an effects-smothered, super-powered punch-up towards the end that is familiar from dozens of other superhero films. There are other ways to end a blockbuster – think of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’s puzzle-solving or The Poseidon Adventure’s escape scenes. Diana’s such a good character that she doesn’t need so many bells and whistles.

But there is such power to seeing a woman up there, facing down armies and bounding into the air to smash a tank or take out a sniper, that it hardly matters. If you have daughters (older than five or six, say), bring them along – this will make young girls feel like they can fly. There have been 30 superhero films since 2005 and every single one had a male lead. Studios thought women just couldn’t lead superhero films. Wonder Woman proves them wrong. ….

Should every feminist go to see Wonder Woman – and other blockbuster questions by Helen O’ Hara

…. This is the first major superhero movie directed by a woman, Monster’s Patty Jenkins, and a lot rides on it. If Wonder Woman can knock it out of the park, commercially and critically, that success will help women in Hollywood – both behind the camera and in front – and it’s tempting to suggest that it’s every feminist’s duty to go along on the opening weekend just to prove that women can make, and lead, giant action movies. …

Diane Abbott Appreciation

Diane Abbott was the first Black woman elected to parliament. Here are 4 love letters to Abbott and, in her own words, the racist and misogynist abuse she has received over the years for standing up for her constituents and women across the UK.

Diane Abbott & Unrelenting Misogynoir , by Danielle Dash

Diane Abbot was the first black woman elected to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament in 1987. Bridget Minamore’s article on The Pool outlines clearly and succinctly “racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics.” Minamore details Abbott’s experiences of misogynoir (the intersection of racism and sexism) as an example of the challenges all black women politicians face “all Members of Parliament (especially the female ones) get online abuse. But still, I’ve never seen a white female MP get abuse at the scale Abbott does.” The online abuse Minamore’s article focuses on isn’t from your average, backwater troll. It is public figures “journalists who write about her and her parliamentary peers” and so confident are they in the acceptance of misogynoir by the British public, they do not even seek the protection of anonymity online trolls enjoy. …

Racism and misogyny explains why there are so few black women in politics, by Bridget Minamore

Diane Abbott – the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons – is easily one of the most well known female politicians in the UK. She is also, arguably, the most attacked; if you want to look into the pits of world wide web abuse, try having a scroll through her twitter mentions. Saying that, all MPs (especially the female ones) get online abuse. But still, I’ve never seen a white female MP get abuse at the scale Abbot does from people who should be relied upon to show a decent level of respect: the journalists who write about her, and her parliamentary peers. …

Like all women, the way we look is often disparaged, but brown skin takes any sexist mocking or criticism and adds a grimy layer of racism to it – like the icing on a particularly shitty cake …

We need to talk about Diane Abbott. Now. (EXPLICIT CONTENT)  via @MxJackMonroe

…  Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.

Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have in politics these days? Fuck all, really.

Diane went to Cambridge University to study history. IN THE SEVENTIES. In 2017 only 15 black kids went to Cambridge. Sit down and listen.

Diane worked for the Home Office in 1976. She was so smart they put her on a course to fast-track her career. (I’m just getting started.)

Diane was Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties from 1978 to 1980. (Big fucking job. Bet you couldn’t do it.) …

Diane’s political career began in 1982, on Westminster City Council. Then in 1987, I’ll say it again, she became the first black female MP.

In 2008, her speech on civil liberties in the counterterrorism debate won Parliamentary Speech Of The Year in the Spectator awards.

That speech is here. Watch it, and then come back.  https://t.co/qNMvtilMa1

Polly Billington: The shame of those who doubt the truth of Diane Abbott’s illness  via @labourlist

Diane Abbott is, as Stephen Bush recently wrote, an astronaut. She has gone where no-one like her had gone before. It is worth remembering why: the first black woman ever to be elected to parliament 30 years ago, British politics has been transformed in her lifetime, partly because of what she has achieved. Being black female and working class make life difficult enough now: in the 1970s when Diane graduated from Cambridge and joined the Home Office fast-stream she was smashing barriers, for others to follow. You don’t have to like her, or agree with everything she says, but you have to admire her grit and resilience, not least these past few weeks. …

I fought racism and misogyny to become an MP. The fight is getting harder | Diane Abbott

The Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” And as a young woman the “book I wanted to read” was a narrative where a black woman could be a member of the UK parliament.

