White Power and Control

Say you’ve written a piece about intersectionality or experienced yet another oversight from the mainstream white feminists and it garners the support of most of your peers, PoC or otherwise yet there is one lone voice of colour the white fems put on a pedestal as though your lived experiences can be rejected because this one says it’s not so; how to begin to understand why the person in question is so blinkered to the kyriarchal structures of power and control. It’s simple really; it comes down to self-awareness and the privilege of having white friends, ones that are completely honest with you.

As a small child I very quickly became aware of the stigma attached to my roots. The word Paki made me feel dirty which is ironic considering Pakistan means ‘The land of the pure’. Of course when they’re saying dirty paki and you’re four and don’t yet know the meaning of the word then this is how it’s going to make you feel. My mum wouldn’t cross the road at a pelican crossing if the driver was white because of the time one of them had revved his car towards her and then laughed at her when she jumped back, her four small children in tow. Once, I convinced myself that it wasn’t me the young white girl was calling a paki, but my younger sister on account of her slightly darker skin. For many years I would tell myself that I was ok, I was white enough to go unnoticed. I had witnessed racist abuse but never been victim to it myself. I just wasn’t like all the others. So much so that I thought I wasn’t even going to get periods, being as I wasn’t a girly girl. I think I became aware of my position in the world very early on and rejected it because I thought better of myself than the labels the world was putting on me. I could reject them and pretend they didn’t even exist. Of course they do and learning these injustices were still being perpetrated against me was heart-breaking and almost too unbearable to accept.

I had to stop and take note when the girls I hung out with at lunchtime called the Asian boys ‘Husseins’. The slur of choice at my school in the mid-90s was “Bosnian refugee”. I remember seeing the genocide on the news and feeling then that it was deeply problematic and inappropriate but what could I do? As an early teen it served me well to laugh along. Being one of a twin the comparisons between us went beyond the pretty one or smart one, the slight difference in our skin tone meant that I was a white wannabe. It might have been the Goth makeup as well but we’re pretty much identical, unless you’re deciding which one you’d prefer to be seen with. My friends were white, hers were mostly brown. I sometimes wonder whether I made a conscious decision (beyond anglicising my name) to only like ‘white’ things. I saw my last Bollywood film around the time I cut all my hair off and starting wearing a fashion cross, aged 13. I’d seethe in fury at the Asian kids piling on the bus home, the looks of disgust on the white pensioners faces made me feel ashamed to be part of their group. When I left Birmingham at 16 and joined a school in London I was relieved to make some new white friends, racist as fuck mind but once again, they were sure to reassure me I wasn’t like all the others, especially when I agreed they were dirty Pakis.

I met many other PoC who felt like me, secretly disgusted by their heritage. I’ve lost count of the number of South Asians who feel they have to make you aware of their mixed heritage; even if it 1/16th Greek by way of marriage. When you’ve spent your life listening to the moaning white majority about how our food smells, how our clothes don’t match, even how hairy we are (ffs) then these things become ingrained and you either reject them and become an oppressor yourself by denying the unfair systems that dominate the narrative (because you are not like the rest of them and this will serve you well comparatively) or you believe you are incapable, unworthy, disgusting. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you deserve the inequalities you are made to suffer. So you do, without question.

I was lucky. I had some white friends who balked on my behalf. I was quite happy to sit there and listen to their parents question what kind of curry I prefer or confirm their reservations on forced marriage and that weird Islam but my friends did not like it. It was they who prompted me to question why the tone of my skin should mean anything. I hadn’t been a Muslim for many years so why was I still answering those questions, were they incapable of seeing of me as an individual with other dreams and passions? They could just as easily ask me about art or politics but they don’t because they see a brown beigey person and they assume that means Muslim. That’s racism. It took me the best part of my 20s to get to grips with that. I don’t wear a headscarf; I don’t have to leave the room five times a day for prayer. I eat and drink what I want; I haven’t had a homemade curry in years. I sometimes wear shorts. Yet still I come off as Muslim. Then they say Islam isn’t a race and Islamophobia cannot be racist.

