Jul 25, 2020
“This is partly because, despite much seeming and some very real progress, public discourse about racism is still as childish and supine as it ever was. Where we do discuss race in public, we have been trained to see racism – if we see it at all – as an issue of interpersonal morality. Good people are not racist, only bad people are. This neat binary is a great way of avoiding any real discussion at all.”
It’s easy to avoid racism, to convince yourself that it is a problem which affects only a small subset of the population. What this book highlights, however, is that racism is embedded in the very foundation of our society, and that to ignore it is to perpetrate the racial inequalities upon which our society is built and which continue today.
This book focuses mainly on the history of racism in the United Kingdom and the hypocrisy of British society in proclaiming themselves newly enlightened, when the racial groups they exploited for hundreds of years for profit are still intentionally marginalized and silenced. While I am not from the UK, and while their history of colonialism feels far removed from my everyday experience, what this book highlights is how racist British values from generations ago are still deeply ingrained in every Western society and affect us daily.
I read this book hoping to educate myself about racism and the history of the movements that are now making headlines across the globe. I left saddened and angry, not knowing what to do to help. While it did not teach me how to fix the problem, it left me provoked, and that is why you should read this book.
I was born in the 1980s, before mixed-race children had become an acceptable fashion accessory.
the self-appointed captains of global democracy could be found backing genocidal regimes from Nicaragua to South Africa – though that could’ve been any decade, really.
It’s easy for people just slightly younger than myself, and born into a relative degree of multiculturalism, to forget just how recently basic public decency towards black folks was won in this country, but I was born in the 80s so I remember only too well.
You see, out there in the colonies, whiteness implies aristocracy, whiteness is aspirational, and as the only white people my grandparents knew of in Jamaica were the ruling classes, this association was entirely rational.
Asians were niggers too, back then
Britain has two competing traditions – one rooted in ideas of freedom, equality and democracy, and another that sees these words as mere rhetoric to be trotted out at will and violated whenever it serves the Machiavellian purposes of power preservation.
This is partly because, despite much seeming and some very real progress, public discourse about racism is still as childish and supine as it ever was. Where we do discuss race in public, we have been trained to see racism – if we see it at all – as an issue of interpersonal morality. Good people are not racist, only bad people are. This neat binary is a great way of avoiding any real discussion at all.
It would be easy for me to ignore these factors and claim myself to be a ‘self-made’ man, but in reality there is no such thing.
Most people, it seems to me at least, hate poor people more than they hate poverty.
If tougher sentences alone worked to reduce crime, the USA would surely be crime free by now?
We all know that black Brits – already seven times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts,
I find the whole idea that we can transcend our experiences; and take a totally unbiased look at the world to be totally ridiculous, yet that’s what many historians and academics claim to do.
. . . in a racially structured polity, the only people who can find it psychologically possible to deny the centrality of race are those who are racially privileged, for whom race is invisible precisely because the world is structured around them, whiteness as the ground against which the figures of other races – those who, unlike us, are raced – appear. Charles Mills, The Racial Contract
You have not made an insightful observation by distraction.
In fact this body of scholarship generally points out that the great challenges faced by the masses of Africa and large parts of Asia are caused precisely by the fact that they have two sets of oppressors’ greed to satiate, their own domestic elites and the international corporations and foreign states their domestic oppressors often serve and collaborate with.
I somehow knew instinctively that whiteness, like all systems of power, preferred not to be interrogated.
there were countless more to come, of course. The overriding feeling that I remember from the numerous instances of verbal racial abuse growing up was a sense of shame, a shame that was somehow incomparably deeper than a boy insulting your mum, the other taboo that, when broken, was almost sure to result in a fight.
but because the brutality of the oppressor determined to hang on to privilege and power is always greater in any context than the resentment produced by resistance to oppression.
Brazil has the largest population of black people in any country on earth, aside from Nigeria.
Still, while whiteness can usually be taken for granted by those it protects, the absence of whiteness can literally be the difference between life and death even in an ostensibly colour-blind country like Brazil.
While it’s absolutely obvious that white people have no monopoly on ethnic hatreds or dominating and brutalising other human beings, in my personal opinion – and I do believe it’s somewhat grounded in the evidence – the idea of race and white supremacy pioneered in eighteenth-century Europe, combined with newly formed nation states and industrial technology, took the human capacity for and practice of barbarity to levels rarely if ever before seen in history.