It was an extremely unlikely aspiration. After the 1983 general election, out of 650 members of parliament in total, there were no black, Asian or minority ethnic MPs – and only 23 women. But I ignored the odds and was elected in 1987, the first ever black woman MP. The campaign was tough. A brick was thrown through a window at my campaign HQ. Many Labour party members worked hard to back me, others went missing. The Times had marked my selection by complaining about my “rhetoric of class struggle and skin-colour consciousness”. Judging by the wariness with which I was treated when I entered the House of Commons, many MPs agreed with the Times. …

What we’re reading: on racism, motherhood, capitalism, and women-only spaces

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

… “At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are “different” in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universal. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do.

“They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not to really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong. …

Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism‘ by Nicole Aschoff

“Mackey has loudly declared unions akin to herpes and state regulation little more than “crony capitalism” – that all we need to solve things like the climate crisis are better, smarter, “conscious” capitalists. The crisis of Whole Foods belies this notion. There’s no way to “fix” corporations’ compulsion to produce ever more, ever more cheaply. It’s written into the DNA of global capitalism. … “

All I Have Are Questions, And the Most Unbelievable Broken Heart”  by Jacqueline Hoy

” … Before my sons passed away, I had absolutely no idea how common stillbirth is. Well, it claims the lives of six babies every day in Australia, more than 2,000 each year. It’s believed one third of these heartbreaking losses can be prevented.

Yet stillbirth remains such a taboo subject. I feel it most when I run into people who I haven’t seen since I lost the twins. Their questions, their judgement, the awkwardness and uncertainty of not knowing what to say. The “do we talk about the elephant in the room?” look on their faces.

But I want to talk about them. I want friends to ask me about them. I want people to know their names and know what it was like carrying them and to be able to talk about the precious time we spent with them after they passed away, before we buried them together so that they could stay by each other’s side forever. …”

Why there’s nothing racist about black-only spaces | Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

” …. Some white people have got so upset about their exclusion from parts of the Nyansapo festival, an intersectional black feminist gathering scheduled for 28-30 July in Paris, that the mayor of the city called for the festival to be banned, until organisers clarify details with her, and anti-racist groups have claimed that Rosa Parks would be “turning in her grave” at the event.

In the same week that some men have kicked up a fuss over not being allowed to attend women-only film screenings of Wonder Woman it seems a discussion is needed as to why spaces that are centred around marginalised groups, whether they be women or people of colour, are not racist or sexist.

Unofficial safe spaces have existed for all denominations for centuries, and self-organising has long been a key part of anti-racist and feminist movements. As one of the editors for gal-dem, a magazine and creative collective written and produced exclusively by women of colour, I think about our position of racial exclusivity a lot. In some ways I appreciate it might be difficult to grasp why such spaces feel so necessary. The simplest way to understand why the Nyansapo festival has elements that aren’t open to white people (the festival is split into three areas, one specifically for black women, another for black people, and a third for everyone) is to acknowledge the racism we suffer in western society. There’s no moving forward unless we accept that racism against people of colour is deeply systemic. …”

Black motherhood and survival: what my mother has taught me by Christine Pungong

My conscience is the sound of my mother’s voice. I hear it echoing in the back of my mind whenever I do something I know she’d disapprove of. Sometimes it’s scrutinizing, sometimes it’s cautionary, but most of the time it’s just concerned. Though I often try and resign myself to just not caring, truthfully I know that my mother’s disappointment, second to her worry, is my biggest fear. I’ve been thinking a lot about my conscience, and specifically about emotional and psychological burdens. Both my mother’s and, in turn, the ones she has laden me with over the years.

