Racism

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‘Ministers Can Make it Mean Anything they Want it To’: The Realities of Citizenship-Stripping in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 9:14pm in

Faima Bakar speaks to experts about the Government’s removal of citizenship without notice and its disproportionate impact on British Muslims

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When the citizenship of Shamima Begum – the woman who left the UK and joined ISIS aged just 15 – was revoked in 2019, it scared British Muslims. For all of the Home Office’s insistence that this kind of measure would only be levelled at those who commit grave crimes, British Muslims knew that this was a signal that their right to citizenship could be dismantled for a lot less.

In this way, British Muslims have been reduced to second-class status, according to a new report by the the Institute of Race Relations think tank, which has found that citizenship-stripping powers introduced since 2002 have enshrined a lesser form of citizenship in the UK, mainly affecting Muslims.

Under clause 10 of the controversial Nationality and Borders Act, the Home Office has powers to remove citizenship without notifying subjects where it’s “reasonably practicable” to do so, in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or in the public interest. How can people appeal the decision if they’re not even made aware of it?

As being made stateless is illegal, the Government can argue that subjects with a dual-citizenship – mostly ethnic minorities – can apply to their native countries, regardless of whether they have a cultural connection with them or not. Begum, for example, had never been to Bangladesh. For the Institute's vice-chair Frances Webber, this means that ethnic Britons’ citizenship is disposable and contingent. 

“What is very worrying is how quickly something as fundamental as citizenship – described as ‘the right to have rights’ – can be seriously damaged by governments driven by the logic of deportation and exclusion,” Webber says. “The criterion for the deprivation is the same as for deportation: that it is ‘conducive to the public good’ – even if the person was born in the UK and knows no other country. It is such a vague criterion that ministers can make it mean anything they want it to.”

Citizenship-stripping isn’t a new practice and has grown exponentially in the past two decades after it was used against Muslim preacher Abu Hamza in 2003. Before Hamza, no removal of citizenship had been authorised in the 30 years prior but since then there have been at least 217 removals of citizenship, with 104 removals in 2017 following the collapse of ISIS in Syria.

Those who support the Act question whether this predominantly affects Muslims but, as Webber points out, this group is far more likely to be impacted as the Government is highly suspicious of them.

“Most of those who have had their British citizenship revoked are Muslims of south Asian heritage, who have also been the subject of a fairly unrelenting political and media onslaught since the millennium about ‘self-segregation’, lack of ‘British values’, ‘backward’ religion, support for ‘terrorism’ or ‘extremism’, as well as the Prevent programme, the Trojan Horse scandal," she says.

"This onslaught, culminating in the enshrining in law of a second-class citizenship contingent on ‘good behaviour’, has emboldened the far-right and led to a situation where there are now nearly 100,000 race or religion-motivated hate crimes every year in Britain.”

Islamophobia has been on the rise for the past few decades. After Boris Johnson’s comments likening Muslim women to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers", hate crimes grew by 375%, while terror attacks with a Muslim perpetrator receive 357% more coverage despite more white people being arrested for terrorism. Schools in Birmingham and Slough, meanwhile, have been told to train Muslim students to spy on one another, according to Prevent Watch; and the Government’s prevarication over the definition of Islamophobia hasn’t helped.

At the Whim of the Home Secretary

Once the Government has a subject in its clutches for potential citizenship-stripping, it’s near impossible to shake the threat. Even appealing to the courts is likely to be futile, as witnessed when Begum’s plea for citizenship restoration was denied by the Supreme Court. What makes appeals tricky and likely to be unsuccessful is the premise of ‘public interest’.

Dr Reuven Ziegler, an associate professor at the University of Reading, says that British citizenship is precious, costly, and precarious. "The stripping can be due to interest of national security, in the interest of the relationship between the UK with another country, and the public interest," he says. "But what is considered within these interests has been determined by the Home Secretary – they can deem everything to be in the public interest because they define what is.” 

While some would argue that people like Begum deserve this level of punishment, given her association with ISIS, Dr Ziegler says that, even when laws are broken, everyone should have a right to a fair trial and the problem should not be exported to another country.

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“In such circumstances, we shouldn’t let someone become some other country’s problem,” he says, “which essentially replicates the practices of the 18th Century where the UK would send people to penal colonies.

“If someone is a national security threat, will they no longer be a threat in another country? Plus, this creates a form of inequality because a person with dual-citizenship will receive additional punishment where those from a solely UK background will not. And in terms of the sort of thing that would trigger it, it’s less likely to be by white supremacist terrorism.”

The strength of public anger around the Nationality and Borders Act saw more than 300,000 people sign a parliamentary petition against the policy, while thousands contacted their MPs.

Frances Webber believes “we need a sustained campaign, drawing in large numbers of the estimated six million dual-nationals in the UK who could be affected, to reverse the changes to citizenship to put all British citizens, whether they have access to another citizenship or not, on the same secure footing”.

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Met Officer Guilty of Sharing ‘Grossly Offensive’ Misogynistic and Racist Messages Still Receiving Full Salary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 9:54pm in

PC Jonathon Cobban is still on the Metropolitan Police’s payroll, reveals Sascha Lavin

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A Metropolitan Police officer convicted of sharing “grossly offensive” WhatsApp messages will continue to receive his full salary, Byline Times can reveal.

