Kyriarchy

An Open Letter: To the racist next door (well, upstairs)

We haven’t met yet, I tend to avoid the stairwells at home time, in fact most of the time because I rarely go out but I frequently hear you come home after a relatively short day at work. The landlord says you’re a teacher and this was meant to prove your suitability for the flat above me, the walls are thin and I knew the last couple far too intimately, although I hadn’t met them either. Whilst it’s true there haven’t yet been any all night raves as yet, I am getting used to the drone of your very boring self important expressions. I don’t think this is your natural speaking voice but an affectation of what a teacher should sound like. You sound very male and very entitled even when I can’t make out the words, you frequently talk over your guests. When you’re not enunciating for the whole street you’re belting out Lloyd Webber classics for Britain First’s Got No Talent so it’s fair to say you like all the attention being you gets.

It is with this growing irritation that I peeked out of the peep hole when I heard your voice bellow loudly as you trudged up the stairs this afternoon. I caught the back of your head, looks like you don’t have any hair, and you seemed as tall as the door to the next floor. A shorter man with brown skin followed behind. He didn’t pique my interest as much as the words you were saying to him though. You said “whilst women in India are oppressed at least they get an education. In Pakistan they don’t even have that.”

Oh really? I’m even more pumped to meet you now, can’t wait to look at all your photos of Pakistan and hear about your best and worst adventures. Of course as an educator of future generations I assume you must have the information to make a statement so matter of factly, so I’m going to believe you when you say anything, otherwise why would you? Unless say, you were just repeating a thing you’d always heard and just assumed to be true because you’re a thickheaded arrogant racist (cos white supremacy runs deep even with the ones who don’t appear outwardly fascistic) and why should you care about whether things are factual or not, it’s not like due process is a thing poc even understand in their own corrupt countries so why would they expect it here, or something?

In my large family most of the graduates are women. My grandparents had a focus on educating the girls because they wanted us to be independent and not reliant on a husband who could do with us as he pleased. They saw education as freedom from patriarchy, which certainly confused me growing up being as my family weren’t lacking on the patriarch front. I think it was a latent desire to keep “our women” free from the clutches of western patriarchy, to increase our value as women in the western world where we are seen as servile and disposable. This attitude was prevalent in the community I come from. These were the poorest of Pakistanis and many married their girls off young but the suitors were always turned away at the door for us and my aunts. “They’re too busy with their studies” was the blanket response my gran had for anyone suggesting we were ripe. This remained the case forever, at least with regards to myself. I’m still unmarried, in my 30s, and still learning, at my own pace.

This isn’t the first time a person in a position of power has espoused dangerously problematic opinions with regards to the natives of my fledgling motherland. Another teacher, older than the racist upstairs and also a devout Christian asked me once whether it was true there was a whole village of imbeciles somewhere in Pakistan, where the IQ was nominally the lowest in the whole world. I didn’t even know what to say to that.

This kind of jarring ignorance has become commonplace in the wasteland of post recession Tory Britain, it’s breathtaking because it was not the norm for me, at least not growing up in my multicultural town with my multicultural friends and teachers. It was perhaps always there but cleverly disguised because at one time people believed in power of laws which forbid racism, I know I did. The various authorities inadequate response to racism has allowed for that attitude to seep into wider society because the racists know the cops are on their side. Whiteness trumps justice. In fact racism is condoned by the people occupying seats of power at the very top, for example when they call Cobra to deal with an unprecedented death of a white soldier on British soil even though that sentence is untrue in its entirety.

I have come to conclude there is no right or wrong in society only power and control, that is to say I believe there is a moral compass and most certainly a version of life exists for some where doing the right thing is the noblest and happiest way to live but for the majority of people it really is about what you can get away with in any given situation. These opinions white people have, where they deny the humanity of others and speak of them as aliens without any direct experience of the people in question is a narrative that is centuries old. Racism is most prevalent in the UK in the areas where there are actually no people of colour, so when you’re trying to reason with a fascist that they are wrong about all Muslims, you may as well be speaking to a shit brick wall. There is no reasoning with those who are devoid of reason, education, experience yet exist in a suit of white skin that elevates them to a state of enlightenment where they can make damaging untruthful statements about other humans without batting an eyelid or challenge.

