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Posts Tagged ‘racism’

This article about the “‘refugees welcome’ fad” seems to miss the point.

It’s worth reading, because it comes from a much more informed place than I’m at with regard to the state of the EU and its current policies regarding refugees, migrants, and international relations generally. It highlights relevant facts and raises important questions.

But it doesn’t spend as much time answering those questions as it does rhetorically deploying them against an opposing position which I’m not convinced it understands.

The description in the final paragraph of ‘Refugees Welcome’ as a way to “make Twitter users feel better about themselves” seems telling. It’d help the Telegraph’s point if ‘Refugees Welcome’ could be bundled in with other short-lived online crazes like #kony2012 and such, but it is demonstrably not a hashtag, and as far as I’m aware it’s far more prominently featured in places like football stadiums than social media. Trying to dismiss it as something these young people with their iPhones and their SnapTindGrindChats will get bored with in five minutes shows a lack of understanding of what people are actually saying.

Which is a shame, because what they’re saying is nothing complicated. Anyone who can write an article with a nuanced view of the international situation, as this one certainly has, would be able to understand the point being made by ‘Refugees Welcome’, because it’s not a complex and nuanced position on international foreign policy at all. It’s not a practical stance on exactly how certain issues of crisis management in the Middle East should be addressed. It’s not a strategy for fixing a problem.

It’s a broad, non-specific attitude, a very general approach, a knowingly hazy statement of values. There are people desperately trying to come to the UK, from countries ravaged by civil war and political upheaval, and they’re dying in the attempt alarmingly often. And a lot of the public discussion about these people ends up making these desperate refugees (and, by extension, anyone born overseas or from a recent immigrant family, because that’s how racism works in the minds of people defending their homeland from a foreign “invasion”) feel unwelcome. Whether it’s overtly xenophobic, or just coldly pragmatic on how the local economy might be affected if we tried to stop so many children drowning, that’s the impression being given. If you’re not from here, you’re not welcome here.

‘Refugees Welcome’ is about countering that narrative. It’s about giving some hope, to anyone for whom the UK is a potential sanctuary from nightmares beyond my white middle-class understanding, that if you’re in need of refuge, you will be welcome here. It’s not pretending that the problem isn’t complex and multi-faceted, or that it can be fixed by happy thoughts and goodwill. But it certainly can’t be fixed without them. We’ll get to hammering out the details and rigorously analysing data to determine how people will actually best be helped; if we’re worth anything as a modern civilisation, our best minds are on the case. But for now, let’s also try and get the word out there that this is the sort of nation we are.

Just because it’s a catchy slogan, doesn’t mean it’s a fad. It’s a catchy slogan because it sums up how a lot of people feel.

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People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.

Says a prominent conservative pundit in the US. In the year 2013. No, I mean 2013 A.D.

This is why fuck conventional views, fuck them in the goddamn neck.

(via Pharyngula)

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Sunday Morning Live, the BBC’s somewhat disorganised weekend discussion programme currently taking the place of The Big Questions, was less unbearable today than it sometimes has been. In fact, I made it through the whole hour.

The subjects discussed were no less contentious and potentially frustrating than ever, but the balance of opinions expressed seemed to veer nearer the sane this morning. Or maybe I was just more awake, and thus more able to articulate my complaints coherently, avoiding the need to simply make some angry noises and switch off.

The primary topic of conversation was John Terry’s recent court victory, in which he was cleared of “racially abusing” another player. Thanks to their commitment to delicacy, the BBC’s own news report on this is rather pleasing:

It was alleged he had insulted Mr Ferdinand in a Premier League match, describing him as “black” and using extreme sexual swear words.

The latter charge is added, as if accusing the man of being black weren’t already bad enough.

The Guardian are less restrained, but the circumstances of the court decision still seem a little convoluted. As far as I can tell, it was never in dispute that Terry uttered the epithet in question, and was addressing Ferdinand while he spoke – but Terry was apparently quoting back words spoken to him, not directing them in the form of an accusation. The context was something like:

What’s that you say? “Fucking black cunt”? No, I think you must be mistaken; I did not refer to you as a fucking black cunt.