Jonathon Cobban, 35, was found guilty on Wednesday of sharing misogynist and racist messages between 5 April and 9 August 2019 in a WhatsApp group that included Wayne Couzens – the former Met Police officer who kidnapped, murdered and raped Sarah Everard. 

Serving officer Cobban is reportedly paid at least £33,500 a year but, according to a Met Police spokesperson, the force is constrained by national police regulations and it cannot automatically stop an officer’s pay unless they are detained or dismissed. 

Cobban is due to be sentenced in November. He is yet to face a police misconduct hearing that could lead to his dismissal.

The Met Police spokesperson explained that the internal hearings had been delayed until the criminal proceedings concluded in order to “preserve the integrity of the criminal case”.

Former Met Police officer and fellow WhatsApp group member Couzens only stopped being paid his salary after he pleaded guilty on 9 July 2021 – three months after he raped and murdered Sarah Everard.

Cobban – along with fellow defendants PC William Neville, and ex-colleague Joel Borders – unsuccessfully attempted to get the case thrown out in July. He denied all charges of sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages on a public electronic communications network. 

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Cobban admitted to sharing the messages but told Westminster Magistrates’ Court that he "meant them to be taken as humorous banter and nothing more”.

Borders was found guilty of all five charges he faced, while serving officer Neville was acquitted of all charges. 

The judgment said that the WhatsApp group appeared to have been viewed by the defendants “as a safe space, involving a small number of like-minded individuals, in which they had free rein to share controversial and deeply offensive messages without fear of retribution”.

During the trial, WhatsApp messages appearing to joke about performing sex acts on domestic violence victims were shown to the court, with Cobban writing: “That’s alright, DV victims love it... that’s why they are repeat victims more often than not.”

In an exchange on 9 August 2019, Cobban wrote: “Haha struggle snuggles are always useful… good skills!” – a remark prosecutors said was the acting out of a rape fantasy – after his colleague described pinning a 15-year-old girl to the floor during an incident. 

Cobban also repeatedly shared racist and Islamophobic messages with the group.

Referring to a racially diverse area of London, he wrote: “Got a bus through Houslow... what a f***ing Somali S***hole. Great. There goes p***y patrol... more like FGM [female genital mutilation] patrol”.

He also likened Hounslow to “walking along a Dulux colour code”.

In another exchange, Cobban joked about the prospect of leaving Muslims to die in a terrorist bombing. 

Two years before the message exchanges, Cobban – then serving as an officer at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – had volunteered to take on the additional responsibility of being the “race and diversity custodian” for the unit.

This week’s conviction is the latest in a series of scandals that have surrounded the Met Police in recent years, raising questions over whether it is safe for women and non-white communities. 

An investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team last year found that more than half of the Met Police officers found guilty of sexual misconduct over a four-year period to 2020 remained in their jobs.

The force was placed under special measures in June after a litany of shortcomings were revealed – including failing to report 70,000 crimes. Two months earlier, the Independent Office for Police Conduct revealed “disgraceful” misogyny, discrimination and sexual harassment in a police unit based at Charing Cross police station.

While Commander Jon Savell, of the Met Police's department that includes professional standards, said that it is “determined to rid this organisation of those who corrupt its integrity”, a recent official inspection report found that Met Police supervisors were so overworked that they were missing wrongdoing. 

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White Sculpture, White Race?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 1:51pm in

Tags 

art, far right, Racism

The new wave of neo-Nazis and white supremacy nationalists are using ancient Greek and Roman sculpture in their propaganda as proof of the supreme Aryan race in history and culture. They consider it ‘white sculpture’. As an artist and avid follower of geopolitics, this is completely confounding.

I vividly recall neo-Nazi skin heads in Sydney in the 1990s wearing t-shirts with the threatening ‘Speak English or Die’ emblazoned on them. The racism of that period towards anyone who wasn’t white was brought to life in Geoffrey Wright’s film Romper Stomper. The film portrays disturbing anti-Vietnamese tensions in Melbourne at the hands and boots of Russell Crowe’s character Hando. Among other things, Hando rails against being fed Italian food, calling it ‘wog food’. So much for the Roman forebears of neo-Nazi ideology today. Today, neo-Nazis’s use of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture seems to be ignorant of the fact that the sculpture they are appropriating depicted the very ethnicities they hate. As most ancient sculpture was painted, those ethnicities were once plain to see.

Between 2005 and 2010 I led a group of artists exploring modern painted sculpture in historical context, examining how painted sculpture came to be lost in the Western world. The separation of painting and sculpture departments and programs occurred in the art school system developed during the Renaissance. What perplexed me and my fellow artists was why an olive-skinned Mediterranean empire would worship white skin over their own, as the marble-white statues seemed to indicate. It’s well-known that Romans considered themselves to be superior to other cultures. To kneel to the pale cultures north of the centre of Roman power was clearly ridiculous.

During the excavation of Pompeii, it was noticed that sculptures coming out of the ash were painted in bright, earthy colours. It was notable too that the Pompei frescos depicted artists painting sculptures. Perhaps the most striking example in our tour was the statue of Augustus Prima Porta, in Rome, excavated by archaeologist Giuseppe Gagliardi in 1863. Augustus’s tunic was in bright red and purple. The director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum Edward Robertson (1910–1931) was present during the excavation of the Athenian Acropolis and he too noted how sculptures unearthed here were painted, indeed that when excavated the sculptures were coloured, although the colour was lost after a few days in the light.

