“We’re all Colour blind here”- Post-racialism, political correctness and the irony of multi-culturalism

The most hilarious statement a white British person has ever said to me is that they don’t “see race”.

The second was “I forget that you are black sometimes”.

I looked at them and thought, why are you always lying? The first thing you noticed about me upon introduction was my skin colour and it isn’t a problem, so there’s no need to lie about it.

With these statements in mind, the question that springs to mind is this: Why does British society as a whole, attempt to completely evade conversations regarding racial and cultural differences?

Some answers to Britain’s attitude to racial and cultural differences can be found in the history of mass multi-culturalism in Britain. Masses of people from the commonwealth country India and the Carribbean island of Jamaica, were invited to England to partake in the effort to re-build Britain post-WWII. The ethnic minority population increased the most in the 1950’s and 60’s.  This is known as the windrush. 

However the British public were not prepared (and were not warned) that the migrants arriving would be so ethnically and culturally different to themselves, nor were they informed that there would be quite so many ‘different’ people arriving. The windrush saw Britain rear it’s head in protest to multi-culturalism and  the racial tensions between UK nationals and the migrants reached great heights in all aspects of society.

Well, pretty self-explanatory

Despite this opposition to a diverse Britain presented by it’s nation, the Asian and black migrants showed no signs of returning to their native countries anytime soon. As more migrants arrived from other parts of the world, the anti-immigrant slurs, overt racial abuse and “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish signs” over time simmered down to anti-immigrant grumbles, replacement of the word black with the term ‘urban’ (which still makes me laugh to this day), and the conservative yet still very real continuation of resentment towards ethnic minorities and their cultures.

My favourite multi-ethnic food market in Brixton, London.

I watched an interesting channel four documentary earlier this year, titled Britain’s racist election,  which provided insight into race relations in Britain in the 1960’s after the  influx of black and Asian migrants. The documentary detailed how racially-centred the 1964 UK election became in the city of Smethwick Birmingham, and showed how xenophobia was used by politicians to manipulate the British public to hold hatred and contempt for ethnic minorities.

The documentary is no longer available to view in full online, however I shall post it’s trailer below.

A relationship between the white British and black and Asian migrants built upon the negative broad-brushing and demonising of a whole ethnicity of people, has created a British attitude (no matter how subdued), towards ethnic minorities that is deeply-rooted in racial stereotypes and judgement.

It is these relationships that need to be de-constructed and rebuilt, as the British attitudes to race that were created are a societal ailment that a dose of colour-blindness isn’t going to cure unfortunately.

Protests against unfair treatment towards black people in the Brixton riots, London 1981.

Britain considers itself to be multi-cultural and diverse. However, it appears that it is truly just a society with people of various ethnicities and cultures, pretending that other people with different ethnicities and cultures to themselves  do not exist, and then labelling it colour-blindness, and even worse than that; Categorising this as post-racial behaviour.

Ethnicity and race are not dirty words.  I do not wish for others to pretend they cannot ‘see’ my ethnicity.

It is not colour-blindness that is required here, It is the acknowledgement of racial and cultural differences, without the application of inferiority or superiority to these differences from any one side.

Thoughts?

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Happy black history month! – Black history month and it’s events are still so important

We are halfway through October, Britain’s black history month and yes, I am a little late. However I am wishing you all a happy black history month!

Due to it being a very busy month for me so far, I have not been able to attend any black history events as of yet this month (much to my dismay). However I will be attending as many as possible before the month is over, plus additional events throughout the rest of this year, and I encourage you all to do the same!

Nottingham, the city I live in, has an array of events taking place in October to mark black history month, and I feel so fortunate for this.

 This post is for those who do not see the importance of black history month as a time for reflection and remembrance of important people in black history and as a time of cultural expression, and have no intention of attending any black history events this month.

Here are my top five reasons why black history month events are still so important  for both you and your family to make time for.

