Racial Literacy

Here I aim to create a list of terms and definitions around racial literacy.


Anchoring


When we think too little our judgments can be skewed by irrelevant information that we happened to see, hear, or think about a moment ago. This phenomenon is known as anchoring. Anchoring is one of the cognitive biases discovered by Tversky and Kahneman (1974)

Source: https://cocosci.princeton.edu/papers/AnchoringSimulations.pdf

Culturally Inclusive

A culturally inclusive environment requires mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self-reflection.


In an inclusive environment, people of all cultural orientations can:

● freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view
● fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities
● feel safe from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism.

Source: https://www.usc.edu.au/ 

Microagressions

The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that People of Color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.


Source: Derald W. Sue


Tokensim


A token status invokes the feeling of being responsible for representing one’s minority group favorably in any given domain. This feeling of responsibility or self-consciousness diverts the token’s attention from
the cognitive task at hand and therefore can result in deficits in problem solving and memory.


Source: Saenz, 1994

Stereotype


Exaggerated belief[s] associated with a [social] category

Source: Allport, 1979


Stereotype Threat

When students belong to a known group for which negative assumptions to intelligence exists a process called a stereotype threat can provoke responses which impair academic performance as well as
academic engagement (Steele and Aronson, 1995, Aronson et al, 2001).
Beasley and Fischer (2011) collate research in which the stereotype threat has been shown to reduces
academic attainment through physiological increases in blood pressure (Blascovich et al. 2001), a reduction in working memory (Schmader and Johns 2003) as well as protective disengagement from the task to save their self esteem (Aronson et al. 1998).

Source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9280.00272


BAME


Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – A UK specific term used to describe all would do not ascribe to the white label. Recently this label and the nature of the label have been described as problematic as it conflates the journeys and the lives of 80% of the world population into one category.

Pran Patel 2020

Global Majority (GM)

The BAME acronym but acknowledge the majority aspect of the world’s population and moves away from the minority word.


Pran Patel 2020

Individual Racism

Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm.


Tools and Concepts for Strengthening Racial Equity, Presentation to School District U- 46, Terry Keleher,
Applied Research Center, 2011

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.

Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major. 2005


Structural Racism


The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of
racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.


Racial Justice Action Education Manual. Applied Research Center, 2003.

White Privilege

The lack of racial discrimination and disadvantage. Privilege can be split into the opposing definitions
of institutionalised, structural and individual racism.


Pran Patel 2020

Decolonise ‘Choice’

In this piece, we will challenge the often-repeated ideology that the panacea for inequity is in the hands of that individual, the choices we have and the choices we give to our students.

We often tell our young people, “Behave correctly, make better choices and work hard you’ll go further in life”. Now I have often written how the idea of the meritocracy is racist, classist, sexist, etc. Today let’s concentrate on the “correct” and “better choices”.

All students can change their life chances through their choices; this narrative is: “You can be anything you want, you just have to choose to work harder seize the opportunity”. 

Working hard is the apparent solution to everything. 

The idea of the ‘meritocracy’ is racist, classist, sexist, etc. I can see the eye-rolling from sceptics through the page; working hard means earning more outstanding merit, which means you will achieve more. As we have a disproportionate number of white, male, straight people at the top of society’s tree, this must mean that they work harder. Everyone who doesn’t is lazy, or that those characteristics inhibit their ability to do so.

What are the Choices that Exist? 

Black and Brown folx have the choice to not talk with an accent, to not wear traditional garments, to not celebrate their own culture, to embrace ‘our’ culture which looks like coming to the pub, eat out food in the staff room, have a stiff upper lip, to keep their mouth shut, to shut up and put up and it goes on and on.

Would you say there is a choice? Do they or you have options? Would I get booked as many talks if I talk with a broad South Asian influenced Black Country accent and dialect? If you didn’t go to the pub because your faith and culture forbid the promotion of or the consumption of alcohol, would you not miss out on those relationship-building opportunities with the powers that be? Can you eat your traditional foods and be chastised for eating with your hands? 

What we teach our children is that the only path is to acquiesce because resistance means sacrifice. 

Being your authentic self* is often banded around leadership spaces. Integrity and authenticity are essential for even my measure of a good leader. 

However, that caveat is important: *within the realms of ‘our’ acceptability (whiteness, maleness, heteroness, etc.). Be authentic and celebrate the parts of yourself that fit? If you don’t, then keep working on taking on those traits till you can.

There maybe be people out there plying the argument that maleness is the best or that the whiteness in our society produces the more significant results. Shockingly, I, yes, me, Pran Patel, I may even agree with you. However, we must recognise that society does not exist in an objective reality; what if I told you that we’d been brainwashed into the correct, the good and the best?

I sat in a car with three men after an international cricket match at Trent Bridge last week, and it was a good day, a day out with family. Our conversation slopes from the test match we’d just left because of the rain to the Hundred. The fantastic new format of the game was introduced in the summer of 2021, and through a masterstroke of marketing, the women’s match is offered for free and before the traditional evening men’s version. 

A brother of mine says:

“You don’t see the same power in the women game.”

Another pipes up from the driver’s seat: 

“And they think it should have the same commercial value, pay them the same as the men, pah”

Then:

“Come on, Pran, hit us with your response *eye roll*.”

I sat quietly, thinking about the thread of the discussion. My mind first interrogated the women’s game, the speed that bowlers bowl and the distances people hit the ball; it must be comparable, surely. Then to the question: Are we trained to see the ball travel further and faster when in the hand of a man, the way stereotype association, salience and perception work, probably? But, there is something wrong with this line of thinking.

