Race, Youth and Intergenerational Activism

Part of Racial Justice Network’s Collective Conversation series which aim to explore the intersections of issues regarding race and colonial legacies.

Please see the eventbrite link for this Race, Youth and Intergenerational event.

Yorkshire Resists the Hostile Environment

Activists and organisers across Yorkshire are invited to create a network of alliances around the common goal of resisting the UK government’s hostile environment policies. Each group or individual will be asked to introduce themselves and talk about their current areas of interest, challenges and what resources they need and may offer to others. A constitution for a network’s operating principles will be presented and discussed. If we can reach agreement, a plan of action will be made. Attendance is free, but please register so we have an idea of numbers (places are limited). We’ll gather at 9.30am for a 10am start and finishing at 4pm.

A collective or organisations in Yorkshire resisting the Hostile Environment

Jamaican Deportation: Charter Flights Crime.

The way Black and Brown bodies are moved around is directly linked to the legacy of the Afrikan holocaust, chattel slavery. Our bodies are somehow disconnected from family, from love, emotions and thought. This is one of the cornerstones of the ideology that allows bodies to be shipped, packed, unpacked, killed, discarded and dehumanised. This is what is happening now. The deportation and treatment of our Elders has caused a scandal that the government is still keen to dodge. Our law abiding forebears deserved better. 

‘Law abiding’ is the narrative that works, it holds currency as well as the public imagination. But people who have been labelled as criminal are not considered the ‘right’ kind of citizens. Our siblings are being deported on flights chartered by the government, and managed by security personnel (one need only look at the case of Jimmy Mubenga to see how this can end). It’s become a conveyor belt: an industry capitalising on the transportation of human flesh. The flights are conducted in secret, men and women dragged from registration centres and detained and then deported. There is no room for enquiry or to be able to challenge the decision. Children are left behind.. people have died awaiting justice when ‘mistakes’ are brought to light.

Men and women, many of whom have been here since early childhood, are being told that to be labelled a criminal, makes them instantly not British, not a citizen, not quite human enough to be treated like a white person. They have been charged with predominantly minor offences. This does not take into account that Black and Brown people are more likely to be convicted in the first place and serve longer sentences than white counterparts, or that some of the ‘crimes’ are a direct consequence of migration status. This is a systemic farce to justify deportation!   The charter flights are nothing new, the loss of loved ones like this has been going on for some time, but there’s a change in pace.

What are those countries such as Ghana and Jamaica gaining by accepting these flights? Surely if they refused, the British government would have to make alternative arrangements. And it is clear that those governments do not care about the long-term impact the deportations are having, both upon the individuals and the communities of the deportees. Many of those who face deportation are experience high levels of depression and other mental health issues, they are subjected to rejection and in some cases violence, forced into communities they often have no connection to. After living here for so long they are themselves ‘othered’ in a country they are being told is home. As per usual the focus on ‘Black criminality’ as covered by the media buys into the racist notion of Black Crime and the idea that we are inherently more prone to criminal activity.

This is one of the ways oppressors justify their cruelty: it’s still being used today. The criminalisation of Blackness also functions to reduce collective sympathy towards mothers and fathers being separated from their children, and lives torn apart and lost. The statement issued by the Home Office states, Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.

Ask any footballer or athlete about British hospitality, as they continues to dodge banana skins, ask any Black and Brown child excluded from school, or harassed by the police. Ask Black women suffering sexist racism in the workplace. Perhaps then, we can talk about British hospitality.   

The Racial Justice Network stands in solidarity with those facing deportation, support End deportations’ CALL TO ACTION and we urge this government to end its callous mistreatment of Black and Brown communities.

Article by Desiree Reynolds @desreereynolds @racejustice

Reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to 2019 at the Racial Justice Network

2018 has been an eventful year for the Racial Justice Network and its been great to see the network go from strength to strength. We have been delighted to expand our board of trustees this year. Bringing a wealth of experience and expertise, Desiree Reynolds, Farzana Khan and Sipilien Birani have helped to consolidate and grow the work that we do at RJN.  We are also very pleased to have worked with many new members, friends and allied groups this year. We fondly remember hosting former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver with the Northern Police Monitoring Project in Manchester, and another former Black Panther, Bob Brown in Leeds. 