See, the reason I believe my white friends when they say something is racist is because they are white and other white people really let themselves go in their presence. They are better placed to identify microagressions because they know where they are coming from. My white friends rejected their supremacy and fight a constant battle to remind themselves of their privilege. There are white people who are appalled at their own murderous pillaging history and cannot abide seeing it being perpetrated in this day and age. Then there are also those who have the same take on that history but positively revel in all things empire because that is all they have; seriously lacking in wit and intelligence or anything of any personal worth just the propaganda spewed out by the state every time they go an invade a country in the belief that they are somehow better because they are white. That’s power. Telling you you’re somehow the only chosen one; that’s control.

I can see why you’d want to identify with the white majority, I know I did. Heck, I was even engaged to a white man in the RAF. It was he who gave me the most valuable lesson of all; it doesn’t matter what you do, how you speak, who you love; middle England, the Daily Mail lot, the majority of white Britain might speak to you if they have to but you’ll always be a Paki to them. We split shortly after this especially when he reassured me I was alright now I was on the ‘white side’.

Racism, it’s not in my head, but yours.

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36 comments

  1. Racism is down to the following things in my opinion.
    1)The mental illness of the sociopath is manifested in racism, because a sociopath has no empathy for others, and seeks to hurt, because they find the reaction amusing.
    2)Evil.
    3)Both the first and second world wars, had a terrible effect on the British. We were a traumatized nation as a result, and much more prone to domestic violence, drink, drugs, aggression then we were before. (See Dr Betty Tylden’s work on this subject.) Therefore when mass immigration took place, it felt like invasion and people “fought back.” This manifested itself in the horrific racism that you describe as your experience. If the government had been wise, there would have been some preparation for mass immigration, or a referendum, or some sort of communication about it. Instead, the traumatized, damaged, wounded British people, were (in effect) given people to “take it out on” and they did. Sometimes I wonder why nobody warned the Windrush generation (for example) of what they were REALLY getting when they came to the UK. It seems that they were told such lies in Jamaica…and this caused great resentment. They were conned.
    4)The struggle for social housing, jobs, education, medical care, and just space, brings out anger and panic and racism in people. But then again, is so bad to object to paying child benefit for some kids who were born and who live in Poland? There is a fine line between the evil of subjugating another person because of the colour of their skin, and objecting to people taking the piss.
    5)We all need to talk about the issue without being scared of “being threatened.” We all need to admit that mass immigration was difficult both for the immigrants and for the host people. We need to focus on the good that brought and we must be honest about the hard times too. I’m glad you brought up the subject, because it is good to take an objective look at it. To say “I got damaged… it had results… lets talk”
    Thanks for reading.

    Like

  2. Very well penned. There are a couple of points on which I disagree, but they have to do with nuance (against generalisation) and I feel that ultimately, since your message is such a positive one, it wouldn’t do to detract from it in the commentary box.
    I’ll share a personal experience instead and see what you make of it.
    I was with an acquaintance on a bus once. They were visiting from Russia. Across from us there was a Bangladeshi girl.
    He said that he wanted to have his picture taken with the girl.
    I thought that it was on account of her being very pretty, although even in that case I thought it a bit odd to want a pic of a complete stranger. Alas, I was soon disabused of that notion when he explained that it was on account of her being “Indian”. I was appalled.
    She is not an exhibit in a zoo, I said. She is a human being and it is not ok to see only the colour of their skin – see her as some sort of exemplar – to be added to your “ethnic” collection.
    He insisted that it was not racist. I insisted that it was. That’s that. Wasn’t able to persuade him, but at least our quarrel lasted long enough for him to desist from taking the picture.
    Last thing: What do you think about the phrase “Equality in Difference?”
    Thanks for a great post.
    Warm regards,
    Vic

