The Innocence of white women

Following the current situation involving Amy Cooper, it felt appropriate to repost this article published here two years ago… Anaïs Duong-Pedica reflects on white fragility, white women’s tears, and the innocence of white women.

Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Rose McGowan, Mary Beard… What do these women have in common apart from their popularity, especially within western feminist circles? They are white women who take advantage of their whiteness and who centre it in their feminism. Taylor Swift’s career capitalises on “playing the victim”, a status she can only claim because she is a white woman.  Lena Dunham has been in the middle of several controversies with regards to her questionable racial and feminist politics. Most recently, actor Zinzi Clemmons branded her a “hipster-racist”. Rose McGowan’s activism around sexual violence has been challenged by women of colour, especially Black women, who have demonstrated the ways in which McGowan’s feminism only supports white women.

Similarly, Mary Beard’s recent tweets have prompted many to pay attention to the continuing existence of racist and colonial ideologies among British leftist intellectuals. Her tweets sparked responses for two reasons: First, the wilful ignorance behind her tweets on the cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by Oxfam staff in Haiti and second, Mary Beard’s reactions to being challenged online. She first tweeted that she was crying, and then shared a selfie showing her crying and visibly upset. While this seems to have appeared childish to some, this type of reaction will not be unfamiliar to people of colour. In fact, while we have seen a few takes on white feminism emerge out of this, many people, especially women of colour, have written about this in the past.  

Crying, being visibly upset or stating that one is upset is a strategy used by white women when they feel at threat of being perceived as racist or accused of racism. These strategies can be called “moves to innocence”. They are emotional responses which are in part related to white fragility or the fact that white people’s ability to endure racial tensions is very low. Not having to think about race or to think of themselves as racialized render white people “fragile” to these conversations, as opposed to people of colour who grow up and live seeing themselves through the eyes of white people. 

These demonstrations of emotions are also due to the fact that some white people know or, at least, have an idea that they benefit from white supremacy and racism while at the same time understanding that it is unfair. White people, including white women, are invested in avoiding being seen as racist because of these conscious or unconscious understandings of racism as being unfair.

However, because white people are socialised and live in white supremacist societies, they are more invested in upholding white supremacy (which will ensure that their privileges are safe) than they are challenging it. This is why rather than prioritizing continued engagement, constructive exchange, reflection, and learning from their mistakes when they are challenged on their complicity in racism, too many white people prioritise deflection and avoidance.

 White women’s tears act as a shield against accusation of white privilege.   The white woman’s tears work both for the white woman and against the person who is making her uncomfortable (usually a person of colour). In this way, their function is twofold. First, they re-centre the white woman through her emotions and create feelings of empathy and compassion for the white woman. Consequently, race and racism are no longer the focuses, the white woman’s emotions are. After Mary Beard made her emotions visible, many replies showed support to her and called for those who engaged with her to be more compassionate.

Similar responses were triggered at Rose McGowan’s reading at Barnes & Nobles after having been challenged by Andi Dier, a white trans woman and activist, on her antagonism with regards to trans women. Rose McGowan became angry, stood up, raised her voice, then cried while Dier was removed by security. The audience tried to soothe McGowan by telling her she was “amazing” despite her clear abuse of power. In a similar fashion, many white women were quick to remind everyone of the importance of Mary Beard’s work, achievements and of her right to be human and imperfect despite her show of racism, therefore prioritizing her protection over a constructive dialogue around racism.  

