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Colour Blind: Flags, Racism, PoC, and LGBTI Pride

28 Jun

[Published 28 June, 2017]

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[Source: ZARI TARAZONA / BILLY PENN]

For those not aware, ‘PoC’ is an abbreviation of the phrase People of Colour.

It’s a term that is commonly used as an all-encompassing catchall phrase – mainly in the United States – to describe people of all cultures and ethnicities, who are non-White.

Whilst it’s still a label indicative of difference – and some may find it too politically correct or even contentious – its usage makes for a good start in the process of moving away from – and the divisions and inequalities of – and connotations associated with racial profiling.

Moreover, its use has been adopted as an attempt to partly cast off notions of race and racism – and, in some way – seeks to unite people [of colour] in a common cause against systemic and social injustices.

In 2017, as part of the official ceremony and opening celebrations for the Philadelphia annual Pride event, the organising committee unveiled a redesigned Pride flag, to include two new (black and brown) stripes, thus seeking to give greater recognition to People of Colour (PoC).

The addition of these two stripes was intended to make QPoC somehow feel more included – and to acknowledge the existence racism from within the community – as a result of the publication of a report of racial profiling in LGBTI bars and clubs in Philadelphia’s Gaybourhood.

Despite this key point, some within our LGBTI communities, were dismissive about the addition of the stripes… on ‘aesthetic grounds’ – yes, you read that right – as if the pretty colours are apparently more important than rights and inclusion! Then we have those expressing complete outrage and indignation at the ‘desecration of such an iconic symbol’, because it the flag already represents PoC. Others have blamed PoC and accused them of being divisive. Yes, this is mainly White people saying all these things.

And people say there is no racism with in the community? I mean, we only need to consider how many non-PoC still perpetuate racial stereotypes of Black men as ‘lions and beasts’, South East Asian men and and women in their smaller physiques, willingness to please, and perceived submissive manner, and Black women as ‘hard work’ or ‘difficult to handle.’

These statements are all stereotypes made and acted out by both Heterosexuals and members of the LGBTI communities, who them use to define PoC.

My partner, of 11 years – who is a White male – told me of an encounter whilst he was on the metro system, with a colleague when he lived in KL some years ago. On hearing two young women speak in Malay, his colleague heard them commenting on ‘how White men are supposed to have big cocks.’ As he was getting off the metro, my partner’s (White, male) colleague, who speaks or spoke fluent Malay, said: “Yes, it’s true! Wanna try?”

The fact is, many White men do travel to live, work, and holiday in South East Asia, purely to have sex with South East Asian men and women. For example, ‘Rice queens’ – as some LGBTI-ers are called, within the community – are mainly White men who prefer South East Asian men.

I know that many of my South East Asian friends, are now increasingly fed up with this narrative and insist on being dominant with White men. Similarly, many African-American and Black-British men, have refused to have any sexual and/ or social relations with White males, because of perceived racism. To give further weight to this view, many White males will put ‘no Black or Asians’ on their profiles on dating websites and apps.

Clearly, without wish to sexualise this any further, many PoC are still viewed as – exotic objects and ‘Other’; to be conquered, dominated, and to be subservient – which maintains and continues to prop up the tired, repetitious position that PoC are lower beings and should know their place.

At this years’ Pride event in Ohio, a group of PoC LGBTI-ers conducted a small protest by stopping the parade. They were asking onlookers to give several minutes silence, in remembrance of the murders of more than 14 Trans PoC in the United States in the first part 2017. It follows similar campaigns on social media, like ‘Black Lives Matters’ and ‘Say Her Name.’

However, before being moved on by police, with some of the protesters actually being arrested, the onlookers apparently booed and jeered at the protesters, claiming that the protesters were obstructing the parade and disrespecting their fellow LGBTI-ers and the celebrations.

The point is, that many PoC within the community still experience exclusion, injustice, and forms of racism both from within the community itself and externally in their lives outside the community – and are still disadvantaged because of how society views us, simply because of the colour of their skin. PoC still rightly believe that they continue to be marginalised; that their voices are not heard or being listened to, and that nothing has moved on for them since the Stonewall riots. This is particularly acute in the United States and in countries like France.

