Zimmerman’s Gun

How did we get to a place where a man who killed a boy is able to auction the gun because somehow the issue is so politicised that someone is willing to pay a quarter of a million dollars to own a grim piece of history?

Trayvon’s death lit the touchpaper for a movement in Black Lives Matter but he was someone’s boy. A boy who went to the corner store for sweets and was shot dead because of the colour of his skin.

A boy.

A child.

I don’t see how right wing ideologues have lost all sense of compassion for Trayvon’s family, who have to endure this spectacle. It demeans all who took part but it demeans us all, for fostering such a bitter political environment that this grisly idea was even viable. Zimmerman feels like a hero, it would seem, for shooting an unarmed child in cold blood.

The disgust I feel is visceral. I couldn’t even write this post yesterday, but here it is. Just a lament at what we have come to.

 

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Black Twitter

Twitter can be frustrating much of the time, but there are corners of it that give me joy, primarily for their humour. Muslim Twitter and Black Twitter in particular.

Buzzfeed (who else?) rounded up some tweets that are all too real for Black girls.

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A British Bill of Rights. Again.

I’m tired of being poised for this stupid shoe to drop. Although the proposals for the British Bill of Rights are in the Queen’s Speech, word on the (nerdy) street is that in reality, they’re on the backburner while Cameron battles to keep us in the EU.

For excellent analysis on this, I recommend Jack of Kent, the blog by David Allen Green, in particular this post looking at the Tory gesture politics of all this. I would add that as always, gesture politics of this sort has serious long-term consequences but hey, that’s not bothering the likes of Theresa May when they pull on familiar and useful levers – immigration, human rights (which is in a way about immigration too).

Also recommend this video by Rights Info on human rights:

And finally, an excerpt from a speech by Lord Bingham, which I think sums it all up – regarding why a “British Bill of Rights” would somehow be better than what we currently have. (sidenote: just occurs to me that Brexiters are also selling this  watered down rights argument in nationalistic packaging. According to them, Britain would be Great again if the EU would just let us go – but we’re already so Great that it’s hard to fathom how we ever ended up needing anyone else in the first place – and apparently also a little stupid to let ourselves be duped into this evil plot*)

The rights protected by the Convention and the Act deserve to be protected because they are, as I would suggest, the basic and fundamental rights which everyone in this country ought to enjoy simply by virtue of their existence as a human being.

Let me briefly remind you of the protected rights, some of which I have already mentioned.

The right to life.
The right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right not to be enslaved.
The right to liberty and security of the person.
The right to a fair trial.
The right not to be retrospectively penalised.
The right to respect for private and family life.
Freedom of thought,conscience and religion. Freedom of expression.
Freedom of assembly and association.
The right to marry.
The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of those rights.
The right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation.
The right of fair access to the country’s educational system.
The right to free elections.

Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any them un-British?

There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.
Human rights are not, however, protected for the likes of people like me – or most of you. They are protected for the benefit above all of society’s outcasts, thosewho need legal protection because they have no other voice – the prisoners, the mentally ill, the gipsies, the homosexuals, the immigrants, the asylum-seekers, those who are at any time the subject of public obloquy. – Lord Bingham

 

*see: Hitler. Apparently, that’s another lever everyone (Boris) is pulling lately.

On Hitler and Digging

Ah, what more to say about Hitler that hasn’t already been said?

There is that old maxim, that once you’ve invoked Hitler in an argument, you’ve already lost. Then there are those who just keep on digging.

Exhibit A: Ken Livingstone. I still don’t know what point he was trying to make, but given that Naz Shah had correctly apologised for anti-semitic actions, his gallant* riding to her defence was perplexing** and then annoying as he made it all about him. 20 times he repeated his bizarre Hitler analogy over the weekend and while I’ve since read some commentary from an Israeli scholar explaining his point, the fact that it didn’t lend itself to being easily understood by the wider public and was invoked unnecessarily and he persisted in flogging his horse before crucial local elections showed that this was about Ken and ego and not much else.

Exhibit B: Boris Johnson, over-egging the Brexit pudding. He appears to think that the EU is like Hitler. But not. But totally like Hitler. (?!) Of course, when questioned about these views, which by the way are a direct contradiction of what he’s said about the EU in the past, and are also patently not true, he doubled down. *sigh* (curiously, the big threat from the Brexit camp is the neverendum – that we’ll have another referendum if this one is lost narrowly. Conceding defeat…?)

And finally, on the topic of digging in – it turns out that Labour party members have been undeterred by months of ad-hominem and hysterical attacks on Corbyn (so much so that legitimate critiques are lost) and being told repeatedly  that they’re deluded and/or stupid. They still support Corbyn. Two-thirds of members would vote him in again as leader. It’s almost funny to watch the dismayed headlines, the headscratching at the various opinion tables.

I personally think Corbyn could do better – too many easy wins are lost. However, the party as a whole needs to make up its mind, does it want to spend the next few years infighting and then losing the next election, or being an Opposition and fighting like hell to win?

*patronising patriarchal move, much? The woman was handling her own business.

**Listen, if someone does something racist, I reserve the right to look at them askance, even if they’re not a fully paid up cross burning KKK member. Same with anti-semitism. Naz Shah apologised; but if some people looked at her askance, it’s not without reason. It’s up to her to continue to prove that those comments are no longer her views. But her friends riding in to announce how she’s not an anti-semite? That’s as dismissive as people doing the same to other racists. If you’re the group affected, you may understand this intellectually, but it still feels dismissive, like you’re being told how to feel about this. In summary:  If you’re not a duck, don’t quack. If you’re a dog and you quack from time to time, it’s entirely reasonable for the cats in the area to be a bit wary (and confused).