Day Trip 1960s, candy floss rocks, ice cream, Esmal May
Jamaica hidden histories- sugar was king art exhibition New Art Exhange, Notitngham, 5th September-1st November 2015 Admission: free. Photo credit and further event info : http://www.nae.org.uk/exhibition/jamaica-hidden-histories-sugar-was-king/84

1. For black historical variety

In mainstream British education, many black children are taught primarily (if at all) about American black history, the civil rights era and other than that? Well yes you guessed right: slavery.

Although these are pivotal events in black history, many black history events available at present offer an insight into specific black influential figures,  historical black subcultures and the overall influence of black culture on modern day British society, providing more historical variety for you and your  family.

 I think our black children need a little bit more than being shown the whole ‘Roots’ saga in a classroom full of white children during history lessons at school, don’t you?

2.Combining cultural engagement with family time

Children are expensive.From October onwards is the time of year when children begin to cost the most. The price of Christmas, indoor activities, and if you are from where I am from, Goose fair; all add up pretty quickly.

Saying this, apart from the obvious educational and cultural benefits to your family and yourself, black history events are nearly always free or low priced. Most importantly however, you will get to spend some quality family time together.

 It seems more sensible to take your loved ones to a black history event, where you might even get a conversation out of them about their views on the information they learnt that day, than it is to spend £xx.xx at the cinema to sit in a dark room (which if we are honest, you can do at home for free) and then be told that the film was (just) “alright” at the end of it all.

Footballer Brendon Batson discusses race and sport. Thursday 15th October 2015 6.30pm. Admission: free. Photo credit and further info: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/blackhistorymonth/2015/09/29/events-for-black-history-month-2015/brendon-batson-poster/

3. Networking & meeting new people

The main gripe I have with being an avid consumer of black cultural content is isolation. Of course I have friends that  I can converse with about all things cultural, but it is always nice to be in a room full of people who have mutual interests.

Black history events allow us to touch base with other black people in our local community who are just as  concerned about improving  their cultural education  as you are. We don’t attend an event in honour of our history just to ‘badface’ other people, so be friendly and you could meet some new friends.

Photo credit: http://www.nae.org.uk
Urban Expression- a grassroots project working with young people showcasing talent through dance, music, drama and spoken word. 23rd october 2015, 7.30pm-10pm, New art exchange, Nottingham. All welcome. Admission: free. Photo credit and further info: http://www.nae.org.uk/event/dream-presents-urban-expression/310

4.Self education

“EDUCATION is the medium by which a people are prepared for the creation of their own particular civilization, and the advancement and glory of their own race.”

Marcus Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey 

Musically mad- Film screening followed by Q&A A film detailing the humble beginnings of reggae music, to being internationally renowned. Nottingham Art exchange, 19th November 2015, 7pm-9pm. Admission: free Photo credit and further info: http://www.nae.org.uk/event/musically-mad/322

5. Because you should!

What is a people without their history? Without knowledge of the influential individuals that have made a difference in their community and contributed so much to literature, art, fashion, academia, cultural progress and British society as a whole? And what is the fate of this history if it is not observed?

There is nothing wrong with actively seeking black knowledge and black collectivism through events, and black history month is a perfect time to test the waters.

Going along to black art exhibitions and plays in October is not about attending for the sake of attending because it is black history month. It is about commending and acknowledging those in times past, those who have paved the way for black people to have the influential role in British society and culture that we do at present.

Nottingham black history event sources:

http://www.nae.org.uk/page/black-history-month/82

http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/blackhistorymonth/2015/09/29/events-for-black-history-month-2015/

http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/blackhistorymonth

David Cameron: “Jamaica should move on from the awful legacy of slavery” – Without tackling the issues slavery left in it’s wake? I think not

I read the Guardian article detailing Cameron’s brief engagement of the conversation regarding the repayment of reparations to Jamaica for Britain’s part in the African slave trade. Cameron, when finally addressing the issue on his trip to Jamaica earlier this week, advised Jamaica should “move on from the awful legacy of slavery”.

 Wait… what?

At this point I felt myself giving the whole of  the British government and all of British society for that matter a significant side eye.

