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The decline of social interaction
May 19, 2023 18:00 / Leave a comment
I am writing about the decline of social interaction today – not because of my interest in sociological interactionist perspectives but because of the declining state of social interactions and the general lack of engagement in societies lately. Additionally, as we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, it is important to reflect on the relationship between social interaction and mental health.
Previously, I have written about the students’ lack of engagement in classrooms and their unwillingness to participate and commit to their studies. In that blog, I tried to understand why students are becoming increasingly disinterested in their studies and why attendance has plummeted. I identified some interconnected issues that might be causing these problems, including anxiety, financial difficulties, lack of sense of belonging and the difficulties of readjusting to life after the pandemic. Furthermore, I have also tried to proffer some solutions for how I think students can resolve these challenges and detailed the importance of being part of a community. However, upon reflection, I realised that I might have underestimated the impact of social interactions in societies today.
First, I’d like to define social interactions as a meaning-making process. It is a process through which individuals exchange ideas, relate, manage information, and react to each other’s dealings. Of course, social interaction encompasses communication but constitutes characteristics like mannerisms, gesticulations, eye contact, smiling, slang, etc. Blumer (1969) lays bare the fundamental premise of this approach (and for the sociologists reading, I recognise the work of Mead, so don’t worry) by exploring some basic premises through which interactions form human character. While these characteristics are more appreciated physically, even though they may be passive sometimes, they create a different feel and richness for socialisation, relationships, and interaction. Not only that, they all constitute the genetic makeup of our social behaviour which invariably translates to our social character. However, in recent times, the nuances that we enjoy being physically engaged with one another seem to be slowly disappearing. Our digital presence, emoticons, Gifs, stickers and memes have replaced many of these characteristics and nuances.
It is important to note, though, that being among people, participating in discussions physically and forming peer relationships all provide us with a good recipe through which we can use to improve our psychological well-being, social interactions and skills. Take a ride on the underground trains in London during peak periods, for example, and you will hear how loud the silence is despite the crowded setting.
I believe that we are living in a time when people are becoming more and more disconnected from one another, and part of the problem also has to do with the consequences of the pandemic social distancing/quarantine rules – which was a necessary evil.
While the social distancing guidance may have been withdrawn, I think there seems to be a continuous trend where people keep each other’s distance even after the pandemic. Loneliness is becoming more perverse; people are becoming removed from social life, and procrastination seems to have taken centre stage.
Again, the rise and usage of multiple social media platforms have also put us where we are slowly replacing our physical presence with our digital presence. We can easily sit behind our WhatsApp, Twitter or TikTok for hours without speaking – but submerged in this digital world. While I am not in any way condemning the use of social media, I think we risk our physical interactions being replaced with digital interactions, which I also consider a contributing factor to the decline of social interactions we face today.
I agree that we all must move with time; we have to adjust ourselves to this new world, or else we will be left behind. However, I suggest not letting our physical engagement dissipate, nor should we allow our digital presence to become more important than our in-person presence. As indicated earlier, we are witnessing a decline in social interactions, but the task ahead of us as a society is to begin to consider ways to ameliorate this problem. There is value in social interaction, even if some might not see the benefits of it. Some studies in the past have found that ensuring good social interactions can improve psychological well-being. Thus, my assignment for everyone reading this blog today is to pick up your phone and check up on a loved one! The sun is out (well, for now); take a break and go out with your friends, have some food and drinks over the weekend, exchange some jokes, and smile!
Life, indeed, is a beautiful thing to have.
Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Rise of the machines: fall of humankind
May 5, 2023 14:36 / Leave a comment
May is a pretty important month for me: Birthdays, graduations, what feels like a thousand Bank Holidays, marking deadlines, end of Semester 2 and potentially some annual leave (if I haven’t crashed and crumbled beforehand). And all of the above is impacted by, or reliant on the use of machines. Their programming, technology, assistance, and even hindrance will all have a large impact on my month of May and what I am finding, increasingly so, is that the reliance on the machines for pretty much everything in relation to my list above is making my quite anxious for the days to come…
Employment, education, shopping, leisure activities are all reliant on trusty ol’ machines and technology (which fuels the machines). The CRI1003 cohort can vouch, when I claim that machines and technology, in relation to higher education, can be quite frustrating. Systems not working, or going slow, connecting and disconnecting, machines which need updates to process the technology. They are also fabulous: online submissions, lecture slides shown across the entirety of the room not just one teeny tiny screen, remote working, access to hundreds of online sources, videos, typing, all sorts! I think the convoluted point I am trying to get too is that the rise of the reliance on machines and technology has taken humankind by storm, and it has come with some frustrations and some moments of bliss and appreciation. But unfortunately the moments of frustration have become somewhat etched onto the souls of humankind… will my laptop connect? Will my phone connect to the internet? Will my e-tickets download properly? Will my banking app load?