They’re teachers and I left school at 16 so they’re right and I’m wrong, or at least that’s the version some of you allow yourselves to believe.

Advertisements

Anarchy in the UK

10297567_10152094651067113_7295527954385124276_n

What is anarchism and why was I so afraid initially to vocally identify as one? Perhaps it had something to do with the image I’d had constructed for me, angry Sex Pistols spitting into their microphones as they rasped menacingly about the queen (fair enough, actually), the same sex pistols I’d associated with racism cos punks were as scaring looking as the skinheads when you’re a brown girl trying to make sense of white subculture but are too afraid to ask just in case they do turn out to be a paki bashing neo Nazi.  There was Vyvyan from The Young Ones who frightened the life out of me as a small child (this was largely due to the metal in his face) and the response “there’d be anarchy” in every discussion regarding the breaking of rules painted a nightmare scenario where we’d all regress to a primitive state, raping and looting and bashing each other to death for larfs. Of course I would be afraid to say the words “I am an anarchist” when I did not want to be associated with such carnage and destruction (plus it also sounds a bit like antichrist).

Then I met some anarchists and they were thoroughly awesome people. I wondered where they’d been all my life as I reflected on all the people I’d made do with, accepted, despite their shades of bigotry because I’d felt there was no other choice and I was alone in my thoughts. Here was a bunch of people who just got it and didn’t need it spelling out. Anarchism is the antithesis of every social structure maintained by authority, disproportionately represented by white men. To call oneself an anarchist means to reject the ways of white men, and to challenge those perpetuating oppression whenever we personally witness it, affecting these changes wherever we have the power and influence to do so. I didn’t go to a posh university to learn all these fancy words and expressions; I was just born this way (in my rundown brown Muslim ghetto). Meeting others like me just helped bring everything in focus, and I was pleased to find they came in all colours, genders and beliefs.

To question the reason for everything is at the core of every true anarchist. Why do we do things in this way? Who benefits from it? Is it to any other person’s detriment, on purpose or inadvertently? How can we ensure justice? If these questions do not matter to you then how can you say you are an anarchist?

Anarchism isn’t about behaving like a dick or actively promoting self-interest cos you’re a libertarian who don’t-listen-to-no-one; it shouldn’t be done for the kudos or kicking back at the state cos you’re angry with your dad (although there is nothing wrong with that). Anarchism is taking a radical approach concerning all things and doing them differently. In this sense, most religions can be compared to anarchy (at the point of inception). A new way of being becomes possible, tired of the old (and often violent and oppressive) way of doing things, seeking to change things radically for the betterment of all, because you need to be inclusive if you’re going to spread that gospel far and wide. I believe Jesus was an anarchist, and Mohammed too. Feed the poor and stop raping/murdering your children are worthy (and radical) causes whichever millennium you’re from, and then, just like now, the people in power persecuted those seeking to end power and control by making a violent example of them.

We’ve all heard the ‘let’s fix class then we can entertain feminism’ orders. They come from primarily white men. There are some women socialists using the same tactic with regards to class and race but that’s another blog post. For anarchy to work, I’m sorry not sorry white men, you have to stfu. It’s not like you don’t already have your say right? White supremacy is a social construct as is patriarchy and when you refuse to shut up and listen you are doing both of these things. You’re simply maintaining the status quo and that as you’ve probably already guessed, is not anarchy. Me telling you to do this right now is not exerting power and control or authority over you but punching up at historical oppressors in a bid to be heard so you can stop being so abusive. I do not have any control over your opportunities but you certainly do mine.

The other huge difference between our arguments is the intention behind them. When I say “stop doing that” it’s because you’re hurting somebody. You bash back because you don’t like being told what to do, because you are entitled and used to getting your own way. When the context is so wildly different you cannot apply the same reasoning/survivor language we use to label us as hypocrites. The truly anarchist response to being called out, if you have the self-awareness to regulate your thoughts despite being bombarded by messages on how we must behave in a white cis heteronormative patriarchy is to reflect and think about why you’re being called out not hit back with abuse or dig a deeper hole with your defence. That is the sign of an anarchist, someone who appreciates their privileges and place in the world and seeks to redress the imbalance, however uncomfortable that might be.

