As First Nations people and people of colour in Australia well know, racial violence never went away. But, for others, recent events may serve as a needed reminder that racist attacks and abuses of police power also happen outside the US.
The Brexit fallout has included a sharp rise in racist attacks on people of colour and migrants, including eastern Europeans. Anti-racists in the UK have quickly responded. The iStreetWatch website now allows users to report and map racist incidents across the UK.
People are increasingly using online spaces and digital tools such as anti-racism apps to strategise, challenge racist views and strengthen anti-racist solidarity.
Mohamad Tabbaa suggested to me that it would be a good idea to write something on the problems of the white left’s reaction to #Brexit and their failure to take seriously the racism on which the leave vote very much relied. We were particularly troubled by remarks by staples of the Australian left, John Pilger and Jeff Sparrow. So, unsurprisingly perhaps, not many outlets wanted to publish us. Sajjeling did though and I’m very grateful. The article has been shared more than 1,000 on Facebook and I am particularly honoured that it was shared by Media Diversified. Read the article on Sajjeling.
I am also linking to this brave video made by Ash Sarkar for Novaramedia in which she interviewed people in the London borough of Barking about the referendum: ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Brexit.’
In an article on race and British cultural studies, Roxy Harris noted that the field’s founders – E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams – ignored “the place of black and brown British subjects in the national polity”. Thompson’s classic 1968 study, The Making of the English Working Class, for example, while covering “topics such as the liberty of ‘the free-born Englishman’” was silent about “the part played by the Empire, the slaves, plantations, the East India Company and so on”.
These great theorists of British society were race-blind.
But it seems that little has been learned from this partial and parochial view of British social and economic history, especially in the writings of a small but vocal group from what we will refer to as “the white Left”.
Since last Friday’s #Brexit vote, where a referendum was held in the UK to determine whether Britain would exit the European Union (EU), Australian writers John Pilger and Jeff Sparrow wrote in New Matilda and Overland respectively that the vote to leave the EU was a knife in the back of neoliberalism (Pilger) and testimony to the success of participatory democracy (Sparrow).
It has become a problem to identify that racism has been made play a role in how austerity is framed – as a struggle between the deserving native and the undeserving, undesirable yet desiring migrant. This conveniently ignores the detrimental effects that the mobilisation of race, and sexualised race in particular, has on achieving the societies we need, in which there is enough for all.
On Monday June 20 I was interviewed by Raymond Grenfell on Indymedia on RTR FM (Perth) about the assassination of Jo Cox, the far right and racism in Britain and Australia. You can listen again here.
I tried to talk about how mainstream politics nurtures the environment in which Jo Cox was assassinated. My point about terrorism and hate crimes, however, did not come across as clearly as I would have liked. What I intended to say was that while it’s right to point out that there are double standards at play when any act of violence carried out by Muslims is immediately tagged as ‘terrorism’ and those carried out by whites is framed as a mental health issue, we should be wary of seeming to endorse anti-terrorism legislation which, for the great majority of cases is used to discriminate against and racially profile Muslims and other racialised people. A useful article by Gary Younge goes towards some of the problems I wished to articulate.
Breivik, like Mair, was a creation of modern Europe’s refusal to admit that race is integral to its formation, not an aberration, not a pathology. It is the logical outcome of the sustained refusal to accept the fact that Europe was not, is not and will not be a white continent but that its power structures have to change in recognition, which means engaging deeply with the legacies of race, ceding white power, and dismantling Eurocentrism.
Tonight Free University of Western Sydney is hosting a screening of Concerning Violence, the Goran Olsson film which uses archival footage of anticolonial struggles to contextualise Chapter 1 of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Omar Bensaidi and I will be chairing the discussion. Here is the presentation we have prepared with the text below.
On Thursday May 26 the Free University of Western Sydney will be hosting a special screening of the documentary Concerning Violence by Goran Hugo Olsson. Omar Bensaidi and I will be hosting a discussion afterwards at the Bankstown Arts Centre. All Welcome.