Now I could argue about the virtues of the women’s game, the skills, the timing, anything really, there are many measures we could use for entertainment, but that misses the target. We need to swap the bow and arrow for something else. There is something wrong with the very idea of what is and is not entertaining.

Even once we have incorporated the perception and stereotype factor, it’s still likely true that the women’s game doesn’t see fast bowling at the same speeds or batting with the power-hitting. The real question is, why did these become the metric for better cricket? Who decided that power, blistering pace are the sole measure of value and entertainment? Where did that idea come? Who decided that this is entertainment? And who brainwashed us?

The Issues within the Mark. 

Why is strength (as a consequence leadership, power and action) seen as masculine primarily? Suppose our measuring instrument is designed to observe a trait that tends towards maleness. In that case, there is a logical consequence that women are placed into a position of inferiority by default. If your ruler quantifies whiteness as the epitome of success, i.e. How articulate you are? How correct your language is? The vernacular and lexical choices you use, the cultural capital, economic capital, credentialed, etc., white people are then seen as superior sequentially. 

Then a transformation happens; success is not only measured by whiteness, but whiteness becomes success.

Case study: Classism

Recently Lord Digby Jones criticised Alex Scott’s exposition of sports.

“Enough! I can’t stand it anymore! Alex Scott spoils a good presentational job on the BBC Olympics Team with her very noticeable inability to pronounce her ‘g’s at the end of a word.Competitors are NOT taking part, Alex, in the fencin, rowin, boxin, kayakin, weightliftin & swimming”

She responded with:

“I’m from a working class family in East London, Poplar, Tower Hamlets & I am PROUD 🙌🏾  

Proud of the young girl who overcame obstacles, and proud of my accent!

It’s me, it’s my journey, my grit.”

Finally the Lord

“Alex Scott, please don’t play the working class card. You are worthy of much better than that! I admire & often publicly praise the adversity you faced & defeated to achieve all the success you deserve. Not sounding a g at the end of a word is wrong; period. It’s not a question”

Lord Digby seems to value the elocution of the ‘g’, which is his measure of success or correctness. 

There is a lot to say here:

  1.  English is not French with the Académie Française; the language is free to live, evolve, and change, the colloquial vocabulary, elocution and pronunciation of the language changes daily and is even recognised annually. So, what is ‘wrong’? If we measure the correctness by standards that are trained into the middle classes, then the middle classes will always be more ‘correct’ than the working classes.
  1. This idea of the working-class card is classist (and arguable racist by default), recognising that these power structures exist and that you are being denigrated because it is a nefarious act upholds those same structures. The following sentence plays to the value of defeating adversity to achieve success. ‘Adversity’ exists because the system that Lord Digby benefits from, whether she has overcome and defeated barriers, could be used as a measure of her success. This does not mean that the scores of working-class people are not to be admired for not defeating those hurdles.

Decolonisation

Decolonisation seeks to challenge the correctness of the exam papers, the content, and the choices that lead to both. While we look at the curricula contents, we must primarily keep these two questions in mind: What is correct? Why is it right? And then feed the answers into actions which seek to change those ideas going forward.

There is a level of correctness to be challenged throughout, which is often dictated by exam boards and pre existing content. As teaching in the UK is measured on exam results, teachers end up teaching to the test. I don’t think this is controversial as ‘what gets measured get done’, but I don’t believe an educator in the country came into the profession to imbue their students with the ability to predict mark schemes and pass exams. As a profession, we should be centring on learning and adapting the assessment to suit. There is a need to flip the narrative. 

Yes, we have little choice as educators to teach the material. However, we have the power to deliver through a critical lens and with the skills to empower the next generation to challenge the status quo of ‘correctness’.

What is Racialised Trauma? ACEs?

I was moved to write this after listening to Tupac Amaru Shakur on the radio; the specific lyrics are:

“We gotta make a change

 It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes

 Let’s change the way we eat

 Let’s change the way we live

 And let’s change the way we treat each other

 You see, the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do

 What we gotta do, to survive”

Tupac Amaru Shakur

Obesity, poor nutrition is not about choice. It’s a coping mechanism to racism, as is the dispositional traits we leave to the next generation and the internalisation of the same hate.

This blog took a long time to write; well, that’s a fib, the reading for this blog and a chapter I recently wrote took a long time. My thinking is detailed in that chapter in the book. 

Racism is traumatic. Its insidious fingers reach from the system’s modus operandi, the nervous system and even the expression of the codes in the cells of people of colour.

As educators, I’m sure that you are aware of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences); Felliti’s 1998 study included nearly 14’000 participants and found that folx who had higher scores of the twelve questions below were more likely to follow a path through neurological, sociological, emotional and cognitive development to adopt health risk behaviour which leads to lower quality of life as well as early death. 

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
  8. Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
  9. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
  10. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
  11. Did a household member go to prison

Since 1998 there has been adaption to the questions but barely a mention of racism. It’s time we talk about RAces. 

Even if we skip the categorization of the harm in traditional ACES, the impact of racism is intergenerational, and this also has a dispositional element. Racism is likely to impact melanated people and children from the point of conception. (Bernard et al. 2020)

How can Racialized Trauma present in People?

First, we need to think about triggers. 

I often state that racism is systemic and that although individual acts of racialized violence occur, these should not be our focus. When it comes to mental and physical health, it all matters. 