Why am I pondering about this now?
I am quite ‘old school’ in relation to somethings. I am holding on strong to paper books (despite the glowing recommendations from friends on Kindles and E-readers), I use cash pretty much all the time (unless it is not accepted in which case it is a VERY RARE occasion that the business will receive my custom), and I refuse to purchase a new phone or update the current coal fuelled device I use (not literally but trying to be creative). Why am I so committed to refusing to be swept along in the rise of the machines? Simple: I don’t trust them.
I have raised views about using card/contactless to purchase goods elsewhere and I fully appreciate I am in a minority when it comes to the reliance on cash. However, what happens when the card reader fails? What happens when the machine needs an update which will take 40mins and the back up machine also requires an update? Do traders and businesses just stop? What happens when the connection is weak, or the connection fails? What happens when my e-tickets don’t load or my reservation which went through on my end, didn’t actually go through on their end? See, if I had spoken to someone and got their name and confirmed the reservation, or had the physical tickets, or the cash: then I would be ok. The reliance on machines removes the human touch. And often adds an element of confusion when things go wrong: human error we can explain, but machine error? Harder to explain unless you’re in the know.
May should be a month of celebrations and joy: Birthdays, graduations, end of the Semester, for some students the end of their studies. But all of this hinders of machines. Yes, it requires humans to organise and use the technology but very little of it is actually reliant on humans themselves. I am oversimplifying. But I am also anxious. Anxious that a number of things we enjoy, rely on and require for daily life is becoming more and more machine-like by the day. I have an issue, can I talk to a human- nope! Talk to a bot first then see if a human is needed. So much of our lives are becoming reliant on machines and I’m concerned it means more will go wrong…
Thinking about ‘Thoughts from the Criminology Team’
March 3, 2023 13:14 / Leave a comment
This is the sixth anniversary of the blog, and I am proud to have been a contributor since its inception. Although, initially I only somewhat reluctantly agreed to contribute. I dislike social media with a passion, something to be avoided at all costs, and I saw this as yet more intrusive social media. A dinosaur, perhaps, but one that has years of experience in the art of self-preservation. Open up to the world and you risk ridicule and all sorts of backlash and yet, the blog somehow felt and feels different. It is not a university blog, it is our team;s blog, it belongs to us and the contributors. What is written are our own personal opinions and observations, it is not edited, save for the usual grammar and spelling faux pas, it is not restricted in any way save that there is an inherent intolerance within the team for anything that may cause offence or hurt. Government, management, organisations, structures, and processes are fair game for criticism or indeed ridicule, including at times our own organisation. And our own organisation deserves some credit for not attempting to censure our points of view. Attempts at bringing the blog into the university fold have been strongly resisted and for good reason, it is our blog, it does not belong to an institution.
As contributors, and there are many, students, academics and guests, we have all been able to write about topics that matter to us. The blog it seems to me serves no one purpose other than to allow people space to write and to air their views in a safe environment. For me it serves as a cathartic release. A chance to tell the world (well at least those that read the blog) my views on diverse topics, not just my views but my feelings, there is something of me that goes into most of my writing. It gives me an opportunity to have fun as well, to play with words, to poke fun without being too obvious. It has allowed us all to pursue issues around social injustices, to question the country, indeed the world in which we live. And it has allowed writers to provide us all with an insight into what goes on elsewhere in the world, a departure from a western colonial viewpoint. I think, as blogs go it is a pretty good blog or collection of blogs, I’m not sure of the terminology but it is certainly better than being a twit on Twitter.
Is the cost of living crisis just state inflicted violence
February 16, 2023 14:21 / Leave a comment
Back in November 2022, social media influencer Lydia Millen was seen to spark controversy on the popular app ‘TikTok’ when she claimed that her heating was broken, so she therefore was going to check into the Savoy in London.
Her video, which she filmed whilst wearing an outfit worth over £30,000, sparked outrage on the app and across popular social media platforms. People began to argue that her comment was not well received in our current social climate, where people have to choose whether they should spend money on heating or groceries. For many, no matter your financial situation, problems with heating rarely resorts in a luxury stay in London.
With pressure mounting, Lydia decided to reply to comments on her video. When one individual stated “My heating is off because I can’t afford to put it on”, Lydia replied “It’s honestly heart breaking I just hope you know that other people’s realities can be different and that’s not wrong”. Sorry, Lydia; it is wrong. Realities are not different; they are miles apart. This is clearly seen in the fact that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimate that 1.5 million households in the UK over the next year will be landed in poverty (NIESR, 2022).
Ultimately, this is a social issue. Like Lydia said, in a society in which individuals are stratified based on their economic, cultural and social capital, we are conditioned to believe that this is just the way it is, and therefore, it is not wrong that other people have different realities. However, for me, it is not ‘different realities’, it is a matter of being able to eat and be warm versus being able to stay in a luxury hotel in London.
