Category Archives: Racism

Thoughtful article asks the question – Are you sure you aren’t Racist?

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‘I’m sure the Oxbridge admissions tutors who are giving white students the benefit of the doubt don’t think of themselves as racist’ by Sophie Heawood 14 Feb

You know what it’s like, you’re driving to meet someone and you send them a message saying you’re 10 minutes away. And then you arrive a full hour later, because you’ve been pulled over by the police, who suspect you of dealing drugs, although they don’t actually tell you that in so many words as they go rifling through your things.

Actually, I have no idea what that feels like, never having been stopped by the police for anything, even though I’ve walked around with drugs on me several times in my life. (I was younger, foolisher, things change.) But this week, when I was waiting to interview George the Poet, a musician recently nominated for a Brit award, this is what happened to him. He’s black, he drives a decent car, he wears Nike, and says it happens all the time. Every day he leaves his London home aware that random and unwarranted police attention might divert him from his path, and that he has to remain diplomatic rather than make it worse for himself by revealing how upsetting he finds it. Me, I just leave the house, idly wondering if I’ve remembered to put my phone charger in my bag.

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The report just published by race equality charity the Runnymede Trust, proving that it is harder for black and Asian students to get into the country’s most selective universities (even armed with the same A-level grades as white applicants), comes as a further kick in the teeth to optimists who want to believe that institutional racism is in decline. George the Poet, real name George Mpanga, is a Cambridge graduate: even if you make it through the university selection process, the assumptions about how you paid for that car are still waiting for you on the other side.

I’m sure the police who stopped Mpanga’s car don’t think they’re racist. I’m sure the Oxbridge admissions tutors who are giving white students the benefit of the doubt, while extending less confidence to other applicants, don’t think of themselves as racist, either. Many of them would probably say, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body”, always the first sentence uttered by someone who hasn’t had to address their assumptions. A racist bone – as if racism was an alien substance that God used to build the bad people, rather than something that any one of us is capable of at any time. Casually, quickly; a glance, a hunch.

Continue reading Thoughtful article asks the question – Are you sure you aren’t Racist?

The Great Eviction (Long Read)

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The Great Eviction – The Landscape of Wall Street’s Creative Destruction by Laura Gottesdiener August 2, 2013

We cautiously ascend the staircase, the pitch black of the boarded-up house pierced only by my companion’s tiny circle of light. At the top of the landing, the flashlight beam dances in a corner as Quafin, who offered only her first name, points out the furnace. She is giddy; this house — unlike most of the other bank-owned buildings on the block — isn’t completely uninhabitable.

It had been vacated, sealed and winterized in June 2010, according to a notice on the wall posted by BAC Field Services Corporation, a division of Bank of America. It warned: “entry by unauthorized persons is strictly prohibited.” But Bank of America has clearly forgotten about the house and its requirement to provide the “maintenance and security” that would ensure the property could soon be reoccupied. The basement door is ajar, the plumbing has been torn out of the walls and the carpet is stained with water. The last family to live here bought the home for $175,000 in 2002; eight years later, the bank claimed an improbable $286,100 in past-due balances and repossessed it.

It’s May 2012 and we’re in Woodlawn, a largely African-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The crew Quafin is a part of dubbed themselves the HIT Squad, short for Housing Identification and Target. Their goal is to map blighted, bank-owned homes with overdue property taxes and neighbors angry enough about the destruction of their neighborhood to consider supporting a plan to repossess on the repossessors.

“Anything I can do,” one woman tells the group after being briefed on its plan to rehab bank-owned homes and move in families without houses. She points across the street to a sagging, boarded-up place adorned with a worn banner — “Grandma’s House Child Care: Register Now!” — and a disconnected number. There are 20 bank-owned homes like it in a five-block radius. Records showed that at least five of them were years past due on their property taxes.

Where exterior walls once were, some houses sport charred holes from fires lit by people trying to stay warm. In 2011, two Chicago firefighters died trying to extinguish such a fire at a vacant foreclosed building. Now, houses across the South Side are pockmarked with red Xs, indicating places the fire department believes to be structurally unsound. In other states – Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York, to name recent examples — foreclosed houses have taken to exploding after bank contractors forgot to turn off the gas.