By the time of the Renaissance (1300–1600), most if not all of the paint used in Greek and Roman sculptures had faded, fallen off or been washed off because people thought it was dirt. Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo, seeking to recreate classical Greek and Roman sculpture, had no idea that these ancient sculptures had been painted. During the Renaissance, the schools of painting and sculpture were set on separate trajectories. The father of art history, German art critic Johann Joachim Winckelmann, author of the influential History of the Art of Antiquity (1764) wrote of white marble sculptures like the Apollo of Belvedere as depicting the ‘epitome of beauty because the whiter the body is, the more beautiful it is’. Unfortunately this attitude prevailed towards white sculpture right through to the period of modern art.

It certainly doesn’t help that Hitler and Mussolini spoke of their love of white marble, seeing it as representing Aryan purity. Both dictators supported fascist artists and artworks. But of course the populations of the Roman Empire were diverse in skin colour, and ancient painted sculpture would have represented this. Roman emperor Septimius Severus (194–211) was north African and dark-skinned; surely painted portraits of the time showed this. The sculptural busts of this Black emperor would have been painted dark, reflecting the emperor’s skin colour, but the examples we see in museums today are white. It has to be seriously considered that over time the paint on these busts was deliberately washed off.

It’s difficult to know if a culture of conscious obstructive racism contributed to the whitening of such ancient works, but conscious attempts have been made recently to restore colour to sculpture. In 2007, Harvard University museums curated an exhibition called Gods in Color. This dynamic show recreating painted ancient sculptures was a shock to audiences, undermining preconceived ideas of white sculpture, particularly those depicting subjects of Greek and Roman origin. This exhibition was followed by Gods in Colour at Oxford University in 2014, and, more recently, by the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition Polychromy Chasing Color.

The rediscovery of painted sculpture brings a whole new perspective to art history and art making. Artists such as Jeff Koons use colour to adorn his statues. His Apollo Kithara (2019–2022) attempts a recreation of the sculpture Apollo of Cyrene, held at the British Museum. This sculpture recreates the colours of the original, albeit with Koons’ glossy touch. It’s an outstanding piece, though perhaps the skin colour could have been darker or more bronzed. I say this because the stunning, painted sculpture reproduction Augustus Prima Porta, by Emma Zahonero and Jesús Mendiola (2017), with similar production quality to Koons’s Apollo, has absolutely outstanding colour recreation of its subject.

I hope that this history and new insight becomes more mainstream—that people will see through neo-Nazi propaganda and the appropriation of white sculpture to realise the ridiculousness of their claim that the sculptures of antiquity stand for the purity of the white race. At the least you could say that today’s neo-Nazis are white-washing European cultural history; their erroneous assumptions, carrying hateful messages, are simply not borne out in the history or art.

‘The First Time Politics in Our City was Played on Religious Grounds’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/09/2022 - 1:18am in

A number of arrests have followed violence between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester – a city traditionally associated with successful multiculturalism. Adrian Goldberg speaks to Shockat Adam, a Muslim community activist, who grew up in the east of the city, for the Byline Times Podcast, about his belief that the fires are being stoked by Hindu nationalism in India

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AG: The disturbances are a surprise because, from the outside, Leicester always looks to be one of those places where multiculturalism works very successfully.

SA: You'd be absolutely right to think that Leicester has been the byword for diversity; cohesion. Yes, we've had our problems, but we are always seen as a beacon for other cities around the world... Traditionally, this area of Leicester is where many migrants first moved to in the city. It was the place where I landed from Africa, along with my Hindu brothers and sisters and Sikh brothers and sisters in the 70s.

That was the area I grew up in. It's cohesive, we went to school together, we grew up together, we played football together. And we worked together. Yes, we had our issues, every society does, but nothing to this extent and never on the lines of religion.

The violence flared initially at the end of August following an India versus Pakistan cricket match...

India and Pakistan have been playing cricket for decades. One wins, the other loses. There's always a little bit of cheering, little bit of banter. It has never, to my knowledge, erupted into violence in our city. In fact, the majority of the people in Leicester who have Muslim heritage are from India, so a lot of them who follow cricket support India.

So what's changed?

There are two strands driving what is happening in Leicester.

One is, we have had a very new community arrive in this city [from the west of India]. They (and when I say ‘they’ I don't mean the whole community, but parts of the community) have taken a little bit of time to settle into the norms of the area – the culture. So, for example, drinking out of hours, loud music, partying, littering, etc., which causes friction in any community.  This then increases to loud music being played at prayer times, loud music being played in cars and hooting outside the mosque after cricket matches on independence days, etc. So this all adds to the anxiety in the community. Individuals then drink at night, they harass or hassle women going by, but it's not because they're Islamophobic, it's because they're drunk.

Unfortunately, our authorities and our police have not got a handle on this and resentment has been allowed to fester and grow between different communities.

The second issue is that there has been an undercurrent of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and [Hindu] nationalism creeping into our city. Some of these members of the new community have come to this country from an India which is in the fervour of nationalism, and the RSS, so they have come with a background of [Hindu] supremacy. 

What is the RSS?