So, why is this a criminological issue? The cost of living crisis is simply just state inflicted poverty. Alike to Lydia with her social following, the government have the power to make change and use their position in society to remedy cost of living issues, but they don’t. This is not a mark of their failure as a government, it is a mark of their success. You only have to look at the government’s complete denial surrounding social issues to realise that this was their plan all along, and the longer this denial continues, the longer they succeed. This is seen in the case of Lydia Millen, who has acted as a metaphor for the level of negligence in which the government exercises over its citizens. Ultimately, for Lydia, it is very easy to tuck yourself into a luxury bed in the Savoy and close the curtains on the real world. The people affected by the crisis are not people like Lydia Millen, they are everyday people who work 40+ hours a week, and still cannot make ends meet. For the government, the cost of living crisis is the perfect way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Ultimately, the cost of living crisis is not too dissimilar to the strikes that the UK is currently experiencing. Alike to the strikes, the cost of living crisis was always going to happen at the hands of a negligent government. The only way we can begin to address this problem is by giving our support, by supporting strikes all across the country, and by standing up for what is right. After all, the powers in our country have shown that our needs as a society are not a priority, so it is time to support ourselves.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
National Institute of Economic and Social Research (2022) What Can Be Done About the Cost-of-Living Crisis? NIESR [online]. Available from: https://www.niesr.ac.uk/blog/what-can-be-done-about-the-cost-of-living-crisis [Accessed 23/01/23].
The Problem is Bigger than Tate
January 20, 2023 11:09 / Leave a comment
While there are many things that have got under my skin lately, it seems that every time I go on social media, turn on the television, or happen to have a conversation, the name Andrew Tate is uttered. His mere existence is like a virus, attacking not only my brain and soul but it seems a large population of the world. His popularity stems from his platform followed by thousands of men and young boys (it’s known as the ‘Real World’).
His platform ‘educating’ men on working smarter not harder has created a ‘brotherhood’ within the manosphere that celebrates success and wealth. Tate is framed as a man’s man, physically strong, rich and he even has a cigar attached to his hand (I wonder if he puts it down when he goes to the bathroom). It seems many of his aspiring followers want to mimic his fast rich lifestyle.
This seems to be welcomed, especially now when the price of bread has significantly risen (many of his followers would sell the closest women in their life for a whiff of his cigar, and of course to be deemed to have an Insta-desirable lifestyle). While this ideology has gained hype and mass traction in recent years (under the Tate trademark) it seems that his narcissistic, problematic image and what he stands for has only just been deemed a problem … due to his recent indiscretions.
There is now outrage in UK schools over the number of young boys following Tate and his misogynistic ideology. But I cannot help but ask … why was this not an issue before? I am aware of rape culture, victim blaming, sexual harassment, and systems of silence at every level of the UK education establishment. The launch of ‘Everyone’s Invited’ shone a light on the problematic discourse, so why are we only seeing that there is a problem now?
There are many reasons why there’s a delayed outrage, and I would be here all day highlighting all the problems. So, I will give you a couple of reasons. The first is the Guyland ideology: many Tate supporters who fall into the cultural assumption of masculinity expect to be rewarded for their support, in ways of power and material possession (this includes power over women and others deemed less powerful). If one does not receive what they believe they are owed or expected, they will take what they believe they are owed (by all means necessary).
There is also a system of silence within their peer group which is reinforced by parents, female friends, the media, and those that are in administrative power. The protection of toxic behavior has been continuously put under the umbrella of ‘boys will be boys’ or the idea that the toxic behavior is outside the character of the individual or not reflective of who they truly are.
I will go one step further and apply this to the internalised patriarchy/misogyny of the many women that came out and supported Jeremy Clarkson when he callously attacked Meghan. While many of the women have their individual blight with Meghan for reasons I do not really care to explore, by supporting the rhetoric spewed by Clarkson, they are upholding systemic violence against women.
The third point is that capitalism overthrows humanity and empathy in many ways. All you need to do is to look at a history books, it seems that lessons will never be learned. The temptation of material possessions has overthrown morality. The media gives Tate a platform and in turn Tate utters damaging ideology. This brings more traffic to the platforms that he is on and thus more money and influence….after all he is one of the most googled people in the world.
The awareness of the problematic behaviour and the total disregard for protecting women and girls from monsters like Tate shows, how the outrage displayed by the media about harms against victims such as Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard is performative. The news coverage and the discussion that centred on the victimisation of these two women have easily been forgotten. If the outrage is real then why are we still at a point where we are accepting excuses and championing misogyny under the guise of freedom of speech, without challenging the harm it really does.