I find that it’s sometimes all too easy to forget that our mothers had their own lives before motherhood. That they argued with their parents, laughed at terrible jokes, lamented the loss of close friends, had doubts about their faith, hated their clothes, and spent long melancholic summer evenings contemplating the direction their lives would eventually take. For a lot of women, motherhood snatches away these memories, eclipsing them with the newest priorities in their lives: their children. Despite its often-touted (and false) status as ‘the pinnacle of womanhood’, motherhood is in fact characterized by a series of painful dichotomies and unattainable expectations. …

Against the Party Line by @RoseAnnaStar

Cross-posted from: I am because you are
Originally published: 12.06.16

The IncomersThe Incomers by Moira McPartlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

I bought this book partly because I was so attracted to the beautiful manga style cover art centred on a gorgeously drawn black woman’s face. While her necklace looks African to me, her rakish curls of hair, sceptical eyebrow and thick gold earring give her a cartoon romantically piratical air! Meanwhile, two white women on the phone look as if they’re either dealing with a crisis or plotting some intrigue, but as it turns out, the protagonist, Ellie, isn’t a swashbuckling renegade and the other women are just gossiping. Their chatter, often cruel, is McPartlin’s vehicle for working through the harshness and bigotry of a rural mid-’60s Scottish setting. While the ‘pairty line’ vents toxic racism and ignorance, its status as a space for friends to speak openly enables some healing and changes of mind to take place. Religious fissures are bridged by family relationships, and the speakers feel comfortable enough to contradict each other and repent of previous convictions. 
Read more Against the Party Line by @RoseAnnaStar

Race, History, and Brexit: Black Scottish Identity by @ClaireShrugged

Originally published: 26.10.16

A brief foreword: the following was delivered at Glasgow Caledonian University on the 25th October, 2016, as part of Black History Month. The subject was Race, History and Brexit: Exploring the politics of erasure and documenting the experiences of Black and minority ethnic communities in Scotland post Brexit.

I was proud to speak alongside Dr Ima Jackson and Dr Akwugo Emejulu – both due to their scholarship, and because it was the first time in my career I had sat on a panel composed entirely of Black women.


 

brexit

I am Black. I am Scottish. To some, it’s obvious that the two are not mutually exclusive. To others, Black Scottish identity is a contradiction in terms: either you’re of this place, Scottish and therefore white, or Other, Black. Rest assured, the two fit together – admittedly there are tensions, but those mostly arise from the expectations of other people (read: white people) rather than any aspect of what it actually is to be Black and Scottish. The plurality of Black identity often gets lost in how this discussion is approached, because constructions of national identity are so often treated as binary and static.

“Where are you from, originally?” Five words that plague people of colour across Britain. It’s essentially code for “if you’re here, then why aren’t you white?” When I was a child that question left me feeling sick, scared. I dreaded it, and have developed something of a sixth sense for when it’s coming. What caused me discomfort was that it positioned me as Other, and was often asked because white people couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of a Black child belonging in an otherwise white family. Now, having grown up and inhabited this world as a Black woman for 24 years, I have a much thicker skin when it comes to micro-aggressions. But people still ask it. Random strangers still feel entitled to ask that, completely out of the blue, their curiosity outweighing basic courtesy.
Read more Race, History, and Brexit: Black Scottish Identity by @ClaireShrugged

Same Old Patriarchal Crap: Abuse and violence against refugee women and children.

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 12.08.16

 

Nauru

The Guardian recently published leaked documents of hundreds of pages of abuse and sexual assault of women and children on Nauru’s off-shore refugee detention centre. Much of this abuse appears to have been at the hands of the Wilson’s security guards at the facility.

There have been articles since condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers and its blatant disregard of these abuses, such as that written by Jennifer Wilson.

