Sadly Inspired by the Death of George Floyd

#Socialinjustice - sadly his last moments of life were full of terror. The George Floyd video crashed through the delusion that black lives mattered if this evil and arrogant act was real. A subdued and incapacitated George Floyd; a knee pushed down on his neck as he pleaded for breath; passers by screaming for his life as it ebbed away. Officer Derek Chauvin blithely ignoring it all, cocksure that he’d face no consequences for his actions; a fellow officer standing guard to prevent anyone coming to Floyd’s rescue. For almost nine minutes, many of them after he had passed out. Nine minutes.

Not many white people could believe this could happen to them. That an officer of the law could be so callous, so unconcerned about the life of a man, white or black.

That’s possibly why, this time, there has been unprecedented numbers of white people declaring their allegiance to the antiracism cause. On the streets, even in the US, most protesters have been white.

Now That You've Gone, What's Next?

The door is ajar, come with others and those who don't want to can stay behind their doors of shame, until they are ready to come when we will welcome them.


Family Matters - family and friends - summer 2020

If Only They Knew

Who would seek to protect this legacy?

Educational Living Theories

The value we assign to autonomy could be one of the reasons why activists leading the Black Lives Matter movement on both sides of the Atlantic, continue to pursue fairness. Fairness, however, means diffierently to different cultures, ages, faiths and genders. Since the #BLM movement started in the USA, the agenda has been largely focussed on raising awareness of the disproportionate numbers of blacks that are stopped, searched, arrested, given custodial sentences and died while in police custody, compared to whites in the western countries, including England and USA. 

Any successful activism has to be followed by action to progress the agenda, which will achieve the said mission.  The capacity to progress the agenda can be missed, if there are only protests and no platform afforded for the next phase to take place.

With the needs of black British being different to those of black Americans, there is a need for clarity on how to pursue the next steps. For example, while there are disproportionate numbers of black people who are stopped, searched and given custodial sentences on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean compared to whites, advocacy is often sought in the USA to solve problems relating to black Americans. Yet in the UK rarely are blacks offered the opportunity to discuss solutions that relate to them or do they pursue sitting on numerous platforms that progress activism to notable action. With the latter suggesting that black British are not heralded so easily as part of the solution, but rather, as part of the problem. Equally in the USA, I have been confronted by racism that would have resulted in attending a court room if the same act had been committed in the UK. As a teacher in Washington in the USA in 2006,  I had two children removed from my class and parents were happy to say it was because I was English!

Data can include proportionate number of black CEOs;  governors; pastors; societies that support the progress of the #BLM agenda; businesses; teachers or lecturers or professors; and finally actors, writers, and TV or radio presenters. 

From personal experience, I remember, as I scrubbed my arms as a child to whiten my skin, feeling ostracised and lacking a sense of being loved and belonging. Commiting this act as a child is not like plucking your eyebrows or wearing platform shoes so that you fit in with the other 1970's teenagers. It is a realisation that the country that you live in is defining you unfairly, by the images that you see and the policies and behaviours that you are subjected to. They remind you that your sense of reality is distorted because of the colour of your skin. It comes as a great shock through playing with white dolls, through watching nursery programmes where no black presenters or children are seen, through the use of racist language such as wog and coon being accepted and used by your family and those you call your friends and through the books that you read where black people live on the edge of the town or are often the enemy, that the country where you live and are proud to live has not evolved any place for you. 

A Different Shade of BAME by Shuaib Khan

The real legacy of my hero Malcolm X is how timeless his words are. Image: Azquotes

The dangers of racialised gatekeepers

The term ‘BAME’ (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) has attracted a lot of attention following both global pandemic and global events regarding the Black Lives Matter protests. However, this term must be used appropriately, driven by context and lived experience. As not all BAME people are the same, nor should their experiences be neatly collated together. This is a blog which addresses many personal and intimate conversations BAME people have at home and in their private sphere. We must be brave.