At least, there was enough doubt as to the tone and context of the remark that a not guilty verdict had to be returned.

In any case, the debate around the issue has largely been dominated by two camps: those who think that hateful and demeaning language should be strictly policed (while fully supporting people’s right to free speech, of course, with only a minor caveat about “responsibility”), and those who herald free speech as the virtue in most vital need of protecting and refer to playground adages about sticks and stones in order to make their point.

I find myself in uncomfortable company on either side.

In this particular case, I’m not sure I see much point in bothering the magistrates in Westminster with it. There’s no evidence Terry said anything constituting incitement or harassment, so it doesn’t seem to me like it should be a legal matter.

The FA will be continuing their own inquiry, and it seems appropriate for the higher-ups in the field of professional football to come to their own decisions about Terry’s continued involvement. His behaviour was, after all, monumentally out of step with the traditions of camaraderie and mutual respect that typically characterise English football, so if it’s decided that his totally unprecedented expression of belligerence renders him unfit to participate further in the sport, he’s only got himself to blame.

But the free-speech and settle-it-privately arguments shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. The Sunday Morning Live show was still frustrating, because nobody seemed to be drawing the distinction between “unacceptable” and “should be illegal”. It seemed as if legal recrimination were to be considered a vital part of any response to offensive speech, if it should merit a response at all. On the other side of things, nobody legally defending Terry’s words seemed to want to condemn them morally.

Which you really can do, you know. It’s not even that hard. I don’t want John Terry to go to prison because of whatever he said to Anton Ferdinand, but I also don’t want to pass up the chance to point out that his actions make him seem like an obnoxious tit, who is doing far less than someone with his social influence could be doing to counteract the atmosphere of racial disharmony that continues to pervade this country.

The problem with pinning all the importance of the matter on free speech became clearer when one guest suggested we simply be more “mature” about childish things like name-calling – directing this suggestion to the people who make such a fuss about being called names, of course. Once you’ve blamed every victim of verbal abuse ever for having the weakness of will to get upset when dehumanising insults are hurled at them, it may be time to re-evaluate your priorities.

And the problem with leaping to the defence of the beleaguered by ensuring they may never be attacked in such a way again without criminal sanctions being imposed is… well, that you start having people taken to court for possibly referring to a colleague in a competitive game as a “black cunt”.

Which seems like something that’s half empirically true, half a matter of valid opinion.

Racism is an insidious evil. It needs to be watched for and guarded against, and its role in many crimes needs to be considered, as well as its corrosive effect on our attitudes to other human beings. Sometimes – often, in fact – invoking the coercive arm of the law is not the best way to respond to it, but on those occasions we need to respond to it ourselves.

Most racism doesn’t need to be forced out of the public arena by laws that stifle free speech; it needs to be made negligible and irrelevant by the rest of us shouting over it.

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(Reposted from my other blog, which I might just start doing as a matter of course.)

The release of the film The Hunger Games highlighted some worrying examples of othering recently.

Certain responses – from a very limited segment of the fan-base of the books and the film, no doubt – to the casting of black actors in major roles were disheartening, and actually quite shocking. You really don’t expect to hear things like this being said so brazenly in this day and age, except from devotedly hateful extremists.

But the comments listed on that post, and this tumblr compilation, seem to be more lazily thoughtless and tribalistic than actively racist.

Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you picture

I’m still a bit lost for words at this. I can’t quite get my head around the necessary sequence of events. First, this person must have experienced a feeling of crushing disappointment at realising that a character she’d read about had dark skin (even though, I’m told, this character’s skin colour is explicitly described as such in the book). Further, it must have entirely failed to occur to them that the qualities she originally admired or appreciated in Rue might still be present – that the colour of her skin might be no hindrance whatever to this young girl being innocent, or likeable, or courageous, or charming, or quick-witted, or whatever she’s like.

And then they must have decided that publicly expressing all these unfiltered prejudices was a perfectly fine thing to do.

Some black girl.