Being an anarchist means having the humility to recognise the impact one’s own existence has on others. In a world where we ask people what job they do in order to ascertain their social standing and bank balance before we know anything else about them, we are an anomaly. It makes perfect sense to an anarchist to be preoccupied with the often murderous actions of governments and their followers, and usually for monetary reasons. It is more shocking that most individuals are not bothered. People are more inclined to follow a world sporting event religiously than protest the hundreds of children murdered to make way for it. I am an anarchist because I object to this way of thinking and being. In the pursuit for self-gratification we have allowed for atrocity. We’re convinced it’s not our problem.

If you are not an anarchist (or a true anarchist), you are complicit. To be an anarchist is to be without rulers, not rules (the rulers have created this cruel uncaring world for personal gain). When the rules include treating all living creatures with respect and always questioning your prejudices, you have to question the sort of anarchist who would object to that.

Being a dick is the norm; a true anarchist would know this.

White Feminism 101

White feminists sit around daydreaming about their next campaign. They’re not fighting for basic recognition like the rest of us, they’re thinking of even sillier ways to assert their power and so they have the luxury of poking at the institutions to look as if they are doing something worthwhile. So we show them how bullshit their feminism is and how do they respond? Do they take on board our feelings about how we are being erased? Do they accept that there is a kyriarchal structure they personally maintain? Do they fuck.

Last week various WoC had to push down triggers of domestic and sexual abuse in order to defend the perpetrators of these acts of violence against women. The two men in question; Mike Tyson and Stan Collymore. Y’see if you’re a white woman and you know that so and so is a prolific abuser, you can condemn them without needing to think of the intersection where men of colour are victims of the system also. I mean, Caroline Criado Perez thought it ok to share a platform with Collymore as long as she got her message across about the unacceptable abuse she alone suffers so bear with me a sec. He was taking a stand against the racist abuse he suffers and so, instead of ‘no platforming’ him on the grounds that he is violent and a danger to women – as should be my right as a feminist and campaigner against domestic abuse – I was contemplating the ways in which he would not have been given the same opportunities as white abusers to accept his actions, to be rehabilitated. I had to think of the ways in which he is racially abused and whilst I believe he should be ostracised on grounds of his violence against women, he should not be punished for the colour of his skin. Tyson is also an example of this.

Of course I was livid when I heard that Tyson had had “distressing problems with women”. He is the reason for the distress felt by many women but then I had to think about the way in which those lines were presented. Those were not his words, they were written by the author of the piece Donald McRae. The white man writing the piece severely understated the nature of Tyson’s ‘problems’ with women. The interview could have been structured in a way where he was given a chance to apologise for his behaviour and condemn it in others, instead there’s a garbled quote about how he found God. This is how white people want you to see Tyson.

Jurors in a case against a historic perpetrator of sexual abuse have been directed to acquit the perpetrator of one of the allegations against him on the grounds there is insufficient evidence. I believe her. Another judge sentenced another prolific abuser of young girls to a mere 15 months which was later doubled due to its “undue leniency”. The judge actually said he had “given pleasure to millions of people” and was known for his “genial personality, charm, bonhomie and wit”. White man in a wig, barrister Crispin Aylett actually felt it was ok to compare the relatively small number of victims to Savile’s 1300, as if that should have any bearing on the sentencing of a sexual predator. Hall should have received 30 months for each individual case, that is how the plebs are sentenced (if they are found guilty in the first place, that is). The whole of the Yewtree investigation can be easily summarised as a presentation of white power. When Mark Duggan was shot, the media had a field day telling us all how he was murdered for being in possession of a firearm. This ‘fact’ was not confirmed, it was later revealed that he was innocent of this claim and the police had executed a man in cold blood. The damage had been done though. A jury delivered a verdict of lawful killing even though the assailant was unarmed. Try talking about Yewtree though and the calls for ‘due process’ are deafening. I cannot be the only one to see these injustices for what they are; that they are racist in nature and that racism is not just about words but about the way in which non-whites are presented; as though inherently evil and guilty of all wrongdoing.

