Tag Archives: terrorism

Parsing Orlando

Orlando.

There are so many threads to this tragedy, which I’ll leave to cooler and wiser heads than mine to unpick. My heart breaks for the victims, their families, the injured and everyone whose life has been affected by this. I thought Obama put it just right when he described it as an act of terror but also an act of hate but that hasn’t stopped the “All Lives Matter” crowd from trying to whitewash it.

So far, Gary Younge’s reflection is the best I’ve read:

“The truth is it is, most likely, about lots of things. And the bolder the claim that it is about any one thing, the more vulnerable it will be to contradiction and qualification. While the act of killing so many so quickly is crude, the underlying factors are complex.” -Gary Younge

And Owen Jones’ riposte and reaction on Sky News Paper Review that exposes the callousness of the All Lives Matter brigade.

 

 

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Paris

I won’t add much more to the reams and reams of analysis on the Paris attacks except to say:

It’s possible to mourn Paris and Beirut at the same time, while being cognisant of the fact that all around the world, hundreds are dying in events that aren’t marked by the media, let alone facebook – and to feel angry about that. I didn’t change my facebook picture to the French flag overlay but I don’t judge those that do. What do you do when the world is full of horrors? You do what you can and what your conscience demands. I don’t think self-righteously denouncing those that do change their facebook status makes a difference to the structural issues that mean a French flag is available but a Lebanese flag isn’t. Others put it best:

warsan

 

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Three on Race and Charleston

Three great pieces of analysis on Charleston and race, incidentally all by women *fist bump* What unites them all, for me, is the blunt honesty therein. And how each of them speak to this situation but also wider, into the present, the past and the everyday.

ONE The Cost of White Comfort by Chenjerai Kumanyika . A very honest reflection from Chenjerai on how the work of healing post-Charleston is more vexed than it might first appear. I feel that she also speaks to a wider, universal truth about Black minority survival – something that’s articulated in lesser degrees in smaller, more mundane interactions – and one that’s as applicable to the UK as the US.

“Survival for black folk during slavery, Jim Crow and well beyond necessitated thousands of small demonstrations of pleasant compliance toward white people. This didn’t just mean crossing the street when a white person approached; it meant keeping your eyes down while you did it. It didn’t just mean stepping off the curb for a white person; it meant smiling as you did it.

Today, it means that when I discuss these shootings with my white students and my heart is bursting at the seams with outrage and grief, I must keep my voice and gestures gentle and calm and validate my students’ most hurtful comments so they don’t feel personally indicted.

And it means not just acquiescing to unwarranted police interrogation and arrest. It means being friendly, even gracious, throughout the ordeal. Black survival has so often depended on white comfort.”

TWO I Don’t Want to Be an Excuse for Racist Violence Anymore by Chloe Angyal. A hardhitting analysis of how the concept of White women’s purity is often marshalled as an excuse for racist violence to be perpetrated on Black men and women. And a good reminder that Black women are so often the bottom of the proverbial pile when conceptualising womanhood in this way. This has been said time and again by Black feminists, and this timely intervention by an ally is welcome.

“[the attack at Emanuel AME] was also the latest in an unbearably long line of lethality meted out in the name of white womanhood—in my name, and maybe in yours. In the name of my purity and virtue and perfect femininity. We must not ignore the role of white womanhood in this act of white supremacist violence, or in any other. We must not find a way, yet again, of avoiding talking about whiteness. And until white women decide that we will no longer be used as an excuse for violence, until we decide that we will no longer tacitly condone and benefit from the violence, we will continue to have blood on our pale, “perfect” hands.”

THREE Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof by Roxane Gay. I love Roxane Gay long time. Her book, Bad Feminist is up there as one of my favourite feminist reads. This article, with excerpts from a longer interview, is thought provoking. While not detracting from the right of the families and church community in Charleston to offer forigiveness, she explains why she can’t. I admire the families for their grace, and I can only hope and pray that I would have the courage to do the same in their position. So, in that sense, I disagree with Gay, however, what she speaks to is a more political forgiveness, or how Black people’s forgiveness is used to move the conversation along and forego any deeper analysis of events like this. On that I absolutely agree with her. Forgiveness must not excuse us from the hard work of excavating this attack and the White supremacist system feeding it – it’s beyond just one man. Furthermore, the onus is not on the minority to make the majority feel comfortable (it ties back quite neatly to Chenjerai’s piece in this regard).

“In the bail bond hearing, the judge was talking about how there are two sets of victims: the families of the nine slain and then Dylan Roof’s family. And I was stunned because he spent more time talking about Roof’s family and what they must be going through. And that really, for me, exemplified the power of whiteness. And we’ve also seen a lot of this expectation that as black people, ‘OK, we forgive this so that we can move on, so that we can heal.’ But I don’t think that it’s our job to forgive anymore. I think that it’s time for reconciliation on the part of people who enable this kind of racism.”

