Author Archives: kirimk8

Immigration and church

The news in Christian circles this week that regular churchgoers are more likely to be tolerant of immigration than those who attend infrequently reminded me of analysis of Trump’s Christian base.

There, it was found that those who identify as Christian and attend church regularly are less likely to support Trump than Christians who do not belong to a church community.

Christians are of course, not too dissimilar to everyone else, and I find it interesting that exposure to a community of faith, and perhaps, crucially, people in that community who are different to you, seems to make a difference.

Depressingly, in both situations, the proportion of (predominantly white) Christians supporting Trump and against immigration in the UK is still high.

I’m not saying that you can’t be rightwing and a person of faith; far from it. But when the advancement of that agenda is powered and endorsed by, and in some cases deliberately dressed in racist and xenophobic language and imagery, which is a best cruel and at worst dangerous, I do wonder about the entreaty to love our neighbour.

It seems so simple, but it’s actually really hard. You don’t choose your neighbour. They are often inconvenient and may be very different to you or even unlikeable, but we are called beyond tolerance to love.

Love.

 

It’s costly and difficult and challenging but it’s meant to be our thing, isn’t it?

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Sister survivors with Superwoman Steel

“You created an army when you violated us…Your actions have had me by the throat for years. I’m ready to be released from your clench.” – Tiffany Thomas Lopez

For the last few days, I’ve been reading the witness impact statements from the sentencing of disgraced former US Olympic doctor Larry Nassar. They’ve floated across my timeline, and I’ve often caught my breath at their courage as one by one, the women and girls waive anonymity to speak.

The things they have to say are harrowing. But their testimonies, the sisterhood of survival between them and the words of the compassionate judge have been inspirational.

The BBC write-up of those days in court is a long read, and a difficult one, but it’s worth it.

From the BBC story:

A crime writer in her spare time, Judge Aquilina’s words were a powerful force throughout the hearing. She described the women as “sister survivors” and “warriors” who had demonstrated “superwoman steel.”

“I didn’t want even one victim to lose their voice,” she told the court, as she explained why she was prepared to let the hearing go on for as long as it took to hear all of the survivors who wanted to speak.

The survivors, in turn, responded. One after the other waived their anonymity and came to realise this was a chance to take charge of their own story.

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Bra Hugh

At 78, Hugh Masekela has succumbed to prostate cancer. I remember the last time I saw him, a few years ago at Hackney Empire – perhaps in 2013 or 2014. He had to sit for most of the performance, but his brilliance, rhythm, humour and sparkle was undimmed. I loved the music (obviously) but it was the riffing in between the songs that I adored. He told anecdotes – funny, raunchy, moving, political – and you could imagine him in his heyday.

He was a rare talent and a principled fighter. Rest well, Bra Hugh.

Here is a link to his last interview.

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Baby Randall

 

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Last night, Sterling K Brown won big at the SAG Awards, the first Black winner in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for his part as Randall in This is Us, the show that I adore. I don’t want to like it, because my job is quite intense and so I prefer my TV funny or action-packed and distracting rather than emotional and touchy-feely but it is just so good. Damn you, Sterling! He’s one of the reasons the show is so good.

But the image that has been playing on my mind is the mini-meme that’s been going around of the actor that plays young Randall on the show, Lonnie Chavis, looking at (?) Yara Shahidi of the show Blackish. 

I’ve seen other tweets in which people riff on the theme of baby Randall ‘checking out’ Yara Shahidi and for some reason they’ve made me a little uncomfortable.

Lonnie is 9. Admittedly, I don’t know much about kids and I was a very late bloomer, but there’s something redolent of the Daily Mail’s leering at ‘barely legal’ pre-teen girls for me in the rush to make this a sexual thing.

Maybe he’s in awe (she is gorgeous) but maybe he’s just daydreaming as he waits his turn on the red carpet for the photo opp. The meme isn’t all over the place, but I’ve seen enough tweets to notice it and feel a bit uneasy.

And I think the fact that he’s a little black boy, who don’t really get to be little boys for very long, is why this unnerves me a little.

He’s just a kid. Let him be a kid for as long as we can, because the world doesn’t often let that happen.

 

 

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Truth and Daring

Three for Monday:

One The story of the UKIP leader dumping his girlfriend for racist messages she sent about Meghan Markle bears all the bizarre hallmarks of the public conversation on UK racism. For instance: the appearance of racism is somehow worse than the crime. The fact that the leader of an openly racist party is dating a white supremacist should not be surprising; yet, he is forced to distance himself from her beacause while it’s OK to lead a party that has espouses racist policies, her comments that Markle would “taint” the Royal Family were too blatant. Furthermore, in being perceived as attacking the Royal Family, she also disrespected that most British of institutions, the Royal Family; and part of the UKIP brand is their version of patriotism. As always, racism is seen as a personal character flaw than a systemic issue. It’s easier to deal with the blatant racist than examine UKIP and its place in the political discourse as the balloon floater of racist ideas (that are then doubled down on by mainstream politicians).