The slur ‘house slave’, ‘coconut’, ‘choc ice’ and ‘honorary white man’ are regularly directed at BAME folk. Let’s get this right, these are derogatory slurs that we should not use but they are born out of very legitimate anger, alienation and disillusionment at BAME folks with a platform. I am not justifying their use but without considering the context of their existence, we fail to understand the issues many BAME folks with fellow BAME folks who have attained a platform or position or privilege, Many who fail to acknowledge their history, plight and conditions of their communities. The notion that BAME people are seeking validation from White people is incredibly well documented by Frantz Fanon amongst many others. Fanon, in his eloquent Black Face, White Masks, referred to the post-colonial psyche of BAME folk as a legacy of their historical oppression. Fanon takes the angle that the psychological feeling of inadequacy, dependence and a constant search for endorsement by White people had made BAME people self-loathe, emotionally detach and truly suppress their inner ‘otherness’. His ideas on this notion of ‘colonial trauma’ later fed into critical race theory, but Fanon is an absolute must read. 

Later, Malcolm X acquired sentiments of Fanon in many of his famous speeches. A small excerpt from one of Malcolm’s’ speeches in May 1962 at a funeral service, where Malcolm asked his African American audience ‘who taught you to hate yourself?’ Malcolm followed this up with his powerful Message to the Grass Roots speech in 1963 where he differentiated between the ‘house slave’ and the ‘field slave’. Malcolm and Fanon were experiencing these issues at that time but their argument is equally as relevant today as it was back then. Their post-colonial idea remains important in our analysis of the ‘influential people’ or ‘racialised gate-keepers’ BAME folks today

In Year 9, I became class Prefect, but my peers saw this as at ultimate betrayal. Followed by defacing my exercise books with the slurs, ‘coco nut’ and being labelled a ‘choc ice’, they genuinely believed that I was siding with the ‘enemy’. The moral repugnance was real. Yet, when I was able to work with the School Council to get additional seating areas around the school, work on a more diverse halal school menu and prayer facilities, the tag ‘choc ice’ was merely relegated to a generic frozen dessert! This was a moment of reflection. In retrospect there needs to be some exploration of a situation where BAME people are rarely promoted into roles of influence which then puts them into an ‘individualised’ potential ‘gate keeping’ situation which then becomes totally dependent on the motivations of single individuals who may be under pressure to maintain the status quo. There is a need for multiple BAME voices on different levels and different platforms to be a vehicle to tackle BAME concerns. This is why there is such a stark disconnect between influential BAME representatives and everyday ethnic minority folk. This distance is not just founded on financial or political status but rather on an emotional detachment from BAME issues. At a time where COVID19 disproportionally impacts BAME people, Grenfell remains unaccounted for and structural racism still permeates into every aspect of our society. We may share the same heritage, skin pigmentation, religion and even surnames, but the societal grievances around these issues aren’t the same political priorities.

Before we get to the very core of my concerns, there is no ‘lefty liberal intelligentsia’ here nor is there some sort of abracadabra or primordial attachment required for BAME people to vote Labour, who themselves are tainted with issues concerning anti-Semitism. Conservative thinking may be a prominent feature of many of the homelands of BAME folk and in my opinion this is not the real issue. These influential BAME representatives should be bastions of hope, pillars of integration in British society and the epitome of meritocracy but they are still few and far between and definitely not representative of our multi-cultural society. In a more equal society in theory, BAME representatives should be our role models; they should be spearheading policy initiatives with a full working understanding of the communities they represent, where their political motivations is for everyone to thrive and to have the capacity to be to be socially mobile.

I find it necessary to question if the current BAME influential people even remember the community they once stood side by side with people still living there? Patel, Khan, Javid, Sunak, and I could go on, are BAME people who have climbed to incredible heights, yet despite coming from the BAME community, there is a sense that they are far more politically motivated to keep their positions of influence than they are to serve the people they represent. Sadly, even for them, despite who we associate ourselves with, there will always remain an ‘ethnicity’ box on a form, or an extra airport security check or thedisapproving look that differentiates us from others.

Dangers of racialised gatekeeprs

The danger of racialised gatekeepers is that the circle of ‘inclusion’ remains small, elite and detached from authentic BAME voices and indeed this perspective may be the very reason they have been promoted. I want to break this down into four points to really tackle the concerns many have when these ‘gatekeepers’ are actively a part of promoting the continuation of systemic racism. This is not an exclusive list but one to begin a critical dialogue.