    Like

    1. He wasn’t being racist. The definition of racism is one race subjugating another race. You say that in wanting to take a picture of her as if she was an object is racist.. and in this objectification, there is implied subjugation, is that right?
      I think that most men like a pretty girl and he wanted a photo to show to his pals, as if to say “I met a pretty Indian girl, how cool am I?”
      So, yes, there was objectification, but I don’t think there was intent to harm.
      I think that to accuse this man of racism, is to be unfair to him.
      I also think that people are making accusations of racism, so much that its become a sort of an industry… like a conveyer belt.. to call somebody racist is now just a means to an end.
      In my experience, those who “cry woolf” are pretty useless when the real woolf comes to the door… Similarly, those who threaten others with the word Racist, when there is no racism going on, are totally useless when they have to stand up to REAL cruelty and racism.

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      1. You may be right there. It’s always tough to judge other people’s motivations. If he’d said only that she’s a pretty girl and I want a picture with her, that would’ve been one thing (I would’ve still objected but for a different reason), but when he said that it was specifically because she was Indian, that irked me. If someone wanted to have a picture taken with me because I’m East European, that would upset me. I wouldn’t want to be regarded as a representative of an ethnic group. I like to be seen as my own person. In fact, people visiting my country of birth have asked me to have their picture taken with me. I was young and I let them, because I was too polite to refuse, but it didn’t sit well with me. So… perhaps in this instance I was projecting.
        It’s very good to have your taken on this. I know what you mean about taking a stance when it matters.
        Thank you 🙂

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      2. Vic, I think we are all floundering and making mistakes. My mother isn’t English and when I used to go to her country, I was “Exhibit A” and so I know what you mean about having to be polite about being “an object” …

        I think the reason that well meaning mistakes are made, is that the multicultural society has happened so quickly, in comparison to people’s education.

        The English side of the family, did not leave the county in which they were born.. possibly because they couldn’t afford holidays, (both grandparents were one of twelve siblings) but possibly because it just wasn’t something that people DID. To them, “A foreigner” meant somebody from Yorkshire. They all left school at twelve and started work and that was that.

        So to live next door to a person who came from India, was totally shocking to that generation. And in that state of shock, all kinds of mistakes were made. My grandmother remained shocked throughout my parents marriage and actually, I think she and her relations had a GREAT TIME being shocked and outraged and tut-tutting and sipping tea in a disapproving manner.

        I think it helps if we put things in historical context.

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      3. Not just ‘subjugating’, othering, eroticising, stereotyping, appropriation… it goes on and on and on. I have this discussion with white friends often, or at least I try. Many people seem to think that unless a PoC is receiving or experiencing poor services, treatment, being attacked etc whilst it’s *explicitly* pointed out that this is because they are a PoC, it’s not racism. Surely you understand racism is do endemic and rooted so firmly in many cultures, that not all racism is demonstrated or expressed in this way, as you describe. To suggest racism could be an industry is one of the most offensive things I have heard, and I’m white, so ‘it’s ok for me’, I’m not experiencing this, I’m not harmed or my life affected negatively. Please be more respectful and aware of your priviledges, and LISTEN. As a white person I don’t believe that the world needs to hear my views on racism, except to challenge racist views etc and support the fight against it as appropriate.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What do I think of the phrase “Equality in Difference”… I’m not sure. It seems well meaning, but also possibly one of those “cover up” phrases brought out by the Stasi. Speaking from the woman’s point of view, (Im a female Robin,) when I was living for twelve years in the melting pot of London, it was obvious which races had been brought up to believe that white women were just trash, and which had been brought up to believe to respect all women, and then there was the class-issue too… the men who were most disrespectful to women were the posh boarding school boys… So everyone’s idea of “equality” was affected by family attitudes, social and economic outlook, religion…. And as a woman, you had to “pre-guess” how you would be treated, by each of these different groups in society. Plus. There were no rules in the game. I was greatly helped by some “black street men” (hate that phrase for reason that I’m sure are obvious…but I use it as a quick description), after being attacked by a posh Psychology graduate who knew me and wanted to sexually assault me. (He’s doubtless gone on to be a shrink.). . and what looked like “black street men”.. were in fact members of the seventh day Adventist church!. Do you see what I mean? There are so many variables to the situation of day to day life in multicultural London, that “equality in difference” can’t really cover them all. Most people were scared of young black street men, because some of them thought that crimes against whites was justified, for political reasons… this is what they’d been told.
    So.. with apologies for a somewhat inconclusive answer, I’d conclude that the phrase is more decorative than functional.