Most of the occupied homes in the neighborhood we’re visiting display small signs: “Don’t shoot,” they read in lettering superimposed on a child’s face, “I want to grow up.” On the bank-owned houses, such signs have been replaced by heavy-duty steel window guards. (“We work with all types of servicers, receivers, property management and bank asset managers, enabling you to quickly and easily secure your building so you can move on,” boasts Door and Window Guard Systems, a leading company in the burgeoning “building security industry.”)

The dangerous houses are the ones left unsecured, littered with trash and empty Cobra vodka bottles. We approach one that reeks of rancid tuna fish and attempt to push open the basement door, held closed only by a flimsy wire. The next-door neighbor, returning home, asks: “Did you know they killed someone in that backyard just this morning?”

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The Equivalent of the Population of Michigan Foreclosed

Since 2007, the foreclosure crisis has displaced at least 10 million people from more than four million homes across the country. Families have been evicted from colonials and bungalows, A-frames and two-family brownstones, trailers and ranches, apartment buildings and the prefabricated cookie-cutters that sprang up after World War II. The displaced are young and old, rich and poor, and of every race, ethnicity and religion. They add up to approximately the entire population of Michigan.

Continue reading The Great Eviction (Long Read)

More thoughts on Charlie Hebdo…..

There is a conflict here.  Some of the stuff Charlie Hedbo published was offensive and would have upset me if it were printed in the UK and yet I defend the magazine’s right to free speech?  Would I defend another magazine that used images we would more easily identify as Racist or anti-semitic? The only answer I have is that i sympathise with Islam for the offence. but in a democracy we have the right to publish things which other religions would find insulting as well. Free speech in a Democracy is about facing criticism as well as satire and sometimes outright attacks  however painful.  There are going to have to be some limits to this and for me that is when thing go over into the violent or racist or hateful as Charlie Hedbo often did.

In the UK most media know where that boundary is and that the consequence of stepping over it is people will stop buying your paper (eg the Sun and Hillsborough). The media backlash when they get things wrong can be ferocious and polarising (When the Guardian published Hilary Mantels short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher it knew the right wingers who would be offended were not its readers so it would lose little)  Because our democracy is still relatively vigorous that kind of (mostly) self policing works for us. That Charlie Hedbo was encouraged to go on publishing things that were offensive is probably worrying for France and its democracy. On the other hand there are countries in the world where publishing these cartoons would have been a death penalty offence.

Personally I found many of the things Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Fox News  have been saying on just this issue extremely offensive but I recognise the danger in limiting their freedom to say it. 

These are tough issues requiring nuanced thought and ideas, both things which have been conspicuously lacking in some quarters over the past few days. Probably the only thing we can say with certainty is that no one deserved to die for it.  

One of the aims of the vigils all over the world seems to me to be to be about people on both sides of the issues getting together and saying to their countrymen and the world  “Think a bit about this and don’t let things get out of hand”  and that is probably the best thing to come out of this.

Joe Sacco’s cartoon (next) has images some may find offensive (in order to make a point) as do some of the links below.

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Charlie Hebdo Is both Heroic and Racist We should both embrace and condemn it By Jordan Weissmann

The editors and cartoonists murdered in Wednesday’s attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo are now martyrs for the cause of free speech. Threatened with death for publishing drawings of the prophet Mohammed meant to mock Islamic radicals, they refused to censor themselves, and so were gunned down. They died bravely for an ideal we all treasure.

But their work featuring Mohammed could be sophomoric and racist. Not all of it; a cover image of the prophet about to be beheaded by a witless ISIS thug was trenchant commentary on how little Islamic radicalism has to do with the religion itself. But often, the cartoonists simply rendered Islam’s founder as a hook-nosed wretch straight out of Edward Said’s nightmares, seemingly for no purpose beyond antagonizing Muslims who, rightly or wrongly, believe that depicting Mohammed at all is blasphemous.