The Nazi genocides sprang from a much longer history of articulating white supremacy that had been developed on the plantations of the Americas, practised in colonising the globe and then codified into a respected philosophy during the Enlightenment and the long nineteenth century…
Is state education designed to encourage more Darwins and Newtons, or to create middle-management civil servants and workers? What tensions are brought into being when a child’s natural proclivity to question everything in their own unique way comes into contact with a one-size-fits-all mode of education?
It is an iconic moment in British television and I felt an enormous sympathy for Linford and actually feel that his tears, far from making him a ‘big girl’s blouse’ as Tony Sewell said, showed a fragile and human side of black masculinity that is rarely if ever seen on British television.
that sports and entertainment are two of the only fields where black success has been clear and visible in post Second World War Britain, and so it’s hardly a surprise that young black men pine after the only two fields they see as open to them.
The long and short of it is that the master makes himself a slave to his slave by needing that domination to define him.
Would Obama have been elected if he had two black parents and jet-black skin? We’ll never know, but I personally doubt it.
But also, by making whiteness the colour of oppression, the colour that defined a person’s right to own other human beings, to rape and kill and steal with impunity, white supremacists had paradoxically opened up the way for blackness to become the colour of freedom, of revolution and of humanity.
However, the almost universal failure of white music artists, apart from Eminem, to even attempt to address the contradictions of white identity, alongside black artists’ constant willingness to put blackness front and centre, suggests that all parties understand the racial dynamics at play much better than they seem willing to admit.
The formerly enslaved African and Creole (Haitian-born) ‘slaves’ and their allies – the Maroons, the free people of colour and the Polish defectors – defeated the French just as they had defeated Spain and Britain before them, and Haiti declared itself independent in 1804. This was the first and only successful slave revolution in human history, and only the second colony in the Americas to be free of European rule.
‘Africans sold their own people’ is the historical version of ‘black on black violence’.
The fact remains; no one colonises another group of people out of love for them.
Racism proper claims to be based on scientific truth.
Racism as a word only really came into popular usage during the 1930s, and specifically in relation to the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Nazis and American hatred of other European immigrants.8
While London is not a dangerous city by global standards it is hard to overstate just what a scary place London is to be a working-class black male teenager.
the United States of America, has almost 1 per cent of its population in prison, by far the highest ratio in the world.
Maybe it’s because I love music so much, maybe I am just strange, but every time I have seen someone get stabbed it’s been the sound more than the visual of the violence that’s really struck me.
We recognise that willingness to do violence is an almost universally admired male trait from Wall Street to West Hollywood to Whitehall. Crime does pay and young people can see that as clearly in their ends as they can out there in the big wide world. The problem with our crime is just that the scale is too small.
I can tell you that if most youts in the hood could genuinely see a legal path to just a decent middle-class living without having to be spoken to and treated like a total idiot for thirty years, 95 per cent would take it.
There is intelligence in rebellion, they are just channelling it in the wrong direction.
As the most accomplished British imperialist Cecil Rhodes aptly put it ‘if you wish to avoid civil war you must become an imperialist’.
There is something about that age – about the combination of puberty and all its sexual confusion and competition, about being old enough to start noticing how fucked up the world is and how many holes there are in your shoes, with the dawning of the reality that your dreams will not come true, that you will most likely be just as unhappy as your parents and that fifty years of dead-end work awaits you – that kills most working-class kids’ confidence.
With regards to policing, Sir John Woodcock, then HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said back in 1992: What is happening to the police is that a nineteenth-century institution is being dragged into the twenty-first century. Despite all the later mythology of Dixon, the police never were the police of the whole people but a mechanism set up to protect the affluent from what the Victorians described as the dangerous classes.
So despite all the lovely comforting stuff we are told, senior police understand very well that the primary function of policing is to protect property.
When masses of the public protest government injustice, such as millions protesting against an unjust war, it’s obvious that the police are there to protect the state, not ‘the people’.
(Interesting that despite being two of the fathers of racism the works of Voltaire and Kant for example do not evoke such odium as Marx among mainstream intelligentsia; naturally African and Asian scholars can be all but ignored.)
Once Cuba is directly compared to other former slave states of the Caribbean and South America, or to a country like South Africa, it starts to look like quite a different proposition.