    Like

  4. Sam, do you see an intent to harm or subjugate you, when you sense that people see your colour first, and not your personality as revealed in your smile?

    Like

      1. Sam Ambreen @SamAmbreen
        Follow
        Ok. I’m gonna apologise to @wmarybeard because I cannot find any evidence online of racism. I sent out a reactionary tweet and I apologise

        Sam Ambreen – this is evidence that you sent out a false accusation of racism to Mary Beard. When this got you into trouble… because there is no evidence …. you issued an apology.
        Mary Beard was kind and tolerant towards you.

        I will also be kind towards you, but my tolerance is not really there – because when people endlessly hurl out false accusations of racism… with no evidence.. it cheapens the entire problem of REAL racism, which certainly exists out there.
        You have accused me of being a White Supremacist. That is a lie. It is defamation of character. And, again, you have no evidence, since I am not a member of any White Supremacist groups. I have not been a member in the past, and I will not be a member in the future.

        But that reality doesn’t matter to you does it?
        You enjoy hurling out false accusations.
        You think its fun.
        You rely on those that you seek to damage, being kind and tolerant towards you.
        I think you are unwise to play these games Sam.

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  5. Have you ever listed what gives clues about the intent to harm?
    It is difficult to pre-guess anyones motives of course, but… when I listed, I noticed that those who intend to harm, do a “look you up and down” thing with their eyes.

    You see, I think that we do all judge each other by appearance. I certainly get remarks about the way I look, and I do sense an intent to harm…and it hurts. (In my case it isn’t race, its something else).. And so one day I listed what to look out for… and also…why these remarks come my way.

    In that sense, I stepped back from the situation.

    It still hurts…when one does sense an intent to harm… but sometimes stepping back and listing, can help, because it is a way of saying, “I recognise your intent to harm me, but I do not allow you to do so.”

    Like

    1. Enough Robin. How dare you accuse Sam of ‘playing games’. This is utterly disgraceful and unacceptable. Have a word with yourself. You cannot ‘step back’ from being a PoC. It is v offensive for you to ‘instruct’ people on how to deal with situations and experiences that you and I know *nothing* about. Stop

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Apologies – I seem to be posting too many comments, so I will try to make this my last. Sam, you seem to be expecting the white community to be ashamed of the history of white subjugation of other races… ashamed of the beatings and mutilations, the theft and exploitation.. And you also expect that …from that sense of shame, there should be a more humble and accepting attitude towards those people from the “Empire countries”
    I can understand the cry for justice that lies at the heart of that expectation.
    However, it is a false expectation for the following reasons..
    1)Human nature isn’t like that.
    2)The white people of this generation will say “well WE didn’t do those things, so we don’t feel guilty about the past…”
    3)The white people of this generation will also say “It was the upper classes who did those things to the enslaved people, and they treated the British working classes in exactly the same cruel way…. so why do you point the finger at the British working classes just because they are white? Being white didn’t protect them from beatings and cruelty, did it?”
    4)The resentment then tends to culminate in “Why are you in my country making me accountable for crimes that had nothing to do with me, and then expecting me to make up for it in some way.. its not going to happen.. dream on”

    Louis Farakand put a guilt trip onto the whites in America, and I quote, “Certainly there are good people among the whites, but look into their history.. that’s not the work of saints.. that’s the work of demons… ” And the crowd cheered him on.

    But its a mistake to make the present generation feel guilty about the past, because it never works. All that happens is that the void gets deeper, and both sides are resentful. Its the opposite of debate, communication and understanding, and that’s what we need to make this modern society work.