Cameron in his speech stated:

“That the Caribbean has emerged from the long shadow it cast is testament to the resilience and spirit of its people. I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed. But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future.”

My problem with it all

No British prime minister has visited Jamaica in the past 14 years. However when one finally decides to drop by, it is to discuss building Jamaican prisons to deport Jamaican prisoners residing in British prisons that currently cannot be deported. This is due to the state of Jamaica’s prisons at present, and the human rights laws that Britain would breach if it were to send Jamaican prisoners back to incarceration in their birthplace at this time.

So in short, the visit was regarding alleviating  the strain on the British prison system. The British government have done the calculations and realised that it is cheaper to build a prison in Jamaica than it is to build more prisons in Britain, (and of course, where would they find the space for more prisons here? With all those pesky immigrants  taking over the UK and what not)

Considering the fact that Britain is only in touch with Jamaica when it affords them some benefit; Am I wrong in questioning the authenticity of this ‘friendship’ Cameron speaks of?

David Cameron’s guard of honour welcome after he landed in Jamaica earlier this week.

 Personal responsibility and it’s discontents

Poverty has ripped through Jamaica ever since it was granted it’s destitution, or as it is more popularly termed, it’s ‘independence’  from British colony in 1962 and the economy has failed to progress ever since.  Jamaica struggles with many aspects of society including education, healthcare and infrastructure, and David Cameron shows up to speak about prisons?

Cameron’s  ‘let’s move on’ perspective shows that there is no humanitarian hand in the way Britain are tackling the reparation conversation, only age-old western economic preservation and greed.

Cameron focused his  discourse on the efforts Britain had put forth to bring Slavery to an end, placing Britain as the lesser of two evils with the US, who did not abolish the slave trade until 1865, 58 years after Britain. A point that Britain evidently feel is a redeeming factor.

Cameron’s speech on this issue was at best disingenuous and at worst, evasive and condescending.

Slavery and it’s economic consequences are still impacting Jamaican life in the present day

Britain’s first slave expedition was carried out by John Hawkins of Plymouth, Devon in 1562. Hawkins sailed to Africa and kidnapped approximately 400 African people for free labour in the west Indies. From official beginning to end, the slave trade spanned a total of  278 years. No compensation. And more to the point, no apology.

Reparations to repair a nation?

Here’s an idea. Firstly, why doesn’t Britain relieve all Afro-Carribean citizens living in Britain of  income tax for the next  278 years? The same amount of time as their involvement in the trade of African slaves. They should also foot the bill for re-building the Jamaican economy. In agreement with Upinthear.com, I  believe Britain should in addition begin the process of writing off Jamaica’s enormous national debt.

Britain has a way of selling it’s own supremacy as equality. Pushing the notion that we are all so far removed for slavery and it’s effects, that slavery itself no longer has any relevance. This is not true, as it is clear to see that descendants of African slaves worldwide are still at a significant economic disadvantage.

If we are  to truly move on from slavery, then we need to remedy it’s consequences. If Cameron’s obvious dismissal of this issue does not encourage and drive all those who had previously signed the contract of post-racialism to opt out of said contract and speak up, then nothing will.

 Thoughts?

Did Britain get a Pass? Britain’s colonial past and the guise of post-racialism

The racial tension in The USA at the present time is palpable. Ever since the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida USA, the American media has become a conveyor belt for one high profile case after another of young black men and women dying during the process of questionable civilian and police practices, with little to no reprimand of the individuals involved. The perceived lack of justice shown from the American judicial system in tackling the unjust killing of African-Americans has led to subsequent riots, marches and the establishment of the black lives matter  movement.

BBC’s Britain’s forgotten slave owners

At a time in which race is a particularly sensitive talking point in the media, there could not have been a more fitting time for the British Afro-Caribbean to resonate with the lasting effects of  past exploitation suffered by those living in the African diaspora than in July of this year, on the night on which the first episode of the BBC 2 documentary, “Britain’s forgotten slave owners” aired.  It was a two-part documentary that provided an in-depth account of the journey to the abolition of slavery in Britain.