The RSS has a nationalistic agenda. It's not Hinduism. Hinduism is a great religion and it's a generally peaceful religion. RSS was an ideology that was formulated approximately 100 years ago as a theory of the supremacy of the Hindu community over everybody else. 

So RSS were against the secular formation of India, and the individual who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi belonged to the RSS. Now it has a political wing, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which is in power in India [under Prime Minister Narendra Modi].

So the RSS is not Hinduism, but it has been adopted by some Hindus as a brand of right-wing nationalism. It is the philosophy of Narendra Modi's Government and that's made life in India sometimes very difficult for Muslims in recent years?

It’s been horrendous for many minorities – not just Muslims, but also Dalits, the Sikh community, and the Christian community have also suffered under the RSS. 

Recognised human rights organisations like Amnesty International have been banned from India for reporting on RSS atrocities to the Muslim community. We've seen the Gujarat riots [in 2002] where thousands of people were massacred. 

We saw the Delhi riots a couple of years ago, where there was indiscriminate killings of Muslim individuals. And there's a catalogue of incidents that happen on the basis that ‘you're a Muslim, and I'm a Hindu’. And unfortunately, it's still going on today.

How does the RSS relate to the BJP?

The BJP is the political wing of the RSS. This was a result of colonialism and from a time when India was finding its feet. The narrative was out there that there is a state for every other religion, so therefore India should be for the Hindus. That was that ideology. Whereas the forefathers of India at independence were passionate that India should be a secular country, and it should be for all and for all religions, the RSS oppose that ideology.

Why do you think there is a link between that kind of Hindu nationalism that the RSS represents and the events we've seen in recent weeks on the streets of Leicester?

In the 2019 General Election, in Leicester, [the incumbent] Labour MP Keith Vaz [was standing down], and a candidate [Claudia Webbe] was brought in who held views on [the disputed territory of] Kashmir.

'Overseas Friends of BJP' were canvassing on the streets of Leicester, recommending that all the [Hindus] should not vote for Labour because a vote for Labour would be a vote for Muslims. There were leaflets that said you have a choice of either voting for purity or voting for poison – poison being the Labour candidate on the basis that Labour Party had become the 'party of the Muslims'. 

On the back of that, we had Labour councillors resigning because they felt that the Labour Party was a Muslim party and not a Hindu party. And this was the first time that politics in our city was being played on religious grounds. 

When was that the first time you became aware of the politics of India seeking to play out in Leicester?

At the end of 2017, there was an application to convert a building into a prayer hall or a madrassa. Now people can have legitimate objections on the grounds of noise or parking, etc. – there's nothing wrong with that, everybody can exercise their right to legitimately object. But people were objecting because it was a ‘Hindu area’. 

I detest that term because I feel it ghettoises our communities. But this was a term that I heard, off-the-record, from an elected official at the time – that this is a “Hindu area”.

We had objections on the official Leicester City Council website from people from all over the country, objecting that 'we cannot have a mosque in a Hindu area, because we all know that they teach terrorism, we all know that there are extremists. We all know that our girls will not be safe when you have Muslim men in these areas. And we do not need a mosque near a temple. They can go into their area and will stay in our area'.

A lot of these objections were not even from people from Leicester – the addresses were in London.  This was a concerted effort by an organisation.

Before the 2019 General Election, the Conservative Party itself appealed to the BJP and asked it to not seek to interfere in the election. So this wasn't just a myth among Muslims in Leicester...

When our ex-Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] went to India recently, he was inundated by Muslim organisations and human rights organisations to raise offences that were being carried out against minorities – but he was in no position or not willing to raise this issue. We are in the situation where we need to trade with India. So our hands are tied, because we do not want to upset our very powerful allies.

It’s not all one-sided. Some of the videos on social media from the streets of Leicester around this have involved young Muslim men making it very clear that they will not be pushed around. If you were a peace-loving Hindu that would put fear into you...

It certainly would, and that's undeniable. And when, unfortunately, hate raises its ugly head, there's an element that comes along, which is has nothing to do with the initial issue and fans the flames even further.

Adrian Goldberg is the Editor and Producer of the ‘Byline Times Podcast’ and ‘Byline Radio

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The Class Ceiling: Liz Truss’ Cabinet Offers the Illusion of Equality

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 7:30pm in

Despite the racial and ethnic diversity of the Prime Minister’s top team, this counts for little if ordinary people of colour continue to suffer, says Taj Ali

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Much has been made of the apparent 'diversity' of Liz Truss' new Cabinet. For the first time in British history, none of the four great offices of state – Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary – are occupied by a white male.

What has been less spoken about is that this is one of the most socially exclusive cabinets in recent history, with the highest proportion of members who attended private schools in more than 25 years.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Home Secretary Suella Braverman were all privately educated. In fact, the vast majority of the new cabinet have been educated at fee-paying schools – even more so than under her predecessor, Old Etonian Boris Johnson.

Just 7% of Brits are privately educated yet 68% of the new Cabinet have been. This is more than double that of Theresa May’s 2016 Cabinet (30%), and more than David Cameron’s 2015 Cabinet (50%). We have gone backwards on class.

When people in positions of power are divorced from the impact of their own policies and, indeed, divorced from the everyday struggles of working-class people, it is no wonder so many have little faith in our current political system.