Take the recent obsession white feminists have with policing non-white bodies and our choices. It is perfectly fine for a woman of colour to write about her experiences in a foreign culture. It is the sort of discussion that is long overdue. However, the insistence of white feminism sticking her beak in everything and taking over as though she is emancipating the poor brown loves from the overbearing brown patriarchy are transparent and deplorable. You have no right to call yourself ‘prochoice’ if you have ANY restrictions on choice. Sex selective abortion is not something I personally advocate; I have my own feelings on the matter but I am not going to project those on others. Is sex selective abortion something that keeps white feminists awake at night? Does it affect their lives? Not really. It does however give them the opportunity to condemn the savages, once again. Criado Perez would do better to tackle sex selective IVF which is freely available in the United States to people (from all over the world) who can afford the right to plan their family. Why this preference for male foetuses? In many cultures girls are not yours to keep, they belong to the men they will marry. If you are poor, it is another mouth to feed. We could tackle the level of poverty the majority of the world suffers in relation to our massively privileged West but that would be too much like hard work, making sure everyone is fed. Instead let us claim our moral superiority and use it as a whipping chain to keep the non-whites in check, especially when they’ve got this ridiculous intersectionality campaign for equality.

It is the actions of white feminists that further oppress the already marginalised. When they wade in and take over, when they insist on using their voices to pity you instead of support, what they are saying is that they know better and they’re going to save you, not empower you, but literally going to do all the hard work and you can thank them later. Suddenly their arguments take on another tone and it starts to feel racist. That is how the majority of racism plays out, it is not in slurs or violent behaviour but the ways in which we are manipulated and made to feel inferior. They transfer their sinister game plan on to you “Your privileged, careerist, misogynist bullshit version really is pulling in the crowds”… without the slightest ounce of self-awareness there, our mascot for white supremacy Criado Perez suggests to her 20,000 odd followers that is what WE’RE doing. Hahaha lol.

White feminism is intent on telling you the kind of sex you should be having (be humble dammit, lie back and think of white supremacy), that your long hair is a thing to lure men with and that black women cannot be rich famous successful AND feminist. Oh yeah, and if you disagree with them about the things THAT AFFECT YOU then you’re no longer a woman, just a misogynist.

It’s simple really, put the white narrative down and learn to stfu. This has been our only request but they won’t do it because they enjoy the power. Don’t kid yourself that it isn’t a race thing, don’t believe you’re the only worthy Asian in the village and the rest of us are just jealous; I’ve been there, that’s an old trick white people have been pulling for a millennia. Solidarity.

 

 

 

 

Smug white feminists and slut shaming

It’s been a chaotic year for feminism, well, my feminism at least. For a few years before that I struggled to understand why so many women were vociferously rejecting feminism as if they didn’t believe in equality but I needed to learn that what they were in fact objecting to was privileged white middle class feminism. I was adamant it didn’t need a rebrand though, we just needed to reclaim feminism but I’m afraid it’s probably too late for that.

Many of my peers have rejected the word feminist. They subscribe to the ideals but do not agree with the negative connotations associated with that word. As bull-headed as I am I refused to have that word change in meaning for myself; I have always been a feminist and will continue to identify as one but will also point out the distinction and intersectionality is a perfect word to sum that up.

How does white feminism affect our lives as WoC/disabled women/trans women? I joined Twitter at the same time as some of our big white feminist names. We started off raising awareness of the same things. They got a lot more attention than me but I refused to see it instead believing it to be a joint effort; who cares which of us are seen as long as we achieve equality? Then one day I wrote a blog about the woman who died as a result of gang rape in India. It spread very quickly and I received a lot of praise and support. A few people suggested I send it to Helen Lewis, they believed it was just the sort of thing that needed publishing; the opinion of a woman of colour with a foot in both worlds. Perhaps where I went wrong in this piece was my appeal to white feminists to stop othering the issues WoC face because of this belief that it happens to someone else over in that other brutal country full of savages (where the brown folk live). Helen said she’d read it and found it interesting but had already commissioned an Indian woman to write about India’s problems. She proved my point and did it brazenly. Did she think I was stupid or is she really that ignorant? Since then however the white fems I’d allied myself with have written for the big publications. They’ve wasted everyone’s time with their ridiculous self-serving campaigns. They have the support of all the important white men in power. All hail white feminism and how it strives for equality for all white women.. Wait, no, it doesn’t even do that. Sure there are some Marxist feminists in their ranks but most of them are yet to utter the words austerity or food bank.

