Don’t ‘White select’ my experience of racism

This morning I watched Piers Morgan on TV lecturing/hectoring two Black men about how what they think and experience as racism is, simply, not true in his esteemed White opinion. Piers Morgan was speaking over the men in what was meant to have been a discussion on the Raheem Sterling issue

Good old Piers, he always thinks that he is getting the better over his studio guests but never realises that this is a rarity. Such is the curse, I guess, of over believing your self-constructed hype and then casting any old opinion on everything. 

Sadly, what did Piers is no different from what lots of other White people do and that is to either shut down a discussion by a person of colour on their lived experience of racism or to select what they think is racism based on their White view.

Let me give you an example, when I talk about how I am often ignored in nice shops (boutiques) White people will tell me how it was probably because the shop assistants had not noticed me or, even worse, because I wasn’t dressed well enough to be considered a serious shopper. This is a prime example of self-selecting or censoring my lived experience of racism. Another name for it is ‘Whitesplaining’. 

Racism is never a one-off act either which is what Raheem Sterling is trying to get across. It is a product of a culture of representations, stereotyping and negative framing. 

The tweet at the top of this post is a prime example. Inherent in the statement is the belief that all immigrants get a free ride in the UK and that we have so-called privileges if we are people of colour. It refers to Nadiya Hussain, winner of the 2015 ‘Great British Bake Off’, who has gone on a tour of Asia to discover some of her Asian roots for a BBC programme. The tweeter implies that he could have done the same at the BBC’s expense if he had some Asian DNA. He hasn’t given a moment’s thought to the fact that Nadiya is a star because she won a national TV prize based on a talent. The tweeter has simply based his gripe based on skin colour that arises from his negative stereotyping.  

Now tell me that is my imagination!

‘Whitesplaining’ aggravates and upsets people like me. To use another term it is ‘Gaslighting’. No problem can ever be solved while such psychological coercion and manipulation is used. With racism on the rise it is more imperative than ever to pay attention to what racism looks like and sounds like. 

Below is an uber example of how to do this thanks to John Barnes and the BBC presenters who were respectful and interested in hearing about racism.

Confronting fear and anxiety

The Five Truths About Fear
by Susan Jeffers


FEAR TRUTH #1

The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear. There is no point in saying, “When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it.” You’ll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.

FEAR TRUTH #2

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. Then new challenges await you, which certainly add to the excitement in living.

FEAR TRUTH #3

The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger.

FEAR TRUTH #4

Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear – and did it anyway. So can you!

FEAR TRUTH #5

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!
This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you.

 

Are dead American Presidents beyond reproach?

Is there ever a right time to criticise a dead person? Should a reasonable amount of time pass before critics start eulogies that don’t smell of roses? Are public figures open season whether dead or alive? The same questions arose when Nelson Mandela died. As America and the world says farewell to George Bush senior, the 41st President of the United States of America, who died aged 94 on 30 November, is it timely enough to ask whether it is his Presidency which opened the floodgates to Trump within the Republican party?

It is my daughter, Maelo, who challenged me over this. In my experience, the younger generation seem to have a much higher notion of democratic challenge free from cultural constraints. While I was watching news coverage of George Bush’s death my daughter was reeling off the negatives of his presidency.  I remember George Bush Snr, as the New York Times put it, as being:

‘Tall, at 6 feet 2 inches, with an athlete’s graceful gait, Mr. Bush was genial and gentlemanly, except in the throes of a tough campaign. (Admonished by his mother against self-promotion, Mr. Bush, an inveterate note writer, in his clipped diction avoided the first person singular pronoun.) He represented a “kinder” and “gentler” strain of Republicanism — the often-quoted words he used in his Inaugural Address to describe his vision for the nation and the world — that has been all but buried in a seismic shift to the right in the party.’

This isn’t the whole story though, as Maelo reminded me. George Bush Snr was mocking of civil rights and LGBT people. During his Presidential campaign he was scathing of Michael Dukakis, the Democrat Presidential candidate, who supported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This ugly episode referred to as the ‘Willie Horton’ affair, cost Dukakis dearly and probably opened the Republican door even further to racial politics. George Bush Snr also didn’t act quickly enough or even act at all over the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. He also refused to lift a ban on people with AIDS entering the USA. Given the level of discrimination against people with AIDS this didn’t help their case. America basically legitimized the discrimination under his Presidency.

With the debate ongoing about his Presidency, I think it’s fair to say that any time is a good time to appraise a public official’s legacy. That is part of a healthy democracy if only because high office legacies leave lasting impacts on people’s lives and lived experiences.