  • BAME groups are NOT homogenous – There appears to be an assumption that if, for example, Priti Patel holds a conference about the ‘diversity’ within the Cabinet, that she is speaking on behalf of ALL BAME people. There are over 18 different ethnic groups in the UK, all unique and worthy of a voice. It is inconceivable that someone whose heroine was Margaret Thatcher can be the voice for all of us. BAME groups are internally stratified along the lines of class, age, gender, religion, sexuality and disability. The homogenisation of BAME groups is dangerous and also misleading. For example, myself as an Asian male from a Muslim background, my life experiences will not be the same as a Black Caribbean female, or British Chinese person with a disability. Clumping BAME groups together as one homogenous group which we can place under a one-size-fits-all category fails to address the individual concerns of individual BAME groups. Collectively, yes, there is a battle against historical structural racism, but individual groups face different strands of it’s impact. Some groups feel the full force of racism in all aspects of public life, others, less so. Stratifying BAME groups is important in enabling us to cater for their individual needs. The ‘influential’ BAME folks, many who are labelled as ‘champions of diversity’, they know full well the dangers of all-encompassing categories but do little to address them.
  • A daily lived experience –I consider myself to be incredibly privileged but there are others who look like me, speak like me, dress like me, and have similar names to me that didn’t have the opportunities or upbringing I had. I remember a family holiday to Kashmir in 2004, I walked around the cities and towns, witnessing the awful poverty, deprivation and plight of people who also looked just like me. Yet, the experience of BAME people in the communities we leave behind is so particular. The air tastes different, the water has a distinct flavour and there is a particular mindset when you inhabit the social and intellectual spaces of BAME communities. It is a lived experience and one that is engrained into our socialisation thus it evokes emotional feelings and triggers a palpable response to anyone who represents ‘the system’ even if visually they look like us. Racialised gatekeepers, often live in a realm of social prestige which may make it difficult for them to connect with people who are less fortunate. Interestingly enough due to the same systemic racism that they are keeping alive, their wealth and social prestige does not cushion them from racism. In fact, it makes them more vulnerable to being displaced into a ‘nowhere land’ where they are merely tolerated by their white counterparts and disowned by their own communities. The lived experience of discrimination stops, and search and racism are so particular that speaking from a detached position fails to capture the true pain, struggle and plight within the community. These influential BAME representatives may have experienced discrimination in many forms and using their experiences to address the root causes of this discrimination is a moral imperative.
  • Tokenism – There remains a fine line between genuine inclusion and inclusion for tokenistic reasons. The BAME community does not need another poster boy or girl to tell us the Government are inclusive’ or ‘tolerant’of us immigrants. Diversity and anti-racism are not about showboating a brown face politician to justify and validate an inclusionary ethos. Inclusion is at the grass roots, within the communities and indeed the very fabric of society. Influential BAME politicians who have climbed to the pinnacle and worked, often twice as hard, to win a seat at the table, should be willing to make a difference for all, not just seek secure their positions to the exclusion of the role they are in power to perform. In an inclusive and meritocratic society, everyone should be able to find a seat at this table, regardless of their background. Yet, the exceptional few who do make it very rarely appear to represent inclusion. The problem with the notion of ‘if I can do it, anyone can’ is divisive in a society that is so polarised by social inequalities and sadly that seems to be the intention! When Sadiq Khan became Major of London, a work colleague said, rather naively, ‘Look, another Khan doing well’. This then became his ‘go to’ phrase when we spoke about inclusivity. Token gestures to prove we are anti-racist and inclusive fail to tackle the structural inequalities that truly impact on BAME communities. These gatekeepers should keep the gate ajar for others rather than doing all they can close it behind them to safeguard their own privileges.
  • Alienation – There is further alienation and disillusionment for BAME people when their own representatives begin to flex their muscles. Sajid Javid once said something along the lines of ‘his family are safe in Israel’. The implication of this statement is a damning indictment for the ethnic minority communities that live right here in England and on his watch! How can BAME communities trust his leadership after a statement such as this? This disconnect is staggering and really divides BAME people into two camps. One that continues to believe the ‘government is diverse’ stance and the other, ‘they don’t speak for me’. It is particularly disturbing to hear BAME politicians espouse beliefs that systemic racism is a myth! This totally disregards the vulnerabilities of these communities and their need for protection, assurance and support. I was incredibly alienated when Priti Patel condemned Black Lives Matters protestors and then displayed an inconsistent approach to reframe the narrative last weekend with the far-right groups. These two MPs actively endorse a Prime Minister who has constantly used racist rhetoric on many occasions, so how do they represent us? This selective silence and unwillingness to delve into the real BAME concerns, is dangerous for communities that already feel alienated and disillusioned. BAME people’s legitimate grievances cannot be articulated by racialised gatekeepers who seek to be a collective voice for the section of the population they are so keen to detach themselves from. I feel the need to add that the absence of black BAME representation is also stark and must be concerning to black people. The irony is that Marcus Rashford has done more for disadvantaged children in a week, than ANY BAME politician has in a decade. We need to target the alienation and frustration to eradicate the racism.

