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This week, the UN cracks down on Myanmar’s genocide and a climate activist takes on racist news

The Race Review is back, and gal-dem writer Rosel Jackson Stern rounds up all the news you need to know in pop culture, politics and beyond.

27 Jan 2020

Welcome back to the Race Review! My name is Rosel and I’ll be your news writer in residence every other week, giving you all the details of race-related matters you may have celebrated, missed or just avoided entirely. In this edition, we’ll be tackling the ruling by the International Criminal Justice (ICJ) to protect Rohingya Muslims and what gives us hope in the face of climate change.

REFLECT: The end is nigh

Between the outbreak of Coronavirus, Kenya’s worst locust infestation in 70 years and the UK-Africa summit settling 90% of energy deals in fossil fuels, you’d be forgiven for catastrophising. 

However, it’s the efforts of climate activists like Vanessa Nakate that serve as a shot in the arm to turn despair into resolve. After being unfairly cropped out of a photo with the rest of her white peers at the World Economic Forum in Davos by Associated Press, she hit back against racist reporting of the event. Vanessa started and co-ordinated the first climate strikes in Uganda, tirelessly advocating for how climate change will affect her community. 

This omission from a newswire (where most outlets get their news from) means that she had essentially been cut out of the narrative, a perfect demonstration of how outside the narrow glare of what the media deems newsworthy black women are doing amazing, transformational work. Thank god for the double-edged sword that is the internet for affording Vanessa a voice to tell her truth. Let this be a lesson to dig deeper into news and diversify your sources.

REPORT: The UN’s highest court rules in favour of Rohingya Muslims

In November, The Gambia filed a case to the ICJ, the UN’s highest court, aginst the government in Myanmar for breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention in its treatment of Rohingya Muslims. More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled the majority Buddhist country whose military and paramilitary affiliates have inflicted mass killings, sexual violence and widespread arson upon them. 

Pending an official ruling, the ICJ has imposed “provisional measures” meaning that the Myanmar government is legally obliged to ensure the protection of the religious and ethnic minorities. While the case is ongoing, Myanmar must regularly report to the courts on how they are abiding by the ruling. Perhaps most significantly, the ruling recognises the identity of Rohingya Muslims and their right to safety, the denial of which has enabled government-led oppression and ethnic cleansing.

Putting a chink in the genocidal armour of all nation-states, the case sets an important precedent. It affirms that genocide and crimes against humanity can be brought before the court by any nation-state, not just those directly affected. “Now all the perpetrators across the world will be quite worried because any country can actually take up the matter,” said Dr Mohammad Shahabuddin, reader in International Law and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham. He told gal-dem that “if Myanmar does not follow the ICJ’s decision, the UN itself has the legal right to take punitive measures”.

Activist and co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, Ro Nay San Lwin, is confident that the government will abide by the ruling for this reason. “They don’t want the country in trouble. There are a lot of countries behind (this ruling). The Gambia is not alone,” he explained. However, the fight to end Myanmar’s tyranny is far from over. “So far, the US and the EU has failed to impose sanctions. The day before the ICJ hearing, we launched the Boycott Myanmar campaign. We will go ahead with this campaign to stop all the investment to the country.”

Since the ruling came through on Thursday, the government have continued to deny that any genocide has taken place. 


• In a recent exhibition showcasing protestors in the 2017 Women’s March, The National Archives and Records Administration doctored images to remove critical messages of Donald Trump.  

Pose star Dyllón Burnside reminded us that queerness is a superpower in an acceptance speech for the Human Rights Commission’s Visibility Award. 

• In related news, Billy Porter livened up the Grammy’s in a custom motorised hat by Sarah Sokol.

• A survey conducted by Plan International UK found that more than a third of girls between the ages of 14-21 have been sexually harassed in school. 

Lisa Nandy took on Piers Morgan’s racist and misogynist diatribe of Meghan Markle asking the presenter how he could know anything about suffering injustice as a person of colour. 

• Angela Rayner proved that she apparently has no problem pandering to racists in her advocacy for educational reform.  

• Stonewall has launched a programme to train young queer people of colour in campaigning. You can apply here. 

• MP Zarah Sultana took the Conservatives to task on the crippling student debt working-class people must take on to afford a university education. A shining light otherwise disheartening parliamentary politics. She penned her mission for change on gal-dem this week.

• Jess Philips withdrew from the Labour leadership campaign. As she’s an alleged TERF sympathiser who bragged (and lied) about telling Diane Abbott to “fuck off” during a parliamentary meeting, I’m not sorry to see her go. 

• Rates of preventable deaths in custody have reached historic highs according to a new report published by Inquest. Recommendations from coroners, ombudsmen and inspectors are being routinely ignored by the government. 

• Reminding us that billionaires are a plague on this earth, Africa’s richest woman has come under criminal investigation for nepotism and corruption following the Luanda Leaks. Isabel dos Santos made her wealth while chairing the nation state’s oil company while her father was president of Angola.


Co-creator of Pose, Steven Canals, has signed a deal with 20th Century Fox TV to create more shows for us to enjoy. No news is uncomplicated and it’s not lost on me that the corporation is home to the right-wing despot back slapper that is Fox News. Until we tear down American media conglomerates, brown and queer creators getting a platform and money to tell their stories is exciting.