The second function of the white woman’s tears is to shift the roles. If the white woman feels accused of racism, her tears turn the aggression towards the accuser. The one who is seen to have caused the white woman’s tears is now an “abuser”, a “troll”, a “bully”, a “harasser”. David Olusoga, a historian and friend of Beard’s, used the term “lynch mob” with regards to those who addressed Mary Beard’s racism. In these instances, the white woman and her feelings are centered and any attempt to remove her from the centre will be met with resistance by her and those invested in maintaining her (white) power. Moreover, because white women’s display of emotions is a strategy that deflects one’s attention from the issue at hand and re-centres the white woman as a victim, the creation of the victim, through tears, also creates, by association, a perpetrator/offender. If the individual who makes the white woman uncomfortable happens to be a woman of colour, and especially a Black woman, the binary victim/abuser will be reinforced. The white woman’s tears act as a way to differentiate her from the Black woman. The tears exacerbate the social differences between them. The white woman is innocent and upset, the Black woman is aggressive and angry. Even if the Black woman who challenges the white woman cries, her tears will not be valued as much as the white woman’s. Individuals are not equally assumed to be or seen as innocent.

Likewise, the display of emotions in order to appear innocent isn’t accessible to all equally. Maybe we can speak of a racial hierarchy of emotions that determines who can display emotions within particular social interactions and how productive or counterproductive these emotions will be. In this context, we need to question whose emotions matter and whose emotions are so valuable that they can be weaponized. In this sense, white women’s moves to innocence and fragility, more generally, are ways in which the status-quo is upheld. They are deployed to silence those who speak against racism (usually people who are not racialized as white) and to safeguard the privileges and comfort of white people, including white women. Many white people believe that western societies are post-racial in that all individuals seem to have the same rights and access to the same opportunities.

To believe that racism only manifests through extremely violent policies such as racial segregation, normalization of physical harm against racialized bodies or racist name-calling is naïve. Racism and whiteness are continuously changing. They adapt to their socio-political environments. If a racist practice becomes unacceptable (Racial segregation for example), acceptable racist practices will continue to exist and new racist practices will appear. In fact, in postcolonial western and predominantly-white societies, racism and white supremacy become less and less visible because anti-racist social movements have made many people conscious of the fact that they were unacceptable. Therefore, not seeing racism and white supremacy does not mean that they are not there. They may have taken more subtle forms, like white innocence and fragility.   At this point, it should be said that I am not problematizing the fact that white women have feelings. Being upset, sad, frustrated, angry are normal and expected in these situations. Social change is an emotional business. Rather, what I am problematizing is what is done with these emotions. If one has been socialised as white and as a woman, these strategies will come naturally. White women just do it, without necessarily thinking about it (although some do think about it).

Therefore, two important take away messages would be that white women realise and honestly acknowledge these behaviours and their consequences for those who are on the receiving end of white women’s innocence. White women have to internally resist what pulls them toward innocence, what tells them to interpellate particular racial narratives about themselves and the individuals who are making them uncomfortable. If the white woman makes herself a victim by the use of emotions, then she is responsible for also making someone an abuser. White women urgently need to engage, reflect on and be accountable for their actions without centering themselves. While many think that emotions are only “natural” and personal, they are also very much social and political and can be dangerous. As Aisha Mirza writes, white women are dangerous “because they’re allowed to be soft – innocent until proven innocent”.

Crying, being visibly upset or stating that one is upset is a strategy used by white women when they feel at threat of being perceived as racist or accused of racism. These strategies can be called “moves to innocence”.

Follow Anaïs on twitter here –  @anaisdpedica  

RESIST REMEMBER REPAIR! RJN DECOLONISING EDUCATION KENYA 2020

Update and summary from decolonial work earlier this year..

January 2020 saw a collaboration between The Racial Justice Network, Kenyan activists and artivists, the University of Nairobi, African Digital Media Institute and the University of Manchester. Together they curated a programme of events focusing on the decolonisation of education and activisms.
This programme seeks to bring a range of partners together in order to build international solidarity between activists, artists and scholars in Kenya, and their UK counterparts.

Whilst calls to ‘decolonize’ are now commonplace on UK university campuses and activists spaces, the term is at risk of being reduced to a mere buzzword, bereft of historical and socio-political context, and emptied of its radical impetus.

Through the programme of events, we hoped to recapture the radical potential of decolonial thought and action. Given the colonial relationship between Kenya and Britain, and given the decolonisation that Kenyans fought for, this international collaboration enables us to engage in meaningful and generative ways as we seek to explore what contemporary decolonize movements should look like.