“Racism is considered a fundamental cause of adverse health outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities and racial and ethnic inequities in health.” (Williams, Lawrence and Davis, 2019) 

Mental health experiences are different for People of Colour. There are apparent differences in categorization; for example, there are many different cultural perspectives of co-dependency. In some cases is not seen as an illness at all. Why should our anglo eurocentric view supersede those others? (I will write about issues with DSM at some point too)

When Black and Latinx folx experience mental illness, their episodes tend to be more severe, persist for longer periods of time, and are more debilitating than the white majority. (Williams, 2018)

Racism is associated with a broad spectrum of diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular (think COVID 19 and its impact) through an increase in allostatic load (hormonal and neuronal responses), inflammation, obesity, etc (Lewis, Cogburn and Williams 2015, Paradies et al. 2015 in William 2018).

When thinking about your classroom, we need to recognize the positionality between teacher and student. Racism is normally presented from those lines of power, such as watching family members (and yourself as a child) being dressed down by police, being denied a role or promotion based on your skin colour, being moved sets regardless of your ability, etc. As a teacher (especially if you are racialized as white), you are in a pivotal role, where the trust needs to be built from the remanent of broken promises and never demanded. 

I detail an introduction to racially informed classrooms and the impact of trauma in that upcoming book, so, need to double up on that work.

This impact of trauma is sometimes void of clarity and nonsequential. People of colour may even expect adverse treatment as a result, and creating these defensive barriers to protect themselves is dangerous in themselves. I can attest to these survival necessities, but James Baldwin says it so much more eloquently in a chapter called Previous Condition in ‘Going to see the man’ (which I would recommend ever teacher read).

“In all this running around I’d learned a few things, like a prizefighter learns to takes a blow or a dancer learns to fall, I’d learned how to get by. I’d learned how to get by. I’d learned never to be belligerent with policemen, for instance. No matter who was right, I was certain to be wrong.

After the first few times, I realised that I had to play smart, to act out the role I was expected to play.”

Lots to think about. Racism is not simple and delves deep into every nook and cranny of our lives.

Further Reading 

Williams D. R. (2018). Stress and the Mental Health of Populations of Color: Advancing Our Understanding of Race-related Stressors. Journal of health and social behavior59(4), 466–485. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146518814251

Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, Koss MP, Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Prev Med. 1998 May;14(4):245-58. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00017-8. PMID: 9635069.

Dog Whistles

I write this after reading that Archbishop of York has attacked London’s metropolitan elite…

I don’t agree at all with the ‘Most reverend’ but that’s by the by. I want to concentrate on the use of the dog whistle.

It is apt that the physical instrument that we now know as a dog whistle, a silent silver tube which dogs hear and react to was designed by Francis Galton. UCL’s father of Eugenics.

A dog whistle is also the use of words and phrases which covertly signals to a more extreme partisan supporter group.

When Nigel Farage said that Labour are more concerned with the people of Islington than the people of Hartlepool. He is pointing at race appealing to a racist voter base while having the deniability that politician often cite. I don’t see this as anything other than straight up racism. If we really want to talk of about differences (apart from melanin) then primarily the majority of people of Islington have more in common with the majority of people of Hartlepool than Mr Farage.

London metropolitan elite is an anti Semitic dog whistle. These words from any member of the clergy would be careless and reckless at best, but from the man who holds second highest position in Anglican Church? I’m not saying that this was deliberate or malicious but you make your own minds up.

The Church of England like every other organisation is institutionally racist and this presents in individual incidents such as:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-56779190

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-vicar-durham-job-augustine-tanner-ihm-white-working-class-a9570941.html

These comment against thee backdrop of a report commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury which stated that the church should not “unconditionally celebrate or commemorate” slave traders and the man himself saying that the church has routinely “bullied, overlooked, undermined and excluded” black and ethnic minority folx in April of this year.

Mixed messages much?

This is insidious. Awareness is step one and challenging it is the rest of the staircase.

Some examples: when someone refers to inner city crime, we all know they are talking about melanated people.

Here are some more …

Gender critical –

Thug –

preexisting condition –

Middle class / Posh –

Our way of life –

Gang violence –

Articulate –

Uppity –

Religious freedom –

Extremist –

Control of the media –

International bankers –

Grooming gangs –

British Values –

Illegal immigrant –

Bossy –

Martin Luther King – Non Violence? Really?

person holding a sign

When I am told again that racial prejudice will end from non-violent means by people who haven’t read any work by Martin Luther King, I may begin my response with … well, you can guess. Before you prepare your Black History month lesson please start questioning what you think you know about the civil rights movement.

Let me start with some of the reading and interpretations of King’s work.

In his early work, specifically “Stride towards freedom”, he details what he calls the courageous use of the power of love. A later paper entitled ‘a pilgrimage to non-violence’, King refers to a Christian doctrine of love operating through a Gandhian method of satyagraha (which translates to the force of truth) and ahimsa (non-violence). This doctrine is based on the following six fundamental principles:

1. Resisting evil with non-violence 

2. Non-violence seeks ‘friendship and understanding’ of the oppressor 

3. Evil should be opposed, not the people committing the evil acts

4. One must be willing to suffer without retaliation 

5. Non-violence means that there’s a refusal to ‘shoot’ your oppressor and to hate him also and be motivated by love (agape).