As I noted earlier, whilst some may argue that this change is unnecessary or even diminutive – what this step actually does – is give PoC within the community, greater visibility and enables non-PoC to reflect on their own personal views of PoC and racism from within. Clearly, it’s another step towards greater inclusivity for PoC who have been made to feel excluded and subjected to different forms of prejudice and discrimination by White LGBTI-ers.

The view that the flag has always colour blind and inclusive of all cultures and ethnicities, does not wash with anyone, except non-PoC. One might describe this ‘colour blind’ perspective of the flag, as a form of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘cognitive dissonance.’ So if the addition of these two new stripes encourages and creates more debate, then this has done its job and is a positive and necessary step in realising what needs to change within the LGBTI community to address some of the above issues.

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As I explained to an old friend and colleague who runs a national organisation for PoC in the arts in the UK:

“Look at these additions [of the two [black and brown] stripes to the flag] as a mirror into which the largely White, privileged hegemony of [the LGBTI] community can [take a long, hard] look at itself, introspectively, and to reflect, on its own role, in perpetuating racial exclusion, and cultural stereotypes.”

We might also then take the time to look further at our views of people who are transgender and the participation and acceptance of members of the Jewish diaspora within our community without the politics of ‘us’ and ‘them.’

If you are a White person reading this blog article, may I suggest that you click on some the linked articles, reflect, and start a conversation with others. Hey, if you don’t socialise with PoC, perhaps even make the effort to.

Author: Jason Schumann

Whitesplaining Colonialism and Structural Racism: Human Zoo 

14 Jun

[Published 12 June, 2017]

Black people, people of colour, are exotic, aren’t they? I asked

What do you mean? He replied

Well, think about it. I said

The idea that people from Africa, and other natives, are exhibits and trophies. I exclaimed

To be paraded in front of crowds; to buy, and work them into the ground

Intellectually

To be inspected, studied, and marvelled at, like a specimen… in a jar

Cruelly

Shackled and chained, in service… to do the White man’s bidding… according to when and how he says

But that’s in the past. He said

To always know one’s place, never question, or speak out, and stay in line. I said

Whilst mugshot, gunned down, and framed behind bars, as a reminder of our place.

To be considered upperty, difficult, have a chip on one’s shoulders, or have too much attitude, lacking grace? I said

(Any you wonder why?) I said

To be limited in what you can, should be allowed to do freely, and forever typecast 

Have you ever been called a nigger, sold as chattel, overlooked, stopped so many times you no longer care? I asked

Turned down for a job, because you don’t fit in or look the part? I asked

Interrogated because your family name doesn’t match your skin tone? I asked

Do you share my past, my suffering, or my ancestors’? I asked

His answer came back: No.

Then don’t ask me to be ok with an exhibition that reminds of me this.

To be looked at in curiosity and humorous or pitied spectacle

To remind us all of the wrongs of our past

If you want to look at me (without reflecting on your burden that you have put upon me) then do so for me and what I can bring, have achieved, or can do. 

Author: Jason Schumann 

Two Tier Justice: White Terrorist Versus Muslim Terrorist and Institutional Racism

21 Feb

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In mid-2016, a 17-year-old male from the City of Bradford in the North of England was arrested on terrorism charges after being reported by a suspicious neighbour.

What ever we say about curtain-twitchers in our local communities, sometimes they can be lifesavers, hey?

The young male’s identity has been protected because he is considered a minor under British Law; and so, he is protected under various legal instruments including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Yes, you may laugh at this; but this is one of the tenets that are supposed to make the British judicial system unique and to be envied as a beacon, is it not?

Many would disagree with this, and suggest that such protections; particularly in this instance, are ‘nannyish’ in the extreme, arguing that the seriousness of the matter (had an act of terrorism been carried out) would warrant removal of anonymity. 