The four day series of events were designed as an intervention against the systems of colonial power that structure our places of learning, our existence and ways of living. We are asking: what do colonial legacies look like? What do we learn? How do we build and reinforce decolonial resistances and solidarities across borders.

All of the sessions fed into the DECOLONIAL FRAMEWORK that was made available after the event, for attendees to implement in their educational spaces, workplaces, and in the prospective international network.

See linked TRAILER and the FULL VIDEO here

Principles for decolonial practice

To resist the ways in which colonial education separates the body from the mind

To disavow the illusion of ‘objectivity’ and ‘rationality’ that dominates colonial forms of education. Instead, we endeavour to embrace and reengage with our emotions, and to support others to engage with their emotions too.    

To change the whole curriculum of our formal education systems, to cultivate an over-standing of colonial legacies, and to teach us what we need to be taught. Simultaneously, to support and nurture resistant forms of community education, and to retrain teachers. 

To resist and reject the competition, hierarchy and individualism embedded in colonial education, and our colonised cultures. Instead, we seek to embrace the spirit and philosophy of Ubuntu. 

To recognise the emotional toll involved in resisting, and to take self-care and collective-care seriously. 

To work towards the recovery of traditional practices and morals that were taken away through colonialism. To take the good, and reject the bad, in order to progress. 

To challenge representation, imagery, and language that perpetuate white supremacy and colonial relations. Examples include the image of white Jesus and prayer in alien tongues. 

To reject the valorisation of whiteness, white people and white desirability standards (that leads to toxic practices like skin bleaching), and recognise these ideologies as legacies of colonialism and enslavement. 

To recognise that language is propaganda, and the role language plays in transmitting a message that ‘the West’ is superior. To nurture and appreciate native languages and dialects, and reject the prioritisation and celebration of English. 

To be deliberate in the way we reconnect with nature, including the land, food, agriculture, soil, and water. 

To celebrate women, and remember the fundamental role played by women in understanding soil and water points for agriculture, and survival. 

Remember, remember; remember not to forget… our histories. To recover these histories through dialogue, through oral histories, and through engagement with – and dissemination of – alternative histories. To simultaneously reject Eurocentric distortions of our histories, and see this recovery process as a means through which we might challenge Afriphobia. 

To overstand that ‘tribalism’ is a consequence of colonialism, and to reject the ways in which those stereotypes shape our lives/ To recognise tribalism as a colonial vestige, and reject its divisive impact accordingly.  

To recognise our own locations in relation to power, be that in relation to our race, our ethnic communities, our nationalities, or any other identities. Simultaneously, to recognise what we can offer. 

To be hard on ideas and soft on people. To recognise that we are all moving towards the same place, and remember love and kindness along the way. 

To identify and tackle the root of problems. Remembering that, as Angela Davis puts it, radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root’. 

To ask, ‘who will do the washing up in the revolution’, and recognise the unseen work that enables decolonial resistance. 

To imagine movements being reminiscent of the interdependence of a forest – people each taking on roles, big and small,and being interdependent.

To appreciate the role of art in our learning, and in our activism: to advocate for the importance of artivism

To embrace the spirit of Sankofa, and learn from the past to inform our futures. 

Your C-19 Donations: What Next?

Text overlayed over four pictures of bags of donations that reads:
Campaign to support vulnerable groups during COVID-19 lockdown

97 individuals received mobile top ups.
101 families (198+ kids) received toys, books, puzzles.
£3,008.41 donated.
397 articles from wishlist.
1,000 toys, books, puzzles donated.
Thank you!