This, in a country where Muslims are a poor and harassed minority, maligned by a growing nationalist movement that has used liberal values like secularism and free speech to cloak garden-variety xenophobia. France is the place, remember, where the concept of free expression has failed to stop politicians from banning headscarves and burqas. Charlie Hebdo may claim to be a satirical, equal-opportunity offender. But there’s good reason critics have compared it to “a white power mag.” As Jacob Canfield wrote in an eloquent post at the Hooded Utilitarian, “White men punching down is not a recipe for good satire.”

So Charlie Hebdo’s work was both courageous and often vile. We should be able to keep both of these realities in our minds at once, but it seems like we can’t.

Continue reading More thoughts on Charlie Hebdo…..

How US Republicans became the “White Man’s Party” (Long Read)

I struggle to understand where the  sheer nastiness of Southern US Republicans came from. Their attitudes and philosophies seem so at odds with the Liberal Democracy of the Roosevelts which had seemed to me to be the dominant philosophy in the US before. It turns out that they are classic opportunistic huckster politicians  playing the Race card as their like have done throughout history (see Nigel Farage), but this time with a breathtaking arrogance that was only made possible because 150 years after the US civil war ended slavery the country’s issues with Race had still not been addressed. This is a thoughtful article which details how the the US moves towards Civils Rights in the 1960’s produced an opposite reaction of the fear of loss of White privilege in many Southerners which cynical Republicans are still successfully mining for support today (see Fox News). Learning how to play the dog whistle was the key to it all….

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For nearly 50 years US Republicans have banked on the unerring support of Southern white men. Here’s how it came to be by IAN HANEY-LOPEZ DEC 22, 2013

Excerpted from “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class.”

Few names conjure the recalcitrant South, fighting integration with fire-breathing fury, like that of George Wallace. The central image of this “redneck poltergeist,” as one biographer referred to him, is of Wallace during his inauguration as governor of Alabama in January 1963, before waves of applause and the rapt attention of the national media, committing himself to the perpetual defense of segregation. Speaking on a cold day in Montgomery, Wallace thundered his infamous call to arms: “Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland … we sound the drum for freedom. … In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say … segregation now … segregation tomorrow … segregation forever!”

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The story of dog whistle politics begins with George Wallace. But it does not start with Wallace as he stood that inauguration day. Rather, the story focuses on who Wallace was before, and on whom he quickly became.

Continue reading How US Republicans became the “White Man’s Party” (Long Read)

#illridewithyou: hashtag offers solidarity with Sydney’s Muslims after siege

After concerns that people wearing Islamic dress could be harassed, Sydney locals have been using Twitter to offer to travel with them theguardian.com, Monday 15 December 2014

With hostages still in danger and central Sydney in lockdown, residents have turned to social media to spread a message of tolerance.

Locals have became concerned about the potential for rising intolerance or aggression towards people wearing religious dress.

One woman started what soon blossomed into a social media campaign to stand in solidarity with the city’s Muslims.

Tessa Kum, a TV content editor and writer living in Sydney, told Guardian Australia she acted after seeing a tweet from Michael James:

She then posted offering her company to anyone in religious attire on her route.

Continue reading #illridewithyou: hashtag offers solidarity with Sydney’s Muslims after siege

Noam Chomsky – Reagan Was an ‘Racist’ Who Re-Enslaved African Americans

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The famed scholar blames the drug war for subjugating African Americans By Scott Kaufman December 11, 2014

In an interview with GRITtv’s Laura Flanders (below), linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky discussed how the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the protests that followed demonstrate just how little race relations in the United States have advanced since the end of the Civil War.

“This is a very racist society,” Chomsky said, “it’s pretty shocking. What’s happened to African-Americans in the last 30 years is similar to what [Douglas Blackmon in Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II] describes happening in the late 19th Century.”

Blackmon’s book describes what he calls the “Age of Neoslavery,” in which newly freed slaves found themselves entangled in a legal system built upon involuntary servitude — which included the selling of black men convicted of crimes like vagrancy and changing employers without receiving permission.