The Immigration Minister, Mr. Peter Dutton’s response to the publication of the leaked files was:

“some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint”…”I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault,” 

Whilst our focus must be on stopping our government for perpetuating such abuse on women and children, women and children who are fleeing from horrific wars and violence in their own countries, it is also important to put this in the context of the patriarchal world that we live in. 
Read more Same Old Patriarchal Crap: Abuse and violence against refugee women and children.

What we’re reading: On racism, nationalism, PTSD and Milo

Theo and the distinctly sexual flavour of French racism by @KGuilaine  via @WritersofColour

Content warning: contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse

On 2 February, a 22-year-old black French man named Theo was allegedly violently raped with a police truncheon, gang assaulted and racially abused by four French police officers in the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. So severe were the anal injuries sustained by Theo that he needed major surgery after the incident. As I write, Theo remains in a stable condition in hospital after having been visited by president Hollande.  The incident occurred less than a year after the suspicious death of Adama Traore in police custody and, led to renewed accusations of police brutality and racism in France. Old wounds have been re-opened and the city is gripped with protests. …

This is not the way Milo Yiannopoulos should have gone down by Natasha Chart

I doubt very much that a gay man in pearls and lipstick was unanimously seen as an ideal CPAC speaker, yet they were going to allow it. The only redeeming thing about the alt-right’s collection of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and misogynists, is that they hadn’t turned on homosexuals yet.

Looks like that’s likely come to an end.

After some tasteless and hurtful remarks that Milo Yiannopoulos made about child sexual abuse that he was himself a victim of came to light, he has become a pariah on the right.

Now? Not when he went after Leslie Jones or Anita Sarkeesian? Not when he helped amplify fascism, slandered immigrants, suggested that education was entirely wasted on women, or any of the other appalling things he’s said and done? This? Come on. …

Aminatta Forna: ‘We must take back our stories and reverse the gaze’

few years ago I was sent a book by a psychologist called Boris Cyrulnik. Cyrulnik was born in France in 1937, during the war his parents were sent to concentration camps and never returned. At the age of seven he joined the French resistance as a runner, carrying messages back and forth across enemy lines. The book was called Resilience and I’d been sent it because of my own work describing traumatic events and their impact – in a memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water uncovering the circumstances surrounding my father’s political murder in Sierra Leone in 1975, and again in The Memory of Love, a novel set during the subsequent civil war. I read Resilience in a single sitting, and it struck me that every word of it was true.

A world-renowned expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, Cyrulnik accused other psychologists of subscribing to a kind of psychological determinism, of acting “like car mechanics”, in his words, in their ideas of cause and effect. Cyrulnik described how traumatic events are framed by the narrative given to them, in ways that can exacerbate or mitigate the impact of experiences for the sufferer. The context given for suffering is what determines survival, the feeling of selfhood is shaped by the gaze of others, namely the emotional reactions of people and of the culture around them. Cyrulnik found that, among children who survived the Nazi occupation of France, those who had, like him, joined the resistance suffered the lowest levels of postwar depression. “Did these children join the resistance because they were already more resilient?” he writes, “Or did their narrative identity, or the stories they rehearsed in their heads after the war– ‘I am the boy who at the age of eight, stood up to the German army’– give them a feeling of selfhood that had more in common with a hero than a victim?” Cyrulnik was convinced it was the latter, and devoted his career to freeing children who had endured trauma from the narrative of damage. …

The parallels between Scottish nationalism and racism are clear | Claire Heuchan

Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – at least, not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with Scottish nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference.

In the Daily Record, Khan claimed that nationalism is effectively the same as “trying to divide us on the basis of background, race or religion”. Predictably, SNP politicians and supporters alike were outraged. How dare anyone question their vision of a progressive Scotland? But in their rush to condemn a Londoner – the mayor of all Londoners, no less – for his, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “spectacularly ill-judged” comments, nationalists missed an opportunity to recognise a degree of truth in Khan’s comments.

The SNP is fond of talking about “a fairer Scotland”, playing on the popular notion that Scotland is by nature more egalitarian than England. But this raises one unavoidable question: fairer than what? England, of course.