Private schools play a key role in maintaining this social class segregation and the new Cabinet encapsulates how a two-tier education system can create a two-tier society.

As a result of the Government’s austerity policies from 2010 onwards, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, England’s state schools suffered the largest fall in funding since the 1980s, with schools in the most deprived areas worst affected.

Well-resourced private schools have been well looked after by successive governments. A study in the British Journal of Sociology of Education estimates that private schools benefit from tax exemptions to the tune of £3 billion a year. That's the equivalent of more than 6% of England’s total state school budget in 2020-21.

Private schools maintain 'charitable' status and are thus exempt from VAT and business rates. Meanwhile, state school budgets have been decimated by successive cuts, a recent survey finding that 58% of teachers are resorting to feeding hungry pupils out of their own pockets. 

It is no coincidence that the gap between private school fees and state school per pupil spending in England has more than doubled over the past decade. When politicians are drawn from an exclusive, elitist education system, it is no surprise that there is little interest in investing in state schools – institutions that they have never used. When politicians opt for the privilege of private education and private healthcare, it’s little wonder that our state education system and NHS are in a state of perpetual crisis.

If we had more people in positions of power with a stake in our state education and healthcare systems, there would be a far greater willingness to adequately invest in these collective systems of provision.

The composition of the new Cabinet emphasises how parentage and privilege continue to determine where power lies in modern Britain.

As we witness a widening chasm between policy-makers and ordinary people; as the rich get richer and the poorest are still suffering from a decade of stagnation and austerity, the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, the notion that Britain has become a more equal, meritocratic and fair society couldn’t be any further from the truth.

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The Fallacy of Representational Politics

But surely having politicians of colour in high places should be cause for celebration among people from those same communities?

When those same politicians preside over policies which disproportionately harm people of colour, there is nothing to celebrate. And, if recent history teaches us anything, mere representation without policies that tackle racial inequalities is meaningless.

But the problem goes beyond an unwillingness to tackle racial inequalities. In many instances, ethnic minority Cabinet ministers can and have maintained and upheld systems of oppression, often using their identities to shield the Government from accountability.

During the Windrush Scandal, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid told former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott that she didn’t have a "monopoly on anger" over the affair as he was a "second-generation immigrant too". Except, this anger was not evident in his voting record – Javid voted for the legislation which led to the Windrush Scandal.

This is the point. Home Secretary Suella Braverman and her predecessors Priti Patel and Sajid Javid are people of colour, but that hasn’t stopped them from supporting policies which have harmed people of colour. The Rwanda deportation plan is a case in point.

Race and class are not mutually exclusive, they are intrinsically interlinked.

People of colour in the UK are disproportionately working class and have been disproportionately impacted by right-wing economics. A brutal decade of austerity has punished ethnic minority communities, with the poorest black and Asian women being hit hardest by changes in welfare and income support, as well as drastic cuts to public services.

British Pakistani and Bangladeshi children have the highest rates of child poverty in the country at 54% and 59% respectively. Workers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage also have the lowest median hourly pay of any ethnic group, in the latter case earning 20.1% less than white workers. What material difference then did super-rich Chancellor Rishi Sunak make to the lives of working class people of colour, half of whom struggle with poverty?

Instead of optics-based illusions of diversity that continue to accompany institutional harm to the most marginalised communities, we urgently need economic policies that will make a real difference to the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable.

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Stigler (and Milton Friedman) on Hayek's Road to Serfdom Thesis with a nod to Condorcet and even Rawls at the end

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 2:31am in

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Hayek, Politics, Racism

The conservative, or the traditional liberal-or libertarian, or whatever we may call him-will surely concede this proposition in the large. He will say that this is precisely the problem of our times: to educate the typical American to the dangers of gradual loss of liberty. One would think that if liberty is so important that a statue is erected to her, then the demonstration that a moderate decline of personal freedom leads with high probability to tyranny would be available in paperback at every drugstore. Such a book is not so easy to find. In fact, it may not exist. 