The documentary hosted by historian David Olosaga, detailed not only the way life was for slave owners and their enslaved, but also provided insight into the incredulous amounts of money paid to compensate slave owners as a negotiation with the British government to bring the slave trade in Britain to an end.

Over 18 billion English pounds was paid to over 46,000 owners in compensation, and this is without considering the wealth  accumulated during the years of entrapment. This vast amount of wealth gained off of the back of one race directly into the pockets of another, made me wonder why the obvious financial benefits that slavery afforded to Britain and it’s economy are not openly discussed in the contemporary black British conversation?

David Olusaga on ‘Britain’s forgotten slave owner’

 The documentary was the first I had ever viewed that broke away from the usual narrative of African slavery in the USA, and clearly depicted that although not often spoken of, a vast amount of Britain’s wealth is also built upon the back of this atrocious period of time in black history.

Britain has definitely attempted to place itself as far as possible from it’s colonial past. However, widespread Black British attitude can be found in the list of facilitators in Britain’s ability to shy away from this discussion for so long.

I personally found it difficult to find anyone to speak to who had seen the documentary, and was even more hard pressed to find anyone who had an opinion on the factual information it presented. It was as though we had all been sworn to secrecy about Britain’s part in the slave trade, as if the subject were taboo to mention somehow.

 The social contract of post-racialism.

 There is often a lack of focus on the structural and systemic nature of racism  that requires attention when discussing post-racialism, or lack thereof in British society. Racism (or racialism) is often only addressed on an individual or micro level.

However systemic racism is a concept that works more effectively ‘top down’ than it does ‘bottom up’.  For the sake of the length of this post and how long it could turn out to be if I were to fully explained this point, here is a video of activist and Rapper Akala, who shares my sentiments on the issue of systemic racism exactly.

Is Britain’s zero tolerance policy to racism and racial inequality  and perceived era of post-racialism that we have in this country, given in exchange for Black Britain’s apathetic attitude towards unresolved issues of colonial days gone by?

I think it is fair to say that many black Brits have gladly,  (and some, unknowingly) entered into  the post-racial contract of ‘we won’t speak about it if you don’t‘ with British society. ‘Britain’s forgotten slave owner’s’ and the lack of response it conjured solidified this stance for me.

 Whilst lounging in the house of British political correctness,  polite conversation at the bus stop and buying into Britain’s slavery was a long time ago” rhetoric,  have Black British Caribbeans left our own racial plight, along with the plight of our ethnic counterparts globally, who are still so clearly struggling with the remnants of Britannia’s colonial rule of the waves, be it socially, economically or both, ‘out in the field’?

 This Pandora’s box of a documentary was one that the BBC did not mind opening, no matter how damning the evidence. Maybe because they knew a majority of those that it depicted the ancestral history of would not look inside, perhaps?

Black, British & Concerned?

Hello,
To be honest, I spent far too much time before I began writing this post deciding how I would begin it. I convinced myself it had to be something deeply intellectual, setting the tone for posts to come. I then decided that time would allow for all the profoundness I liked, and that a simple introduction would suffice for now.
 I consider myself an avid consumer of cultural content;  black cultural content to be specific. I enjoy immersing myself in the discussion of racial topics, concerning the advancement of racially driven, independent conversation in Britain. I want to discuss the cultural and social issues that are affecting us as black Brits, engulfing us even; and whether these issues are considered unwanted topics of conversation that no one wants to take responsibility for, or just an accepted reality that comes with being black in Britain.
The purpose of this blog is to create a platform to express ideas and discuss the issues that resonate with and reflect the realities of life in everyday black Britain. I hope to create a place for the respectful expression of these ideas that may not always make it into our everyday communications. I hope a community can be built here, a collective dare I say? Bringing meaningful cultural, racial and socially centred issues back into the everyday black British conversation, not necessarily in an attempt to establish what is right and wrong of the things of which we observe, but to establish the here and now, what has gone, and develop informed insight of what is to come for us as a people.
So I guess we will just see how it all goes, shall we?
Until next time.