Meritocracy, the enlightened west and other myths about women in politics by @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 16.01.17

It is interesting, that, in discussions about gender equality, “merit” only comes up when we are speaking about women taking up positions that are traditionally male. Nobody questions whether it is meritocratic that, say, prostitution is a predominantly female profession, or that a disproportionate amount of women work in underpaid caring jobs. Similarly, to imagine that competence alone accounts for male dominance in politics is a fantasy. Merit, from Latin meritaremeans “to earn”, and if any group in society has earned a fair chance to shape it, it is women. This is what my latest piece for the Guardian, there titled “On parliamentary equality the UK is 48th. It could learn from No 1: Rwanda” and shared below, is about. 
Read more Meritocracy, the enlightened west and other myths about women in politics by @MsAfropolitan

For the White Woman Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend: A Black Feminist Guide to Interracial Solidarity

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 14.11.16

A brief foreword: this is the conclusion to my series of essays on race and the feminist movement. Parts 12, and 3 can all be accessed here. The following knowledge was acquired at great personal expense. Use it how you will. Dedicated to every woman – Black, brown, and white – who has sustained me through sisterhood.


Whenever I discuss racism in the feminist movement, this question is invariably asked as a result: white women wonder “what, specifically, can I do about racism? How can I create solidarity with women of colour?” It’s a complicated question, which I have been considering closely for over a year now, and there is no one simple answer. Instead, there are many answers, of which none are static and all of which are liable to shift in relation to context. The reality of the situation is that there is no quick fix solution for the hundreds of years’ worth of racism – racism upon which our society was built, its hierarchies of wealth and power established – that shape the dynamic between women of colour and white women. That imbalance of power and privilege colours personal interactions. It creates the layers of justifiable mistrust that women of colour feel towards white women – even (perhaps especially) in a feminist context. 
Read more For the White Woman Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend: A Black Feminist Guide to Interracial Solidarity

The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps

Cross-posted from: Alison Phipps
Originally published: 10.11.16

So it’s happened. Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States. He ran on a white supremacist ticket, and multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault failed to stop him taking the White House. There were reports of racist, homophobic and misogynistic hate crimes within hours of the result being declared. David Duke called the night one of the ‘most exciting’ of his life, and the Vice-President of France’s Front National declared: ‘their world is collapsing – ours is being built’. The Israeli Right took the opportunity to announce that the era of a Palestinian state is over. This only months after the British public voted to leave the European Union, ushering in a hard right agenda which ensures that the US and UK will (in Sarah Palin’s words) be ‘hooking up’ during the Trump administration.

These events are not surprising, even as they are shocking. Both Brexit and the election of Trump are national outpourings of long-held resentments, and a validation of the racist violences on which both the UK and US are built. Voters want to ‘take their countries back’ from people of colour, migrants, and Muslims. Entwined with this is suspicion and hatred of other Others: trans people, queers, disabled people and feminists. This ‘whitelash’ against globalisation and the very meagre gains which have been made in race equality targets all other social justice movements along with it. Under the pretext of ‘anti-establishment’ sentiment and suspicion of liberal political elites, white supremacists are trying to wrest back full control. There is no greater sense of victimhood than when entitlements and privileges are perceived to have been lost. 
Read more The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps

The Women’s March Washington: The Speeches by Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Angela Davis’s Women’s March Speech via @ElleMagazine

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.” …

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Gloria Steinem’s Historic Women’s March Speech  via @MarieClaire

“Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?

Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.

