In this edition of the Race Review, we digest Jameela Jamil’s unsavoury coming out, the government’s refusal to discuss why terrorist attacks really happen and black women kickstarting the fitness festival of our dreams.
Let’s take it away!
REFLECT: Rainbow capitalism goes wild
Every once in a while, celebrities have a meltdown on social media to protect their bag. This week, it was Jameela Jamil. When announced as a judge on HBO’s upcoming voguing competition series Legendary, the Good Place star faced warranted backlash having no experience in ballroom or of ballroom culture. She doubled down on her position claiming to use her platform, i.e privilege, to elevate the ballroom scene and came out as queer in the same statement.
By essentially saying “HEY! Actually… I’m queer sO I CanT Be WRonG”, Jameela deflected valid criticism by weaponising her queerness for commercial purposes. She is not the first celebrity to come out when having something to sell — Jonathan Van Ross similarly came out as non-binary during a partnership with essie nail polish. The circumstances in which celebrities reveal their identity doesn’t invalidate their queerness but suggest that it can only be accessed through cynical, capitalist means. In Jameela’s case, coming out to avoid being held accountable makes sense in a paradigm of antiblack capitalism, the mechanisms of which built her platform in the first place.
This particular debacle hammered home to me that proximity to an experience does not give you license to capitalise on it with impunity. To put it bluntly, give the ballroom community their things. Give trans women their things. Give black queer people their things.
REPORT: The Tories try to rush through emergency terrorism law
The Tory governments repeated attempts to forgo human rights in place of punitive counter-terrorism policies are hardly surprising at this point. Even when their own research proves that these tactics are ineffective, Priti Patel continues to advocate for hardline measures to tackle “radicalised youth”. Most recently, the government is attempting to pass emergency legislation to end early releases of those convicted of terrorist crimes. The law follows the Steatham attacks last Sunday, in which 20-year-old Sudesh Aaman stabbed two people in south London. If passed in parliament, prisoners convicted of terrorist laws would only be eligible for early release after serving at least two-thirds of their sentences and with the approval of the Parole Board.
The consequences of policies such as these are already felt. “Prison in of itself, based on the work that we have been doing, is a violent place. It absolutely dehumanises people, especially if you’re from a marginalised community,” said Raheel Mohammed, director of Maslaha, a charity dedicated to combatting the inequalities faced by Muslims in the UK. In the past 17 years, the number of Muslim prisoners has more than doubled. In 2002 there were 5,502 Muslims in prison. By 2019, this number had risen to 13,341. “This legislation is an example of another form of violence,” Raheel asserted. “Leaving people longer in prison and estranged from families isn’t going to help solve any problem.”
Attacks like the one in Streatham, London Bridge or in London Fishmongers Hall become a platform on which right-wing politicians can mobilise and pander to a moral panic. “Terrorism is always a very convenient way to help people forget all sorts of political developments that are happening vis a vie the economy, public bodies, austerity,” explained Tarek Younis, a critical psychologist and ethnographer at Middlesex University. It’s not just that tough on crime narratives distract the general public, but they also serve to push national discourse away from asking questions about the real causes of these attacks and normalises PREVENT. “In this day and age where the hardline is throwing away the key and the middle ground appears to be prediction and prevention efforts, it’s really all centred around governance,” Tarek told gal-dem.
“This response will have a knock-on impact on how prison staff reacts to Muslim prisoners,” Raheel said. In researching the experiences of Muslims in prison, Maslaha has found that guidelines explicitly stating that people in prison must be allowed to practice their religion aren’t always followed and that Muslims are being dehumanised as a result. “We’re creating further problems for ourselves as a society by exacerbating that violence.” The government’s emergency law could be passed as early as 27 February.
• The High Table, a debut play from Temi Wilkey, is opening at The Bush Theatre this week. The play is an epic family drama played out between the heavens and earth as Tara tries to bring her wedding to her girlfriend Leah back on track after her parents refuse to attend.
• In this chapter of the whites doing the bare minimum, Joaquin Phoenix addressed systemic racism during the BAFTAs last Sunday.
• Journalists staged a walkout after 10 Downing Street excluded what they considered left-wing reporters and journalists critical of the government.
• While critiquing the Tories for undermining the free press, Labour MP Tracy Brabin was criticised for her outfit revealing her shoulder. Who cares about endangering our democracy when we could just hate women instead?
• The BBC confused MP Marsha de Cordova with Dawn Butler in a report on last week in another eye-watering blunder. Dawn’s reflected on the incidents in an op-ed for gal-dem.
• An independent inquiry found that breast surgeon Ian Paterson was able to conduct botched and unnecessary operations in part due to staff of the NHS and private hospitals turning a blind eye.
• Thousands of medical staff in Hong Kong went on strike to urge the government to completely seal the border to mainland China in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
• Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Donald Trump’s speech on national television during his State of the Union address.
• Naomi Campbell jumped on Beyonce’s internet to proclaim Black History Month (currently taking place in the US) as a chance to “celebrate the history, life and accomplishments of people of color”.
• Megan Thee Stallion trolled us by posting a video suggesting she was dating G-Eazy. The certified Hot Girl™ has clearly got jokes.
• It’s not even April fool’s yet and Prince Charles already decided to appoint Katy Perry as British Asian trust ambassador.
• Billie Eilish gave the hot take nobody asked for, summarising hip hop and rap as: “‘I got my AK-47, and I’m fuckin”.
• Ancestry DNA, the largest DNA testing company in the world, was issued with a search warrant from the Pennsylvania courts. Law enforcement wanted access to the database to find suspects. Refusing to comply, the company has vowed to protect customer privacy.
• The US Senate decided not to remove Donald Trump from office. The acquittal means he’s officially impeached but will still be acting president.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Personal trainers Lorraine Russel and Donna Noble are crowdfunding to bring the UK’s first fitness festival for black people. The aim is to raise £15,000 for NoireFitFest – a one day, free to attend festival for all fitness and skill levels, bringing together seasoned professionals and influencers.