southall black sisters

Stop right there Hundal

It was 2008 and I was at an awards show for the Asian entertainment industry. I was the girlfriend of a magazine editor and we got all the invites going. Sunny Hundal was relatively unknown then. He had a couple of forums through which I’d met my then partner, and was well known in the nepotistic world of Asian media. They knew him as the IT geek done good and I guess some were secretly bewildered they’d underestimated his prowess.

I liked him in those days. I thought he was doing something important for Asian people by getting them involved in politics and providing a hub where professionals could network. I even stuck up for him when the others sneered at his success. I looked up to him and that is the only reason I did not slap him in the face when he proposed I go undercover for an expose of the national domestic violence charity, Refuge. At the time Southall Black Sisters were under threat of closure because Ealing Council decided that there was no longer a need for a culturally sensitive service and the contract should be given to someone more inclusive, like Refuge. I was as dismayed and shocked as the rest that a national charity with miles more funding than this small set up would present themselves as competition like this. I assumed Sunny was upset by this also and so I shared my negative experiences of when I had temped for them. I wasn’t immediately angry when he suggested I could go undercover for him. I was annoyed at the kyriarchal oppression playing out, on this occasion there was no solidarity from the white women but it was only when I went away to think of what Sunny was asking me to do that I decided it was harmful and maybe his intentions were not so sincere.

Here’s the thing, if I’d done that for him I would have risked putting the wellbeing of many thousands of women at risk. I might have had my issues with the management but I could not let this affect the fate of the service users. This is when I showed my solidarity to feminism as a whole, regardless of the way they’d attempted to sell others like me down the river. We never spoke of it again until the past year when, frustrated at Sunny’s liberal white feminism and his complete inability to recognise his own straw man presentations, I challenged him just like I would anyone else. How did Sunny respond? Well, first he laughed at me for being someone nobody believes on account of the one false allegation of racism I made in my entire life. Thanks for the solidarity ‘comrade’. When I responded with the above account, he GASLIGHTED me and said I had approached him, suggesting this was just sour grapes cos he’s so successful yo. He blatantly did this because he knows he has a following and I have already been hung up to dry as a liar. What he doesn’t know is that I don’t bow to this kind of bullying, really and if anything, I am not going to let him forget.

How dare the BBC approach him for a quote regarding the feminist hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick? To my understanding this was a hashtag where Asian women could discuss the ways in which Asian women are controlled, by the white majority but also men of colour. Why then is Sunny happy to jump on to his PR friendly soap box and speak for me and others like me? I’m not surprised at the BBC; this is patriarchy at its very best. Wanna talk about abortion? Bring in the menz. Wanna talk about teen pregnancy? Well, we haven’t heard from any men lately.

It is not the BBC I hold responsible here, it is Hundal. He could just say no, y’know? He doesn’t though and that’s something we have to think about.

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We are human, not illegal

With the racist UKBA ‘go home’ campaign escalating in recent weeks, local community groups have been communicating a need to confront the scrutiny that people of colour, among them British citizens with full British passports have been facing and the threat of increasing controls and the impact this will have on our futures. Of course in these situations, it is obvious that we will look to an organisation that knows how to tackle this kind of oppression. Southall Black Sisters have been supporting women of colour since 1979 and whether they have challenged violence in the home or recurring racism from the UK home office, they have been radical in their approach and it is because of this they have achieved results and notoriety, for being black and for simply not shutting up when told to, even if at one time that might have been from the white majority. They got angry about the virginity tests women like my mother were probably subjected to in the early 80s and have fought for the rights of women with no recourse to public funds. They struggle over 30 years on.