6. Deep faith in the future and the universe is on the side of justice.

Here we have various tenets that all stand up to the idyllic ‘I have dream’ image, which is good for him. To turn the other cheek is a noble tactic, and I commend his faith in his Lord and religion. It seems that King deserves his place in the pantheon and the hagiographic type scripture written around him; When his family home was attacked in 1956, an unidentified man walked up to the house threw a bomb onto the porch of the building where his wife and newborn daughter slept. By the grace of God, no one was hurt in the explosion. Dr King remarkably responded to the gathering crowd with:

“I want you to love our enemies … “Be good to them, love them, and let them know you love them.”

Now, this is commendable. However, regardless of King’s level of forgiveness and non-violence, I fundamentally believe that progress toward racial equality would have occurred. I do not think that non-violence or even public disruption is the sole key to the liberation of People of Colour in our world. 

Do you agree? 

Let me ask. Is the only way to ensure people don’t continue to kill us? To allow them to murder us and hope that something will give their souls?

That all being said, in his previous writing, he does recognise that any response to violence as being:

“I am no doctrinaire pacifist. I have tried to embrace a realistic pacifism. Moreover, I see the pacifist position not as sinless but as the lesser evil in the circumstances.” (ibid, Pilgrimage to non-violence)

Personally, after centuries of demonstrating and observing systemic and individual oppression, I would think that the former colonisers and slave masters would have converted to a newfound love for the us’s long ago, and we’d be living in a relative dream, a beloved utopia. 

Honestly, you’d think that watching, reading and observing the deaths of hundreds, including a 6-month-old baby at Jallianwala. What about the hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu tortured and killed by our state? Would they not have reached the level of empathy needed? And it today’s world what about the black folx who dies in police custody or the disproportionate number of People of Colour incarcerated by our judicial system.

King’s whole rhetoric and doctrine are about appealing to your oppressor’s moral code, hoping that the majority of people will do the right thing when shown the error of their ways. Some folx may agree. I do not, but you know, you, do you. 

The difference between my ‘opinion’ and many people peddling their meme powered inpretations is that it comes from learning. I allowed myself to train critically and assimilate the knowledge through various lenses and read widely, and I still don’t claim to be right (if such a thing exists). As educators, do you give our students the same chances?

How Enamoured are you with Whiteness?

Racism will convince you into propagating its harm by 1. Selling you a sanitised version of the truth and giving you the confidence to defend it without having any rigour 2. Allow you to pick and choose within those versions of resistance that are acceptable and ignore or denounce those which are not 3. Create an environment of distraction which sees the victims as the aggressors and society as a perfect paradise.

Educators, you cannot pick and choose King’s doctrine. You even cannot claim to follow King’s brand of antiracism, the philosophy of non-violence or even to not be a racist and continue to teach and support a colonised curriculum. The ethnocentrism in our curricula fundamentally is a commitment to refuse to engage in the education which seeks to elicit empathy from the masses through the victims’ experiences. 

Dr King talks of the Greek concept of agape (love through understanding); I advocate agoge, a vision of training to resistance through unity. Agoge has a two-fold impact on teachers, building unity through awareness and critical thought through direct action, whether physical, economic or epistemic.

Non-violence has been co-opted by the societal status quo and centres People of Colour at the heart of their oppression. Putting the onus of liberty from oppression on the victims and their actions is problematic. 

Racism does not exist because of People of Colour. Racism exists because of White people. Anything else is victim-blaming. 

When a councillor stated that David Lammy and the way he behaves is the reason for racism, we have to start admitting why this appropriation and the parts of this method are so dangerous. 

Even if you believe that a Person of Colour’s actions are detrimental to their pursuit of liberation; As a white person, remember you benefit from that oppression; it is not your place to judge and certainly not to comment.

The Wider Movement

You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language. 

“If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what this man speaks. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he’ll get the point. There’ll be some dialogue.”

Malcolm X

I believe violence should be met violence. We forget that all acts of resistance lead to pain for those challenging the societal norm. There is an actual cost for every single activist. We are quick to forget that Dr King was not revered but hated by most Americans during his lifetime and his struggle against his subjugation led to his eventual martyrdom. 

Responding in Kind

There is an overwhelming view that antiracists are racists in reverse (this doesn’t exist) or that resisting racism is a violence in the vein are both deliberate malicious falsehoods. I ask you if a criminal enters your house. You remove him, so he cannot hurt you and your family. 

Does that make you a robber?

Whiteness and Acceptable voices.

It is funny how we are quick to dismiss the teaching and omit certain voices in the liberation struggle when they do not serve the (that’s the societal status quos’ and whitenesses’) agenda, that lovely, polite little box.

Frederick Douglass stated that power concedes nothing without demand and that a good revolver is the best response to slave catchers. Hartman Turnbow, who fought off the KKK with rifle fire, stated beautifully.

“I wasn’t being non-nonviolent, I was just protectin’ my family” 

And Fannie Lou Hamer, who sums up the false dichotomy in its entirety.

“Baby you just got to love ’em. Hating just makes you sick and weak. I’ll tell you why. I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even look like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again.”

Upholding White Supremacy through co-opting the Resistance.

If you are not wondering why sometimes we only teach the bits that fit. You probably haven’t read enough about the resistance of racism.

King himself wrote:

“Violence exercised in self-defence, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilised, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defence, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.”

Martin Luther King, The Social Organization of Nonviolence 1959

As an educator, have you ever even thought about analysing our society, your organisation or your actions. Whiteness’s ideology will con you to the idea that challenging the norm is race-baiting and causing rifts. This idea of being divisive implies an existing whole, solidarity and unity. This doesn’t exist today, I promise you, and if you are white and were and are clueless, after reading this, I want you to ask yourself why you don’t understand how people are divided along the lines of race from conception.