“The constitutional amendments that were supposed to free African-American slaves did something for about 10 years, then there was a North-South compact that granted the former the slave-owning states the right to do whatever they wanted,” he explained. “And what they did was criminalize black life, and that created a kind of slave force. It threw mostly black males into jail, where they became a perfect labor force, much better than slaves.”

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“If you’re a slave owner, you have to pay for — you have to keep your ‘capital’ alive. But if the state does it for you, that’s terrific. No strikes, no disobedience, the perfect labor force. A lot of the American Industrial Revolution in the late 19th, early 20th Century was based on that. It pretty must lasted until World War II.”

Continue reading Noam Chomsky – Reagan Was an ‘Racist’ Who Re-Enslaved African Americans

Nigel Farage and Enoch Powell – the full story of Ukip’s links with the ‘Rivers of Blood’ politician

“…by marrying his version of nationalism to racist rage he gave British racism and racist violence in British streets its own peculiar shape for a time, and it bore his name, Powellism. He offered British politicians a model for racialist rhetoric which was to last for a long time – when, a decade later, Mrs Thatcher spoke of British civilisation being “swamped” the Powellite echoes were unmistakable, and successful.” Mike Phillips in Obituary of Enoch Powell 2001 – it seems you you could also add the name Nigel Farage a further decade on from Thatcher.

Mr Farage wrote to Mr Powell asking for his support to win a by-election in 1994

 Documents show that Mr Farage asked Mr Powell for his support to win a by-election in 1994 and Ukip officials made repeated attempts to enlist his support By Christopher Hope 9:00PM GMT 12 Dec 2014

Nigel Farage has never hidden his admiration for Enoch Powell, the Conservative politician whose 1968 Rivers of Blood speech overshadowed race relations in Britain for decades.

Powell used a speech in Birmingham to rail against the social consequences of immigration from the Commonwealth and new race relations laws. He warned: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” Powell lost his job as the shadow defence secretary and became a political pariah. But polls at the time found that his speech was credited by some for returning the Tories to power in the 1970 general election. He quit the Tories in 1974 and served as an Ulster Unionist MP for South Down until he left Parliament in 1987, turning down a life peerage.

Few politicians had dared to praise him in public until 2008, when Mr Farage, who at the time had been leader of UK Independence Party for two years, named him as his political hero, saying: “While his language may seem out of date now, the principles remain good and true.”

Mr Farage added: “I would never say that Powell was racist in any way at all. Had we listened to him, we would have much better race relations now than we have got.” Then, in January this year, Mr Farage was read parts of the “Rivers of Blood” speech on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme and said he agreed with the “basic principle” of Mr Powell’s words.

Mr Farage has only ever admitted to two meetings with Powell, who died in 1998. In his autobiography, Fighting Bull, Mr Farage described how on meeting Powell as a teenager at Dulwich College, the MP “dazzled me for once into an awestruck silence”.

On the second occasion, in May 1993, Mr Farage drove Powell to a Ukip rally, where he was due to speak, on the eve of the Newbury by-election, where the party’s founder, Alan Sked, was standing as a candidate.

Mr Farage described how a group of communists outside Newbury Racecourse hit his Mercedes with “a large wooden stave”, but Powell was “totally unmoved”. He wrote: “That meeting, with a man who had achieved so much and sacrificed so much for his principles, awoke all sorts of aspirations in me which I had not even acknowledged before. It inspired me. Public service was not just about kowtowing to a party line.”

Documents unearthed by The Daily Telegraph in an archive at Cambridge University show that Mr Farage wrote to Powell asking for his support in a by-election in 1994. They also show that Mr Farage’s initial contact was followed up by repeated attempts by party officials and candidates to enlist the support of Mr Powell, including two invitations to stand as a candidate for Ukip in two national elections.

Continue reading Nigel Farage and Enoch Powell – the full story of Ukip’s links with the ‘Rivers of Blood’ politician