While we are still grappling with the current global situation that has torn through the heart of our communities we are beyond overwhelmed with the kindness of our friends, family and strangers. It is because of you, our volunteers and community leaders that we have been able to support those most impacted by COVID-19 lockdown. In less than a month we have received:

  • £3,008.41 from 78 donors
  • 397 articles purchased from our Amazon wishlists
  • Countless toys, books, puzzles and board games dropped off at our collection points

It is because of these donations we have been able to support:

  • 97 individuals with mobile top ups
  • 22 top ups & devices for 22 ppl Leeds Unity Centre
  • 20 top ups for Sudanese Community in Bradford
  • 15 top ups for LQTBQ+ asylum seekers in Bradford
  • 20 top ups for BIASAN Bradford
  • 20 top ups for Abigail Housing Destitution Project 
  • 101 families including 198+ kids with toys, board games, books, puzzles
  • 6 families from Eritrean and Ethiopian Young Women Group (8 Kids)
  • 21 families from Sudanese Community in Bradford (45 kids)
  • 8 new arriving families supported by Bradford Refugee Action (20 kids)
  • 20 families from West Yorkshire Somali Association (30+ Kids)
  • 21 families from Swahili Cultural Community (30+ Kids)
  • 10 families from Leeds Unity Centre (22 kids)  
  • 2 families in Leeds (4 Kids) 
  • 13 families supported by BIASAN Bradford (39 kids) 

We would like to thank our community leaders who have worked tirelessly. Our volunteers who have made packages for families, reached out to organisations, coordinated delivery and drop offs, managed social media accounts and written letters to local governments. This is an act of community love, of resistance against systems of oppression which disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) and migrant communities. 

We will be making a momentary pause on material donations to focus on the second stage of this campaign. However, we are in dire need of smartphones and tablets so please contact us if you have these items to donate. We will now centre our attention in lobbying the government to improve the living conditions of BIPOC and migrant communities most impacted by COVID-19 and strengthening community connections/actions. We will continue to support individuals and communities so please reach out if you are in need or know someone that can benefit from this campaign. 

In solidarity,

Racial Justice Network and Yorkshire Resists 

Pandemic and Positivity Propaganda

So here we find ourselves smack-bang in the middle of a global pandemic. Some may describe this time as a bad dream, I personally feel like I’m trapped in a sci-fi thriller film, as it feels like whilst we were aware of past pandemics, this one has all the factors of a bad dream or a good sci-fi thriller. For the most part I have been successful with tuning out most of the media white noise surrounding the pandemic as it’s become too much of an information overload for me and I’ve found myself growing increasingly cynical about most things I see and hear. Whilst I knew I felt uneasy about several things I had seen and heard, I could not quite pinpoint why! Not wanting to be a negative Nancy as the world was descending further into this nightmare,  I’m careful who I share my cynicism with as it seemed most people had in fact bought the positivity propaganda and were regurgitating the same hashtags : “Stay Home”, “Stay Safe”, “ProtectTheNHS”, “Save Lives”. 

No doubt through these uncertain times positivity is needed to keep spirits high and allow society to function without going into complete despair. Nevertheless, we have to be mindful and cautious that in keeping positive we are not ignoring the realities and failing to recognise the deeply entrenched socio-political issues. I speak specifically around the positivity propaganda that has been utilised by the government to police society and encourage us to police one another. Social media has been rife with many people shaming people who do not follow government guidelines or people who express their negative feelings. For many the government guidelines and the policing of one another has a simple positive intention of protecting as many people as possible from the virus, including key workers and frontline NHS staff whose lives are at risk whilst working. Yet, the disregard of people’s negative feelings or failure to empathise with those who are struggling with self-isolation and following government guidelines raises the age-old question: whose lives matter in our society? 