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Reading through Writer’s block

I am in a bit of a rut, to be honest. I was heartened to read that writers as accomplished as Musa Okwonga find themselves in this space too. I loved his post on how it can be a good thing. He mentions allowing your creative well to replenish. The thing I’m struggling with is that there is so much going on, so much to say, that I’m almost struck dumb in the face of it. And these are heavy things, knotty things. Like Charleston.

So, I’m reading. I’ll post the links to some great articles below:

Why Charleston was not a Hate Crime – Media Diversified.

Take Down the Confederate Flag Now – TaNehisi Coates in The Atlantic

The Connection between Dylann Roof and white-supremacist regimes in Africa runs through the heart of US conservatism– Africa is a Country.

How Rachel Dolezal overshadowed the story of Arnesha Bowers – Identities.Mic

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Great vocals

I am actually too tired to tackle Emma Barnett’s rant on racism and the ISIS schoolgirls in today’s Telegraph. In summary: “There are real racists, like Chelsea fans and UKIP councillors. That’s full-fat racism. Saying the ISIS schoolgirls should be considered as adults is not racist. It’s my view. You don’t know me. I’m not a racist. Skimmed milk etc etc.”

My thoughts on this are basically:

1. *yawn*.

2. Being a “nice”person (or not being a UKIP councillor) doesn’t mean you’re not perpetuating a stereotype or upholding a racist structure. And no, I don’t know you. If the pre-requisite for calling out this behaviour was knowing someone, we’d never get anything done. However, if you’re hanging out with racists, that’s going to be questioned. And if you say or do things that are racially insensitive or racist, then, yeah, that’s going to be questioned too.

3. *sigh*

4. Racism isn’t a pantomime act; while the more egregious displays are violent or plain ridiculous and invite public opprobrium, the more garden variety racial insensitivity and/or implicit racism is much more common and much harder to counter. It’s often done through ignorance. And yes, while motives do matter, it still must be challenged. (even among allies/friends).

5. *bangs head on desk*

Actually, that was more than I planned to say. The reason I titled this post “Great vocals” is because I have been listening to some beautiful voices. The ones in this list are all male, as it happens.

My prize for group vocals: Naturally 7 singing a cover of Coldplay’s Fix You. Not sure why I always like Coldplay covers but can’t stand the band themselves.

My prize for bringing sexy back: Al Green. (of course)

And finally, the prize for just being so silky smooth: Gregory Porter. (yes, again. I will celebrate him and Hot 8 Brass Band about once a month, ok?)

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Measure for measure

CaptureIt’s been interesting to see how the results of a BBC survey of Muslim attitudes has been reported. The BBC headline is that the majority of British Muslims ‘oppose Muhammad cartoons reprisals’. For the Telegraph and the Times among others, the newsworthy information was the fact that 27% of those polled sympathised with the motives behind the attacks. Others followed the BBC headline. The most interesting contribution I have read today is Ian Dunt from politics.co.uk , who deftly highlighted some of the underlying values revealed by the survey – not necessarily limited to those being surveyed:

“It’s difficult to compare the results of the BBC survey on Muslim opinions with the rest of the population, because no-one else is ever asked these questions – but it’s probable Muslims are actually more loyal to the UK than the general public.

Today’s BBC survey found 95% of Muslims are loyal to the country. There are no similar measurements for the general public.” – Ian Dunt

Ian goes further, and in my opinion to the heart of this general line of enquiry:

“The fact these questions are never asked of non-Muslims speaks volumes about the higher standards they are held to and the levels of proof they are required to provide. A terror attack by Muslims, be it by Isis or the lunatics in Paris, is always followed by demands, often in respectable newspapers, for Muslims to publicly distance themselves from them. These demands continue even when Muslim leaders have already done so, suggesting they are motivated by suspicion rather than reason.” – Dunt

And about that 27%….

“However, it is important to disentangle sympathy for motive and sympathy for action. We might sympathise with the motive of a homeless man who steals bread, while condemning the theft itself. Sympathising with the motives behind the attack is different to supporting it.

The background of the survey offers some indication of the context in which these sentiments are expressed. Muslims are afraid. Forty-six per cent said being a Muslim in Britain is difficult due to prejudice against Islam. Thirty-five per cent said most British people did not trust Muslims. Twenty per cent of Muslim women felt unsafe, as did ten per cent of Muslim men.