They go from the blatantly obvious prejudice and white supremacy to misogyny as soon as they find their feet. Some are quick off the mark and proud of their bigotry, others are afraid they’ll fall out of favour, people pleasers if I’m going to be generous, cowards if I’m brutally honest. Yet when they do, it’s a wonder they ever felt the need to preserve their good names; they have such a spectacular fall from grace, it’s cringe inducing.

What the fuck kind of feminist comes up with the term ‘smug sexual’? What would you rather, that we were ‘lacking in self-esteem sexuals’? How about ‘humble sexuals’? Will that make us worthy? It isn’t enough that – regardless of colour etc. – as women we all endure slut shaming and abuses because we are either saints or whores; and if we are whores and damn well enjoy it then we face the condemnation of our white sisters? Fuck off.

I thought better of you white fence sitting sisters. That’s why you were on my blogroll, but you’re just like the rest. I don’t feel disappointment anymore; those feels are so last year. No, I’m bitter and I know it because I should have learned by now. I saw you, and your alliances but foolish optimist that I am, I didn’t trust my own judgement. You complain that we’ve fractured feminism and the golden age is done; for you my white fem cister it probably is but intersectionality? Well, it’s thriving and there are many more like me. Not the me that was so desperate for a place in your superior feminisms but the others you abandoned also, and together we’re making equality a reality.

A big fat thank you for nothing, cisters, we’re going make up for it by having lots of smug sex and eat cake and drink gin. You’re just jealous.

Why I Won’t Shut Up

One of Helen Lewis’ little soldiers, Jonathan Haynes asked if I ever got bored of my own tweets today and if I’m honest, yes Jonathan, I do get tired of having to defend myself against a load of dishonest bullshit that should have been laid to rest months ago. I’ve had people accuse me of keeping it alive when a quick Google search of my name will show that actually, it’s the boyskep fanclub keeping it going these days. Not to mention the edited Storify version of events that was republished in April even though Helen herself said on the 23rd January 2012 at 2.57pm:

“Sorry to hear that Sam. I’ve made my point, so I’m happy to take the Storify down if you want.”

She apologised because she acknowledged at that point that I was on some industrial strength pain relief and had accepted my mistake without prompt and furthermore the matter had been clarified and resolved by way of an apology. It should have ended there, no? Well now, if it was Caitlin Moran who’d made (one of her truly horrendous) booboos, we should accept the incident without question and move on cos that’s the decent thing to do.. So why was I not afforded the same decency? I was deeply embarrassed by my false allegation. I also understood what it meant. But it doesn’t change the way they’ve written the script does it?

When Caitlin apologises it’s because thousands of people have to call her out on it. She, or one of her many minions, will then dole out a half arsed explanation for why she said something and how she’s sorry people feel that way but ultimately she’s right and we all need to chillax. Without prompt this was the apology I issued to Mary Beard on realising my catastrophic mistake.

“Ok. I’m gonna apologise to @wmarybeard because I cannot find any evidence online of racism. I sent out a reactionary tweet & I apologise”

When Mary gracefully accepted, I responded, “my pleasure. It’s easy to spin out on twitter but that’s no excuse. Sincere apology.”

That should have been the end shouldn’t it?

But it wasn’t. Now tell me why not? When I ask if it cos I’m brown or a woman or any of the things that usually mean I’m disregarded, people are happy to point out it’s cos I’m thick as pig shit. If they thought they could bully me in this way, accuse me of being an attention seeker when all I’ve wanted is for people to be FUCKING HONEST, then they were wrong. See, I don’t care if there are some people out there who think that’s what I’m about. They don’t know me, they don’t know what I get up to, frankly I do not do the things I do for them.