We have been drawing attention to the dangers of the Hostile Environment for a long time now, and are pleased to see the issues finally gaining attention in anti-racist and leftist circles, and even (fleetingly) in mainstream discourse. A gathering in solidarity with hunger strikes at Yarl’s Wood have led to the establishment of ‘Yorkshire Resists’, a loose network of allied groups to resist the hostile environment, and we were pleased to support our friends and members in Glasgow to establish ‘Glasgow Resists’. The launch was well attended and we will continue to support them and their work.

We will also continue with our pastoral work supporting our members and friends with projects in Bradford, Glasgow, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, and wherever else necessary.   As an organisation and as individuals we have delivered an incredible number of talks this year. Across the UK and internationally, we have spoken at universities, festivals, academic and professional conferences, and community events. We have also increased the number of blogs on our website, published a number of interventions in mainstream and leftist media, and released several statements on important issues affecting our communities.   

The successes of the RJN meetup group for ‘white allies’ has been particularly encouraging and we look forward to further developments of this project in 2019. We’ve also had valued opportunities to host film screenings and discussions in collaboration with Leeds Black Film Club and other groups, and, given the positive reactions from our members and local communities, we have plans for more of this in 2019.  

  We have taken particular inspiration from the successes of Sisters United this year, a group that includes a number of RJN members and friends. They’ve been campaigning tirelessly against the mismanagement of housing for people seeking asylum in Halifax (which we named as a concern in our 2017 round up), Sisters United have been successful in bringing greater attention to this issue and in developing Halifax G4S charter with support from local, regional and national organisations as well as the local authority.   

One of our aims for 2018 was to begin to develop international connections with groups involved in anti-racist struggle. We have made advances with regard to this aim, with our director Peninah Wangari-Jones attending Dialogue II women in movement in Brazil, and connecting with a number of groups and individuals, including Criola, Virada Feminista, and Bokantaj who came to visit RJN in the UK. We will continue to seek out international connections in 2019, and particularly hope to visit the African continent to build solidarities, and strengthen our anti-racist struggle.   Looking forward to 2019, building on the work of 2018, we will be hosting a ‘collective conversation’ series throughout the year. Through this series – funded with the support of Scurrah Wainwright Charity – we hope to bring together a wide range of people from our communities to discuss big issues, including race and mental health, race and disability, and a number of topical issues.   Amidst all of our successes, we were saddened to lose an important activist when our friend Jackie was forced to leave for Botswana. Whilst we continue connecting with Jackie on an international scale, this was also a stark reminder of how harsh and real British migration policies can be for our communities. Alongside our other activities, we have had to campaign and fund-raise against the threat of deportations facing several of our members, a constant reminder of how important our work is.   

We have been disappointed this year to have had unsuccessful applications for larger sources of funding, as this would really have enabled us to increase the scale and impact of our work. However, we recognise that remaining committed to our radical anti-racist principles limits our access to funding. We are grateful to those supporters who continue to donate through our Paypal. Anybody else willing and able to donate to support our work can do so by following this link.  In solidarity,   The Racial Justice Network 

Looking forward to 2019, building on the work of 2018, we will be hosting a collective conversation series throughout the year. Through this series – funded with the support of Scurrah Wainwright Charity – we hope to bring together a wide range of people from our communities to discuss big issues, including race and mental health, race and disability, and a number of topical issues.

Racial Justice Network statement on the unjust conviction of the Stansted 15

The Racial Justice Network statement on the unjust conviction of the Stansted 15   

We at the Racial Justice Network are deeply troubled by the conviction of the Stansted 15 this week. We have to ask important questions about what this says of our ‘justice’ system, and wonder what implications such a decision has for the right to protest, and for human rights.  