It seems that society is at a point of total desensitization where there is more interest in Tate losing an argument with Greta Thunberg, posing with a cigar on an exotic beach for likes, than really acknowledging the bigger picture. Andrew Tate has been accused of rape and human trafficking. The worst thing is, this is not the first time that he has been accused of horrific crimes – and with the audio evidence that was released to the press recently, he should be in prison. But with the issues that permeate the Met police there is no surprise as to why he has been given the green light to continue his violent behaviour. But this is not just a UK issue. There has been a large amount of support overseas with young men and boys marching in masses in support of Tate, so I cannot be surprised that he was able to and continues to build a platform that celebrates and promotes horrendous treatment of women.
For many the progression of a fair and equal society is an aspiration, but for the supporters of the Tate’s in the world they tend to lean on the notion that they are entitled to more, and to acquire what they think they are owed, and will behave to the extreme of toxicity. While it is easy to fixate on a pantomimic villain like Tate to discuss his problematic use of language and how this translates in schools, the bigger picture of institutionalised patriarchy is always being missed.
It is important to unpick the toxic nature of our society, to understand the contributing factors that have allowed Andrew Tate and others like him to be such influential figures.
‘Gentleminions’: the rise of…media demonisation?
July 8, 2022 09:05 / Leave a comment
Recently one of the main ‘stories’ which appear to be filling up my newsfeeds on social media, is around the latest TikTok trend: ‘Gentleminions’ and the havoc this appears to be causing Cinemas. I am yet to see the film Minions 2: The Rise of Gru but have no doubt I will as a fan of the little, yellow and mischievous title characters, and their ‘villainous’ boss. However, what has become apparent from reading the news articles which have come about from the TikTok trend and the “terrible menace” these ‘gentleminions’ pose (Heritage, 2022), is that yet again, the media appear to be demonising young people and their pastimes, something which has been fairly consistent since the emergence of the independent press back in Victorian England.
The trend involves, “teenagers”, “young people”, “youngsters” and/or “kids” watching Minions 2 dressed in formalwear as an imitation of some ‘famous’ TikTok users (Gill, 2022; Heritage, 2022; Hirwani, 2022). Seems pretty harmless, however there have been reports of “shouting and mimicking the minions” (Hirwani, 2022), “honk full volume gibberish” (Heritage, 2022), “rowdy behaviour from groups of teens” (Gill, 2022). Again, all seems fairly harmless, albeit possibly annoying. Yet, there have also been reports of “vandalism, throwing objects and abusing staff” (Gill, 2022). What I can’t help but utter is a sense of: here we go again, in relation to young people and the next wave of nuisance or harm they pose to society. It verges on the notion of demonising young people for being young people… something the British media is all to well versed in.
My thoughts wonder back to the infamous media portrayal of events which occurred on the Bank Holiday weekend back in 1964 with those violent and dangerous young people affiliated with the Mods and Rockers… oh wait a minute! That was a misrepresentation and portrayal of events which lead to what we know recognise as a moral panic (excuse the oversimplification). I wonder if this ‘gentleminion’ trend will follow suit? The media has consistently reported on the nuisance these young people are causing and the refunds given by cinemas to unhappy customers who have been unable to enjoy the film. Focusing on the damage caused by these youngsters in vague terms and without any real evidence. It is interesting that the media flocks to the negative portrayal of these youth, mirroring Hendrick’s (2015) point that children and their pastimes represent a moral threat to society, hence the continual interest in them.
The Guardian’s portrayal is slightly more positive, whilst including the narrative of the “terrible menace” these ‘Gentleminions’ pose, Heritage (2022) also presents the idea that this trend could be a positive trend for cinema and film considering the struggles they faced with the pandemic and the uprising of streaming services. Who knows: maybe cinema will take Heritage’s (2022) idea about having select screenings to allow and encourage young people to attend the film and practice their ‘gibberish’, whilst allowing other film goers the chance to view the film without the distraction? More than likely, true to form, this will all blow over in a week or so, but it does make you wonder why the media haven’t learned from previous experience and doesn’t just “leave them kids alone” (Pink Floyd, 1972).
Cohen, S. (2002) Folk Devils and Moral Panics, 3rd edn. London: Routledge.
Gill, E. (2022) Cinemas banning teens in suits from watching Minions amid TikTok #gentleminions trend, Manchester Evening News, 6th July [online], Available at: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/minions-movie-wearing-suits-banned-24411350 [Accessed 6th July 2022].
Hendrick, H. (2015) Histories of youth crime and youth justice. In: Goldson, B. and Muncie, J. (eds.) Youth Crime and Justice. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications, pp.1-16.
Heritage, S. (2022) The teens disrupting Minions screenings might actually be the saviours of cinema, The Guardian, 5th July [online], Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2022/jul/05/teens-disrupting-minions-screenings-gentleminions-despicable-me-rise-of-gru [Accessed 6th July 2022].