    No one will dispute that there have been many tyrannies, and indeed it is at least as easy to find them in the twentieth century as in any other. Moreover, the loss of vital liberties does not take place in a single step, so one can truly say that a tyranny is entered by degrees. But one cannot easily reverse this truism and assert that some decrease in liberties will always lead to more, until basic liberties are lost. Alcoholics presumably increased their drinking gradually, but it is not true that everyone who drinks becomes an alcoholic.
    An approach to a demonstration that there exists a tendency of state controls to increase beyond the limits consistent with liberty is found in Hayek's Road to Serfdom. But Hayek makes no attempt to prove that such a tendency exists, although there are allegations to this effect. This profound study has two very different purposes: (1) A demonstration that comprehensive political control of economic life will reduce personal liberty (political and intellectual as well as economic) to a pathetic minimum. (I may observe, in passing, that this argument seems to me irresistible, and I know of no serious attempt to refute it. It will be accepted by almost every one who realizes the import of comprehensive controls.) (2) If the expansion of control of economic life which has been under way in Britain, the United States, and other democratic western countries should continue long enough and far enough, the totalitarian system of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy will eventually be reached. This second theme is not a historical proposition-and no historical evidence was given: it is the analytical proposition that totali­tarian systems are an extreme form of, not a different type from, the democratic "welfare" states to which the book was addressed. Hayek was telling gentlemen drinkers, and especially some Englishmen-who were becoming heavy drinkers-not to become alcoholics.
    The thirty-five years that have passed since the outbreak of World War II have seen further expansions of political control over economic life in the United States, and in most western European nations except Germany. Yet no serious diminution of liberties deemed important by the mass of educated (or unedu­cated) opinion has taken place. Another hundred years of governmental expansion at the pace of these recent decades would surely destroy our basic liberties, but what evidence is there that such an expansion will continue? Quite clearly, no such evidence has been assembled. But it is one thing to deny that evidence exists for the persistence of present trends to the point where they will endanger our liberties, and quite another to deny that such a momentum exists. Or, differently put, where is the evidence that we won't carry these political controls over eco­nomic life to a liberty-destroying stage?
    This may be an impeccable debating point, but it will carry much less conviction than an empirical demonstration of the difficulty of stopping a trend. When men have projected the tendency of a society to a distant terminus, they have invariably committed two errors. The tendency develops in a larger number of directions than the prophet has discerned: no tendency is as single-minded as its observer believes it to be. And the tendency encounters in the society other and contradictory forces which eventually give the course of events a wholly different tum. We have no reason to believe that the current prophets are any wiser.
    So I conclude: we should fish or cut bait. On the subject of liberty the conservative should either become silent or find something useful to say. I think there is something useful to say, and here is what it is.--G.J. Stigler (1975) The Citizen and the State, pp. 17-18

Among Hayek scholars it is a well known fact that the Chicago economist (and self-described 'conservative'), G.J. Stigler, was rather critical of Hayek's road to serfdom thesis. (See especially the rather intense exchanges between Bruce Caldwell, one side, and Andrew Farrant with Edward McPhail, on the other.) But I haven't seen the point discussed in wider scholarship on the nature of neoliberalism, so it can't hurt to amplify its existence. In addition, to the best of my knowledge Caldwell, Farrant and McPhail rely on Stigler's (1988) autobiography, Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist, and on his earlier essay (1961) "Reflections on the loss of Liberty." This early essay was reprinted with modifications as "reflections on Liberty" as chapter 2 in The Citizen and the State. The passage quoted above is pretty much identical in substance to the earlier essay. But in virtue of its context -- it's now part of a larger argument in a book -- it is worth revisiting in its incarnation in the Citizen and the State, which is Stigler's contribution to the liberal art of government (and art of economics). 

When Stigler's essay first appeared in 1961 in New Individualist Review, which originated at The University of Chicago and had strong connections  to its faculty, he had just returned to The University of Chicago where Hayek was still in the Committee on Social Thought. The Review was a central vector in the intellectual revitalization of the anti-New Deal forces on the Right, and in fact Hayek and his students played a central role in it. Interestingly enough, the Review published major criticisms of Hayek. In addition to Stigler, Hamowy's "Hayek’s Concept of Freedom: A Critique" also originated in it. Sometimes Hayek is not named, but the critical thrust of the argument is clear enough (see, for example, Milton Friedman's "Is a Free Society Stable?"). This original context also helps to explain Stigler's emphasis on educating 'typical Americans.' (In those days conservatives could not take their own typicality for granted.)

Recall that a road to serfdom thesis holds that an outcome unintended to political decisionmakers is foreseeable to the right kind of observer and that in addition the outcome leads to a loss of political and economic freedom over the medium term. I use ‘medium’ here because the consequences tend to follow in a time-frame within an ordinary human life, but generally longer than one or two years (which is the short-run), and shorter than the centuries’ long process covered by (say) the rise and fall of civilization. Crucially for a road to serfdom thesis, along the way, in order to ward off some unintended and undesirable consequences, decisions are taken that tend to lock in a worse than intended and de facto bad political unintended outcome. It is pretty clear that Stigler attributes a road to serfdom thesis in this sense to Hayek. (A lot of the debate in Hayek studies is whether Hayek thought the welfare state must lead to serfdom.)

Now, Stigler's overall point is to try to turn the road to serfdom thesis from prophecy to a theory that can be tested empirically, which is treated as useful speech. Part of its utility is to "frighten" modern man "with [empirical] evidence." (18) But it is worth noting that lurking in Stigler's argument is a hypothesis that social tendencies naturally encounter and, perhaps even trigger, "other and contradictory forces which eventually give the course of events a wholly different turn." So Stigler's account presupposes, in fact, a commitment to a certain kind of pluralism as a social reality which can counterbalance serfdom inducing forces. (At the very end of this long post I return to characterize this pluralism.) To put it politically: there is a clear commitment to the proposition that New Deal Coalition can be defeated.

As an aside, Stigler's point about the plurality of social forces that may be a countervailing internal balance seems to anticipate Milton Friedman's ideas on the matter. In 1962, Friedman writes, "I HAVE BEEN EMPHASIZING forces and approaches that are mostly pessimistic in terms of our values in the sense that most of them are reasons why a free society is likely to be unstable and to change into a collectivist system. I should like therefore to turn to some of the tendencies that may operate in the other direction." ("Is a Free Society Stable?"). And Friedman thinks this is also an effect of the fact that (the side-effects of) tendencies in one direction become visible and become grounds for mobilization. (Since the two were close colleagues it's possible Friedman is the source of Stigler's point despite publishing later.) Friedman's essay is worth reading because he puts the road to serfdom thesis in the context of Dicey's arguments and a general awareness that liberal societies are historically rare.