I have a solution to all this aggro. I am quite happy to accept that a person may have learnt from their mistakes and to let them move on. Heck, if I hear a sincere enough apology from any of these people, I’m willing to live and let live. BUT that’s not the way it works and we all know this. My demands for an equal and just society mean we are treated in the same way. Being as equality right now means sharing oppression as opposed to sharing in privilege, I for one will not go away quietly when they fuck up, as they will, because when all is said and done, despite their reservations, we are all in fact, human. And deeply fallible.

My demands are clear, Helen: Delete the Storify as you reassured would be the case, apologise for republishing with malicious intent and publicly condemn the boyskep fanboys and their intense trolling of me, just like you would any other feminist.

The White Supremacist’s War on WoC (Trigger Warning)

I was thinking about writing this piece a week or so ago but was struggling to think of an introduction, there were many issues I felt I had to raise but couldn’t decide which would go first. You may have read ‘It’s not about me’ where I purged the horror of the injustice currently sweeping Britain, it was a response to all those critics who twist the points activists are trying to make into the delusional ramblings of a narcissist. Well, I think I made that point. It’s not about me; it is about all of us. If it happens to a random person on the street, it could happen to you. Unfortunately, it very recently happened to me too.

After a safe night with close friends, my best friend and I boarded a bus home. We were among the first to get on so we took the two seats closest to the front on the top deck. Usually, a male ally of ours escorts us home from wherever we are, at great cost to him. He lives about the furthest you can get from where we’re based. So on this occasion, we reassured him we’d be fine. Engrossed in conversation I felt safe with my female friend. We look after each other.

The bus slowly filled as the clubs closed their doors. Behind us, a young male started sniggering and leaned towards us to mumble something. Initially we just stared at him, trying to process what was happening. When he wouldn’t give up, I asked him to stop because he was interrupting an important conversation with my friend. This male was beige. Y’know, coloured. His right hand man was white. The two of them continued to goad us, with what I can’t even remember, because of what happened next. Scared and angry I raised my voice and announced these men were harassing us. The bus jeered. They told us to shut up and stop making a scene. Now raging on adrenalin, I told the man if he didn’t back off, I would have to smash him. Suddenly I was faced with a bus full of people who thought we were wrong. Shaking, my friend and I turned to sit but the boys would not let it drop. Spurred on by the reaction, they continued to swear at us. It was like a bad nightmare. How could this be real? And then the white man called me a paki.

I stopped for a second. Time slowed down. I looked at my bare legs, my uncovered hair and my then my friend’s face. (He didn’t, did he? Yeah, yeah he did. But what are you gonna do about it Sam?) I was thinking. Then I bellowed what he said to the rest of the bus. A crowd of white faces cheered, some white people looked awkward and the black man I picked out rolled his eyes in disbelief but then looked down at the floor. The white male lunged at my white friend and she pushed him back. Both of them were on their feet about to attack us.

Seating on the seats adjacent to us were a young male and female. They were strangers but had been making gender appropriate chit chat. The male suddenly shot up and told us we should leave the bus. I responded not a fucking chance in hell and the boys would have to leave. We compromised when the strange couple swapped seats with us. The young woman, outwardly appearing white middle class attempted to sympathise “Well, I’m Jewish so I know how it feels” but she was one of the ones laughing when it was all kicking off. She overheard me talking to my friend about the unacceptable thing that had just happened and defended herself by saying it was nervous laughter. Dunno about you but I have never laughed when ANYONE has been racially abused. Could she have white privilege?

I’m not going to report this to Tell Mama UK. Y’see I’m not Muslim. I’m just brown. I wonder how many other non-Muslim people have had to endure an attack like that. I’ve received the odd tweet and word about friends and friends of friends having to defend themselves but how many other PoC are facing this kind of persecution? How many do not report? How many suffer in silence? I have respect for the organisation for making some of us aware of what is happening but I probably can’t turn the other cheek, ever. I am hoping that standing up to these pricks will make them think twice about harassing another woman ever again. A man ‘splained to me once how we were making it worse for ourselves by fighting back. No. If we don’t, we maintain the status quo. Granted, some people find it more difficult than others and there are reasons why some people can’t but I for one will shout and scream when my personal space is invaded. My body and time is mine. Random strange men do not have an automatic right to me.

