“I’m not protecting him, I’m protecting our kids. I was protecting their future, because I know the judge would not have saw what happened before. I was protecting their future.”
These are not the words of Patrick Robinson, the black man who literally rescued a white racist from the hands of some young black guys by putting him over his shoulder and carrying him to the police zone. Robinson was not alone; there were a group of guys out there keeping tabs on the situation and some of them were in the sub-group that tried – and succeeded – in protecting – this unnamed far-right protester. These words quoted above are from Jamaine Facey, who has nicely identified a very unpalatable truth: had that white man died, the fallout would have been unthinkable…
…right about the time the BBC has released Sitting in Limbo – 86 minutes of the most harrowing and blood-boiling drama I’ve seen for a long, long time (and all the more for it being true). The quietly inhumane way in which those members of the Windrush generation were treated by the Government who effectively put its collective knee on the necks of these people throughout their ordeal is too big for a simple word like ‘scandal’. Worse, the Government continue to remain in that same position by denying these people their compensation. We’re in 2020 and news articles about this injustice are still being published. For the Home Office, these black lives do not matter and I am saying quite categorically that Priti Patel is not going to do anything for the uneasy inter-ethnic-minority alliance between black people and southern Asians. I for one will never look at my British passport the same way as I have done since I first got one. I knew it was bad before; really bad. David Lammy’s speech was not easily forgotten. But to see this depiction was something else.
In light of all this, Colin Kaepernick’s name has come back to the foreground as the NFL have had to undertake one of the most humiliating climbdowns I can ever recall witnessing in my lifetime. It has been very easy for people to stick pins into Nike for their support of disgraced coach Alberto Salazar’s ‘Oregon Project’. Without glossing the moral and ethical issues involved in cheating in professional sport, even as a serious sports fan I submit that the emphasis placed on banning cheats that we have here in the UK – in light of the issues raised within this post and many more besides – is a grotesque misplacement of energy and focus. However, that is not the worst of the problems. Elsewhere I have written about how Bradley Wiggins showed a real lack of grace in castigating Mark Cavendish for his support of David Millar after Millar had served his ban and returned to cycling. Wiggins’ legacy now looks a lot less shiny than it did (houses glass, anyone?!). But it really saddens me to say that the one person – of mixed race – who had my unmitigated respect but has now lost that respect forever is the retired athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill.
One could almost say that this was a case of #FemaleLivesMatter – which of course makes the point that soundbytes and hashtags cannot bear the weight of the (pseudo-) profundity that our media-technology-addled society who need smartphones to remember their own surnames and possess the concentration skills of dead gnats tries to imbricate into them. Yes, it is true that Ched Evans had been convicted for rape. Yes, it is true that Ennis-Hill was not the only high profile person who threatened to withdraw support from Sheffield United. But let’s avoid the disturbingly juvenile ad hominem arguments like the one made by Barbara Ellen and think like adults: what is the point of not killing convicted criminals if – after they serve their time – we are going to treat them as if they have not served their time and now could hopefully be given a second chance to live better? If we do not agree that some people can ever become more than they were, then what is the point of a prison system? Seriously?! We’re now back to George Floyd. Trump’s African-American poodle Candace Owens (this analogy is intentional – the woman has no idea what colour she is, but she’s no longer black) has spent more time than anyone else talking about the fact that Floyd had been in and out of jail. [It is amazing that so many people seem to have ignored this completely – they have understood that this was not the point as far as his death was concerned.] Why was Evans denied the right to serve his time and return to the only career he’d known while he still could? What planet do we live on when professional sportspersons demand a level of good behaviour that the rest of the society cannot sustain? Is sport actually that important? And more to the point, the complainant was not the one who made the decision to prosecute; has anyone publicly made the point that the DPP at that time was the now-disgraced Alison Saunders, not especially known for astute decision-making?!
So, Evans – a soft target as an overpaid footballer – is kicked to the kerb. However, the case is retried with a jury of six men and six women who acquit Evans inside two hours. Ennis-Hill has now made categorical assertions about Evans’ lack of morality which – legally – are now unsustainable, and even more so in light of the significant six-figure sum Evans has received from his former defense team (all far too late for his career). But with white liberals queuing up to stick the boot into a ‘disgusting’ footballer who cheated on his partner, by not taking the opportunity to acknowledge that the system had failed Evans and by (a) denying him the right to rehabilition as a citizen, (b) failing to acknowledge that her actions look very different in light of his acquittal, this mixed-race woman hammered that white man in the gonads and no-one cares two hoots. As such, the mixed-race Jessica Ennis-Hill will never have the moral authority of the mixed-race Colin Kaepernick and what that man lost by taking a stand against a ritual that had lost its meaning should be taken very seriously by those who want to ‘comfort’ BAME people as ‘allies’ – on this, more later. I’m not here to over-praise global multinationals, but Nike should be acknowledged for being way ahead of the curve on #BLM – unlike many of those who care more for an ephemeral activity than for human beings.
Which is why I refused to watch it. I am already experiencing secondary trauma, and this has not been helped by the recent murder of Raychard Brooks. I swear, if anyone is injudicious enough to suggest that he brought his death upon himself by stealing a Taser and making a run for it, our relationship can end right now. I am not joking. Do you think any black man has ANY reason to believe that if he just ‘comes quietly’ he will be treated fairly by a militarised police force whose ‘shoot on sight’ policy has been protected by the US judiciary for years?! I know New York better than I know Birmingham and Sheffield and I know how to behave in certain neighbourhoods. And I know that when you’re in certain places you have to watch out for the Amy Coopers and the Lisa Alexanders of this world – they WILL call the police, who will come! Whereas before when black parents admonished their children to not wear their hair in ‘ghetto’ styles in the hope that this would protect them and this was rightly dismissed as assimilationist hogwash, these days one cannot not (deliberate double negative) try to present oneself in non-threatening ways so as to improve one’s chances of not being seen as a ‘threat’ – definitely here in the UK, but even more so in the US. ‘Responsibility’ is not a truism, nor is it a joke.
I’m not at all sure how I feel about the fact that the word ‘ally’ is being co-opted in the way that it is. It is true that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the importance of allies but at this moment in history, I feel that this word makes more sense in the LGBTQ+ context than in any BAME context. What about people who self-identify as both BAME and LGBTQ+? Do they need two sets of allies to help them fight their battles?! There is no good way to explain what an ally is in this context without raising the spectre of paternalism once again. However unwittingly. So before folks rush to be identified as BAME allies, how about simply committing 100% instead to anti-racism in all of its forms and to being the best listener and most empathically reflexive (yes, I don’t mean ‘reflective’) person that one can be?
That question can be asked by anyone of any ethnicity/ies.
And as I think about the ways in which my professional music and academic career has been hindered by white fragility and politics of identity, I am sympathetic to the black people who have dumbed down to get paid – but at the same time, I cannot ever be that kind of Uncle Tom. [Oh, by the way: most black people seem to use the expression but never read the original. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s original intention has all but been lost to revisionist history, which is unfortunate. However, although her intentions have been unjustifably misrepresented by people of all ethnicities, I still reject the character she wrote. But that is a matter for another time…]