Two MLK Day and the death of Cyrille Regis, the pioneering black footballer who endured racism to play the game he loved. It has been interesting to read the tributes to him; his courage was admirable. Being MLK day I did think about civil rights more generally and sports and protest. I think the public threshold for black people opposing racism is low – you can only speak out so much. Be persistent (in the mould of Kaepernick in the US for example) and it’s funny how the troublemaker tags start to get handed out.  It’s easy to forget that Martin Luther King was not that popular in his lifetime for his stances on Vietnam and capitalism, let alone race and in some ways he has since been sanitised in death. In the US, his memory is often invoked as a rebuke against anti-racist campaigners like Kaepernick, who have their protests policed and condemned for being confrontational by those who forget that in its time, the non-violent protests were (necessarily) difficult and confrontational and unpopular too. I realise I’m conflating two different eras, sports and countries here, but Rhian Brewster’s experiences of racism as a young player right now are a testament to the fact that while the naked hate of Cyrill’s era is thankfully a thing of the past, we still have a way to go towards eliminating racism in UK sport and society.

Three This thread on immigration policy, which shows the link between bad policies and rhetoric on immigration, and public perception and anxieties on the subject:

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from Remain to Return

In the dying days of 2017, Lord Adonis resigned spectacularly from the National Infrastructure Commission.

The reason given was the government decision to bail out Stagecoach/Virgin East Coast rail franchise. Adonis warned that this set a bad precedent and benefitted only the owners and shareholders of the respective companies, and was inexcusable at the best of times, but especially now given Brexit.

Brexit. So… Adonis is not a fan. And here is why I say he resigned ‘spectacularly’ – his letter was excoriating on the PM’s handling of Brexit, coining a phrase that may indeed prove prophetic one day:

“If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction”

I’m not sure about the ‘if’ there – Brexit will surely happen, even if it’s a damp squib rather than the ‘independence day’ that Farage envisions.

One thing we do know: it will hurt. Whether people will attribute this to the reality of Brexit and the PM’s bungling is unclear – after all, they accepted the Tory line that a global financial crisis was somehow Labour’s fault and have been happy to scapegoat immigrants for everything that has ever gone wrong in the UK.

Adonis was blunt about the bungling:

“Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump. After the narrow referendum vote, a form of associate membership of the EU might have been attempted without rupturing Britain’s key trading and political alliances. Instead, by allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe, you are pursuing a course fraught with danger. Even within Ireland, there are set to be barriers between people and trade…

…A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contributed to the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, your policy is the reverse. The Government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation, all the while ignoring – beyond soundbites and inadequate programmes – the crises of housing, education, the NHS, and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.”

Predictably, he’s the latest ‘traitor’ of Brexit – a phrase that’s being thrown around to anyone who dares to voice concerns about the reality-defying promises that politicians are making about Brexit and the breakdown in democratic processes and accountability that is being allowed to pass in its name.

When it comes to this year’s predictions in politics, I’m nailing my colours to the mast:

  • The last Remainers will accept that Brexit is a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. The Return campaign will start to think long-term. (They will be called saboteurs and be scapegoated (along with immigrants) for everything that goes wrong with Brexit.)
  • Prime Minister Theresa May will stay in post. She will continue to pick unnecessary fights with her fragile majority, but the Tories know how to stay in power – the 1922 Committee won’t come for her.
  • After much bluster, we will accept most of the EU’s terms on transitional arrangements. Terms that we’ve known about for months, that have been published online for anyone to see, but that we will feign surprise about.
  • Corbyn will stay. On a war footing.
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Prince Harry, Meghan, and the Immigration rules

I wrote this for the Independent. Right now, I’m at 26,000 shares and at least 500 Twitter interactions. I’m not usually able to do a hot take, so this was an exhilarating experience (and clearly my most successful article ever in terms of engagement)

I haven’t read the comments.

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Update: as of 1 January 2017, 61k shares. Whoa.

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Thoughts and Prayers and…

Maybe it has always been the case, but after the mass shooting in a Texas church earlier this month, I noticed a backlash to politicians trotting out the phrase “thoughts and prayers..” – especially politicians who in the next breath went on to affirm, as always, that an epidemic of mass shootings has nothing to do with a need for better gun regulation in the US.