In Summary

The BAME folks who acclaim positions of social, economic and political authority are BAME. Yet, a different shade of BAME. The true heroes of the BAME community are not the Javid’s, Patel’s and Khan’s. True heroes are the Marcus Rashford’s, Raheem Sterling’s, Patrick Hutchinson’s and Zara Sultana’ of this world. These everyday BAME people, who remain true to their roots and seek to challenge prejudices and inequalities within society. BAME communities are internally stratified and do not need more division, especially division created by those who no longer inhabit the same intellectual worlds. I write to you not as a Conservative or a Liberal but as a BAME man who wants a united from. The division within needs to be challenged.

To equality ‘champions’, allow your skills, experience, talents, empathy, compassion and hard work to validate this journey to equality. To our BAME politicians you may have earned your seat at the table but contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of seats for people like ‘us’. Before you begin to speak for ‘us’, make sure you believe in us, engage with us and remember, you are there to make a difference and to create a more equal society for all. I urge all BAME people to stop seeking validation and to start seeking equality, justice and compassion; to begin campaigning against issues of inequality and help to create equality for all and supremacy of none; to stay honest, remain empathetic and remember to not only look out for ourselves. We need integration, we need conversation and we need change. It is time to lobby for more authentic BAME voices both in content as well as more representative BAME politicians. 

It does worry me when some of our educators remain selectively silent on the George Floyd killing, the BLM movement or never acknowledge the corporate manslaughter at Grenfell in 2017 but would want to call Marcus Rashford ‘one of their own’ and ‘my son’ when the passion lies in sport. Educators need to have passion for people. Inconsistency and the selectivity help to firmly embed systemic racism into the fabric of our society. It’s time for change. Time to do the right thing. You are BAME, albeit a different shade of BAME. 

Long live Marcus Rashford.

Thank you for reading,

Shuaib Khan

Priti Patel - Experiences of Racism

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, explains her experiences in response to her fellow MP's suggestion that she did not understand systemic racism in her country of birth.

Response to Suhaib Khan's Blog on Gatekeepers - Only Thick Skins Allowed

In order for racial inequality to dissipate, it has to be a goal that the infighting and colourism that currently thrives among the black and brown communities have both got to be addressed; called out and stopped. For a black MP to claim that a brown MP does not understand racism does not help the cause of BLM. Nor does influencers taking sides and seemingly misunderstanding Fanon's mission on how to disarm the argument for racism; but indeed fuelling it by saying that some of our brown and black brothers and sisters should not be people of influence or power because of their careers or beliefs or experiences or the circles in which they work and play in.

'The true heroes of the BAME community are not the Javid’s, Patel’s and Khan’s. True heroes are the Marcus Rashford’s, Raheem Sterling’s, Patrick Hutchinson’s and Zara Sultana’ of this world. These everyday BAME people, who remain true to their roots and seek to challenge prejudices.'

Suggesting that those not on the frontline should be the true heroes and Khan, Patel and Javid are not authentic BLM influencers because of their roles, behaviours and beliefs. Even if they do hold different beliefs they are not a different shade of BAME.

If we are to pursue the mission of #BLM as outlined by Hutchison, which includes equality for all, then we must cease the finger pointing and blaming because others hold different points of views and seek to empower and respect all. I rarely agree with Diane Abbott, but celebrate and respect her status. 