The UK immigration system is despicably cruel, and we stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15 and others who seek to oppose the ruthless injustice it produces. The Racial Justice Network has the utmost admiration for the heroic non-violent actions of the protesters. As a consequence of which, several of those threatened with deportation are pursuing, or have granted, permission to remain in the UK.    

In light of this travesty of justice, we must redouble our efforts to dismantle borders, and make what should be an obvious point: no human being is illegal. We stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15.  

Resisting Racial Injustice with Kathleen Cleaver

Based on the event on 20th of June 2018 and in partnership with Northern Police Monitoring Project.

The underlying reason for our resistance lies in our vision; Holistic, Economic, Cultural and Spiritual repairs to end Racial Injustice and address legacies of colonialism.

We acknowledge there is no biological or anthropological basis for race, and claim we are but one race. However, the socio-political reality dictates that opportunities for participation are organised on the basis of the myth of race. Centuries of colonisation and enslavement have created psyches that believe in white supremacy, therefore mean black and brown bodies all over the world continue to be allocated inferior status.

Racial Justice Network engages with marginalised communities because racially minoritised communities in the UK have endured decades of being invisible, silenced, marginalised. In some cases, this has resulted in the accepting of suffering as part of existence, picking up adaptive as well as maladaptive practices, internalising powerless, becoming self destructive and expecting immediacy in changes to overcome apathy. So, we aim to reach and organise with people who acknowledge the continuing injustice and inequity and hold a desire to act and disrupt the status quo.

Our members and partnerships include people who have recently migrated, those who were born and raised in the UK, those from former British colonies and many more.

We hold Race at the core of our work and build on race analysis as it intersects with other injustices or oppressions like (but not limited to) gender, disability, migration, mental health, religion and sexuality. and by doing this we centre those most on the margin.

The US Civil rights Act was struck down in 1883 with Jim Crow Legislation that pushed for the separate and subordinate status of African Americans. The legislation ensured all social institutions organised themselves according to tenets of white superiority. All people who did not learn or abide by prevailing rules of white superiority were subject to severe consequences.

In the United Kingdom, Theresa May and her (dwindling) team have come up with a similar set of laws targeting people who have migrated into the UK (the majority from ex-colonies) with consequences of fines, prison sentences and the possible loss of business and income for those who do not comply with discriminative laws. With reasons of migration deeply connected to empire, foreign policy, ethnic conflicts instigated and rooted to European colonial divide and rule, foreign debt that cripples economies so inequality, poverty and lack of opportunities becoming a real driver. The Hostile Environment policy targets health, housing, driving, banking, education, employment and many other areas leading to a sharp increase in racial profiling, targeting and turning everyone to border control officers.

Migration policies are racist and we encourage others to over-stand racism as they tackle and challenge these policies: by so doing they will over-stand why people are fleeing their homes, why shutting down normal channels of seeking refuge have led to thousands dying in the Mediterranean and why having bodies floating on the sea, in villages, in camps is not as shocking as it would be if they were of European decent. They will understand the connections between the, Windrush scandal, racist over-policing, Grenfell, the thousands who are locked up in detention centres, and the toxic narrative behind Brexit.

Western society spent decades institutionalising racism and comes up every so often to condemn, blame or offer tokenistic gestures to silence and distract: complete eradication will take time. Dominant societal understandings see racism as individual rather that state led and structural. The state assisted by the media and other neoliberal sectors poison and misinform the public, then act surprised or punish the few individuals who act out or verbalise what the state is doing under the guise of policies and laws.

Connecting the dots of colonialism, Imperialism, Capitalism, neo-liberalism, migration, climate change destruction of cultures and peoples way of life, foreign policies, arms trade, medical experiments, debt, greed, greed, greed explains why we are where we are and offers a useful point to think about what next and what is just.