Hirwani, P. (2022) Minions: Cinemas ban teens in suits following the ‘gentleminions’ TikTok trend, The Independent, 5th July [online], Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/minions-theatres-ban-gentleminions-teens-b2115800.html [Accessed 6th July 2022].
Pink Floyd (1972) Another Brick in the Wall, Pt 2 (2011 Remastered), Available from: Amazon Music [Accessed 6th July 2022].
Who’s to blame, Jimmy Carr or the system that feeds him?
February 15, 2022 10:00 / 1 Comment on Who’s to blame, Jimmy Carr or the system that feeds him?
NB: The term ‘white’ in this blog is being used to describe those racialised as white within the dominant culture of the UK, and those that benefit the most from white privilege. Though Gypsy Roma Traveller [GRT] communities may in cases be racialised as white, their culture sits juxtaposed to the dominant thus ‘not white enough’, so may not always be seen as white by white British people (see Bhopal, 2018: 29-47).
“Extending the gaze to whiteness enables us to observe the many shades of difference that lie within this category – that some people are ‘whiter’ than others, some are not white enough and many are inescapably cast beneath the shadow of whiteness” (Nayak, 2007).
Following Haley’s excellent blog on the Jimmy Carr debacle, I would like to bring another perspective. For those of us racialised outside of whiteness, I know I do not need to describe the litany of examples where those racialised as white portray racist hatred as humour on and off social media. Haley continues in writing, “Jimmy Carr’s [His] Dark Material stand-up comedy is the latest in a long line of everyday racism that has been subjected to a trial by Twitter.” When we challenge these “jokes”, at least in my experience I was told iterations of “stop being so sensitive”; “it’s just a joke”; “lighten up” and so on …
In her long-essay What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition, Irish author-academic Emma Dabiri (2021) writes:
“I grew up in a culture of bantering and, ngl, I love a caustic riposte. And while in certain ways I resent the current policing of language, there is a distinction. I hate to break it to you, but a “joke” in which the gag is that the person is black isn’t a joke, it’s just racism disguised as humor. A joke told to a white audience where the punch line is a racist stereotype isn’t a joke, again it’s just racism; if there is only one black person present, it’s also cowardly and it’s bullying. Jokes of this nature probably aren’t funny for black people.”Emma Dabiri (2021: 98)
Whilst in my time writing for Thoughts I have engaged with many issues, one I have not yet written on is the ‘canteen culture’ of bantering I grew up in amid the English private school system. So, I am quite familiar with the culture of private schools having gone to them myself (aged 5-16) where racism (specifically anti-Blackness) against me was passed off as “a ‘joke’ in which the gag is … just racism disguised as humour”(Dabiri, 2021: 98). As a boy, Carr went to sixth form at Royal Grammar School, a selective boys’ school in High Wycombe in the image of a posh state school famous for projecting its boys into Oxbridge. Thus Jimmy Carr passed into Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
If there was to be a culture of ‘banter’ where Carr learned such behaviours, these selective schools and universities are a good place to start. For people not racialised as white, these places can be a new-kind of hell very much in the image of colonial-style racism. At school, in my experience there existed a toxic human concotion of racism (as banter) which infected not only the students but also the staff. It’s this sort of thing that may sit under the thinking behind Carr’s “joke”, and why he thought it was okay to make it in the first place. However, as much as I would like make this about him, this isn’t really about him at all.
Carr has had a very successful career of punching down on the marginalised and historically excluded, profiting from their suffering. For me, this is more about how large institutions like Netflix give platforms to people they know are bad news and let them espouse hatred anyway. Professor Sunny Singh tweeted how it is a “reminder that Jimmy Carr’s joke went through a whole production process in order to appear on @netflix.” When we consider how any piece of media goes through a rigorous editing / production process, the fact nobody questioned a Holocaust “joke” about Roma and Sinti people is a stark reminder of how white supremacy functions in media.
Here a white man makes a “joke” to an audience of mostly white people backed by a production team (largely white, let’s be honest) at a white institution Netflix … with ‘institutional whiteness’ hardening (Ahmed 2006; 2007; 2012; 2014; Hunter, 2015; 2019; White Spaces). Simply affirming what the late Charles Mills (2004) wrote where “… white supremacy implies the existence of a system that not only privileges whites but is run by whites, for white benefit” (p31).
The uproar to Jimmy Carr’s “joke” follows #ClanchyGate where author-schoolteacher Kate Clanchy was criticised for perpetuating racism and ableism in her 2019 memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. She used descriptions like “chocolate-coloured skin” and “almond-shaped eyes.”Moreover, she referred to autistic children as “unselfconsciously odd” and “probably more than an hour a week” around them “would irriate me, too, but for that hour I like them very much.”