Absent but strongly implied, of course, is the word “just”. Just some black girl.

Not, like, a girl girl. Just some black girl.

However you might have told the story to yourself while reading it, I don’t understand how you can have this reaction to encountering an entirely irrelevant racial disparity, and believe that it’s an acceptable reaction to have.

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– I support men’s rights. This is not what I mean by that.

– It’s not a Cracked list, but this summary of the 7 Worst International Aid Ideas is still pretty tragically funny in places. Where it isn’t just tragic.

– Turns out Facebook aren’t too thrilled about employers demanding your passwords either. You know it has to be pretty fucked up for Facebook to be unequivocally on the right side of a privacy issue.

– Man, some white people really love to get racially offended.

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When six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, I heard a number of people expressing exasperation with just how much of a fuss the media was making over it.

In particular, a common objection was that the numerous other people being killed in the conflict don’t tend to receive anything like such devoted press coverage, particularly if they’re foreigners, and particularly if they’re innocent citizens. The tally of war-related civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the past decade is into the tens, or even hundreds of thousands.

While the loss of these few soldiers was no doubt personally devastating to their own friends and families, it perhaps shouldn’t be shocking to the rest of us to learn than a half-dozen military professionals in a war zone lost their lives.

But when a white person dies, it’s a tragedy; when a village in the Middle East gets carpet-bombed, it’s four seconds of an inch-wide rolling news ticker.

I’m trying to select my words so as to make my point clear, but I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job. Which would be a shame, as somebody else “didn’t make his point very well” while discussing this very subject a couple of weeks ago, and he got himself arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

Seems a bit harsh for a moment of inarticulacy.

Actually, what it seems like is tyrannical bullshit. He posted something on his own Facebook wall, the bulk of which calls attention to the plight of innocent Afghani people, and doesn’t mention race or anything race related. Which I suppose was tacitly admitted when the police dropped the racial aggravation charges.

Compare and contrast the backlash he received, from some of the most spitefully point-missing zealots since the Jessica Ahlquist affair:

Fucking sick twat burn his eyes out smelly fukka

Cheeky smelly pakki cunt wants tying to a tree n shooting …Smelly fukker..Lock him up n throw the key away ..Grrrhhhh…SKUM…!!

Dirty smelly greasy bastard needs fuking torturing the dirty paki bastard!!

Remember: these are things being said about the guy charged with a racially aggravated public order defense.

For his part, Azhar Ahmed is still being charged. This time with “sending a message that was grossly offensive”.

Well, maybe it was grossly offensive. I wasn’t grossly offended by it myself, on any personal level, but nobody I love has recently been needlessly killed. I can understand those who have suffered such a tragedy would feel differently. For the most part, I found Ahmed’s message not inexplicably frustrated, with an unnecessary smattering of frothing bile toward the end. He’s an angry 19-year-old. He’s not threatening anyone. He’s not attacking anyone. Even if he was being an insensitive dick, you don’t get to arrest people for being insensitive dicks.

If you think Azhar Ahmed is responsible for criminally damaging soldiers’ morale, get back to me once every member of the armed forces is fully equipped with safety gear and all those in a combat zone have a complete exit timetable. Then we’ll discuss what some teenager scribbled on his own corner of the internet.

People bothered to take to the streets with placards about this. “Jail those who insult our troops“. Is that really who we want to be? Start locking up anyone who pisses us off, even when the ability to shut them out and return to blissful silence is a mere “unfriend” click away?

I accidentally watched the first few minutes of one of the Starship Troopers sequels a few weeks ago, and thought the scene – in which a group of “traitors” were convicted and executed for failing to support the troops and damaging morale – was heavy-handed and lacked nuance. I don’t want to start thinking I ought to be taking crappy dystopian sci-fi more seriously.

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– How much can you tell about Fox News by the people who comment on their site? Probably not much, if we’re being fair. But holy shit their commenters are awful.

– Recession for the majority, boom time for those at the top.

– An open letter to Channel 4 about its Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, from someone who ought to know.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the tabloids…

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