Seizing refugees’ valuables and the lure of ‘frozen’ racism

Gold dental caps that were removed by the Nazis from Jewish concentration camp inmates

Gold dental caps that were removed by the Nazis from Jewish concentration camp inmates

This is a short draft paper that I am posting in order to gather reflections for a longer piece on the operations of ‘frozen racism’ and the European ‘migration crisis’.

I know the whole House will want to join me in marking Holocaust Memorial Day. It is right our whole country should stand together to remember the darkest hour of humanity. Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I said we would build a striking national memorial in London to show the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust. Today I can tell the House this memorial will be built in Victoria Tower Gardens. It will stand beside Parliament as a permanent statement of our values as a nation and will be something for our children to visit for generations to come.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, 27 January 2016

So began Prime Minster’s question time on Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 in the British parliament. Later, in response to the opposition leader’s questions, Cameron rejoindered that, far from standing up for ‘the British people and hard-working tax-payers’, Jeremy Corbyn ‘met with a bunch of migrants in Calais [and] said they could all come to Britain.’ Many were quick to point out the cruel irony of his dismissive statement moments after his commitment to ensure the memory of the Holocaust be never forgotten. As Joseph Harker pointed out in The Guardian, ‘one couldn’t help but wonder whether, if Cameron had been around in the 1930s, he would have laughed about “a bunch of Jews”.’

Cameron’s callous use of migrants stuck in the no mans lands of the Calais Jungle and the lesser known but harsher Grande Synthe refugee camp to take a swipe at his Labour opponent came on the back of the decision in Denmark to strip asylum seekers of valuables worth over 10,000 Danish Kroner (1,340 Euro). Holocaust analogies flew fast there too. Danes were following in Nazi footsteps by seizing asylum seekers’ valuables, just as was done to the Jews.

Important as it is to draw these comparisons, the story of Cameron and the Danish government’s proposed hypocrisy only partially explains where current European responses to the hysterically named ‘migration crisis’ sit in relation to the European history of race.

Continue reading

The Disruption of Postracial Certainty as an Antiracist Urgency – Keynote at the Berlin Jewish Museum

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 23.23.59On 12 November 2015, I was honoured to have been invited by the organisers of the international conference, ‘Post-migrant Society?! Controversies on Racism, Minorities and Pluralization’, held at the Berlin Jewish Museum, Yasemin Schooman and Riem Spielhaus. The opening event at which I spoke was filmed and can be viewed here.

Photos from ‘A Shared Minority Experience’ with Akala, Amy McQuire & Yassir Morsi

December 10 2015 saw an energising evening of debate at Bankstown library with renowned British hip and hop and spoken word artist, historian and activist, Akala, in conversation with the brilliant journalist Amy McQuire and critical race scholar Yassir Morsi. Here are some photos of the evening.

AkalaYas Amy Hall  me

Racism in Public or Public Racism

A woman's rant against Asian women on a Sydney train in 2014

A woman’s rant against Asian women on a Sydney train in 2014

In my first article on racism and antiracism in Australia, published online first in Ethnic and Racial Studies and part of a special issue  on ‘Reconfiguring Antiracisms’ edited by Yin Paradies, I argue that

The idea of racism as an event appears crucial to the judgment of its legitimacy. By examining racism as a disjointed series of public events that are often accompanied by elisions of the connections between racist ‘eruptions’ and systemic conditions, I shine light on what is meant by racism today. Racism can be theorized dually as both frozen and motile. This is due to emphasis being placed on what race is taken to be, rather than on what it does. Confusion over how to formulate anti-racism is based on this misconception of race at the core of much anti-racist thought, leading to an obscuration of racism. Critically examining some contemporary anti-racist activity, I briefly assess the role played by those who challenge racism in legitimizing or negating official interpretations of racism in contemporary Australia.

New article: ‘Eliminating Race Obscures its Trace’

Theories of Race and Ethnicity

Theories of Race and Ethnicity

I have just published a new article in Ethnic and Racial Studies responding to the excellent edited collection Theories of Race and Ethnicity co-edited by Karim Murji and John Solomos. The article can be downloaded here. Here is the abstract:

Focusing on the chapters by Brett St Louis, Michael Banton, Matthew Hughey, and David Goldberg, I explore the contribution of Murji and Solomos’ volume, Theories of Race and Ethnicity, to ongoing debates on the meaning of the post-racial. I draw on Goldberg’s interactive relationality as a means for thinking about the continued significance of race both for scholarship on its material effects and for developing practices of anti-racism.

Akala in Sydney: A Shared Minority Experience

12294721_1552751698368803_8994375057732230434_nJoin us for a free community event on December 10th at Bankstown Library. This discussion on the shared experience of everyday racism will feature the renowned British hip-hop artist and campaigner, Akala, and New Matilda journalist, Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman, Amy McQuire. The event has been organised by Omar Bensaidi.

All Welcome. For more details, visit Facebook

Real Australians are a Myth

Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, emphasises 'liberal values' and 'casual racism' but downplays systemic racism.

Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, emphasises ‘liberal values’ and ‘casual racism’ but downplays systemic racism.

On November 9, I published an article in The Guardian, co-written with Omar Bensaidi, on the liberal approach to racism in Australia. Racism denial is rife in Australia among white elites and those captured in the tentacles of what Jon Stratton termed ‘honorary whiteness’.

The article argued that

Standing back as though unimplicated, liberal democracy is proposed as the solution to racism. By comforting middle Australia by repeating the myths of its inherent fairness, systemic racism which, today, holds Muslims of all political hues at the forefront of its sights, the proponents of liberalism leave the structures of racism in place by locating it outside itself.

Read more here

Race, class, gender and the ‘white left’

BHMI was invited by Luqman Onikosi at Sussex University to address Black History Month, an event I used to enjoy immensely during my time there. I highlight for me was chairing the Black Panther speaking tour back in 2008. Luqman asked me to speak on the problematic separation between race, class and gender, and I’m not sure how much justice I did to that massive subject. However, the following text include some reflections on the question of what race is, the problematic misunderstanding of race in the approach taken by Lisa McKenzie in her recent Guardian article, ‘The Refugee crisis will hit the UK’s working class areas the hardest‘, and what I see as the blindness of the white left opposition to identity politics. Please note that these reflections are schematic and I might work it up into a longer article in due course. Continue reading

Racism, Western Sydney & Responses


I was delighted to be asked to participate in the panel on Racism, Western Sydney & Responses organised as part of Diversity Fest at Western Sydney University in September. The panel asked the hard questions about race, visibility, the white left, the curriculum. As Linda Martin Alcoff who honoured use with her attendance, it was fascinating to note who was in the room and who was not. There were hardly any academic staff members present and most of the student participants were people of colour. Do white students and staff not feel affected bu discussions of racism?