This week the Tories continue gaslighting people of colour and Britain wants its Empire back
In this Race Review, Sana reflects on Tories gaslighting people of colour and breaks down the results of a new YouGov poll which suggests that one third of Brits still want an empire.
Sana Noor Haq
16 Mar 2020
I hope you’re having a nice start to the week. In today’s Race Review, we’re considering the repercussions of the Tory government gaslighting marginalised people and breaking down a new report from YouGov, which suggests that 33% of Britons are nostalgic for the Empire.
REFLECT: The Tories continue to deny the oppression faced by marginalised folk
Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen numerous instances of Boris Johnson’s Tory government denying the existence of racism within their party, whilst still engaging in it.
On 4 March, Labour MP Dawn Butler appeared on a panel on the BBC’s Politics Live programme alongside Conservative MP Laura Trott. Dawn had to face Laura telling her that calling the Conservative narrative racist is “rude and offensive”, verging on “outrageous”. Despite obvious gaslighting, Dawn maintained her stance with poise and conviction.
In a similar incident later last week in Parliament, during PMQs, the MP for Bradford West Naz Shah was jeered at by Tory politicians in Westminster for calling out 300 complaints of Islamophobia and issues antisemitism in their party.
Referencing the anxieties of Muslim people in her constituency, Naz addressed Boris Johnson directly, asking him how he wasn’t an “Islamophobe”. Of course, she was met with an inane and thoughtless response from the Prime Minister, who said, “There is absolutely no room for hatred or racism in this party, in our Conservative Party and I wish I could say the same for her own party.”
If the Tories continue to deliberately ignore the systematic oppression faced by marginalised people on a day-to-day basis, their policies will reflect their dismissive and discriminatory attitude. To quote the author Son of Baldwin, “your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist”.
REPORT: Nearly a third of British people still want an empire
Over the past few years a slew of right-wing nationalist political movements, including the Brexit campaign and Boris Johnson’s Tory government, have kindled nostalgia for empire amongst modern British society.
Therefore it is unsurprising that nearly one-third of Britons would still like to have an empire, according to a recent YouGov survey. The same poll states that 32% of respondents think Britain’s imperial history is “something to be proud of”.
Business and Human Rights specialist Olivia Windham Stewart is one of the three co-founders of the Museum of British Colonialism (MBC), alongside Susan Kibaara and Tayiana Chao. MBC is a grassroots organisation that aims to make erased colonial history visible through archival work and research.
“Our identity as a nation was largely predicated on the presence of our empire, so the loss of empire was profound for the UK, which we haven’t processed,” she told gal-dem. “I’m very cautious about using the term ‘historical amnesia’, because I think that the act of forgetting has been much more active.”
Since Britain withdrew its imperial jurisdiction from former colonies, the establishment has actively tried to erase the horrors of empire, for example by omitting parts of history from the national curriculum.
Student-led campaigns such as Decolonise Sussex raise awareness of the complex and varied legacies of racism and imperialism, holding institutions to account and challenging Eurocentric visions of academia.
Based in the University of Sussex, campaigners including 20-year-old Khadija Hossain believe that we need to uphold a factual, unsanitised account of empire. “Decolonising this history is always a thorny issue because it demands Britain to 1) recognise its history of violent exploitation and racism that is still perpetuated today, even though this poll suggests that is unlikely to happen, 2) the labour of decolonising knowledge often falls onto black and brown shoulders – it is usually unpaid, emotional, and slow to see progress,” she told gal-dem.
The organisation facilitates decolonial activism, creating a network of solidarity in the process. She added: “It’s critical to do this work horizontally with teachers, lecturers and academics. This work shouldn’t be co-opted by senior/university management where they can turn our work into tick-box exercises and dilute our demands.”
In order to dismantle over three centuries worth of history, we need to ensure that the collective decolonisation of history takes inside and outside the curriculum, in spaces of education like museums, TV and film, literature and popular culture.
• Christie Elan-Cane, who has been campaigning for social and legal recognition of non-gendered people for nearly 30 years, has lost a legal challenge against the government over gender-neutral passports.
• Officials from the Trump administration are finalising plans to send more than 2,000 asylum seekers to El Salvador who cross the southern border without authorization. This is just another example of why we need to create safer routes for migrants to be able to cross borders.
• Speaking in Parliament on International Women’s Day, Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price called for a law to keep trans women out of women-only spaces, saying that the part of the Equality Act 2010 about single-sex spaces needs revision.
• Simone Biles underlined her call for an independent investigation into convicted child molester Larry Nassar after USA Gymnastics wished her a happy birthday. Nassar was sentenced up to 300 years in prison after charges of child pornography and sexual misconduct after more than 150 women and girls testified against him.
• A taxicab driver in Egypt kicked an Asian man out of their taxi as passersby also mocked him, shouting “corona, corona”. This is one of a string of incidents in which South East Asian people have been racially abused in connection to the coronavirus.
• The UK media watchdog Ofcom have rejected over 300 complaints that Dave’s fab performance at this year’s Brit Awards was racist to white people. Ofcom said the performance was “likely to be within most viewers’ expectations of this well-established awards ceremony”.
• The Tories continue to fail ethnic minorities in Britain. In August 2018 the Home Office issued 21-year-old Osime Brown a removal notice on the basis of a series of criminal offences he committed as a teenager. Osime is autistic and is currently in jail, where he has been self-harming.
• The Kuwaiti Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs stated that daily prayers held each day will be cancelled until further notice due to the spread of the coronavirus. During the call to prayer, the muezzin told people to pray in their homes instead of coming to the mosque.
• A new report from the Race Equality Foundation shows that people from BAME communities have unequal mental health care compared to their white peers. The data found that ethnic minority patients have a greater chance of being offered medication as opposed to talking therapies.
• Women in Mexico have been protesting against instances of femicide in the country, of which there has been more than 380 this year. Whilst official data has not been released for this year, previous counts show that in 2019, 1,006 women were killed because of their gender.
• A 19-year-old boy who used to play for Manchester United’s youth development team said he was attacked by security guards and left with a fractured eye socket as he tried to get to his job at the ground. Kamarl Nelson was allegedly called a “slave” and hit by guards in an allegedly racist attack.
• Sex workers are facing financial loss due to people’s fears of contracting the coronavirus. Many have said that they are losing thousands of dollars due to cancelled conferences, travel restrictions and people’s fears of being in public spaces.
• A Palestinian teenager was shot and subsequently died in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Israeli security forces opened fire to disperse crowds protesting against Israeli settlers. The boy was identified as 15-year-old Mohammed Hamayel.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Our very own CEO and Founder Liv Little appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 for Media & Marketing alongside Amaliah’s co-founder and CEO Nafisa Bakkar. Whilst making these lists is not a definitive measure of success, it’s wonderful to know that the amazing work being done by women of colour is being recognised.