Like Netflix, her publisher Picador did not spot these in the editing process. Or they did spot them, and said nothing … reiterating the ableism, racism, and white supremacy that exists in publishing where rather than hold Kate Clanchy accountable, her colleagues like Philip Pullman berated women of colour who challenged her taking to Twitter and comparing them to the Taliban. The same three women of colour who have been erased from this discourse. The issue with Picador is a reminder of how predominantly white artists (not always … like Dave Chappelle in his Netflix special The Closer) with power are then platformed with no accountability when they cause harm (intended or not). Kate Clanchy has since gone on to find another publisher for her book after she was required to rewrite!!
Jimmy Carr follows Chapelle, Clanchy as well as Joe Rogan and his racist rhetoric. Not only is Carr’s just horrific, but it also reinforces the the discrimination Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller [GRT] people face in Britain where their cultures will be erased should the government’s crime, policing and sentencing bill reach fruition. The conversation around Carr’s “joke” reminds me how general opinion is still comfortable with racism so long as it is wrapped in ‘humour’. With the ‘free speech’ champions following behind. It’s also showing me the number of people that think racism only happens to those racialised as Black or Brown.
It is not so simple. The way we define racism is worthy of further discussion and analysis when we consider the racism that happens because of cultural belongings. As Emma Dabiri writes:
“The myth of a unified white ‘race’ makes white people, from what are in truth distinct groups, better able to identify common ground with each other and to imagine kinship and solidarity with others racialized as ‘white’, while at the same time withholding the humanity of racialized others. The ability of whiteness to create fictive kinships where differences might outweigh similarities, or where one ‘white’ group thrives and prospers through the exploitation of another ‘white’ group, all united under the rubric of whiteness constructs at the same time a zone of exclusion for racialized ‘others’, where in fact less expected affinities and even cultural resonances might reside.
In truth, this is the work of whiteness, who invention was to serve that function. Saying that all “white” people are the same irrespective of say, culture, nationality, locatioin, and class literally does the work of whiteness for it. But despite the continuities of whiteness – the sense of superiority that is embedded in its existence – we cannot disregard the differences that exist. This demands a truthful reckoning with the fact that the particulars of whiteness, as well as the nature of the relationship between black and white, will show up differently in different countries and require the crafting of different responses.”(Dabiri, 2021: 45-46)
Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next (2021) follows David Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness (1991), Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White (1995), Matthew Jacobson’s Whiteness of a Different Color (1998) and Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People (2010), all of which in some way show how different white groups have modifiers attached when talking about “white people.” This must be discussed interlocking with other factors including culture, place/geography, and class. Through Roediger, Ignatiev, Jacobson, Painter, Dabiri, and other scholars, we can see how whiteness splits and mutates to serve its purpose of divide and rule, and really how white supremacy may also negatively impact against those read as white and ‘not white enough’ in different ways.
The late archbishop Desmond Tutu believed that our quest for liberating the oppressed must also come with liberating the oppressor too. He saw how white South Africans during Apartheid had become bitter and hateful as a result of the racism that pervaded through their lives on a daily basis. Visiting Israel as well, he saw the same thing in the Israeli state’s dehumanisation of the Palestinian people. As Tutu himself states:
“Part of my own concern for what is happening there [Israel] is in fact not what is happening to the Palestinians, but is what the Israelis are doing to themselves. When you go to those checkpoints and you see these young soldiers behaving abominably badly, they are not aware when you carry out dehumanising policies, whether you like it or not those policies dehumanise the perpetrator.”Demond Tutu
That ‘dehumanisation of the Other’ is central to any system of oppression, and we see this again in Britain with the police’s treatment of Black people going all the way back to 1919. However, we also see it in the state’s treatment of GRT people, compounded by the policing and sentencing bill. On a local level, the dehumanisation of GRT communities can be seen again when we observe the comments sections of local news. The comments of everyday people reflect the racist policymaking of politicians. In the continuous persecution of racialised minorities more generally in Britain, we must also consider what racism does to the perpetrators and what this ‘dehumanisation of the Other’ has done to the cultural majority. Even scarier, what has this dehumanisation done to the people that do not even realise they are racist?
When that ‘dehumanising’ appears on big public platforms like stand-up “comedy” shows, we have a problem – essentially giving racism the green light underpinned by violent policymaking in government. So, the discussions around Jimmy Carr not only show me that there needs to be more conversation about how whiteness impacts those read as Black or Brown, but also how whiteness impacts those read as white or not white enough (GRT, Eastern Europeans and so forth). We have work to do and lots of it.