 

 

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My London

For once, the polls weren’t far off. Sadiq Khan won with a record share of the vote, which I found affirming. And relieving.

Ironically, as the results rolled in pictures were circulating of Sir Lynton Crosby, the architect of the racist politics that Zac espoused in his campaign, being awarded his knighthood for “services to politics”. He’s also the mastermind behind Boris’ previous campaigns and the Tory party General Election win so I can see why they adorn him with laurels.

But London? My London said no.

I don’t think there’s much more to be said on this than what was written by Media Diversified’s Chimene Suleyman.

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A city of contrasts

In the space of two days, I was reminded of how London is a city of contrasts.

At the weekend, I went to a house party to celebrate the christening of a little girl with mixed Trinidadian and Indian heritage. Her dad’s best friends (Filipino, Jamaican and Indian) were there, as were extended family from Guyana, Ireland, Chester and India. It was a Catholic christening although her mother’s faith is Hindu.

It was a beautiful melting pot that showed London, and Britain at their best. I stood there and thought, politicians don’t know anything. All up and down the country, people are just getting on with life and loving. Of course, there are challenges, but the lived experience of the 21st century is much more complex, surprising and lovely than the newspapers would suggest.

On Tuesday, a friend of mine was subject to a verbal xenophobic attack. A tall, blonde, blue-eyed Finn, she was mistaken for a Pole after someone overhead her speaking in Finnish and was subsequently attacked. It’s not the first story I’ve heard from a friend. It seems that now especially, simply being perceived as foreign is enough. White, black, English speaking or not – to be noticeably different is intolerable for some.

So, this is where we are, London.

And now we wait to see if the Tories racially-charged campaign did the trick.

 

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Trumped

Liberal food for thought:

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London: A Question of Character

I’m genuinely concerned.

Tomorrow London may vote in Zac Goldsmith, endorsing his racist, scurrilous campaign. Like so many others, I used to like him. I respected his independence and his environmental campaigning. But the fact that he has allowed his campaign to be so debased has become a matter of character.

And character shows when the chips are down. Yes, he was behind in the polls, but the decision to go negative like this (and, worse, double down) shows that at best he’s weak and at worst, he agrees.

But the question now is, what’s London’s character?

Polls are meaningless after the General Election. They consistently show a Khan lead but the fact is, in the privacy of the ballot booth, people may vote for Zac – either as dyed in the wool Conservatives, or because he’s cute, or because the dog whistling has worked.

The only reason that will matter to the Tories (and all political parties) is the latter.

I really don’t care if we elect a labrador with a colander on its head I just don’t want Zac’s politics to win. I desperately don’t want my city to choose that. Even better would be if Khan, who has fought an honest and hopeful campaign (even while disowning Corbyn) wins.

It’s a question of character.

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Human wrongs

When I think of Theresa May I think many things, but one thing that always springs to mind is that cat.

At the Tory Party Conference a while back, she said that a foreigner avoided deportation because he had a pet cat. “I’m not making it up,” she scoffed.

She was actually making it up. Or perhaps she was misinformed. Either way, she wasted no time trashing human rights as the one thing standing between the government and an effective immigration policy.

She keeps doing this. Despite missing the ridiculous immigration target year on year and failing on her own metric for her job, she is always able to refocus the collective mind on a tabloid bogeyman. Usually immigrants but also human rights mechanisms.

She did it again this week in her speech for the EU Remain campaign, unhelpfully bringing in the European Court of Human Rights, which she claimed “did nothing for our prosperity.”I mean, never mind that this is nothing to do with our membership of the EU and the fact that she has AGAIN chosen to either be disingenuous or is really, really misinformed (more on that later)…

Sure, Theresa. Human rights have done nothing for us. Except facilitate that very “prosperity” by ensuring that citizens are free to “go forth and prosper”, by and large. (there are people on the margins of course and prosperity isn’t felt by all). But is this one of the better places to live? Yes.

So Theresa is for staying in the EU but withdrawing from the ECHR, which legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out would also affect the Good Friday agreement. The ramifications of such an action are so huge as to make it an unworkable solution. She didn’t care, she got the headlines she wanted, as with the cat story. It’s all internal politics of course. She wants to be leader and needs to keep the anti-human rights right wingers on board.

It plays well in the galleries. But another story this week, Hillsborough, shows that human rights law is so important and relevant. As the TUC wrote in one of its analyses on Brexit, the international human rights regime raises the floor of rights. It isn’t the ceiling. It makes the State go further. It actually gives us more space, as citizens. Especially those who at one time or another have faced opprobrium: ethnic or sexual minorities. Hell, even majorities: women.

The point is: Hillsborough shows us that human rights still need to be defended. The families’ heartbreaking decades long struggle for justice was made possible because of the Human Rights Act, that Theresa and her friends are so desperate to repeal.

“The jury in the new Hillsborough inquest returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” in respect of the 96 people who died as result of the events on April 15 1989. The verdict was a triumph for the families of the dead who have campaigned for 27 years for justice. The scope of the new inquest, however, was only possible because of the Human Rights Act 1998, which gives the articles of the ECHR effect in domestic law.” – David Allen Green

If there is a time to show the public why human rights matter, it’s now.

 

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