P/S. This post was in part inspired by Caron Lindsay’s post on Libdemvoice.

Putting context around sexism doesn’t make it better

https://youtu.be/GEBsDhhw-Bk

A prestigious sporting prize is awarded to a female footballer for the first time. At the awards ceremony, she is asked about her dancing talent instead. Not only is she asked some innocuous comment about her dancing but the comment is sexually laced. This is what happened when Ada Hegerberg went up on stage to receive the Ballon d’Or Feminin prize in recognition of being the best football association player.

Martin Solveig, a French DJ, who asked her whether she twerks and who has since been ridiculed has attempted to put context around his demeaning question via a tweet.

Rather than being an apology, it’s an example of misogyny masquerading as an apology. Most of the tweet is composed of Martin Solveig’s reasons justifying his shameful comment. He desperately tries to put context around what he has done by using the word ‘context’ twice and offers some ridiculous explanation which involves a Frank Sinatra song. The actual apology itself is placed strategically so as to elicit the reader’s sympathy first and foremost in his favour. There is no huge significance attached to the apology except to act as a prop to his lengthy explanation of his action.

A cynic would say that in apologising Martin Solveig has only affirmed his own misogyny.

This is the great thing about feminism. It offers women a critical way of looking at men’s behaviour and to be aware that ‘sorry’ sometimes mean ‘I am sorry that I was caught out’.

 

Does fawning over Nick Clegg still have a place in the party?

Nick Clegg may be out of formal politics but he remains a figure who either draws anger or admiration. There is no middle way with Nick despite his strong stance on seeing centrism as being the only sensible way in politics. This binary choice in liking or disliking him is very much still evident in the party despite Nick not even being an MP anymore.

His presence looms large. The unexpected announcement about his Facebook appointment was interesting for the views expressed by party members, most notably by Humphrey Hawksley, BBC foreign correspondent and author.

Humphrey wrote an article for Libdemvoice in which he called Nick (and Danny Alexander) a pioneer for global Liberal Democracy:

Both Clegg and Alexander are uniquely qualified for their roles because of their five years in coalition. They have long, gritty, front-line experience in stopping policies of extremism go too far. Both are men of integrity whom I expect to walk if they felt they could no longer influence policy and stop bad things happening.”

It is an extraordinary post for the sweeping assumptions that it makes based on a moral high-ground which completely disassociates itself from the still swirling negative opinion that surrounds Nick and, for that matter, Facebook. Where to start?

Many people think that Nick didn’t do enough to stop the scapegoating of the poor and low-income earners which has led to austerity caused deaths, to this day. Men of integrity who would walk away? They didn’t walk away from the coalition did they when the party lost more than 700 councillors in the local elections in 2014 despite it being obvious that “…bad things happening” were causing the party’s downslide in the polls? Instead Nick clamped down even harder on party sceptics who questioned his support for the coalition. I would err on the side of ‘power’ being a more attractive proposition than the virtues of liberal democracy were to Nick.

Call me a cynic but I see Nick’s appointment at Facebook as being a typical Neoliberal revolving door type position and situation where those previously in Government join the Corporate world on a high salary. Nick joins the company of other Neoliberal types like Tony Blair and George Osbourne and presents no exception. It is a well paid job because it is with a billion dollar company. It is, both, naïve and arrogant to try and draw a line between, supposedly, jobs in “high-income non Liberal shilling”, as Humphrey puts it, and Nick’s Facebook appointment.

Granted Facebook has freed up the dissemination of information and the ease with which it is retrieved but it is NOT a Liberal entity. It is, at best, a Libertarian entity. It doesn’t pay enough taxes and is slow to assume responsibility for policing damaging and harmful content. What is Liberal about that? Facebook is an innovator of Capitalism and NOT an innovator of Liberalism.

It is a highly controversial corporate outfit. Facebook is currently appealing against a £500,000 fine by the Information Commissioner for its part in the Cambridge Analytica breach. It is also facing allegations of racism. 

Nick’s supporters like Humphrey will find a myriad of ways to support his decisions. If you read the comments in the article  it is obvious that Nick’s ‘achievements’ are framed as a personal effort in a congratulatory way. This seems to be the way we judge politicians these days. If they are seen to have ‘done their best’, regardless of the outcome, their stint is deemed a success. Never mind the impact on the rest of us and the party. Such fawning isn’t suited to politics in a Western democracy where politicians ought to be subject to more rigorous analysis.