The evidence of loss of liberty Stigler will point to are primarily economic, but some of them (media monopolies/oligarchies, land-management) clearly do have an effect on political issues. Yet, it's worth noting that when Stigler first published the piece, Jim Crowe had not been defeated even formally in the South. So, this, and the claim just before the passage I quoted above that "our franchise is broad...we have the political system we want" (16) suggests remarkable complacency about the state of civil rights (this is no surprise (recall) after Brad de Long called attention to his racist and condescending essay directed at students and civil rights leaders a few years later).

In fact, in The Citizen and the State, "The Loss of Liberty" follows a chapter called, "The Unjoined Debate." It seems to have gone unnoted that there, too, he address the Road to Serfdom thesis:

Let us begin with the most fundamental issue posed by the increasing direction of economic life by the state: the preservation of the individual's liberty-liberty of speech, of occupation, of choice of home, of education.
The situation is presently this: everyone agrees that liberty is important and desirable; hardly anyone believes that any basic liberties are seriously infringed today. The conservatives believe that a continuation of the trend toward increasing political control over economic life will inevitably lead to a larger diminu­tion of liberty. The liberals believe that this contingency is remote and avoidable. The more mischievous of the liberals point out that the conservatives have been talking of the planting of the seeds of destruction of liberty for decades-perhaps the seeds are infertile. Liberty is thus not a viable subject of controversy; neither side takes the issue seriously.
The lack of any sense of loss of liberty during the last two generations of rapidly increasing political control over economic life is of course not conclusive proof that we have preserved all our traditional liberty. Man has an astonishing ability to adjust to evil circumstances.
It is not possible for an observant man to deny that the restrictions on the actions of individuals have been increasing with the expansion of public control over our lives. I cannot build a house that displeases the building inspector. I cannot teach in the schools of the fifty states because I lack a license, although I can teach in their universities.

This list of controls over men can be multiplied many-fold, but it will not persuade the liberal that essential freedoms are declining. The liberal will point out that restrictions on one man may mean freedom for another. (5-6)

What's notable about this passage is that the veracity of the road to serfdom thesis has been elevated to it being "the most fundamental issue" in the modern administrative state. But simultaneously he thinks the conservative has engaged in "indolence parading as prophecy" with his "seeds-of-destruction talk." (6) That is to say on the acknowledged key question -- can liberalism [in its wider sense] survive? -- Stigler thinks Hayek's case is underwhelming. 

What's also notable, and I realize I am testing your patience, is that Stigler clearly resists the idea that liberty is merely freedom of contract and simultaneously elevates freedom of speech beyond the other (unmentioned) political liberties. This is, in fact, no surprise because the chapter/essay is framed by the idea that "the controversy between conservatives and liberals in the United States is so ineffective that is serving the purposes of controversy. The quality of controversy is not only but in fact declining, and what was once a meaningful debate is becoming completely unjoined."  (4). This passage was first written in 1966 (in the middle of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights debates). And even if you reject much of Stigler's political stance in the age (as I do), the fact that this idea is conventional wisdom of our own age (about the recent past) should give us pause. There is a sense in which liberal democracy is co-extensive with the further thought 'that the quality of controversy has declined.' Foucault (recall) picks up on this and treats liberal democracy as co-constituted with a sense of crisis.

Somewhat surprisingly, I think, the proper purpose of debate according to Stigler is announced on the following page, "the believer in democracy, or even more basically a believer in the dignity of man, has a moral obligation to seek to remove differences of opinion among groups by honest argument." (4) And this will also make "progress into our policies" possible. (13) We are not far removed from Rawls' idea that conceptual engineering will make overlapping consensus possible. And the reason for this position in Stigler is ground in a kind of negative Condorcet-ian insight (Condorcet goes unmentioned) that "the larger the group, the more certain we can be that is not insane in the sense of being divorced from apparent fact and plausible reasoning." (4, emphasis in original) And so their common position reflects "common factual beliefs and the same causal processes." (4) If large groups disagree, Stigler implies, they are both latching onto something fundamental in social reality. 

Now, Stigler recognizes that eliminating "differences of opinion on public policy" is not likely because there are "unresolved factual and theoretical questions" and so "alternative policies" may well be equally reasonable. (13) This passage echoes Friedman's views in 1953 (which in turn echo Stigler's own views from the 1940s). But he also allows genuine value disagreement: "we shall still have men [sic] disagreeing on the comparative roles of individual responsibility and social benevolence." (13) That is, when confronted by the social tensions of the 1960s, at least one leading Chicago economists became receptive to the reality of value pluralism. And thought it important enough to repeat it in his major book on liberal, political statecraft.

 

 

The Chris Kaba Shooting and the Shocking Reality of Armed Policing in Modern Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2022 - 11:22pm in

Tags 

Racism, Society

Iain Overton reports on the statistics that reveal the police’s institutional racial bias

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The Metropolitan Police has refused to reveal the ethnicity of the armed police officers who were present in the controversial killing of Chris Kaba. Though the officer involved in the shooting of the black British citizen has now been suspended, the Met’s customary refusal to state the officer’s ethnic background comes amid widespread concerns related to race and policing, with 2020 data showing that only 0.2% of UK armed police officers identify as black.