What is it about men that allows them to behave towards women of colour in this way? My friend was also abused, no doubt, but she acknowledged the additional traumatic stress of racism. The two pronged attack that WoC contend with on a daily basis. They hurt us because we are women but also because we are not white. They see us as being relatively vulnerable compared to white women. They see us as easy pickings.

When the fascists attacked the pregnant Muslim woman in Paris, she appealed to them for the sake of her unborn child. They responded by kicking her repeatedly in the stomach. How could the foetus survive? I wonder if there is a huge Catholic campaign against fascists kicking unborn babies out of Muslim bellies. If there is, I’ll be happy to hear it exists. Preserve those lives that are wanted.

However, it is worrying that the pregnant woman in Paris has become the focus of all the media regarding attacks on Muslims. Google ‘Muslim woman attacked’ and every story is about the forced miscarriage. Google ‘Muslim attacked’ and bar one or two incidents, the focus is still on the same story. When our sister in India lost her life to a brutal gang rape, the media reported very little on other rapes and most people believed it was India’s problem. Rapists did not stop raping, the media stopped reporting. It sensationalised a single case. That is what is happening now; Muslims and other non-whites like me are being attacked but as long as the problem lies with one pregnant woman in France, we can ignore it. Except how many people know she wasn’t the only Muslim woman to have suffered in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil? I wonder what happened to the other three.

What about the 212 victims in the UK? We know some of them were mosques but I’d be interested to see the male/female ratio. There have been seventeen incidents of assault including 11 cases where racists attempted to remove Islamic clothing. I wonder if they are all women too.

This assault on women of colour, this war they have constructed, it is iniquitous. People in power, stop expecting those oppressed to find better ways of defending themselves and banish those who seek to oppress them.

Or else admit you “literally couldn’t give a shit about it”.

These are my privileges

Towards the end of last year I was hit with a couple of uncomfortable truths. My immediate reaction was to balk at the suggestions and defend myself with what I thought were righteous assertions. The first, that I as a British Asian woman had the right to feel suspicious of Muslim men as a result of the hounding I had been subjected to my entire life and secondly, there was no way my age could be considered a privilege because I had spent most of those years running away from my complete lack of said privilege. I also hadn’t completely got to grips with my cis privilege and didn’t know how to react to a trans woman of colour attacking me for alienating her. I didn’t know what I had done wrong and felt it was unnecessary. But I was willing to learn. And the reason for this is because I respected the people highlighting these issues with me and I wanted us to feel equal.

I did not want to rubbish the opinions of the people I respect even if my immediate reaction was one of disagreement. It was one of my new found intersectional friends who pointed it out to me. It was easy to reject his analysis because he was a university educated white male and it felt a little bit like control. His manner was unforgiving and he sounded like all the other men who have ever told me I was wrong. I was distrusting of this guy because he felt a university education was not a privilege. Lacking a formal education myself, I disagreed. But then another of my fledgling friends said the same thing. We were from similar backgrounds so when she said it, I had the realisation that I couldn’t ignore this, I would have to tackle my prejudices. I had to realise the world for the vast space that it is. Taking into account the meta narrative, the way in which ethnic minorities and in particular, Islam is portrayed was a good start. We are socialised into feeling a certain way about a group. Growing up, a community of a few hundred Muslim men made my life a misery. Add to this the monstering of Asian men and Islam, especially post 9/11 and it’s hardly surprising I would feel this way. I could not hold billions of people responsible for the community I belonged to. And I should reject the world as it is presented to me by the ruling classes. The predominantly white ruling classes.

The privilege of age was one it took a while to get my head around. I feel like I’ve only really been alive for a couple of years, savouring the little things that make life worth living is a relatively new thing for me. Up until the point of my breakdown I was merely surviving. I resisted the notion that I was privileged just because I’d a few more years on this earth. But then, watching my young friend and the ways in which she is ignored, undermined, caricaturised and only because she was 17, I began to understand what she meant. I made a promise to myself that I would make an extra effort to hear what she had to say, actively giving her a platform before others. It’s difficult because the hierarchical structures we have in place are entrenched in our way of thinking, because we have life experience we are ‘older and wiser’ but this isn’t necessarily true. We can always think and feel a bit better. We do not know everything.