Hold that thought for a moment! 

The police are quoted in the mainstream media; and subsequently by his prosecution, that he became ‘radicalised’ by social media and events happening in the UK and events portrayed in World news.

The 17-year-old had posted images of homemade incendiary devices and made comments on social media, praising the murder of the Labour MP, Jo Cox, who was shot dead in the street of her constituency by a member of the public with Far Right connections.

When West Yorkshire police raided the young male’s family home, they found various extremist paraphernalia and incriminating content on his personal computer, including messages and communications posted on chat forums, that he had shared with others with similar views to his own.

He was apparently planning an attack on a local mosque.

Incidentally, the young male in question, also had links to the same extremist group, National Action, as did Jo Cox’s murderer. Rightly so, National Action has since been proscribed as a terrorist organisation.

In January 2017, the male was found guilty of making ‘viable’ explosive devices, but acquitted of intent to carry out an act of terror. His defence team successfully argued that he was only ‘experimenting’, and had no intention of carrying out any kind of attack.

He was sentenced by Mr Justice Goss, rather leniently, to just a supervision and rehabilitation order.

But what if he had been a 17-year-old Muslim, ‘messing’ around with explosives and posting extremist content on social media, not intending to act out his desires to commit a terrorist act?

Let’s look, shall we?

In March 2015, a 15-year-old male from Lancashire was convicted on terrorism charges, after pleading guilty to inciting a person to commit an act of terrorism.

In May 2015, a teenager from Newham, London, was convicted of grooming a “vulnerable” young man, to kill UK soldiers, and sentenced to 8-years in a young offenders institution and placed on a 15-year prevention and supervision order.

In October 2016, in Paris, France, a teenager was charged with criminal association with a terrorist group. Again, in Paris, in 2017, a 16-year-old female was arrested on suspicion of planning a future attack.

Only within the last couple of days, five teenagers, between the ages of 17 – 19, have been arrested in London, on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack.

In 2014/ 5, two teenage males in the North East of England were arrested by Northumbria police, on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. Again, the defence team argued that the two males involved were not serious and had no intention of carrying out an act of terror. They were also given anonymity and let off the supervision orders.

In the case of the 17-year-old from Bradford and the two teenagers from the North East of England, all three were young White males.

In all other cases referred to, the teenagers involved are Muslim and have all been sentenced to detention, or are waiting to be given detention orders.

In the case of the 15-year-old, from Bolton, in Lancashire, convicted of terrorism charges, for inciting a person to commit an act of terrorism in Australia, his rights as a minor and to anonymity were removed by the British courts.

Anonymity if you are a White teenage terrorist suspect but not if you a Muslim teenage terrorist suspect, you query? 

Does this mean that the British media and judicial system only say ‘terrorism’, when the person involved is Muslim? Can we say that the ‘system’ looks on White teenage terror suspects and treats them more favourably and with more leniencies?

In short, the answer is yes!

In comparing each of these circumstances, all those involved were/ considered minors under the British legal system; only those who are Muslim have received a custodial sentence. Only those who are White have been afforded the right to anonymity. 

Perhaps the British Judicial System is not an enviable beacon after-all?

Indeed, it’s the same outcome when we look at arrests and sentencing rates, of other minority groups. Only in the last week, the Guardian and Voice Newspaper journalist, Leah Sinclair, revealed that Black and other minority groups in the UK are 40% more likely to be tasered by the Metropolitan police.

As we know, it’s even worse in countries like France; and particularly, in draconian countries like the United States.

Whilst the term ‘racism’ is used as a blanket or catchall description; for all forms of prejudice and discrimination, it seems that wherever we are, our criminal and public institutions remain inherently and systemically racist and biased.

Until we remove this double standard of cultural bias and privilege and difference of ‘Other’; true equality under the law (and in society as whole) is, but an aspiration and an everyday reality of inequality to us non-White folk.

Don’t be surprised if we refuse to sit for it much longer!

 

 

Author: Jason Schumann

 

 

 

 

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