Holocaust Memorial Day: 27th January
January 27, 2022 10:40 / 1 Comment on Holocaust Memorial Day: 27th January
The 27th January marks an important event, Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a day to remember those who were murdered by the cruel Nazi regime, including 6 million Jews. These people were subject to the worst treatment that the modern world has ever seen. The Holocaust reminds us of how dangerous humankind can be to one another. These Nazi men went to work each morning knowing what they were doing and going home to their family at the end of their day of murders. This is something that I cannot comprehend, people that were so truly evil to degrade a whole group of people just because of who they are.
As someone who has had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz on an education trip while at school, I can say that the place is like nothing I could have ever imagined. The vast size and scale of both camps was inconceivable. To be in a place where so many people suffered their worst pains and lost their lives, it was a harrowing experience. From the hair to the scratch marks on the gas chamber walls, the place felt like no other. There was an uncomfortable feeling when you enter the gates of Arbeit macht frei, meaning, work will set you free. To know that so many walked under these gates not knowing what their fate held. And all of this for the Jews was because of their religion and the threat Hitler perceived them to have on Germany.
This is a topic that has always interested me, questioning why the Jewish community? My dissertation research so far has shown how the Jews were scapegoated by the Nazis for their successful businesses in and around Germany. Many Jewish families owned banks, jewellers and local businesses. The Nazis used this peaceful group of people and turned them into the enemy of the Nazi regime. The Jewish community was seen as a financial threat to the Nazis and needed to be eradicated for Nazi German to be successful. The hatred of the Jews developed, bringing in more dated views of the Jewish community. Within Nazi Germany, they were treated like filth and seen as subhuman because of their ‘impure’ genetics. Anyone seen to be from Jewish decent was seen as dirty and an unwanted member of society.
The stereotypes that the Jews are rich continued even after the war and still to this day, along with the stereotypes that Jews are the evil of society. Since March 2020, there have been conspiracy theories circulating on social media that the Jewish community was behind the COVID 19 pandemic. Many are suggesting that the Jewish people are trying to gain financially from the pandemic and destroy the economy. This is not something that is new, the Jewish community has faced these prejudices for as long as time.
My dissertation incorporates a study on social media and archival research. This project has taken me to the Searchlight Archives, located at the University of Northampton. The information held here shows how Britain’s far right movements carried on their anti-Semitic hate after the end of WWII. It’s very interesting to find that antisemitism never went away and still has not. Recently, the Texas Synagogue hostage crisis has show how much anti-Semitic hate is still in society. Three days after the Texas crisis, there was no longer headline news about it and those tweeting about it were part of the Jewish community.
Does this suggest that social media is anti-Semitic? Or is anti-Semitic hate not shared on social media because it is not of interest to people? Either way, Jews are still treated horribly in society and seen as a subhuman by many. This is the sad truth of antisemitism today, and this needs to change.
Chauvin’s Guilty Charges #BlackAsiaWithLove
April 21, 2021 06:15 / Leave a comment
Charge 1: Killing unintentionally while committing a felony.
Charge 2: Perpetrating an imminently dangerous act with no regard for human life.
Charge 3: Negligent and culpable of creating an unreasonable risk.
Guilty on all three charges.
Today, there’s some hope to speak of. If we go by the book, all the prosecution’s witnesses were correct. Former police officer Chauvin’s actions killed George Floyd. By extension, the other two officers/overseers are guilty, too, of negligence and gross disregard for life. They taunted and threatened onlookers when they weren’t helping Chauvin kneel on Floyd. Kneeling on a person’s neck and shoulders until they die is nowhere written in any police training manual. The jury agreed, and swiftly took Chauvin into custody . Yet, contrary to the testimonials of the police trainers who testified against Chauvin’s actions, this is exactly what policing has been and continues to be for Black people in America.
They approached Floyd as guilty and acted as if they were there to deliver justice. No officer rendered aid. Although several prosecution witnesses detailed how they are all trained in such due diligence, yet witnesses and videos confirm not a bit of aid was rendered. In fact, the overseers hindered a few passing-by off-duty professionals from intervening to save Floyd’s life, despite their persistent pleas. They acted as arbiters of death, like a cult. The officers all acted in character.
Teenager Darnella Frazier wept on the witness stand as she explained how she was drowning in guilt sinceshe’d recorded the video of Chauvin murdering Mr. Floyd. She couldn’t sleep because she deeply regrated not having done more to save him, and further worried for the lives many of her relatives – Black men like George Floyd, whom she felt were just as vulnerable. When recording the video, Ms. Frazier had her nine-year-old niece with her. “The ambulance had to push him off of him,” the child recounts on the witness stand. No one can un-see this incident.
History shows that her video is the most vital piece of evidence. We know there would not have even been a trial given the official blue line (lie). There would not have been such global outcry if Corona hadn’t given the world the time to watch. Plus, the pandemic itself is a dramatic reminder that “what was over there, is over here.” Indeed, we are all interconnected.
Nine minutes and twenty seconds of praying for time.