Racial Justice sees hope in; genuine and un-exploitative solidarity with humans and nature, remembering and reclaiming our awesomeness, growing our connections locally, regionally, nationally and internationally with other groups, individuals, struggles that intersect with ours, inspiring and getting inspired, creating platforms to share and raise our voices, supporting and getting support, remaining present and resisting unapologetically as we tackle the source of the problem not just the symptoms.

Use this link to view some of the images from the event.

Hostile Environment; segregates migrants and encourages racial profiling

Imran Arif and Peninah Wangari-Jones @peninah69 @racejustice on ‘Hostile Environment policy’

In 2012 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a new approach to immigration: to make Britain a “hostile environment” for people who have “no right to be here”.

The introduction of compulsory ID checks in hospitals, is just one element. The plan is to make it even tougher for people under immigration rules to get a job, rent a flat, use a bank, drive a car, get medical treatment, send kids to school, or otherwise live a normal life.

The rationale, more or less, is: ‘if the government can’t actually seal tight the external borders, it can push unwanted “illegals” to leave, or deter others from coming in the first place, by making it near impossible to live a normal life.’

In October 2013, announcing the parliamentary bill that was to become the 2014 Act, Theresa May declared that its aim was: “to create a really hostile environment for illegal migrants”.

In the formal language of the act itself, the main aim is to “limit … access to services, facilities and employment by reference to immigration status”.

The Immigration Act 2016 made these measures harsher still, and added some new ones. However, in many areas the new policies and interventions do not involve new legislation, but internal changes in policy or approach by the Home Office and other government departments. Some of these are formalised in protocols, guidance documents, and Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation between agencies. Others are informal shifts in practice.

Please press download below to see the full report

‘Shithole’ countries, racist text messages, and the need to see the bigger picture

Image: Pat Pagley – https://www.cagle.com/author/pat-bagley/

Article by – Remi Joseph-Salisbury

Racism has perhaps featured more than usual in the news cycle of the last few days. First came Donald Trump’s reference to ‘shithole’ countries, and then after mounting pressure, his declaration that he is ‘not a racist’. As Trump was busy declaring himself ‘the least racist person’, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) found itself under yet more fire from the liberal left (and even some on the right). Leaked text messages, sent by a party activist (who is also the partner of the party’s leader), referred to ‘negros’ as ‘ugly’ and suggested Meghan Markle’s ‘seed will taint our royal family’ (a remark revealing Marney to be painfully ignorant to the ‘colourful’ history of the royal family). In response, UKIP suspended the indefensible Jo Marney. The furore that has followed both Trump’s comments, and Marney’s texts, show that, as a society, we are far more able and willing to condemn explicit racist remarks than we are the institutional, structural and oft-less visible forms of racism that permeate our society. Whilst it might serve the purpose of appeasing the white conscience, a narrow focus on explicit racism is incapable of tackling racism in meaningful ways. In this sense, the condemnation of Trump and Marney has been little more than hollow rhetoric that fails, perhaps through wilful ignorance, to grapple with the magnitude of the issues in question. The question has to be whether or not the outraged are serious in their outrage, and therefore whether as a society we are serious about tackling racism and racial inequality. If we are, then the lens through which we view racism, and the scope of what is outrageous, will have to drastically change. A more sophisticated analysis of racism allows us to see Trump and Marney’s texts as nothing more than the visible tip of the white supremacist iceberg: had society been able to adopt such an analysis, should UKIP and Trump not already have been opposed and condemned to the point of irrelevance? It is that which lies below, structural racism, that has such profound implications for the lives of Black and Brown communities. It is structural and institutional racism that keeps so many of our people locked out of key social institutions, and structural racisms that Trump’s Republicans and Marney’s UKIP are so boldly in pursuit of. Structural racisms mean that disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown people are un(der)employed, living in poverty, in substandard housing, and suffering from poor health. Structural and institutional racisms mean that Black and Brown people are staggeringly overrepresented in statistics for school exclusions, incarceration, and in incidences of police brutality. It is the structural that means that global wealth disparities are so stark, and that these disparities manifest in such clearly racialized ways. Should it not be these patterns of inequity that arouse collective outrage? Should outrage not come in response to governments that have no desire to address these inequities? Focusing on the structural allows us to see the ways in which racism is maintained without the need for explicit racist remarks. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has characterized society as one of ‘racism without racists’: a society in which, whilst nobody readily professes to being a racist, racism continues seemingly unabated. Such an analysis shows us that the policies, rhetoric and practice of Trump’s government are far more impactful than whether or not he openly professes to be a racist. Whilst Theresa May and the Conservatives (except, of course, Boris, who seems to be able to say whatever he likes, no matter how explicitly racist) would be less likely to say things as explicitly racist as Trump, their policies and more-implicit rhetoric continue to do great harm to Black and Brown communities. Whilst the outraged find it easy to condemn Trump, where is the commensurate condemnation of the Tories? What kind of a society allows a party to maintain power when it has such devastating consequences for Black and Brown communities, working-class communities, and disabled communities? Seeing racism as being about more than explicit remarks allow us to hold UKIP to task even as they try to distance themselves from the racist image that (quite rightly) haunts them. Sacking and condemning Marney is a mere performance, but will UKIP ever condemn (rather than perpetuate) structural racisms? Absolutely not! If society remains only able to condemn the explicit, racism will continue to flourish. We must draw upon more holistic and nuanced understandings of racism as we strive to overcome.