Tactics of Silence

Be polite, watch you tone, act this way. The words of the oppressors may be in the vein of civility, and they may dismiss ours because our responses don’t flow from their place of power. When told to be polite (the etymology of these words says alot), watching our tone and our actions is ‘distraction’, and as we know, this is yet another function of white supremacy (Toni Morrison). 

Remember that violence is the same regardless of the response. Calling someone out for upholding white supremacy is worse than the initial act, it seems (reference: the whole world).

“In my travels in the North I was increasingly becoming disillusioned with the power structures there. I encountered the tragic and stubborn fact that in virtually no major city was there a mayor possessing statesmanship, understanding, or even strong compassion on the civil rights question. Many of them sat on platforms with all the imposing regalia of office to welcome me to their cities, and showered praise on the heroism of Southern Negroes. Yet when the issues were joined concerning local conditions only the language was polite; the rejection was firm and unequivocal.” 

Dr Martin Luther King

I am suggesting that we teach students of colour how to navigate the world around them and engage in their resistance in all methods of protest. To do this without making the structure clear takes away from the students right to justice.

Thus, I am not disregarding appealing to the conscience and that using civility and politeness should be unequivocally rejected. When rejecting a scholar or your student’s words because their resistance doesn’t fit your version of ‘nice’ resistance. When our society (which we benefit from) is responsible for their wounds is hypocritical and yet another form and function of white supremacy.

That lovely little box of acceptable resistance has long been used as a bludgeon to action, and the state rarely accepts the hypocrisy of the same rejection of non-violence. In 1967, King tried to apply ahimsa to militarism and specifically the Vietnam war… Unsurprising, this caused King’s popularity to drop and his open rejection by the white masses. It seemed non-violence is only acceptable and applauded when People of Colour are counter-resistance. 

The prevailing thought is that Dr King was utterly against violence, well was he? During the last two years of Dr King’s life, there was a definite change in his tone and timbre around non-violence. 

King believed that people would find a militant middle between riots and the weak and timid supplication for justice. He states that civil disobedience can be ‘aggressive but non-violent’; ‘it can dislocate but not destroy’. The specific planning will take some study and analysis to avoid past mistakes when employed on too small a scale and sustained too briefly. (King, APA, 1967)

In a Mike Wallace 60 minutes TV interview in 1966:

“A riot is the language of the unheard”

This for me, doesn’t indicate a road to Damascus conversion. It points a movement toward a movement towards a more overt action of the root of the cause of all violence. RACISM.

“My hope is that it will be non-violent. I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive. I would hope that we can avoid riots, but that we would be as militant and as determined next summer and through the winter as we have been this summer.”

Dr King spoke at the APA’s Annual Convention in Washington, among the rise of white violence and the response to violence.

King recognises that the white majority is unwilling to accept structural racial change and cause chaos through their resistance and complain simultaneously that orderly transition would come if there were no chaos in Black opposition. 

That very same speech includes a call for social scientists, which in essence, all teachers are; he is talking to us when asks to address the white community and ‘tell it like it is.’ That White people have an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the lives of black folx. When a voice is unheard; What is left?

“Without a more effective tactic for upsetting the status quo, the power structure could maintain its intransigence and hostility. Into the vacuum of inaction, violence and riots flowed, and a new period opened.

“Urban riots must now be recognised as durable social phenomena. They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community…”

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”

This speech was made shortly before his assassination, while it was still in galley proofs (final proof of an article). I take his late work to show his movement towards a more pragmatic, effective form and direct resistance.

I am not openly advocating physical violence. Remember, violence does not only exist within ones’ own hands and feet; even the act of reaching out to the authorities hoping that they will act in implementing a sanction, in other words, still enact violence against the perpetrators. (I would also point out in my experience and the disproportionate statistics around policing and the judicial system that the authorities are likely not to support the melanated victims, in favour of amplifying that violence, so I guess that was a bad example).

Resist epistemically or uphold the tiers of white supremacy there really isn’t a middle ground.

I will leave you with the words of Malcolm.

I don’t believe in violence – that why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love.

Reading:

https://www.speech.almeida.co.uk/malcolm-x

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/pilgrimage-nonviolence

Do you have the Courage to Stand with the Us’s?

Now – imagine – We meet up. Thanks to a mutual friend, let’s call him… TED.

For the next 10 minutes I’m going to transport us to a lovely cafe in London,

and an afternoon I spent there, not long ago.

Now, I’m not sure if this is a friend-thing. Or a business-thing.

Or even a date! TED hasn’t told me much about you.

But your smile puts me at ease.

We grab a table, order some coffee.

And small-talk about the news.

Which turns out to be a mistake.

The news is horrific.

And you agree!

So we do that beautiful thing that’s possible in conversation and side-step the frightening reality of ‘now’ with a related topic. You tell me about an irrational fear you had as a child…

And you’re so good at anecdotes. It had everything. Humor, insight.

Now, it’s my turn.

When I was eight, I went on my first ever camping trip with the local Cub Scout group in Wolverhampton. In my family, we do a lot of reading so it wasn’t unusual for me to go to the library for a big pile of books to read in preparation for the trip.

Unaware that the county of Shropshire is not covered with venomous snakes, I got a book on coral and corn snakes and learnt a rhyme to help me tell which were poisonous.