When a trans woman of colour found me on Twitter and flew into a rage before we’d even been introduced, my immediate reaction was one of fear. I didn’t understand what was happening and I was really working on the whole privilege thing so couldn’t understand why she was so angry. I was afraid that I had done/said something but could not recall anything obvious and this worried me. Had I been abusive or dismissive and not noticed? I asked my trans* friends and they explained that as white trans women, life was difficult enough, being a trans woman of colour made you invisible. I was reassured that I had said nothing wrong. I worked at understanding her reaction. I’d been through life feeling as though I didn’t exist and I had been that angry too. To the outside world it might have seemed misplaced but not in my mind. Why couldn’t anyone see me and make it better?

It is your white friends that give you an idea of what it is to feel like a whole person. For a system to work you need compliance. If, from birth, you are treated as less, you will believe it your whole life through. I know I did. It’s why I remained in abusive relationships. It’s why I went out with white men who openly treated me like a brown trophy. It is my white (thoroughly human) friends who made me aware of this. The ways in which we are treated, the things that are said to us are simply intolerable to people have been brought up free (read: white). My friends show me when I am being subtly manipulated or treated in a substandard way. Of course when I am routinely stopped at airports I am instantly aware of how I am being treated differently.

I have always felt the power structure and even though it’s not been in my best interests, I have been somewhat resistant to it. The white saviour men have been washed out of my hair. The white friends who are proud to be British show themselves for the colonial masters that they are.  I was that special Asian, the one white people warmed to “you’re not like all the others”. I had a raging distrust of my own kind; I believed what they said in the papers. Y’see, in this country we get a wave of immigration and all the immigrants that came before are eager to show how they’re not like those work shy scroungers. Britain is at its best when it’s dividing and ruling. And I totally bought it for almost 30 years. I liked being a white pet and enjoyed the privileges it afforded; less overt racism than my peers. My Asian peers didn’t like this; I was accused of wanting to be white.  Luckily for me, I have a conscience and it was only a matter of time before it dawned on me that I was just like the rest and in denying this, was a question of my own integrity.

I also found that a lot of white people will never see you as anything but brown. They are actively encouraged to be proud of their empirical heritage. Like rape, war, genocide is easily forgiven when Britain is so ‘welcoming’ to the people of its former colonies. Mind you behave how they want you to though. You are not allowed a culture, an opinion without it being heavily scrutinised for terrorism. Someone called me a fool recently for saying the white man I had been engaged to was racist. He laughed at me once when I came down wearing a pair of mismatched pyjamas. He thought it was a ‘very Asian’ thing to do. HOW? The white brain thinks all of your quirks are attributed to the colour of your skin. Never mind the fact that he was in my bed, he pointed out every little thing that made me Asian. The hair on my body, the time I rubbed his feet, the bond that I had with my family; ALL ASIAN. When you are that obsessed by someone’s race, it is fair to say you might be racist. Especially when you think having an Asian fiancé is winning one back for the team. Well, those Asian boys love a bit of white meat, it’s only fair. If I hadn’t been seriously mentally unwell at the time, I wouldn’t have given him a second look. I don’t regret it though, he taught me a lot about this world.

I’ve had many a white person challenge the racism I have experienced in the past week. They’ve been looking for the P word or the N word and because they haven’t seen any evidence of it, I must be lying and using the race card. Racism and prejudice is not limited to language but rather the way in which we’re made to experience the world. It’s how they make us feel. There hasn’t been anything unusual about the manner in which I’ve been ridiculed or challenged. It is word for word the same as it has always been. Remember it is not your intention, but how you make somebody feel. If you have any respect or love for your critics, you are willing to change or at least think about it from their angle. My anger and my reactions have come as a result of feeling deeply disrespected and unwanted.

The onus is not on me, the oppressed, to make amends.