    Like

    1. As a white working class woman. I can tell you that I am horrified by the violence committed in the name of ‘Empire’. I am deeply ashamed of our collective past, destructive colonialism, and continuing crimes against anyone who doesn’t look like us.

      I think when you say things like “People don’t see why they should feel guilty” or “People resent being confronted with a past they had nothing to do with” then all I hear is “I don’t see why I should feel guilty” and “I resent…”.

      Cowardly

      Oh and WRT your lazy Daily Mail-esque “Polish people taking our jobs and claiming benefits for kids in Poland” tropes, you’re so wrong you’re not even wrong, you’ve careened way past ‘wrong’.

      1. Eastern European workers consume a fraction of the resources (per £ paid in tax and NI) than any other group. Also, when claiming child benefit you don’t just call up and say “I’ve got ten kids, here are their names, gimme money”, You have to send in a birth certificate for each child. If the birth certificate was not issued in the UK then proof of residence needs to be provided.

      The vast majority of EU migrants come here, pay taxes and NI, then go home. Trust me, the people of eastern Europe are not exactly clamouring for British citizenship in their millions, despite what you and the Mail think. Plus, you have the freedom to work and claim benefits within the EU. Just because you’re not taking advantage of that it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sam Ambreen @SamAmbreen
        Follow
        Ok. I’m gonna apologise to @wmarybeard because I cannot find any evidence online of racism. I sent out a reactionary tweet and I apologise

        Message to Exposeur,
        I think that if you are going to feel guilty about crimes that you did not commit, then you could start with Sam Ambreen’s false accusation of racism, hurled at TV historian Mary Beard.
        Do you feel ashamed that this woman Mary was attacked for no reason?
        Do you feel horrified, that… with no evidence at all… Sam Ambreen made a horrific accusation?
        Do you feel embarrassed that because so many people objected, Sam made the admission of guilt and apologied… see the above statement?
        Do you feel that Mary Beard was gracious and forgiving towards Sam Ambreen? I do.
        If you are going to feel guilty about the crimes of the Empire, that is up to you… but how about feeling guilty for the crimes of making false accusations of racism, when there is no evidence?
        Or do you think its perfectly ok to attack another woman for no reason?
        That’s ok with you is it?

        Like

  7. Sam, the honesty of this takes my breath away. I also loathed the colour of my skin, my name, my religion, my culture, the hair, the language because it made me stand out. I’m happy to say I grew out of it when I hit 20 but that’s ten long years of utter self loathing.

    PAKI is a word I know very well too 😦

    Thank you for writing such a brave piece

    Aniqah xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sam Ambreen @SamAmbreen
        Follow
        Ok. I’m gonna apologise to @wmarybeard because I cannot find any evidence online of racism. I sent out a reactionary tweet and I apologise

        HELLO THERE ANIQAH..
        I understand that you find me to be patronising whitesplainer? Are you making some sort of accusation? Be careful of doing that. If you remember, Sam Ambreen made a false accusation of racism as a way of attacking Mary Beard, for no reason at all. She got into trouble for it, because everyone said, “Where is the evidence?” There was none. So Sam made an apology.

        I’m waiting for an apology for your comments about me.
        I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be waiting a long time.

        Mary Beard was gracious and forgiving towards Sam Ambreen. She didn’t take her to court. She accepted that Sam had made a mistake and had admitted it and apologised.

        I’ve had a change of mind.. rather than wait for your apology, I will just accept that you have have made a mistake, …. You won’t admit it or apologise… but.. hey.. one outa three aint bad.

        Like

      1. Sam Ambreen @SamAmbreen
        Follow
        Ok. I’m gonna apologise to @wmarybeard because I cannot find any evidence online of racism. I sent out a reactionary tweet and I apologise

        Hello Sam- were you showing solidarity and love when you made a false accusation of racism against Mary Beard? No? But she did forgive you and accept your apology didn’t she? Hmmm.
        Perhaps your tagline should be “Solidarity and love as shown to me by Mary Beard when I made a false accusation against her”
        That would be a more accurate reading of the situation wouldn’t it.