I still know the rhyme:

‘Red before black is safe for Jack. Red touching yellow will kill a fellow.’

So, venom is my answer.

All snakes bite, but venom kills.

But the UK doesn’t have coral snakes, so [shrug]. You laugh politely…

You’re so kind! This person is so nice.

“Talking about fear,” you say, then you hesitate.

“Thinking about the things we see on the news..”

Then you ask your question:

“Were you ever afraid of racist people?”

YES. Is the short answer. But I want to keep this light and for us to have fun on our cafe meeting/date/whatever.

So I decided to tell a story where I think I come out looking pretty good!

In my twenties. In London. On a night out and and I’ve met this beautiful brunette-

Now thinking this maybe isn’t the best story but I’ve started so I’ll keep going –

She said “There’s a 24 hour pub around the corner from mine, let’s go!”

I walked into this pub, her local, in one of the most diverse cities in the world. All white people. And I thought, okay. We walk in and she’s there talking to her friends because it’s her local. I overhear someone saying, “What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?” And me, thinking, “Strange, anyway…”

As they runs off to the toilet they says, “Can you get me a glass of wine?” And I was like yeah.

Over to the bar. “Can I get a medium glass of wine and a pint of Guinness.”

The person behind the bar serves a glass of wine. I ask about the Guinness and she says:

“We don’t really serve people like you, in here.”

10 years ago, I was witty. I was arrogant. I had long beautiful hair as well. So I looked around, looked down the bar. Looked at her squarely. Looked down the bar. Looked at her again and said, “What, beautiful people? I see what you mean.

I’ll have a pint of Guinness please.”

She pulled my pint. I finished my drink, and then we left.

You seemed to like that story. And I do too. I remember walking away thinking:

“That’s an absolute win.” But it wasn’t really because nothing changed.

I wonder if I can tell a story that maybe makes you feel a bit angry about racism, but obviously still makes me look good.

We get talking about home, and you don’t assume I’m from anywhere other than the UK.

We talk about home cooking!

When I go back home to visit my dad, I’ll always go back to London with stacks of food.

My dad does this for me, just because I’m his boy. And I adore him for it.

I remember once going to school with a tin box full of lentils, and spices, and eating with my hands. I remember the teacher looking at me and saying:

“I think it’s unhygienic to eat with your hands.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“So you know, most of the world eats with their hands.”

And she was like, “Yeah, it’s unhygienic.”

“What are you eating?”

And she said “I’ve got sandwiches.”

“Yeah. Isn’t that interesting?”

Here we go. A flicker of anger. You want that story to not be true. But it is. I promise you it is.

Now you’re quiet. You’re thinking.

“What happened, when you were younger and not so able to speak for yourself?”

Okay. I’ll tell you what happened.

I remember walking with my old man, it was shortly after the camping trip. We were in town and there was narrow pavement. A mother was stood talking to someone else on the pavement.

I remember the mother, the mother and the young boy, we’re about the same age.

I remember saying something really polite, “Good afternoon. Excuse me.” Super polite. Me and my dad both chipped in. And the child just jumped out of the way, happy as Larry, beautiful eye contact. You know, when you have those moments between children, where there’s: “Oh it’s another kid!” That sort of that absolute joyful innocence.

I remember the mother looking scornfully at us. But worse is that she looked at the child with real venom. Word for word what dripped from her mouth was:

“Don’t ever move out of the way for these people.

They’ve taken enough already.”

Now I’ve made you look horrified.

And you’re so lovely I don’t want you to feel bad.

And it’s my fault…

So I complete the story…

The friend, the friend the mother was talking to…

She said to the mother: “What? What do you mean?”

Then to us: “I’m sorry on behalf of her. Have a wonderful day.”

The friend holds the difficult conversation with the mother while we walk away.

My dad looks at me aavu thai chhe ane thatu rahese.

(These things happen – Racist people are racist.But we are not on our own.)

You like the ending of that story. So I keep going. I could tell loads of stories like that!

Like when I was in year 8 at school, I remember sitting in science, being a bit of a geek, showing off and the teacher puts a hand on my shoulder in a position of caring for me, and this is someone in a position of authority that I respect. He says, loud enough for others to hear:

“It’s a shame you’re not white, you can really have got yourself a good job and made something yourself!”

I don’t like being the cause of your discomfort.

So I complete the story…

Do you know what happened the week after that? Another member of the science team announced a new science club. One where we were going to learn about and understand the achievements of scientists of colour, who aren’t normally mentioned in the mainstream syllabus.

At this revelation, you’re delighted! You tell me “that’s brilliant” and “you’re so glad the other teacher was there.”

You ask for one more…

So I think of the times I’ve been most afraid. Between the ages of 11 and 16 how many times was I running away from adults who had chosen to turn their racial slurs into physical assault?

There’s a scar on my head.

There’s scars across my body and they didn’t come from adventure holidays.

I’d be walking home from school, walking down the street, and a vehicle would pull up.

Words and spit came from the window. What you learn to do as a person of colour is to ignore.

And try to just keep walking. Any act of resistance at that age is an act that can cause you physical pain. When you get big enough to defend yourself, you don’t get this as much from everyday people. That’s when you start getting hassled more by police.

What I’ve learnt recently is that as soon as you start getting white in your beard, the police hassle you less! And then our issues are with success in the system and structures.

I remember times the van actually pulled up, people jumping out holding poles and bats as makeshift weapons, and having to run away. I remember running past people.