The furore that has followed both Trump’s comments, and Marney’s texts, show that, as a society, we are far more able and willing to condemn explicit racist remarks than we are the institutional, structural and oft-less visible forms of racism that permeate our society

Why Black Lives Matter To Us

Image: Black Lives Matter protest credit, Engagio

AS AFRICAN Americans and the wider Black diaspora came to terms with the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the murder of five police officers quickly shifted public attention from Black Lives to ‘Blue Lives’.

One explanation for this shift may be that, in the national consciousness of the US, white lives are worth more than Black lives. Another intertwined explanation is that, given their incredible frequency, police murders of African Americans are seen as normal an unremarkable. Despite the police killer Micah Johnson being in no way connected to the movement, and in fact having being condemned by Black Lives Matter activists, the mere fact that the police officers were murdered at a protest organised by the movement has brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny to the movement. Just as any Islamic terrorist is seen to be representative of all Muslims, Micah Johnson is now assumed to represent the entirety of the Black Lives Matter movement. Whilst rejecting this racist logic, it is important now that the impetus and fundamental principles of the movement are defended. History attests to the remarkable efforts that the white media, politicians, and law enforcement will go to in order to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize’ black revolutionary politics. It is clear that the white establishment has been as troubled by the rise of the BLM movement as they were by the Black Panther movement and Black revolutionary movements of the past. We should not be surprised then that attacks on the BLM movement have proliferated. The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in response to the high profile police murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The growth and salience of the movement is reflective of the racism that permeates US society generally, and its criminal justice system particularly. Indeed, the need to restate that Black lives matter has not dissipated since the movement’s inception. Rather, the systemic and systematic murders of African Americans have ensured that the movement continues to resonate. To understand the need for the BLM movement, it is necessary to consider the recent murders of Sterling and Castile not in isolation but as the latest in an almost incomprehensibly long line of white terrorising, brutalising and murdering of African Americans. This is a genealogy that extends to the slave patrols and public lynchings that characterized earlier epochs of American history. In essence, the murders that sparked this latest protest are modern-day, state-sanctioned lynchings. Whilst in no way suggesting that some lives are worth more than others, when positioned in their larger contexts, it is important to recognise that the murders of Sterling and Castile, and the murders of the five police officers are characteristically different.

