Monthly Archives: September 2014

Fighting Racism on Facebook. Rule No. 1: Be Nice

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So, I’ve noticed a lot of racist things cropping up on my news feed over the past 12 months, and now I’ve read this Guardian article about the rise of racism in the UK. It’s a long article, and if you don’t have time to read it, my favourite quotes from the article are all at the end of this post, in the order they appear in the original article*.

Here’s a corker:

He said the political and media class faced a huge challenge. “Right now we’re in a state of complete denial about why Ukip’s assault on Britain’s elite culture has found an echo, across the political spectrum. This isn’t just a reaction to the financial crisis; and we need to treat people with greater respect than to imply that if only they were better informed and smarter, they would see the error of their ways.”

(Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust – Britain’s leading independent race equality thinktank)

If you disagree with racism, with Ukip, with Nigel Farage, then WE NEED YOU. We need YOU to quietly, respectfully say to your Facebook friend who posts something by “Britain First”: “Hey man, actually, the immigrants aren’t stealing your shit. It’s the politicians who are fucking us all over! They are sitting in their mansions laughing their asses off at us all fighting each other!”

So please. Don’t delete people who post anti-immigration/pro Ukip/islamophobic stuff on Facebook. Do the more difficult thing. Let them know that you don’t agree. Quietly, respectfully. But let them know. 

Let them know that the Daily Mail manipulates news stories to play on the anger and frustration we all feel. Let them know that Bah Bah Black Sheep has never, and will never, be banned. Let them know that the people who talk about changing the name of The White House are actually mad right-wingers who say extreme things to make a point and grab headlines. Let them know that if they don’t want to eat Halal meat, they can still go to Subway, just probably not the one that’s closed during Ramadan.

Be kind, and let them know if they have been tricked into believing something that has no basis in fact.

But most of all, be kind.

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

*The shadow justice minister, Sadiq Khan, said the findings should come as a wake-up call. “This is clear evidence that we cannot be complacent about racial prejudice. Where it manifests itself, it blights our society. Those in positions of authority must take their responsibilities seriously. It also falls to us to address the underlying causes.”

Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Integration doesn’t happen by accident – you have to work at it. If we want to avoid a slow descent into mutual bigotry, we need to drop the dogma, stop singing kumbaya to each other, weigh the evidence without sentiment, recognise the reality, and work out a programme – both symbolic and practical – to change the reality.”

Campaigners say the new findings are in part a result of a decade that included 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror”, rising inequality and increasing hostility towards immigration – especially from eastern Europe.

Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust – Britain’s leading independent race equality thinktank – said the data should be noted by all the main parties.

“This nails the lie that the problem of racism has been overcome in Britain or that somehow when Jeremy Clarkson said the things he did it is some sort of anomaly that does not tap into a wider problem.

“Politicians became too relaxed and thought that all they had to do was let things continue unhindered and that generational change would take over. But this should act as a warning shot to politicians and the public about how we see ourselves.”

He said the political and media class faced a huge challenge. “Right now we’re in a state of complete denial about why Ukip’s assault on Britain’s elite culture has found an echo, across the political spectrum. This isn’t just a reaction to the financial crisis; and we need to treat people with greater respect than to imply that if only they were better informed and smarter, they would see the error of their ways.”

Prof Bhikhu Parekh, the Labour peer who in 1998 chaired the groundbreaking Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, said the data revealed a country increasingly ill at ease with itself. “The last few years have been marked by fear of loss of identity,” he said. “There have been new people coming in and new mores. People feel uncomfortable. They lose their bearings. What should they say or do to not be classed as racist?

“People have a feeling that we are losing control of our own society in terms of the EU and the liberal establishment and that they are not in charge of their destiny. They feel they can’t do anything about it.”

But he also argues that the language around race has changed. “The term racism has undergone a change of meaning. It has lost its moral force. We use it today too freely. After the war if you said someone was racist, you had images of Hitler. A racist was someone who hated people. Now it is applied to someone who might say: ‘I love my people and want to keep others at a distance.’”

She said the makeup of prejudice was complicated. There are tensions between black and Asian communities – highlighted by the riots in 2005 and 2011 – as well as between white and non-white groups. “It is about class and deprivation and also the result of very poor management of an ethnically diverse city and region. What we need to do is get better at creating public spaces where people can mix, at serving really diverse communities and addressing some of the underlying problems of poverty and isolation.”

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Holding open doors

A man I met said this:

“I don’t understand why feminists won’t allow me to hold open doors. For me it’s about respect. I like to open doors and when I take a woman out, I like to pay”

For me personally, the problem here is the social awkwardness of it. I don’t know whether someone is going to open a door for me, or let me through first. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Then, I’m walking along with a male colleague/co-worker/friend, and he opens a door, and allows me to walk through first, and then I’m supposed to be… grateful to him? Smile? Yet if I give up my seat for an old man with a walking stick on public transport, I’m running the gauntlet of causing offense. The old man has a disability, and as an able-bodied woman, I do too? The old man might feel emasculated, and I am… [insert female equivalent of emasculated here]…disempowered too?

Even though I find it confusing, I think: it’s archaic, it’s patronising, it’s condescending, but I have got bigger fish to fry.

I do not, however, let men pay for me. Friends, lovers… I like to take it in turns, like if my friend (of any gender) buys one round of drinks then I buy the other. That’s just me. I like the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. All too often, people pay for things for you, and then expect something in return. And I know that if I accept the gift, I feel obligated to behave in a certain way. It’s far easier just to pay my own way, instead of enjoying a man’s attention, and telling yourself it’s “just a friendship”, and then feel hurt when he tries to kiss me, I reject him, and I feel like I’ve lost a friend. When I was younger I thought I had a lot of male friends, but this kind of pattern/misunderstanding happened again and again.

I do empathise with men who feel cheated by women who accept gifts (e.g. drinks) and then reject them. Flirtation, courtship etc, can be a confusing game. It must be difficult to tell if a woman is receptive to advances or is just being friendly or doesn’t want to offend. I try to be really direct in my dealings with men when I’m single, but not rude and hurtful. If I’m interested in someone, I make it clear.

He told me “It’s about respect. I’m showing respect to  a woman by paying”. I’m in a long term relationship with someone who earns the same as me, and the way my boyfriend shows me respect is by letting me buy the next round, or letting me give him half the bill (we usually pay cash) beforehand.

If he earned double what I earn, and liked to go to places that I just couldn’t afford, maybe he could pay two thirds and I could pay a third. My partner shows me respect by: listening to me, by doing his half of the chores at home, by making me laugh, by telling me I look better without make up, by having dinner with me every night and never looking at his phone…

This friend of mine was a businessman, and I imagined that he probably was more affluent than me. But regardless of economic differences, I don’t like to feel “bought”. I once dated someone who insisted buying us a bottle of champagne at the bar, and I just didn’t feel comfortable. I’m one of those people who would rather a home made gift than an expensive one. I like nice things, but I would much rather go on a picnic with someone than go to a fancy restaurant.

If that makes me weird, I’m weird. If that makes me a “feminist”, then I’m a “feminist”. That’s just the way I am, and I like it, so I see no reason to change!