Time Magazine took an interesting look at language, cliche’s and grief which noted that

Politicians (and journalists) have long turned to cliches because of the nature of their work. It’s grueling and repetitive, often requiring them to communicate a message to a whole districtful of people, if not an entire country. They generally want to do this in language that won’t be misconstrued, that doesn’t leave them vulnerable to attacks, that feels familiar. Cliches aren’t just overused because they’re clever; they are also safe. You can assume people will know what you mean when you use rhetoric that so many have used before you, even if it is stale as old toast.

However, it also pointed out that the backlash may have something to do with the fact that:

Repeating the same language can even feed into the feeling that mass shootings are becoming normal and unworthy of deep, sustained attention, much less legislative action.

I’ve noticed some religious people offended at the backlash, taking it as more evidence of an increasingly sceptical world when it comes to spiritual matters. But I think there’s more to it than that. Grief takes you beyond yourself. Everyone responds differently. Some will find comfort in other people’s prayers, others will not – and that goes for those who are spiritual or religious as well as those who are not.

But I do think that those of us who are part of faith or belief communities who trot out cliches and then decline to take any action in the face of gun violence – especially Christians, who tend to be the most high-profile offenders, need to sit in the backlash and feel the burn.

We should burn if we offer people cliches instead of transformative action. Prayer is not meant to be a passive act. If you are really praying about the issue of gun violence, if you are truly in a dialogue about it with God, then I don’t know how you can not be changed by it, especially if you are a policymaker who can take meaningful action.

Prayer is not meant to be a wish sent up to heaven, it’s a dialogue – and one that should charge you to do something. We are here, fragile flesh and bone, with hands and feet to transform the world we live in, supposedly for the better. I don’t understand how politicians can claim to be praying one moment, and cling blindly to the ideology of guns the next, as if somehow this is a sacred issue that was enshrined once in law and can never be reopened again. And do so in the face of such overwhelming suffering of their fellow citizens.

The backlash against the cliche of thought and prayers is richly deserved. Maybe shame will do what prayer and compassion apparently cannot.

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Fen-tastic

Right, so cheesy pun there. Rihanna has never been on my radar much; her music wasn’t particularly to my tastes, though I had nothing against it, and I thought she was beautiful and clearly talented but was not a fan girl.

Something that I have noticed recently, however, and perhaps I would have noticed this earlier if I had actually been a fan, is how independent she is. She’s a savvy businesswoman – her makeup line Fenty has changed the game by simply acknowledging that women of every shade should have makeup that suits their skin. Other brands have widened their ranges over the years, but Fenty set out to cater for every shade from albino to the darkest black from the outset. No tiptoeing around the edges, they just dived right in and what I find striking is that every woman has at least a couple of shades that might suit her. Everyone.

But what really impressed me recently was her body positivity, revealed in an interview for Cut Magazine in which she was asked about her approach to clothing:

“Well, I actually have had the pleasure of a fluctuating body type, where one day I can literally fit into something that is bodycon, and then the next day — the next week — I need something oversized; I need a little crop here and a high-waist there to hide that part, you know?

I really pay attention every day when I go into the closet about what’s working for my body that morning. I feel like that’s how everyone should go after fashion, because it’s an individual thing. And then, if you take it further, it’s like: What week are you having? You having a skinny week? You having a fat week? Are we doing arms this week? We doing legs this week? We doing oversized?

I love to play with silhouettes as well, but I think it’s important to make sure that you wear the thing that works for your body the best, and that’s flattering.” – Rihanna

There’s something beautiful and so very rare about a woman who is at peace with her body and makes the clothes fit her frame, rather than the other way around. I love that Rihanna is a positive role model and yes, she has stylists and custom made clothes, but while her wardrobe is out of reach, her attitude is something we can all adopt.

I remember falling in love with my thighs a few years ago. Not because they’re lovely  – far from it. But because they’re mine. They’re huge and strong and curvy and have cellulite but they are mine.

Since I was a teen I have hated my legs, especially my knees. But as I got older and my body changed, I found that my thighs bothered me the most. I steered well clear of tight jeans and skirts and sought to cover up my lower half whenever possible.

And then one day, at the grand old age of 30, I just stopped*. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw, because it was very me. Men may hate or love them, and thick thighs are currently in vogue thanks to Nicki Minaj, but I try to make how I feel about my body my plumb line for self-confidence. It doesn’t always work, but like Rihanna, I find what makes me feel cute (nice underwear especially) and rock it. I’ve found the looks that flatter my shape and feel good – they aren’t always in fashion, but I’m true to my style.

 

*being in my thirties is amazing. I think I’ll have to write about it sometime.

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Still I Rise

For Black History Month, I wrote about Maya Angelou and what her work means to me for Migrant Voice.

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