Since her video went viral last May, we’d seen footage of 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Chauvin shoving himself on top of ‘the suspect’. Now: During the trial, we got to see additional footage from police body-cameras and nearby surveillance, showing Chauvin on top of Mr. Floyd for nine minutes and twenty seconds. Through this, Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonary critical care physician, was able to walk the jury through each exact moment that Floyd uttered his last words, took his last breath, and pumped his last heartbeat. Using freeze-frames from Chauvin’s own body cam, Dr. Tobin showed when Mr. Floyd was “literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles.” This was Mr. Floyd’s only way to try to free his remaining, functioning lung, he explained.
Nine minutes and twenty seconds. Could you breathe with three big, angry grown men kneeling on top of you, wrangling to restrain you, shouting and demeaning you, pressing all of their weight down against you?
Even after Mr. Floyd begged for his momma, even after the man was unresponsive, and even still minutes after Floyd had lost a pulse, officer Chauvin knelt on his neck and shoulders. Chauvin knelt on the man’s neck even after paramedics had arrived and requested he make way. They had to pull the officer off of Floyd’s neck. The police initially called Mr. Floyd’s death “a medical incident during police interaction.” Yes, dear George, “it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate.” Today, at least, there’s some hope to speak of.
I Wish We Had Twitter Back in the Day. #BlackenAsiaWithLove
April 14, 2021 05:58 / Leave a comment
I wish we had Twitter back in the day. When I was a kid, I would sometimes spend playtime alone in my room, singing to the radio. Between the pop station and WLOU – the Black station which cut off around five or six in the evening – I could’ve tweeted the mix-tapes I made. I’d take momma or my grandparents’ radio alarm-clock, and put it face-to-face with my tape recorder to record songs from the radio. I even got pretty good at cutting the recording off before the radio DJ started talking over the end of the song. That’s why the Black station was better for recording because they always played the adlibbed outro/coda, the sweetest part of the song where the story and storyteller reached a resolution. The songs were always resolved, despite the dilemma at the start, especially love songs – either falling in or out of love. I had to play the record to listen to the full song.
Even though no singer sang about the love I knew I had inside of me, I could identify with others feelings – human feelings. My aunt Shirley still laments about the times we’d be riding in her car, listening to the radio, and “your song would come on.” She says I loved Dionne Warwick’s I’ll Never Love This Way Again, such adult themes, too, she adds. Or: “Reunited… and it feels so good.” Shirley says I sang as if this were my love affair. “And you was still small’nough to stand up in the back seat of the car.” Billboard ranks that Peaches and Herb’s jam as fifth out of the hundred hottest songs of ’79 – amid all the Disco greats I loved. I must have been four. Shirley often tells me about my precocious empathy as a child. I kept a diary from an early age, but by the time I was a teen, I was ready to share with the world the things I knew needed to change.
I’d tweet about all the singers and songs that meant so much to me – how their lyrics and artistry changed me. I’d make videos of me practicing combinations we’d learned in dance class, or choreographing my own music videos. “Video killed the radio star,” had no good dance moves yet was the very first video to play on MTV when the channel debuted in ’81. That that format quickly came to dominate how music was consumed and promoted. Otherwise, I was just alone in my artistic world, thinking I was the only boy who danced like a girl.
At home, it wasn’t ever taboo to talk about Jim Crow. Prince and Michael Jackson had to dress a bit femme to disarm the wider/whiter masses; as did Jackie Wilson back in the day. I could see Motown was a white-washed version of the hymns my grandaddy sang from his book at home. This is what these artists did to crossover to the pop ‘genre’ and earn consequent pop radio circulation, pop sales, pop accolades and pop cash! Even now, Beyonce still gets over-nominated only in the Black categories. People tweet about that sort of stuff now, but I didn’t even have those words at that age; still I sensed something was off about cultural appropriation and its economic consequences for all involved. I also knew that I was doing was taboo. Back in the day, I’d suppress any femme in me in order to crossover. I’d have tweeted about that.
Tweeting ole dirty work.
I wish we had Twitter back in the day. Imagine Nat Turner proselytizing and organizing through Black Twitter. They’d still have had to use coded language, just like they used Negro Spirituals to encode messages of freedom: ‘Follow the drinking gourde’ would probably still fool folks now, just as much as today a murderous police officer’s defense attorney can claim that bodycam shows George Floyd saying, “I ate too many drugs,” when he actually said “I ain’t do no drugs.” Who eats drugs? Not in any Black English I know, and thanks to Black twitter, there’s an ivy-league sociolinguist who’s published a research paper on this very matter while we watch the overseer’s trial like we used to watch Video Soul. Ole uncle Nat would’ve gotten pretty far on his rebellion had he had Twitter back in the day. Tweet tweet, MF! We’ve got Twitter today, so: “Let’s get in-formation.”