I wasn’t running home, I was just running. Running away from them.

Anywhere but on the street.

I’ll complete the story…

A person helped once. They saw me running and unhatched their gate pointing into their garden. “Jump in there!” I did. I knew I could bold a fence if needed.

And I caught my breath.

And my breath catches again. Now. In this moment. In the cafe we are in.

I can spot a racist. It’s not hard for me or for most people of colour who grew up in the UK. People say, “how do you know?” Almost four decades worth of experience.

“You don’t know, you can’t prove it.” I don’t need to prove it.

Turn on the news. Listen to the stories. As an activist, I want you to know every single racist incident that happens. I want white people to be aware of every single act of racially motivated violence against black and brown people moment to moment in the UK.

But it would be too uncomfortable.

Watching the snakes bite.

It’s traumatising.

Why would you look when you can turn away?

What about if I asked you to just notice the moments of fear and tension?

In the pub, the beautiful people joke? I was drunk. It was only because I was drunk, I was that brash. As soon as I said it, there was serious fear. Serious fear of what might happen next.

The teacher with the sandwich? I was angry. I was an angry teen who had just been told I was dirty for doing the same thing white people do. As soon as I’d been cheeky, there was fear. My education was the most important thing. I didn’t want to get kicked out of school, but it happens – disproportionately – for young people of colour.

When people say “Black Lives Matter” other people say “well, no, all lives matter” and I think…

Okay. I’ve got four wheels on a car. Do all four of the wheels matter? Absolutely!

My back left one, it’s got a slow puncture maybe.

I’m not going to say “all my wheels matter” so that one can slowly deflate and that’s fine.

I’m telling you this now because there’s trouble in here. In this cafe.

A guy has walked in, not to get a coffee. He walks past us. And by the grace of God, he walks past us, picks a chair up, flips it around, and sits on it as he starts abusing a woman of colour. She’s not on her own and someone goes to the bar to say we’re been hassled.

I’m sitting bolt upright. Not from choice. This is just, boom. I empty my pockets, my phone, my wallet, my keys, everything is now on the table, without even thinking. Hyper-alert. Hyper- tension. Fear.

And you, you’re saying: “Are you alright, Pran? Are you okay?”

I’m not thinking. I can hear the words, but I’m not listening.

The racist, pumped up and enraged heads for the street and physically assaults the next man of colour he sees. There’s blood.

I’m lost. In fear. Trauma. Tension.

Not just because of this incident, this sharp bite. But because of all the others. I’m the 8 year old, the teenager, the 20 year old, I’m the grown man who anglesises his own name because Pranav is hard to say, “Can we just call you P?”

And you say you’d like to learn how to say my name.

And you say, what about the people who were there as you grew up who protected you and defended you and taught you your potential?

What people?

The woman that the mother was talking to did not say a word.

I learnt about scientists of colour on my own when in the library I was at university after another student challenged me: “What have Indians ever done for the advancement of human knowledge?”

No one ever gave me a way out when I was being chased by adults with weapons as a child.

Those were the parts I made up to protect your feelings.

But by protecting your feelings I’m causing your inaction.

Inaction is what enables a sweet little white boy to take on his mother’s message about them taking too much. Again when he overhears a school teacher speak to a child of colour with disgust and another underlining the fact they won’t achieve because they’re not white.

This child grows into an adult who thinks it’s okay to spit at children of colour or not serve customers in a pub or beat people in the street.

I can’t help but think that if even 10% of the time someone would have stepped in at any of those points, with that person along the whole of his lifetime, would he have been that same person challenging people of colour? Would that have happened?

I’m not sure it would.

And maybe I wouldn’t be so triggered by the trauma that’s flowing through me.

It took me three day to come down.

For my heart to stop racing.

For my mind to clear.

To breathe again.

My father and my grandfather, they did say: “These things happen.” They were talking about racism. And they said, “And these things will continue to happen.”

I don’t know if you’ll want to see me again after this.

We’re always taught to keep people wanting more. To hold a little bit back. But I haven’t really done that today. I may have frightened you. Or hurt you. Or offended you.

Maybe that means we’ll never see eachother again.

But if we do meet again, will you tell me some stories of when you have witnessed and taken action? When you’ve corrected a friend, or family member. Or just shared some knowledge.

If even 10% of the time someone would have stepped in…

Maybe next time we can talk about what we love rather than what we fear.

… 

I hope we meet again.

Thank you.

White Folx and their ‘Allyship’.

man people art street

White folx, when you talk about intention, you prop up white supremacy in all its incarnations. When activists discuss education and holding space for those who wright damage on our melanated kin, we support those same structures.

We have come to embrace a kindness revolution in response to a violent act.

“So I don’t believe in violence – that’s why I want to stop it.
And you can’t stop it with love.”

Malcolm

Advocates of kindness, and let’s be honest, those who have not read any Martin Luther King, are always quick to condemn ‘divisive’ acts in direct reply.

The hegemony around the word divisive is not just clever but a great example of malicious duplicity. White folx, you are always quick to see and decry the falling of a statue.

“This isn’t the way it should be done”

Plenty of well-meaning white folx

This is perfidy of the highest order. Where was this vim when young black men are killed at the hands of the police? Pupils are colour discriminated against in their schools? And … I could go on.

But. Seriously, what is the point? You don’t see those acts, by the state, I add, as causing divides because our pain doesn’t count…

“If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what this man speaks. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he’ll get the point. There’ll be some dialogue.”

