The Personal Journey of a POC

I want to kick this off with a frank discussion of my early experiences of race, as conditioned by my own race. As the daughter of a long line of first-gens I’ve never been a fan of the “where are you really from?” part of introductions (and airport security checks) – but until relatively recently this was only because it was such a long story to tell honestly.

My reluctance to indulge strangers with my genealogy has led to people wanting to classify my body (and my name) in terms they understood. “Paki” wasn’t uncommon at school; neither was”Jew”, since my father was born in Israel; when I grew up strange men begun to call me “exotic” or “warm”; and more recently friends have told me I’m “just tanned”, or could “get away with being white”. This last is the only really painful one. It’s taken of strength recently to start defining myself by myself, and to tell me I could guise as something else (something very tempting) ~white~ has knocked me back.

It reminded me of a childhood spent straightening my hair, staying out of the sun, and googling how much I would have to save up to chisel my nose. When people told me I was all these things they wanted me to be, I would engage with them – validating their positions – instead of telling them where they could stick their analysis of my physical features.

…well Jewishness is matrilineal so actually – no, I know how the Nazis defined it, but-

Even as this child, I thought racism was a thing of the past. My mum told me stories about Mandela, I read Malorie Blackman’s novels, and knew that there was no longer such a thing a segregation on buses or in schools.

My first awakening to the racial issues of here and now, was when I first listened to some real rap. A friend reblogged “Yours and my Children” by Akala on tumblr and I was instantly hooked. I downloaded everything I could find by him, and others on the same scene.

This was back in 2010. I remember it because I was first becoming politically aware, doing my own reading into issues and going to protests. This music and what these London rappers where spitting filled in a gap. Here were people talking unashamedly of where their home was, and the racial prejudice and violence that affected them.

“Still I feel like an immigrant, englishman amongst arabs and an arab amongst englishmen”  – The Cradle of Civilization, Lowkey.

At first it made me angry. I was so pissed off that there’d been this whole body of normative expectations with its fingers around my throat the whole time, and I’d just misunderstood it. I was pissed that I’d never learned the right syntax to express these feelings because I’d only ever heard of the past tense of racism; expressions like Jim Crow, apartheid, and holocaust.

Here, I could write whole bodies of essays on the dangers of the Newspeak we use to discuss issues that could embarrass the privileged; the problematic natures of the chicken-and-egg solutions attempted; intersectional feminism; learning to call people out; and…you get the idea.

Instead, I’ll finish with the thought that I’m not empowered by being non-white. But, at least now I know this. Certainly, I don’t know what many of the personal implications of these two facts will mean for me – but at least, I think, they’re what make me want to write all those essays.

Advertisements

A Decision to Occupy

Yesterday, despite years of campaigning Edinburgh university decided to vote against fossil fuel divestment. I haven’t been very involved in the campaign so far – but I’ve been following People and Planet Edinburgh over the last six-or-so months through all the ins and outs.

While the university management’s  decision to stick by fossil fuel is disappointing, obviously, personally I’m more pissed off by the manner in which this decision was made.

The process has been thoroughly confusing and convoluted. From last minute venue changes, to ad hoc statements delaying the vote on divestment, the Edinburgh University has forced it’s conceintious students to run around after it. Clearly, this makes an effective campaign harder to run, but it also frustrates the campaigners themselves.

(A side note of pride here – I’d like to point out how peaceful the occupation has been. We are a group of students in the tail end of exam season – a bunch of activists sharing snacks, either chilling out or getting some studying under our belts, while making sure that those who work in Charles Stuart House are as unobstructed as possible.)

On top of this, People and Planet representatives have been barred from attending press events, and the meetings’ minutes (and full documents describing the reasons behind decisions and the intended effects of these) have failed to be published.

This is a failure of democracy. Divestment has been supported by swathes of affiliated academics, departments, and members of the student body.

All of this doesn’t even touch on my “green” agenda. Fossil fuels are simply dangerous and unsustainable. There’s little point expanding on that statement; you either get the message or you don’t. Either way, it’s long past time for educational institutions to get on board.

An Englishwomans Decision to Vote SNP

This election has been my first opportunity to vote. I’m not going to lie – as consistent and unabashed politics geek I’ve been ridiculously exited for #GE2015 for weeks. Staying up all night for elections, any elections, has been a long tradition for me. The roller-coaster ride of a side show competitive politics produce is unfailingly fascinating, and the sense of community gleaned from tweeting a dwindling pool of dedicated red-eyed commentators in the wee hours is nothing short of a party.

My thought procedure leading up to this night paints me as the archetypal undergrad and swing voter:

  1. I will spoil the ballot. I want to vote. I really want to vote for something I believe in. But none of these parties seem to represent me, furthermore they can’t be trusted (here’s looking at you, Clegg). The whole political system in the UK needs an overhaul, first past the post is damaging to our democratic voice, the archaic management of Westminster stunts progression, and I’d have no part of it.
  2. I will vote for a small leftist party, or independent candidate. They can’t win, but maybe I can rescue their deposit. And maybe, if the parliament is composed as shoddily as the polls predict, they’ll need it again sooner rather than later. This wouldn’t have been an ideological vote, I don’t think I can trust a politician enough to get ideological about them, but it would be to protect those who say things I agree with.
  3. The realisation that there’s no party like this running in my constituency. I can’t convince myself a TUSC vote would be a good idea. Their No2EU roots are just too far away from any politics I can support.
  4. The realisation that my constituency will be closely fought between Labour and the SNP. Trust is getting to be a tired theme by now. I decide it’s time to consider, within all the boundaries of likeliness and the constitution, what I want to happen on the 8th of May. I want a hung parliament, preferably with plenty of gridlock – the two major parties have horrendous manifestos. They’re not convincing. The best bet is to make it as hard as humanly possible for them to be realised.
  5. I will vote for the SNP, and hope Labour gets enough seats elsewhere to oust the tories. After the Leaders’ Debates I, like many others, fell head-over-heels for Nicola. There’s something wonderful about seeing a passionate, strong, and unashamed woman taking up so much space on prime time TV. Her felling of Farage was enough to make anyone hers. But here’s the thing; I trust her to be hard-line on protecting the NHS, the issue du jour, whereas Labour have all but pledged to keep on chipping it away.

My vote for SNP is a vote for another coalition, and it’s a firm vote for the NHS. I’m no nationalist, and not nearly as capitalist as the party I’m voting for, but I feel I’m playing along with the compromise game that looks set to dominate Westminster politics for the next few years.