I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse. …

What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

First Class Racism by Jamelia

…On Thursday my daughter and I boarded a Train at London’s Euston station after I took part in a photoshoot. We’d had such a fun day together, and looked forward to our journey home. Tiani, my daughter, wanted the window seat, she scooted in and looked for the book she was currently reading as I readied myself to be seated too. As I took my place, a woman in her early 40’s approached me and in quite an accusatory tone asked me “Do you have a first class ticket?” I was genuinely confused at her question, why would I be sat in the 1st class carriage without one? I look at her, she isn’t dressed as if she works for the company, I glance around and it clicks…My daughter and I are the only black people in the carriage. I feel it’s necessary to give her the benefit of the doubt, and for clarity, I ask “why did you ask me that?” she leans in, and in a hushed tone, as if helping me out says “well i’ve just seen the conductor, and he wont let you travel in this carriage” again, I ask “why?” she replies “you need a 1st class ticket” At this point I feel her assumptions are crystal clear, i’m offended and my daughter’s face shows she has understood the rhetoric too. I feel this is a teachable moment, for both the woman in question and my daughter. …


Read more What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 26.06.15

On the 23rd of June, 2015, the PRISON REFORM TRUST LAUNCHED A REVIEW to examine why children aged 10 to 17 who are in care are more likely to offend than children who are not in care. [1] The Trust acknowledges that the majority of young people in care do not offend or come into contact with the youth justice system; however, “children and young people who are, or have been, in care are over five times more likely than other children to get involved in the criminal justice system.” The Trust continues: “In a 2013 survey of 15-18 year olds in young offender institutions, a third of boys and 61% of girls said they had spent time in care. This is despite fewer than 1% of all children in England being in care.”  The review aims to identify why young people in care are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system and, importantly, how to respond to this problem. 
Read more YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM

The Problem with “Innocent” Ignorance: Racism, Whiteness & the Working Class by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neo-colonialism and its Discontents
Originally published: 19.11.16

One of the more interesting debates that has come out of Trump winning the US presidency has been about the role of the white working class in perpetuating racism. Although the white working class did not constitute the majority of white votes Trump received, they have been scapegoated by some as being the reason for why Trump won. This scapegoating, I believe, is wrong, particularly since in this particular case most of Trump’s support came from the white middle class. A class that has increasingly been confronted with the neoliberal reality of the “American Dream” and who have lost more and more as they have become deeply embroiled in a system of debt, credit, and precariousness. However, this class can’t only be analysed in pure class terms, since it is precisely the white middle class that voted for Trump in large numbers. Part of the story is also a backlash to Obama – the first Black president – as well as to the increasing focus on racism in public debates following the excruciatingly high rates at which Black men and women are being killed and imprisoned. As Christina Sharpe has argued in her new book “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being” the Atlantic slave trade is a living, breathing part of the United States; it is not the past nor a historical legacy; it is what has formed the US today; Black people are not left out of the system; Black exclusion is the system.


Read more The Problem with “Innocent” Ignorance: Racism, Whiteness & the Working Class by @saramsalem

What we’re reading this week (19.11)

Internet politics: a feminist guide to navigating online power by Zara Rahman at openDemocracy

In feminist activism, it goes without saying that the personal is political. Our technical decisions, however, are subject to far less scrutiny but their effects have equally far-reaching consequences upon our activism.

Few would deny that control and power are feminist issues. But what about digital control or online power?  …

White Skin, Black Masks: On the “Decolonial Desire” of Vasco Araújo by Efua Bea  via @WritersofColour

… I watch this all play out before me and begin to understand the title of this exhibition – decolonial desire. Even in a space of “decoloniality”, the insatiable hunger of whiteness for the exoticisation, objectification and devouring of the black body persists, pervades, penetrates. Women of colour in the space start to recover from their shock and round on the artist who is laughing, comfortable, excited; others shake their heads quietly and sadly before they fold in on themselves and leave. White audiences exclaim how beautiful, how interesting, and stimulating the work is, or else exclaim in performative horror. I wonder if underneath his self-assuredness Araújo is aware that he has, in this room, recreated the human zoos he is trying to critique. I wonder if he would care. …

Chair of BAME prize slams UK publishers after lack of submissions by Sian Cain
Read more What we’re reading this week (19.11)

Justin Trudeau is not a feminist superhero by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Elegant Gathering of White Snows
Originally published: 12.04.16

Justinjustin-trudeau-yoga_650x400_71459338988 Trudeau is a feminist. We all know this since he says it every single time he’s interviewed. The media is obsessed with this narrative and Trudeau is regularly accused of ‘trolling the internet’ for posting pictures which revel in hyper-masculinity.