It has been brought to national and international attention that those categorised at “BAME” or “BME” have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary, during a coronavirus daily update confirms this disproportionate impact on BAME groups. The evening standard reports as of Friday 17th April 4,873 patients with Covid-19 in critical care, 1,681 were from the BAME community, making up 34.5 % of per cent of cases, despite only making up about 13% of the population according to the 2011 census. Following public pressure put on minister’s, the government is set to launch a review into the reasons for this. Most people of colour do not need a review to ascertain the reasons Black and Brown communities are victims to this virus. The health status of these groups has always been adversely impacted by the health inequalities prevalent within our entire health system for many years.  This is not NHS bashing, but the truth revealed by numerous evidence that suggests Black and Brown bodies and minds are often less valued and not worthy of saving. For instance, prior to the pandemic the mental health support available to BAME communities were inadequate, which saw many Black people come in contact with the mental health system through initial contact with the criminal justice system. The use of excessive force on Black and Brown bodies has resulted in more deaths in police custody. The death of Christopher Alder, 1998, the death of Olaseni Lewis in 2010, Sean Rigg in 2008, Thomas Orchard in 2012 and more recently Kevin Clarke in 2018 all came as a result of excessive police force whilst going through a mental health crisis. These cases form a pattern in which almost three quartersof those who died during or following contact with the police were reported to have mental health concerns

This pandemic has witnessed many come together to recognise the importance of our NHS, NHS staff, porters, kitchen staff, our ‘key workers’ such as carers, customer service agents, waste management workers, etc. – previously referred to as “low skilled” workers. It has been identified that often individuals from BAME communities account for many of these key workers, with 42.4% of junior doctors and 44.3% of NHS staff, from BAME backgrounds. Additionally, people from Black and Brown communities are largely over represented in four of the eight areas highlighted as essential during the pandemic – health and social care, education and childcare, food and other vital goods and transportation. The You Clap for Me Now poem performed by NHS workers highlights a pattern of racism and xenophobia experienced by non-white or non-British NHS workers. This pattern is often similar for Black and Brown key workers in our wider society. 

Migrant communities, especially undocumented people and those seeking refuge and asylum, are some of the most vulnerable groups during this pandemic. Physically, they are more prone to getting the virus due to the areas the built up and largely populated areas they work and live in. However, they are less likely to receive adequate support to sustain self-isolation and follow lockdown guidelines as they have no recourse to public funds and often rely on community support to survive. Although some MPs have written to the health secretary to highlight how undocumented migrants are dying from covid-19 and the various ways in which migrant communities are being disadvantaged by the hostile environment during this current pandemic, the home office have chosen take a hard line on maintaining this hostile environment during this time by reiterating low-skilled workers are not wanted beyond the pandemic. The juxtaposition between clapping for key workers, but sending some of them ‘back’ once they have done saving our lives is unsettling and presents the reality that Black and Brown bodies are disposable like bombs over Baghdad.

History has shown us during a national crisis, society often comes together, in this case metaphorically, to overcome the challenges faced. After WW2, Black and Brown communities, who had witnessed decades of racism and socioeconomic hostility, were employed to not only fight but to rebuild many western countries, including the UK, – infamous is the case of the Windrush generation. However, following this collective effort to rebuild societies, Black and Brown communities were again relegated to adverse socioeconomic positions, subject to racisms in education, policing, housing, health and many other areas of society. 

But what about once the peak of the pandemic panic is over? Will we return back to business as usual – maintaining and promoting the hostile environment with xenophobia towards migrant communities and racism towards Black and Brown people? Over the past two months we have undergone many changes in how our social lives function in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in an aim to curtail the pressure it puts on the NHS and the economy at large. The pandemic, and many of the changes brought in to respond to it, should cause us to employ a little cynicism to question: what is important on the government’s agenda during this time? What social issues were previously ignored that have led to this pandemic disproportionately impacting migrant and Black and Brown communities? How do we ensure we do not return to the way things were before? We ask that reflection on racism and xenophobia and solutions to address it remain a constant with this pandemic, like many national crisis conversations, have brought to the forefront the socio-political issues that existed previously. To clap along with the positivity propaganda without further dialogue on how we dismantle structures that undervalue the lives of these key workers, and Black and Brown people at large, would do a disservice to our history, again!

Article by Sharon Anyiam @Shaanyiam

Support community mental health through Covid-19 donations

Want to practically support our response to COVID-19?

During this difficult time, many of us rely on books, music, tablets, and games to get through the day, look after kids, or connect with our support systems. But some of the most vulnerable are unable to. At RJN, we are seeking donations to support undocumented, asylum and refugee communities.

