Home » Criminology
Category Archives: Criminology
These same individuals, women that are smart and innovative are told by authority figures, including academics, that they are lazy and don’t apply themselves – are running businesses out of their halls. Black women sent white male astronauts into space in 1969; Black women also invented CCTV and laser cataract treatment. Knowing this, in the face of a double-figure Black awarding gap at UK universities (Barradale, 2020), I was not surprised to see they were running businesses out of their halls, with online shops – cake businesses, clothing alterations, and the big one – wigs and weave, and hair products.
Currently, I know a good many Black women turning lemons into lemonade. Through the Coronavirus pandemic there are Black entrepreneurs, like their white counterparts, trying to make a living, make money and get ahead. Yet, their white colleagues won’t be judged for it. However, the “motivation to create a business can spring from the most interesting of places, and for a variety of reasons” (Uviebinené, 2019: 157).
For the women I met when I was an undergraduate student and then as a member of university staff, it was a way to escape the colonising imperatives of whiteness within the institutional frameworks of Britain. Moreover, that despite historic stereotypes of laziness still being on the ascent for Black people, Black women “are achieving additional qualifications and gaining work experience” (ibid). The students I knew were driven and inspiring, graduating and then going on to run businesses, using Instagram and social media as a tool for economic prosperity.
Seeing many Black women in business it looks incredibly strenusous, as systemic misogynoir permeates all of society – a form of discrimination specific to Black women where race and gender both play roles of bias (Bailey, 2010).
The concept of Black successes of both women and men in a society that is institutionally racist is an achievement of monumental proportions, as neoliberalism runs rampant. Bhopal (2019) argues that “within a neoliberal context, policy making has failed in its attempts to champion inclusion and social justice, and in doing so has further marginalised the positions of black and minority ethnic groups.” She discusses that policy making in its current form affirms the position of white people at the expense of those from various Black and Brown backgrounds, in a society where individuals are privileged for being white over those who are not.
White privilege exists and the fact there are successful Black female businesspeople shows the system designed to subjugate the Black race’s success and humanity has failed. In these still very white spaces, do the Black entrepreneurs that break the glass ceiling allow people up behind them, or do they rescind the ladder?
Do they put their money where their mouth is to help their people? Stormzy heads publishing house #MerkyBooks, priding itself on platforming Black authors. Additionally, he funds Black students to go to Cambridge every year. Do those “allowed” to enter Buckingham Palace to be named Member of the British Empire [MBE] see themselves as Black, or does the “acceptance” of the establishment allow them to forget where they came from? I wonder if money and fortune give some Black business-owners a blinkered mindset to concepts like community and togetherness.
Modern questions of success and business aside, let’s take a step back and reflect on the past. Black success in business or any other industry is not a new concept. Simply, it is treated as a new phenomenon within the colonial gaze of the white western world:
Whilst the students I met as an undergrad and then as a staff member were anomalies in accordance to Eurocentric stereotypes of Africans, when you look into the depths of African history one will find that people of the continent are smart and hardworking and innovative and gracious and protective, and so much more, and always have been. In this history, we will begin to understand how Black British people today relate to themselves. This first begins with gaining “a clearer understanding” of other cultures “that is not warped through the biases of colonial documentation” (Dabiri, 2019: 36).
As seemingly corporations want to diversify their workforce and more Black and Brown people seek to go into business, this means having conversations of race and culture away from the proximity of whiteness. When businesses take an anti-racist approach to their everyday, including culture and history, they will see their income increased tenfold.
Bailey, M. (2010). They aren’t talking about me… — the crunk feminist collection. Available from: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2010/03/14/they-arent-talking-about-me/
Barradale, G. (2020). Revealed: New stats show how wide the black attainment gap is at your uni. Available from: https://thetab.com/uk/2020/06/17/revealed-new-stats-show-how-wide-the-black-attainment-gap-is-at-your-uni-162142
Bhopal, K. (2018) White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society. Bristol: Policy Press.
Dabiri, E (2019). Don’t Touch My Hair. London: Allen Lane.
Uviebinené, E and Adegoke, Y (2019). Slay in Your Lane. London: 4th Estate
This is the moment I’ve waited for for so long.