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Much of Trudeau’s appeal is that he is a conventionally attractive white male who does yoga, charity boxing and loves kids. Almost as much as Barack Obama does. This is not ‘trolling the internet’. It is part of a deliberate campaign of image management – just like every other politician on the planet. David Cameron taking up yoga would not make him a better prime minister – nothing can compensate for the destructive and deeply misogynistic and racist policies that the Tory party has developed. Likewise, an attractive prime minister who enjoys a photo opportunities with babies – of the human and panda varieties – does not automatically guarantee good policies or even a commitment to feminism.
Read more Justin Trudeau is not a feminist superhero by @LK_Pennington

The American Election – by women

White women sold out the sisterhood and the world by voting for Trump.  via @doublexmag

According to CNN, 53 percent of white female voters voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent. More than half of white women voted for the man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape, who said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, who has promised to undo legislation that has afforded health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, whose parental leave plan is a joke, who has spent his campaign dehumanizing nonwhite people, who has spent 30-plus years in the public eye reducing women to their sexual attributes. More than half of white women looked at the first viable female candidate for the presidency, a wildly competent and overqualified career public servant, and said, “Trump that bitch.”

What leads a woman to vote for a man who has made it very clear that he believes she is subhuman? Self-loathing. Hypocrisy. And, of course, a racist view of the world that privileges white supremacy over every other issue. …


Read more The American Election – by women

Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 08.08.16

On the personal and political implications of misogynoir.


THE PERSONAL

I should be writing my dissertation. I should be writing the abstract for that conference paper. I should be preparing the workshop on feminist voice I am to deliver. There are a hundred and one things I should be doing – things essential to my life that I am not doing, because I am curled under my desk having a panic attack.  The abuse I receive online has reached new heights. For the first time (and probably not the last) I feel physically unsafe because of it. Along with the persistent misogyny, the overt racism, the steady drip drip drip of “shut up nigger”, there is something new: the threat of violence.

A white man told me that he wanted to hit me with his car. He wanted to hit me with his car and reverse over my body to make sure that I was dead. The scenario was so specific, the regard for my humanity so little, that it felt more real somehow than any of the other abuse I have received. It shocked me in a way that nothing on Twitter ever had before. I could hear my bones crack. He believed I deserved to die for being Black and having an opinion different to his own, that endorsing Black Lives Matter made me a legitimate target of violence. Seconds later, another white man appeared in my mentions with a chilling casualness to say that my being ran over would be “fair enough.”

It is not ‘just the internet’. This abuse does not fade from the mind when I close my laptop, when I put down my phone. It is a part of my life. It has altered my way of being. It is, at points, debilitating. There is a clear pattern: it is when I am most vocal, most visible as a Black feminist woman, that the abuse occurs most frequently, is the most vitriolic. Not a single one of the accounts I have reported in the week (for calling me nigger, for threatening me, for telling me to go back to Africa, etc.) has been suspended. Twitter Support’s failure to penalise accounts spreading racist threats and harassment creates the impression that people are free to abuse others with impunity – and Black women are so often the targets of that abuse. 
Read more Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma by @ClaireShrugged

Race/Class/Gender: French secularism and Whiteness by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neo-Colonialism and It's Discontents
Originally published: 24.08.16

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The recent image out of France that show policemen surrounding a woman who is removing her veil have struck many people because of how overtly Islamophobic they are. France – a country that constructs itself as being open and secular – recently imposed a fine on women who wear a ‘burqini’ at the beach. This announcement was controversial, and seeing images of this fine in action is bringing even more attention to the new rule. 
Read more Race/Class/Gender: French secularism and Whiteness by @saramsalem