        Like

      2. Sam, do you think it is right to make false accusations about people?? Yes or No.
        If you think it is wrong, then please remove all messages, including the ones that I put up to focus the apology that you made to Mary Beard.

        I have stood up for myself against your false allegations.
        Now, I am requesting that you remove all my posts, and that includes your false allegations, and it includes my protests and details of the apology that you made to Mary Beard.

        Thank you.

        Like

  8. Hello Sam – I need to know how to remove my comments from this thread and from the other thread. Do you have a web-master that I can contact? All help much appreciated. Thanks.

    Like

  9. Sam, Am I to understand that that “No How dare you go away” is as far as I’m going to get when it comes to an apology for your false accusation towards me that I am a “White Supremacist?”

    In that case, I accept your apology and I thank you for making it… in your own unique way.

    Like I said, I will do as Mary Beard did, and I will continue to respond to your false accusation, with tolerance and kindness towards you. And I will also forgive you.

    I have been in contact with Google, and I understand that if you refuse to take down all my posts, (perhaps you don’t know how)… that I have to sign a legal document online, with details of the offending accusation. And then Google will deal with it directly with you. They will probably delete my name from the search engine that leads to your site, if they can’t get in touch with you.

    Shall we leave it at that? I don’t actually have to sue you. I can simply report you to the police for making a false accusation online. I am not going to do that.

    Its like I said, I think Mary Beard is correct in her response to you, when you made a false accusation of racism towards her.

    She accepted your apology. She was gracious and understanding and kind. I think that’s the way forward don’t you?

    Like

    1. Fuck off. Does that sound like an apology to you? You’re a typical white supremacist, stomping their foot when they can’t get what they want, threatening to sue at the drop of a hat. What’re you gonna sue me for, my sickness benefits? Such a troll. Now ‘kindly’ fuck off. Do let me know where you get with the police, I’d love to see their reaction to this when actual death threats against me were dismissed.

      You don’t seem to understand ‘Robin’, I am willing to die for my beliefs so being sued, even being imprisoned doesn’t frighten me. In fact it doesn’t matter what decisions are made about me so long as I get the chance to speak my truth. I will, wherever that is, for however long I need to.

      Toodle pip.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. For someone so concerned with the idea of people coming to the conclusion that you’re a teeny tiny bit racist, you don’t seem that worried about shouting down a woman speaking on her experiences of racism…

      Maybe if you don’t like being called racist you should spend more time listening and reading and engaging and less time telling WOC to shut up because their stories make you uncomfortable… Just a friendly suggestion. You sound a little bit threatening and unpleasant.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really bizarre huh? All Robin has demonstrated is the impossible standards people of colour are held to. How we’re not allowed to make mistakes and our apologies mean nothing. How many white people ever apologise for what they do? And if they do, is the issue raised repeatedly as though there is only one dimension to them and they can never achieve any good after that?

        How many skeletons in these people’s closets? They behave in a way that’s a product of centuries of dominance and superiority, where they can wear a mask with the broadest grin whilst they silently plot your demise, and then blame you for it.

        They can ruin me all they like, I have nothing to take. Death is the worst threat and even that is something I’ve made my peace with. What can they do? Sue me for my overdraft? Lock me up and throw away the key? But that would put me in the spotlight.

        This has been riveting and everything but I have only one thing left to say, Rob: less talk and more action please, or I can’t take you seriously.

        Like

    3. Robin, I’m gonna throw an idea out of left field here. And buckle down because I appreciate that it is a bit radical.

      If you don’t like being accused of being a white supremacist maybe try not behaving like a white supremacist?

      That’s both A) More effecient and B) Less likely to get you further marked as a white supremacist than trying to throw your weight around, threatening to sue people and stalking Sam’s timeline for months old tweets no?

      Just an idea.

      Also it’s adorable that you seem to think white supremacists exclusively move around in their hate groups. Try not speaking with authority on issues you clearly have no understanding of.

      Liked by 1 person

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