For so long I’ve longed to be with YOU.
To be with you, to just be here, standing underneath the stars is like heaven and earth in one.
It feels like heaven on earth, so softly touching your skin.
Touching your skin, feeling your breath against my face, there is nobody like you.
I LIKE you… a lot.
This is the moment I’ve waited for for so long.
You and I underneath the stars.
Our lives must be as big as the universe for us to have crossed paths.
I can’t believe that I crossed paths with the YOU.
I want to cross your path every single day from now on.
From now on, I want to be with you.
This is the moment I’ve waited for for so long.
I have waited an eternity to see the stars with you.
To see the stars with you feels like the Earth, the Sun, the moon AND all the planets aligning.
The planets must be aligned to night as good as I’m feeling.
I’m feeling good, with every twinkle our lives become more crisscrossed and intertwined.
Crisscrossed and intertwined so much a mobile phone can’t capture this moment.
Please, be here now, I beg you.
On the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC)
They talked at length about their “God-given rights to bear arms,” yet were silent about what guns do to people like me. They have little to say about religious diversity, and are silent about the bountifully plenty o’ white-American churches rooted – deeply – in racism. Equally, and clearly by the very same measure, they’ve never stood for the legal rights of Blacks to defend ourselves from tyranny. The second amendment, they suggest by their consistent omissions, is for them – only! This is how they addressed me. Give them liberty or give them (my) death…as it were. They ignore the data confirming that their own kids are more likely to shoot them than any dangers posed by my kids.
At the 2020 RNC, they talked at length about protecting their suburbs from thugs and rioters, yet fell well short of acknowledging the terror people like me have learned to live with. They talk like nobody that looks like me lives in the suburbs, and I know all too well that eerie ‘Get Out’ feeling when cruising through virtually any suburb in America. Do I belong here? Their glares and stares, and random checks let me know, #Karen and her klan don’t believe we belong together. The RNC didn’t address people like me who believe in my own state’s motto inscribed right there on both our seal and flag – “United we stand. Divided we fall.”* All I could hear from the RNC were warnings towards people like me: STFU, we got guns. Their gun cult was the only sort of solidarity served up, and so all the speakers touted that singular party line.
My party’s lines are numerous, as we’ve been casting a wider and wider net of those disenfranchised by the conservatives. Dems are ‘the others’. This year’s DNC motto seems to be this oft repeated moniker, ‘strength in diversity, unity in solidarity’. Both in rhetoric and actions they are more open to accountability for and by these so-called others. We can think, talk, walk and chew gum at the same time. The RNC didn’t address these Others, but they certainly portrayed ‘us others as a clear and present threat to their (suburban) way of life. For them, I am pariah.
As for cities, this year’s RNC speakers talked about rioters, but never ever spoke about what the riots were about. They touted a very uncomplicated view of rioting, and even had the nerve to claim the oppressed are crying victimhood (you know that, ‘shut up while I press my hoof on your neck’ sort of way). These conservative folks need a reading from both Sigmund Freud and the House of Labeija. Despite knowing what I know, I am still shocked at their void of empathy and disinterest in empathetic communication. They never addressed the peaceful protests, not least of which the #TakeAKnee campaign for which their leaders black-balled those peaceful protestors. You saw how the monster of that party responded to several prominent sports figures’ form of non-violent protest. I walked away from watching the RNC feeling shame for them, for I know their hearts couldn’t possibly be that cold. What comes around goes around.
*Yes, I know my state seal shows two white men shaking hands over the destinies of entire populations of Black and brown people, which we’ll save for another discussion. Rest assured, the RNC klan would say I’m using political correctness to silence them.
In July 2020 I was fortunate enough to be part of a project with The Guardian newspaper on fifty varied young, Black, British perspectives on Black Lives Matter – fifty Black Britons from across the country – from the Shetland Islands to Sunderland; from Northampton to Norfolk; from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The inclusion of Scotland in particularly, fascinates me, because I know if you ever call the Scots, English (or British), many will have your head. That whilst Scotland is part of Britain, it has its own culture and history, including a Black history. Though, to this day I have not been to Scotland and all the Scots I have met have been white. I know the first time I meet and hear a Black person with a Scottish accent will be a special day indeed.