How can I help?

Choose an item from our Amazon Wishlist for Leeds or Bradford, OR send items to:

LEEDS:
Racial Justice Network
5 Eltham Drive
Leeds, West Yorkshire LS6 2TU
BRADFORD:
Sudanese Community/Racial Justice Network
65 Douglas Road
Bradford, West Yorkshire BD4 8QN

Why should I help?

Asylum seekers earn about £5 a day and do not have the right to open bank accounts. This affects their ability to have internet and pay the TV license. We have heard from many refugee communities suffering from mental health issues because they can no longer be in contact with their support systems due to social distancing.

In this context, daily activities are vital to the well-being of adults and children during lockdown. While we are lobbying local authorities on these issues, we are also focusing on practical solutions and your support will be invaluable.

What items can I donate?

– Old mobiles, tablets, computers with chargers and TVs, (working)

– Colouring books (children & adults)                   

– Colouring pencils and pens

– Paint by numbers

– Knitting & crochet material (needles, yarn, patterns)

– Indoor gardening (soil, seeds, pots, tools)

– Board games, toys and plasticine

– Books (children & adults, any language)

– Puzzles for adults & children

– Arts & craft activities (children & adults)

Or make a monetary donation to fund purchases like these here:

RJN has written to Leeds and Bradford councils to ask for various measures to support people living in precarious conditions due to the Hostile Environment. You can read the letter here.

Co-signing organisations include: Global Bradford, Leeds Refugee Forum, Yorkshire Resists, Sudanese Community Bradford, Leeds No Borders, The 3 Million and Leeds Unity Centre.

A poster image, saying:
A call for donationa for those in need in West Yorkshire.
The Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent quanratine of communities has caused many households to lose their livelihood and income. Amongst the most vulnerable are those seeking asylum and refude, undocumented people and BME groups.

To help: Please read the attached letter and donate any of the articles listed
Make a monetary donation to The Racial Justice Network
Buy something from our wish list for Leeds or Bradford.

RJN Patron Statement from Esther Stanford-Xosei

It is a great honour and responsibility to have been invited to be a patron for the Racial Justice Network. In times such as these when there is an intensification of European initiated resource conflicts and wars against Peoples, Nations and Continents of the Global South, materialism, eco-fascism and militarism, there is a need, now more than ever, for all people of conscience who consider themselves to be progressives and/or allies for reparatory focused Racial Justice to join our efforts in taking courageous action to eradicate the triple evils of war, white supremacy racism and militarism as well as resisting the plunder, pollution and depletion of Mother Earth’s shared resources for Humanity and the monopoly of wealth for the few at the expense of the many. In my experience, history is best qualified to reward our research in identifying that this has always been most effectively done through linking our allied movements for progressive social change and transformation.
As a newly-appointed patron of the Racial Justice Network, I am keen to offer guidance in the areas of my experience and expertise of countering Anti-Black Racisms in general and the specific manifestation of Afriphobia in particular. In addition, I aim to support existing and future RJN programmes and initiatives which seek to join with other social movement groups, organisations and communities of resistance who are individually and collectively struggling to stop the harms of what Afrikan Heritage Communities refer to as the Maangamizi of Ecocide and Genocide in the process of repairing, remaking and renewing our World; thereby making it more beneficial and beautiful than before.

In Dedicated Service, Esther Stanford-Xosei

****************************************

Esther website banner

Esther Stanford-Xosei is a Jurisconsult, dynamic Pan-Afrikanist community advocate, specialising in the critical legal praxis of ‘law as resistance’ and Reparationist. Brought into this world by parents who were born in the Caribbean, (Guyana & Barbados), yet retained their genetic and cultural memory of Afrika, Esther’s activism has sought to re-member the genetic, geo-political and historical between Diaspora communities of resistance and their ancestral Motherland, Afrika.