The police murders of Sterling and Castile remind us that Black lives are considered to matter less. In so doing, they act to keep in place a system of white supremacy. In contrast, the murders of the police officers do not carry the weight of systemic power. It is, a manifestation of, or reaction to, the failures of that system. In a society where black lives are apparently so expendable, where one in three black males are incarcerated over their lifetime, and where the education system remains separate and unequal, it is fundamentally important that a national and international movement exists that affirms and fights for the importance of Black lives. It is inconceivable and ahistorical to assume that progress would be made without black movements demanding change. Following the murder of the police officers, former US congressmen Joe Walsh used Twitter to place the blame at the feet of Obama, liberals, and Black Lives Matter. Walsh’s critique is woefully misplaced. It is not Obama, or Black Lives Matter, that brought about these murders. Rather the deep-rooted anti-black racism that characterises US society spurned these police murders. Given the levels of inequality, and the snails-pace of racial progress, should we really be surprised by this expression of helplessness, anger and frustration? As James Baldwin observed, ‘The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose’. Rather than condemning the Black Lives Matter movement for the actions of an un-associated individual, people like Walsh should consider encouraging Black Lives Matter: a peaceful and progressive movement that, ultimately, provides a space that channels anger. Without the presence of Black Lives Matter as a voice for the disaffected and disenfranchised, it is not hard to imagine more frustration bubbling over into acts of individual terror. As Langston Hughes once wrote, Negroes, Sweet and docile, Meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day They change their minds! – This piece originally appeared on The Voice, and was written by RJN’s trustee Remi Joseph Salisbury

Despite criticisms from right wing media commentators the movement is more important than ever

Challenging the Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Yorkshire Context

Just West Yorkshire facilitated a meeting with key national and Yorkshire based organisations involved in CSE work to facilitate an open and honest discussion on the issue of child sexual exploitation and particularly street grooming in the region. The aims of the meeting were to: a. understand the problem b. explore intervention strategies c. develop strategies for resilience drawing on best practice. The Report particularly addresses the issue from the perspective of Muslim perpetrators, BME and young male victims as this area remains considerably under-researched. However many of the observations and recommendations made in this Report applies to all victims of street grooming and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Despite the existence of different models of child grooming involving both white and minority ethnic perpetrators and victims, both the political rhetoric and the press and media coverage of street grooming presents the problem in racialised and Islamaphobic terms as an Asian, Pakistani and Muslim problem. The failure to describe the regional prevalence of other models of CSE predominantly committed by White men – such as the conviction of a Mormon preacher in Keighley on child grooming charges; the grooming of young girls by Jimmy Saville in neighbouring Leeds; child sex-trafficking among Eastern Europeans and critically the grooming of young girls over the internet – without a corresponding reference to Christianity is deeply polarising and ultimately gives succour to the Far-Right, racists and Islamaphobes. It is in this context that the high-profile launch of the Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation in Bradford – a joint initiative between Hope not Hate and the Islamic Society of Britain – was seen as a setback for the local community as it perpetuates stereotypes by locating the issue in the context of Bradford, Islam and the Far-Right. Instead the issue of CSE is primarily one of safeguarding young children and any intervention strategies must prioritise this approach. Current data on street grooming in Bradford highlights the fact that perpetrators of this model of CSE are mainly Muslim men of Pakistani heritage. However the widely peddled view that street grooming is a Black on White crime – a view that is given legitimacy by Bradford politicians such as the former MP of Keighley Ann Cryer, the current MP Kris Hopkins and national politicians such as Jack Straw MP and the Police and Criminal Justice Minister, Damian Green – invisibilises victims from ethnic minority backgrounds and marginalises their needs. Intervention strategies therefore have to address the issue from the perspective of vulnerability as the phenomenon of street grooming is an opportunistic crime rather than one determined by religion, race or ethnicity. The foregrounding of White over BME victims and the spotlight on the street grooming model of CSE over other models is eroding community cohesion and both inter and intra-community relations in the district. The repeated targeting of Bradford by the EDL is not co-incidental as the Far Right feeds off this divisive narrative and uses it as a recruiting sergeant to their ranks. Read the report: Final CSE Report JUST West Yorkshire

Key national and Yorkshire based organisations engaged in an open and honest discussion on the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation and particularly the issue of street grooming in the region. The discussion is captured in this report.

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