This piece of writing may cause a storm in your mind. Still, I question: Are white people unaware of the white supremacy in our institutions? In this country? And yes, is the UK racist? 100%.

I don’t buy it; if you see the blatant acts, it’s because you are choosing to avert your gaze. I don’t believe that those who benefit from our subjugation are unaware and should be educated. This subjection is a choice to ignore the plight of the colonised through adhering to the covert system of power, or more accurately, falling into line with the habitus of whiteness (Bourdieu, Lentin).

Theorists have long described this epistemic complicit duplicity for decades as epistemologies of ignorance, Studied ignorance and agnotology. (C W Mills 1997, Proctor and Schiebinger 2008, I could go on).

I could cite scholars from over a century ago. It means very little because everyone knows, and if you’re claiming not to, be honest and stop lying to yourself.

Violence in response to violence is not violence; it is an act of survival. The majority of people in the United Kingdom today seek solely to make criminals of those brave souls who openly fight the systems of white supremacy. At the same time, the masses watch in their safe, warm homesteads.

This resistance to activists and their work towards justice is formed because of the fear that white folx will feel and live lives more like we do now to be stayed by the same oppressive hand. Melanated folx (in the main, and this one certainly) seek no retribution for the harm caused. I want to see just respite and then a world where we are treated as human beings of the same calibre as those who have that melanin deficit in their epithelial.

Martyrdom and sacrifice is required to be called an anti-racist and decent human being, or else I don’t care about the books you’ve read, the friends you keep or the bed you share. I don’t care about your families, your livelihood and even your safety in doing so.

Do you think I am being overly harsh?

When did you care about our families, our livelihoods and most of all, our safety? When did you look up and notice? Apart from the 8 minutes when the world watched a man die.

Call yourself what. That’s your choice.

Fairness is not for the soft of heart. I demand white folx be better or recognise that their decency is false.

I leave you with the words of Frederick Douglass:

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

The Iranians plot to

Why are we never greeted with headlines which are entitled with negative connotations around European, US or UK white folx.

The article mentions that four Iranian nationals plotted to instigate an horrific crime in the US. Now I’m not suggesting that we ignore the severity of the crime or even that we change the title of the headline.

I am, however, questioning why we rarely see headline in which UK nationals do bad things and are associated with their nationality?

Because their nationality doesn’t matter? I supposed it could be argued that in this case it does as a journalist critical of Iran was targeted… but does it? And how many times do we even acknowledge the crimes of white people in the media. I’ll write about this another time.

Why are we so quick to conflate and use the synecdoche with the good with our nation.

‘We won in the football’

But we are quick to distance and reject ourselves from the negative.

‘We benefit from the slave trade’

‘We fought two illegal wars and 500000 civilians died as a result’

This leaks into everything we do. The lesson we teach and the way we see ourselves and others in the world.

If we aren’t willing to accept as a nation we did some bad things then we aren’t ever going to see ourselves as anything other than superior to others.

Dog whistles and Gesture Politics

Funny isn’t it. Everyone’s an anti racist when it serves their agenda… Tyrone Mings accuses Priti Patel of stoking the fire – after her condemnation of racist abuse faced three black players.

‘Taking the knee’ is virtue signally, gesture politics … and then an open condemnation. The prime minister Boris Johnson as his official refuses to comment on the booing of the national team and guess what happened yesterday? condemnation was on the menu.

Sir Keir Starmer and the opposition also expressed their condemnation… while quietly reinstated an overtly Islamophobic man and the lack of action on anti blackness in his party is jarring.

Keep your words. This is straight from Machiavelli’s playbook. You summon the canines through your dog whistles calls and then when the inevitable violence occurs you blame the animals and their nature.

If you were silent and actually helped while the fire was being built. You’ll get no props when over condolences over the ashes or worse pretend you opposed the burning down all a long.

We see your hypocrisy. We keep receipts.

And Yes. We are coming for you.

Racism has come home.

The inevitable racist abuse is out in this morning, post England’s men’s footballs teams failure to win the European Championship.

Through out the tournament I saw the glorification of Raheem Sterling; who when he scored the opening goal against Germany was embraced and that it seems that the ‘boy from Brent’ is worth our adulation. Hagiography not as great as England’s white captain who score a superfluous goal later (which Sterling made).

Anyway, the dichotomy is palpable. When he expresses a deeply personal root through getting gun tattooed on his calf and stating clearly he uses his leg to shoot… he was then the ‘boy from Kingston’ (no, we are not talking about the Royal London borough here either).

Today folx will decry an overtly racist minority abuse towards those three black players. This is not the point. Individualised racism is a symptom of greater affliction. These people may be bad apples but they rise not far from the societal tree. And… that tree is rotten to the core and the soil is as toxic as it comes.

When we live a society in which people are only celebrated when contributing for the white majority, that isn’t a community it’s an abuse of power it is colonisation of achievement.

If I, Rashford, Sancho (who I can vouch for as a fine young man) or Sako in the words of Linton Kwesi Johnson were to exclaim England is a b*tch. You’d hear – “how ungrateful” “Go back to India, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, etc.” Reserved solely for us melanated folx.

I will leave you with the words of one of my former student …

We are only ever British when your win do something good, Sir. The rest of the time … we are … and you know …

She looked sullen. I had no sage words of advice or consolation. As truth was (and is) named.

It’s time we recognise that football may not have come home but racism has built its house firmly on England green and pleasant lands.