As a ‘new abolitionist’, Esther serves as the Co-Vice Chair of the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE). She is also the co-initiator of the Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/ Ecocide! Petition and Campaign (SMWeCGEC) which is championing the establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice at the levels of the Westminster and European Parliaments. The SMWeCGEC is the official partner of the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee (AEDRMC) which organises the annual 1st August Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March in London; of which Esther is the official spokesperson.
In addition, Esther is an active organiser as part of Extinction Rebellion (XR) where she and her colleagues in the SMWeCGEC have been championing the need for policymaking on ‘Planet Repairs’ embracing Reparations as part of the remit of Citizens and Peoples Assemblies on Climate and Ecological Justice. In this regard, she co-founded the Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network (XRISN) which supports and amplifies the reparatory justice resistance of activists and their communities of resistance on the frontline of the global climate and ecological crisis.
As an historically conscious community-based educator dedicated to emancipatory education for liberation and self-reliance, Esther chairs the Maangamizi Educational Trust which educates and conscientizes the public about the Maangamizi (Afrikan Hellacaust), its causes, contemporary impacts and redress. In addition, Esther is a co-founder and co-facilitator of the International Network of Scholars & Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR) established in 2017. As a result of her community engaged reparations scholar-activism, Esther is currently completing PhD action research at the University of Chichester on the history of the UK contingent of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR).
Esther has recently become a patron of the Racial Justice Network and serves as a trustee of the Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust which provides supported housing to young homeless women aged 16-25.

Still here and caring: RJN responds to Covid-19

To protect the health and safety of our communities and friends we have sadly decided to postpone/suspend all our upcoming events, training, media appearances and face-to-face support.

At this time of the continued global Coronavirus pandemic, we know that our most vulnerable those with migrant status, those suffering under the hostile environment, those with no recourse to public funds – will be disproportionately affected by any lock down. It is the most vulnerable that will be affected by the closing of services, deepening economic hardship, and the seeping of border regimes into our GP practices. With many of our communities unemployed, or in low-paid and insecure work, and many living in shared housing, self isolation simply isn’t an option. 

We will continue to work to protect ourselves and our communities. We are in the process of moving ourselves online with our Collective Conversations and our Unlearning Racism course, with more information to follow. Notwithstanding the ways that the digital world excludes many of our members, we will also endeavour to continue liaising with our core membership digitally or by phone to ensure their needs are brought to the attention of policy makers and funders.

We extend our solidarity to the frontline medical and care workers who, as a result of deliberate underfunding, are massively under resourced, underpaid and over stretched. We also offer solidarity to any migrant and especially migrant medical staff who are still being asked to pay a fee to use the NHS that they serve. We send love to the cleaners who are being treated so badly, expected to work without even the most basic safety provisions, by contracted cleaning companies. This crisis has shown, if we did not already know, that for profiteering companies and our government alike, too many of our lives are seen to be entirely expendable. . 

We send love to our siblings in indefinite detention, we have not forgotten you and will continue to put your case forward at every opportunity. Waiting for news of your release. 

Peace to the prisoners in overcrowded, underfunded prisons, whilst the owners can self isolate in luxury. To those on misdemeanour charges that should by now, have been released . 

To those without a roof and food, to the women of colour who are always disproportionately affected by testing times, to the dis/abled people whose needs are too often ignored, we send love and solidarity.

Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds

The Racial Justice Network statement on the UK’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic

We at The Racial Justice Network are deeply concerned about three aspects of the UK governments’ response in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic:

1. The unjustifiable danger to the lives of up to 2,000 people in immigration detention

We support the letter from 10 organisations led by Bail for Immigration Detainees, in calling for the immediate release of all people detained by the Home Office in order to curb the serious health risk to those being held for administrative reasons which, while never justified, are entirely redundant at a time when deportation flights are grounded.

2. The threat to freedom from emergency police powers

Emergency police powers being rushed through parliament this month – but potentially applicable for years – will enable officers to detain anyone under the justification of their suspected potential infection risk. Returning the police to a border force role is a serious threat to the liberty of UK citizens, particularly when viewed in the context of the growing use of police biometrics with racist  Stop and Search practices. We note that MP Layla Moran shares this concern, stating “I worry that these new detention powers will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless.