If these levels of discomfort and insecurity were expressed by any other ethnic group it would lead the headlines and hand-wringing editorials about where we’d gone wrong. Instead, it sparked headlines about the level of minority sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attack. That in itself speaks to the intellectual environment in which Muslims are forced to operate. The abiding message is that they refuse to integrate and that their culture is incompatible with western society. They are a problem to be solved.” – Dunt

This is the rather febrile atmosphere in which Cathy Newman saw fit to lie about being “ushered” out of a mosque. Why? And in which Grace Dent refers to the girls who left to join ISIS as “cool headed, elegantly pulled together, determined young women”, mocking in particular the grieving and bewildered parents who made a TV appeal clutching their girls’ teddy bears. Are they wrong? Yes.  Worryingly, inexplicably misguided? Oh yes. Are they still children? Yes. An excellent riposte to that is over at Media Diversified: “The Denial of Childhood to Children of Colour“.

I don’t have the answers, but I know that this atmosphere doesn’t help. And the disingenous pleas for the Muslim community to somehow defeat the nihilistic, warped ideology of ISIS by themselves, as if the horrors of that group are visited on “us”, in the “West” alone… as if Muslims aren’t their main victims (in terms of numbers) – aren’t helping. ISIS, like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, claim to be Muslims but they’re really power-hungry murderers using their version of Islam as a handy ideological cloak for their bloodstained campaign. They’re a problem for us all.

A few weeks ago I heard an impassioned press conference by a US mother whose three children ran away to join ISIS, the younger two influenced by their older brother.  I cannot remember whether they managed to apprehend them in time, but I do recall that she condemned their actions and wept for her chlidren, for her loss. She also addressed ISIS directly: “Leave our children alone.”

Children.

Their children.

Ours.

 

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Pause

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gray since I read Bad Feminist. She’s thoughtful and honest, unafraid to wade into the grey areas and tease out nuance.

I found myself nodding along to her recent article for the Guardian on the Charlie Hebdo aftermath:

“There are times when silence equals consent, but is the loss of someone else’s life really such an instance? Is it reasonable to assume that if je ne suis pas Charlie, I tacitly endorse terrorism?

I believe in the freedom of expression, unequivocally – though, as I have written before, I wish more people would understand that freedom of expression is not freedom from consequence. I find some of the work of Charlie Hebdo distasteful, because there is a preponderance of bigotry of all kinds in many of their cartoons’ sentiments. Still, my distaste should not dictate the work the magazine produces or anything else. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo – and writers and artists everywhere – should be able to express themselves and challenge authority without being murdered. Murder is not an acceptable consequence for anything.

Yet it is also an exercise of freedom of expression to express offense at the way satire like Charlie Hebdo’s characterizes something you hold dear – like your faith, your personhood, your gender, your sexuality, your race or ethnicity.

Demands for solidarity can quickly turn into demands for groupthink, making it difficult to express nuance. It puts the terms of our understanding of the situation in black and white – you are either with us or against us – instead of allowing people to mourn and be angry while also being sympathetic to complexities that are being overlooked.”

Increasingly, on Twitter, I find myself at a loss for words. Twitter is great for pithy, quick responses, succinct bursts of outrage or joy. Most of the time I revel in the robustness, the rambunctiousness of it all. But sometimes it seems inadequate. I didn’t really tweet much about events in Paris because I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t be trite – but there’s more to it than that. I didn’t really say much because beyond an immediate expression of grief and dismay I knew there was a lot that I was still working out. Gay captures this need for a ‘pause’ perfectly:

“Life moves quickly but, sometimes, consideration does not. And yet, we insist that people provide an immediate response, or immediate agreement, a universal, immediate me-too –as though we don’t want people to pause at all, to consider what they are weighing in on. We don’t want to complicate our sorrow or outrage when it is easier to experience these emotions in their simplest, purest states.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I want to pause. I want to take the time to think through how I feel and why I feel. I don’t want to feign expertise on matters I know nothing about for the purpose of offering someone else my immediate reaction for their consumption.”

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Testing…testing

500px-I'm_back_baby!….and we’re back. I’m still working through my thoughts on Paris. Nigeria.

The lack of nuance.

The fact that no one deserves to die for what they say.

The fact that Charlie Hebdo was racist and islamophobic and quite frankly, not that clever.

The fact that even if they were, they should not have been killed for it.

The fact that we won’t give the majority of Muslims the benefit of the doubt that like most human beings, they abhor senseless killings and are as appalled as the rest of us and so we call on them to condemn and prove that they’re not all waiting to kill us.

The fact that the killings in Nigeria have been going on for years. And that’s not considered “news”, but this approach ignores the fact that framing matters. Nigeria is framed at a distance. France is close to home.

That matters.

Over the course of several days I’ve read tweets and articles that illuminate some of the things I’ve been feeling and turning over in my mind. I’ve put a few here:

Umournable Bodies by Teju Cole

No Clash of Civilisations in Paris Attacks by David Wearing.

 

 

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