Living in a black or brown skin entitles you to lived experiences; some are hard and some are welcomed, but all are valid, authentic and 'earned'. Anyone who works for the state, whether this is the BBC workers, MPs, lecturers, teachers, NHS workers, armed forces, police, local government, refuse collectors, etc has made a decision and a commitment to educate and protect people, this is what we should be celebrating, not debating whether their outcomes are worthy of our praise, but debating how  they put themselves on the frontline. Sometimes they are rewarded, but too many times people like Shuaib call them out for things they are not, to ridicule them and make them fall. You don't need to be a heralded detective to imagine what happens next. This attack results in only those with 'thick skins'  staying the distance and sitting at the influencing tables. We repeatedly rehearse the representation matters chant, but how can we achieve this if we don't celebrate Khan, Abbott, Javid and Patel, but repeatedly and publicly attack their failure to be perfect?

If we as black and brown people continue the infighting and the colourism, the BLM movement will not progress and social justice, whatever your best version looks like, stalls. We need to stand together and debate not whether they are worthy to sit at the table, but how they sit at the table.

When was the last time you lobbied your MP or local councils on how they sit at the tables, so that your voice is truly represented? Use to write to them to raise awareness - the first step is often the best step. 

Are we finally ready to talk about colourism? by Yomi Adegoke

Lupita Nyong’o, the Oscar-winning actor, was once told she was ‘too dark’ for television. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Lupita Nyong’o, the Oscar-winning actor, was once told she was ‘too dark’ for television. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Thanks to outspoken celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, the discrimination faced by darker-skinned black people is finally being noticed. But we still have a long way to go.

In the past week, two high-profile black women, the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong’o have spoken candidly about not having experienced racism until they arrived in the United States. Like Adichie, Nyong’o didn’t experience discrimination on the basis of her skin colour per se, but on the basis of how dark she was comparatively. She was a victim of one of the last openly accepted “isms”: colourism, the preferential treatment of lighter-skinned individuals compared with their darker-skinned counterparts.

Nyong’o referred to colourism as “the daughter of racism”, explaining that she was once told at an audition that she was “too dark” for television.

Skin-tone-based prejudice used to be a subject only discussed in whispers within minority communities, but slowly, and thankfully, that is changing. In a recent episode of the hit Channel 4 series Black-ish – Black Like Us – two lead characters discover that the lighting used for their daughter’s school photograph didn’t work on dark skin tones, and she has faded into the shadows. Beyoncé’s ode to dark skin on the Lion King soundtrack, Brown Skin Girl, has also helped colourism increase its visibility in the mainstream.

This is a conversation that is still burgeoning – and not always taken seriously. Perhaps that is because colourism is perceived as an intra-community issue for minorities to bicker about among ourselves. After all, the general consensus is that it’s only we who bother with the specificity of shade-based bigotry.

But it bears repeating: colourism is a seed that was planted by white supremacy and watered within our own communities. Its roots still lie very much in the mainstream: the idea that we live on a colour-coded spectrum in which the lighter you are, the whiter (and therefore, better) you are is replicated in wider, whiter society every day.

From the overrepresentation of lighter-skinned actresses in Hollywood to the near-invisibility of dark-skinned female musicians, darker skin is quietly denigrated outside our communities too. It’s no coincidence that several historic “firsts” for the black community were achieved by mixed-raced, fairer individuals: Barack Obama, the first black president of the US; Carole Gist, the first black Miss USA; Lana Ogilvie, the first black woman to become the face of a non-ethnic cosmetics brand; Halle Berry, the first black woman to win the Academy Award for best actress.

Skin tone affects employability rates, the likelihood of marriage and, most harrowingly, rates of suspension at school. With women’s worth so heavily tied to appearance and lighter skin so heavily tied to beauty standards, it is not surprising that it is usually black women who are hit hardest. The word colourism is believed to have been coined in 1982 by the Pulitzer prize-winner Alice Walker, but it has existed as long as racism has. It must be acknowledged, like any other form of discrimination.

Zara Sultana’s Maiden Speech as MP for Coventry South

Labour MP’s maiden speech breaks with tradition.

Patrick Hutchison Describes His Beliefs, Mission and Values

#BLM Mission - Equality for All means Equality for ALL