When people talk about Scottish history, it is often one of fighting off English invaders. I think of films such as Outlaw King or even the not-so-historically-accurate Braveheart. Moreover, depictions of highland culture in Outlander, including the Jacobite cause being quashed at Culloden in 1745. However, whilst Scotland was oppressed by the English (British), they were also, like the English, complicit in slavery. Today, Glasgow is called the Merchant City, for the tobacco merchants. If you had a tobacco addiction in the 1700s (puffing away), your smoking habit was made in Glasgow and it was tainted with the violence of slave plantations across the Atlantic.
And yet, whilst Scotland was complicit in the Slave Trade, Black Scottish history goes back to Roman times. The Afro-Romans in Scotland “defending Hadrian’s wall in the third century AD was a ‘division of Moors’ (numerous Maurorum Aurelianorum) named after Marcus Aurelius or a later emperor known officially by the same name” (Fryer, 1984: 1). Today there is a small but thriving population of Black people in Scotland, one of Glasgow’s most famous being Ugandan-born poet Tawona Sithole. His poem ‘Good English’ resonates with me as a Black Briton of Caribbean heritage. And I expect it would resonate with many Black Scottish youth coming through now too, also at the mercy of micro-aggressive behaviours from the white population including the constant where are you froms?
In Ireland, additionally, there are communities of Irish people of African and Caribbean heritage. At University, a white Irish friend spoke to me about the number of Black African clergy in the Irish Catholic church. However, screen depictions of the Irish have often perpetuated stereotypes of alcoholism and violence. In screen media, both Northern Ireland and the Republic, are represented as white countries, with their own histories of conflict with English colonisers, including the famines, the Easter Risings (1916) and the thirty-year conflict known as The Troubles.
Furthermore, like the Scottish, the Irish have their own connections with slavery, especially as overseers on the plantations. Whilst the myth of Irish slaves has been debunked many times, there is a history of indentured labour on islands like Jamaica and Barbados. Black and Irish are often seen as juxtaposed but they needn’t be. Historian Peter Fryer talks about an African presence in the British isles “some 400 or 500 years after the Romans left” (Fryer, 1984: 2) and “an ancient Irish chronicle records that ‘blue men’ (fir gorma) were seized by Vikings in Morocco in the ninth century and carried off to Ireland, where they stayed for a long time” (ibis).
Whilst both Northern Ireland and the Republic are incredibly white nations now, especially in the rural areas, there is still a Black Irish history worthy of scholarship.
Black Irish history is something I hope to see more of in academia. SOAS academic Emma Dabiri growing up in 1980s inner-city Dublin is a start with her text Don’t Touch My Hair and quite an act to follow in the mainstream. Yet, there has not been a significant Black population in Ireland for long. Following the previous comment about African immigrant clergy in Ireland, however, many of the mixed-race children Dabiri came into contact with as a mixed-race Irish girl, in the 1980s were institutionalised:
The arrival of mixed-race Black-racialised children in Ireland that grew up with single white mothers holds a similar sentiment to one case study in Wales. There were more Black people in Britain in 1944 than in 1948 (before the arrival of the Empire Windrush) – simply because of the influx of African-American soldiers, as “on the eve of D-Day, in June 1944, there was a hundred and thirty thousand African-American GIs, both army and air force, stationed in Britain” (Olusoga, 2017: 467).
In 1942, the segregated United States sent a racially-segreated force to Britain. During the war years, Black American soldiers were also deployed to Wales. In the last episode of Black and British, ‘Homecoming’, Prof. David Olusoga meets with members of a Welsh village called Abersychan, including the descendants that came out of the unions between the Black men and white women – unknowingly participating in a social experiment.
What the experiences of Black and mixed-race Black-racialised communities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales show us, is that Britain is not post-racial and that race matters, both in 2020 and during the war years.
And more importantly, to forget the history we think we know, as seemingly white villages like Abersychan, have diverse histories worth talking and shouting about.
Dabiri, E (2018). Don’t Touch My Hair. London: Allen Lane
Fryer, P (1984/2018). Staying Power. London: Pluto
Olusoga, D (2017). Black and British. London: Pan Books.