3. The risk to public health posed by the Hostile Environment

As Liberty, Medact, JCWI and others have pointed out, the Hostile Environment, prevents migrants from accessing healthcare, making them acutely vulnerable to the Coronavirus. We echo those groups’ calls to end all data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office and the NHS charges which form a barrier for accessing screening and treatment. 

We stand in solidarity with everyone being placed in danger by these issues and urge the government to take fast, responsible action.

Supported by

Decolonising Education Kenya 2020

A collaboration between The Racial Justice Network, University of Nairobi, African Digital Media Institute and University of Manchester.

Between the 13th and the 16th January, 6 of us from the UK and 5 others from Kenya have curated a programme of events focused on the decolonization of education and activisms. This programme seeks to bring a range of partners together in order to build international solidarity between activists, artists and scholars in Kenya, and their UK counterparts.

Whilst calls to ‘decolonize’ are now commonplace on UK university campuses, the term is at risk of being reduced to a mere buzzword, bereft of historical and socio-political context, and emptied of its radical impetus. Through this programme of events, we hope to recapture the radical potential of decolonial thought and action. 

Given the colonial relationship between Kenya and Britain, and given the decolonization that Kenyans fought for, this international collaboration enables us to engage in meaningful and generative ways as we seek to explore what contemporary decolonize movements should look like. 

The four day series of events have been designed as an intervention against the systems of colonial power that structure our places of learning, our existence and ways of living. We ask: what do colonial legacies look like? What do we learn? How do we build and reinforce decolonial resistances and solidarities across borders. All of the sessions will feed into a decolonial framework that will be made available after the event.

This framework will be developed for attendees to implement in their educational spaces, workplaces, and in the prospective international network. Whilst decolonization cannot be reduced only to a ‘framework’, we hope that this is a starting point from which our network might build. As the framework will become an open-online-resource, we hope that it will be drawn upon (and refined) by a range of other activist organisations, including ourselves

Activities over the course of the week:

Monday 13th January – Rep the road workshop in a high school in Nairobi ( not open to public). 

Tuesday 14th January – Decoloniality workshops at Arboretum Nairobi,10-3 pm. Bringing community, scholars and activists together. 22 places available for community members, activists and scholars only. EMAIL TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE

Wednesday 15th January – Resistance and solidarity workshops at PAWA 254, 10-2pm. Bringing 22 community members, scholars and activists only. EMAIL TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE

Followed by a panel discussion in the auditorium, 6-8pm. By asking if we are complicit in colonial legacies, we will share and listen to a range of speakers covering topics like Education, Culture, Politics, Land and much more. BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE.

Thursday 16th January – Decolonising Education conference at the University of Nairobi (Kikuyu campus), 9.30-5pm. Bringing all of the week’s activities together, a day of focused discussion, response, solidarity-building and planning for decolonial resistances. This conference includes an opening and closing plenary as well as presentations from scholars, community educators and activists. BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE

Booking, admission and other details:

Admission to all workshop events is free of charge, however spaces are limited and booking for each event is required, followed by further information including location details. 

Light refreshments and lunch will be provided.

The events will be filmed and recorded.


Speakers and workshop organisers for this event include:

Racial Justice Network – with Desiree Reynolds, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Sharon Anyiam, Sai Murray, Kwame Gad and Peninah Wangari-Jones.

Field Marshall’s- Githuku Ndungi

From the roots – Wangui wa Kamonji

University of Nairobi- Dr. Christine Kahigi



For any questions or further queries, please contact:

info@racialjusticenetwork.co.uk

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/decolonising-education-kenya-2020-tickets-88116945155

Legacies of Colonialism: How are we complicit

Happening on the 15th of January 2020 and held at PAWA 254, 2nd floor, Africa Alliance of YMCAs Building, Nairobi, Kenya