I was proud to stand side by side with them today. As we walked to the demonstration point, I couldn’t at first see anyone because of the police vans; I felt the familiar knot in my stomach at their presence but from the other side there seemed only to be a few officers. One of the vans had mobile CCTV emblazoned on it. We heard them before we saw them, vuvuzelas making a god awful din and chanting “ukba, go away”; it sounded promising. I recognised a couple of faces from training that I’d had through my job as a domestic abuse worker; it’s always exciting to be with people you admire. A young woman played a dhol whilst another couple lead the chants with their megaphones. Apart from the few greying officers who seemed annoyed at having to stand there and watch us, it was a good demo. Many of the cars driving past honked their horns in support although there were a few fascists foaming at the mouth  as they struggled to say all of the swears at once. That will never fail to shock me, that there are people out there who don’t know who you are, but the very presence or cheek of speaking up sends ripples of fear through them. It will always be bizarre.

The police, while few in numbers were no less irritating or evasive than usual. After a copper threatened possible arrest for swearing in the street, one righteous sister replied that her abusers would never be arrested for verbally attacking her in the street. He seemed to shrink back. I asked a black woman officer what she thought of the demo and she responded she literally hadn’t given it a thought, in the least convincing way possible. As I began to explain that when the fascists take over, she, just like the rest of us will be evicted, a white male officer asked if he could speak with her and then they both walked off in opposite directions, not making any secret of the fact that he’d ‘saved’ her.

We had a decent turn out but unsurprisingly, the people I have been appealing to the last few weeks weren’t there. I can’t say I am surprised, or disappointed, it is just what it is. We haven’t won, this is only the beginning. The anti-fascist network is growing and as one of our sisters reminded us, we have been here before, we can fight them again.

Solidarity.

Calling all well-meaning white feminists

You may have noticed the recent surge in racist fascist behaviour, both on our streets and in our government (I say may cos you don’t seem to talk about it much) and wondered what you can do to help your non-white sisters, seeing as they are more often than not targeted by those boneheaded thugs cos of the whole patriarchal power and control dynamic thing. I know how much it bothers you when the government cuts funding to crucial services for women or forces women into taking less well paid and infrequent work owing to public sector redundancies and I commend your struggle to ensure we don’t turn the clocks back to Victorian times. I know I got a little snarky about Jane Austen but I sort of got the intention behind it and would have been a little more charitable if you at least tried to understand my perspective.

You see, I’ve been a feminist ever since I discovered the word that described my feelings about the state of the world. I embraced the principles because in my naivety I believed it fought for all women. I believed this until not very long ago where I was forced to acknowledge the differences in what we were trying to achieve. Of course the first thing I noticed was the language and manner in which our trans* sisters were rejected and ridiculed. It sounded deeply patriarchal and problematic to me. It surprises me that I hadn’t even considered the ways in which WoC are often sold down the river, maybe there was an unhealthy denial there but I had to confront it when women I had considered friends were suddenly behaving like privileged white men. It’s a good thing I did because I suddenly became aware of how white centric all the campaigns were and how WoC were pitied not supported in their struggles.

Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe there are some of you who genuinely want to help ALL women but just don’t know how without coming across as a white saviour with a better plan of action. Maybe you want to help but just don’t know where to begin. I will tell you, make it really simple so that you don’t have to worry about offending anyone.

  • Turn up wherever women need for you to be
  • Bring your shouting voice
  • Listen to the people organising the event and trust they know what they’re doing

That’s really all there is to it. Bearing this in mind, I am SURE you will want to support this worthy feminist cause. Southall Black Sisters are having a demonstration against the racist UKBA at their Hounslow office. Not content with bullying and harassing people of colour for no other reason than the colour of their skin regardless of immigration status, the UKBA has been running a campaign bearing the slogan ‘go home’. These words have been used to racially abuse many of us; I first heard those words aged 6. Of course the UKBA can’t end that sentiment with Paki but that is what we all hear in our heads. They’re not just targeting overstayers/people with no legal right to remain, people with full British passports received texts from the border agency telling them to leave the country. Can’t you see why this is unacceptable?

If you believe equality is for all women then I don’t need to explain why you need to attend. If however, you don’t, and there are a lot more of you unwilling to even admit it then why the fuck would you even read this? Glutton much?

Join Southall Black Sisters on Thursday 24th October

Time: 10.30am-12.30

Address: Eaton House, 581 Staines Road, Hounslow, Middlesex TW4 5DL

See you there.