To anybody that actually cares about global justice, human life and human rights, Cuban medical internationalism is without a doubt one of the greatest humanitarian enterprises of the twenty-first century.
In the words of Martin Narey, former Director General of HM Prison Service, ‘The 13,000 young people excluded from school each year might as well be given a date by which to join the prison service some time later down the line.’
Both the Warwick study and the Bristol one examined in Chapter Three looked at every state school in the UK, painting a bleak picture for black students. This means that under the current system of setting and tiering it is literally mathematically impossible for above a certain percentage of black students to get top-grade GSCEs, as they are significantly less likely to be entered for higher-tier GCSE papers even when they have the same previous academic attainment and family circumstances as white students. To
To recap the odds stacked against black children in British schools, black students are: • Under-assessed at five • Dramatically under-assessed at eleven • Significantly less likely to be entered for higher-tier exams when they have the same previous academic attainment • 2.6 times more likely to be expelled even when control factors are taken into account
Bounty Killer remains one of my top ten lyricists in any genre,
The nigger; a fictional subhuman creation of the white racist imagination; a fiction that could justify actual humans being worked like beasts of burden, redlined,1 segregated, executed by law enforcement, experimented on by medical science,2 exhibited in zoos, bombed by their own government,3 having their towns torched by terrorists and having to fight for almost a century to earn the right to shit in the same toilets as white people. All of that vanishes from view with the way nigger is now used in hip hop.
A friend of mine once told me a story that exemplified the importance of the way we use words and the images and ideas we attach to them. He comes from Brixton though he is of Nigerian, specifically Yoruba, heritage, he has been to prison and all that jazz, and one day he was on the block with the youngers when the following ensued. He was lecturing the youngsters about traditional Yoruba values, values he admitted to having violated by being on ‘the roads’ and going to prison. He asked the group of young men he was talking to – also of Yoruba origin – to imagine themselves as ‘black youts’ and tell him what associations went with being a ‘black yout’. He then asked them to see themselves as ‘Yoruba men’ and asked them what associations went with that identity. The images they associated with each identity were diametrically opposed. When he asked them if they could see ‘Yoruba men’ going to prison for selling crack or stabbing each other they said no; when he asked if they could see a black yout doing those things they all answered yes. Obviously Yoruba men are perfectly capable of any number of behaviours in reality, but the automatic associations are nonetheless interesting. If ‘black yout’ can carry such connotations for black youth themselves, how much more severe would the word ‘nigger’ be? And how much worse might the perceptions of people that are not black youth themselves be?
While this has obviously not been a book about China, what I have tried to show is how globe-shifting forces, ideas and events well beyond our individual control shape the lives and times of individuals like you and me and consequently determine a certain degree of our experiences, however much we might like to believe that we are in control of our lives.
I often look at the world and just think fuck it, why bother, but I know that’s how we are supposed to feel, that’s why the corruption is so naked and freely visible – to wear down people who have the conviction that things could be better.
In a sense, I think whiteness has functioned quite similarly to divine kingship, paralysing those who are intensely invested, trapping them into a resentment of the reality that they are obviously not superior.
For several centuries, people racialised as white were often taught – sometimes by some of the best minds in ‘their’ societies – that they were inherently superior to other human beings, that they could disregard the feelings of their ‘negro’ slaves, their Indian subjects and their vanquished Mandarins without having to fear consequences because their supremacy was in fact eternal, pre-ordained by god or science or culture.
Despite a seemingly pervasive belief that only people of colour ‘play the race card’, it does not take anything as dramatic as a slave revolution or Japanese imperialism to evoke white racial anxieties, something as trivial as the casting of non-white people in films or plays in which a character was ‘supposed’ to be white will do the trick.
Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to NASCAR dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81.13
I detest the policies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama but I cannot deny they were both brilliant men; incredibly intelligent, charismatic, competent and confident.
There are no groups I know of with a history of barbecuing white people in front of thousands and collecting their body parts as souvenirs, there are no black police officers refusing to treat white people as victims as they lie dying in the street, and then putting their families under surveillance when they campaign for justice, and there are no torture camps in the third world to which white citizens are deported to stay in for years without trial or due process.
Though the threat from Islamic fascist terrorists is real enough, they are equally willing to kill black and brown people as white people – in fact, the vast majority of people killed by Isis, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab have been in Africa and the Middle East, obviously.
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