Data from the same year revealed that one in four people shot by police is black despite making up only 3.9% of the population. 

Kaba, 24, was shot and killed in Streatham Hill on 5 September. The killing took place after a police car chase when an Audi he was driving – which had been linked to a gun incident a few days before – was hemmed in by two police vehicles in the residential street Kirkstall Gardens. One round was fired from a police weapon. The car did not belong to Kaba. 

Following the shooting, Kaba was taken to hospital where he died later that night.

When asked about the ethnicity of the armed police officers involved in Kaba’s death, the Metropolitan police said: “that is not something we are able to give you a comment on at this stage”.

Kaba’s killing has led to significant anger and concern in London’s black community and beyond. On Saturday 10 September, large crowds protested outside the Metropolitan Police's headquarters in London where they were joined by members of his family, the singer Stormzy, and MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Signs reading "Justice for Chris Kaba" and "Black Lives Matter" were visibly present.

In May of this year, one of Britain’s most senior officers called on Police chiefs to admit that institutional racism blights policing. “We are guilty as charged,” Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, told the Guardian. He said “positive discrimination” should be introduced to boost the numbers of minority ethnic officers in the ranks, and blamed failures on the leadership of law enforcement. 

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Racial Disparity

There appears to be a systemic concern in relation to the use of armed police and ethnicity in the UK. Between 2020 and 2022 in England and Wales, in the 7,670 times where armed police pointed their guns at a subject but didn’t fire, one in four incidents, (1,933), involved a black person. In the Metropolitan Police, this figure rose to 48% in 2021. 

In 2018/19, the Met aimed a firearm at a black person 665 times, nearly twice the rate of white people, at 373 incidents.

Despite the high proportion of black people being targeted by armed police, black officers make up a tiny fraction of police who are authorised to use a firearm (AFOs), a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by the charity Action on Armed Violence revealed at the time.  

Of the 30 forces that answered the FOI and specified the number of black AFOs they had, there were just 29 black officers listed. That’s just 0.2% of the combined number of 12,572 armed officers from these 30 forces.

This does not include the Met, who are responsible for the most (16) shootings in the past five years. The Met “does not record specific Officer Defined Ethnicity” for armed officers. Data from its armed officer training programme shows that since 2017, 2.8% (38) of the participants were black. Once in training, the pass rate for black officers was 10% lower than for white candidates. 

In 2020, the London Metropolitan Police had a total of 2,669 armed police officers, of which 225, or 8.4%, were black and minority ethnic. 

While the number of black officers remains low, there has been an 18% increase in the number of AFOs in England and Wales. Between 2016-19, the number rose from 5,639 to 6,653, however by 2020, 14 regions didn’t have a single black AFO among their 1,313 armed officers. Northamptonshire, West Mercia and Durham had no black and minority ethnic AFO, from a combined force of 222.

Decades of Death

Kaba’s killing adds him to a grim tally of black people who have died during confrontations with armed police, or who have died in police custody. 

Back in 2011, the killing of Mark Duggan by armed police officers who believed he was carrying a gun led to riots in London. A jury in a 2014 inquest returned a verdict of lawful killing, and Duggan was armed with a loaded handgun when he was shot dead by police during a planned operation to arrest him. 

The killing was surrounded by controversy, not least when the Independent Police Complaints Commission admitted it had inadvertently misled the media that Duggan had fired at officers. Duggan’s gun was found seven metres away from where he was shot.

The scenes that followed his death were reminiscent of riots in the 1980s after the shooting of Cherry Groce in Brixton. Groce, aged 37, was mistakenly shot by police officers when they raided her home in 1983, leaving her paralysed. Her son, Lee Lawrence, said the incident “robbed me of my childhood” and his mother passed away in 2011, aged 63. A ​​jury inquest found that police failures contributed to her death.

Four years after Duggan’s death, Jermaine Baker was shot in Wood Green, London, when trying to spring a prisoner from custody. Baker, 28, was unarmed although he was carrying an imitation gun in the car. An inquiry into the incident, which concluded in July this year, found that the officer had acted lawfully but criticised the Metropolitan police for 24 failings. 

24-year-old Azelle Rodney was killed in 2005. His mother, Susan Alexander, said her son “did not deserve to die and we do not have a death penalty in this country”. Ten years after the incident, former police marksman Antony Long was cleared of murder, with the jury accepting that he was acting in self-defence. 

An official inquiry had previously found that “there was no lawful justification for shooting Azelle Rodney so as to kill him". The inquiry also found flaws in the Metropolitan police operation that led to the killing. In the 1980s, Long had shot dead two men in an operation and wounded two other suspects.

These are a few of the fatal shootings that have taken place in recent decades of black people by predominantly white armed police officers. It’s also the case that black people are disproportionately likely to die in police custody: in the past 10 years, 8% of those who died in custody were black. 

Additional reporting by Sian Norris. Iain Overton is the executive director of Action On Armed Violence

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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‘The Uses of Diversity’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/09/2022 - 12:08am in

Martin Shaw considers why so many politicians of colour have been appointed to top ministerial roles by white Conservative leaders

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Under Liz Truss, there will be – for the first time – no white males occupying any of the great offices of state. As well as a new female Prime Minister, the new Chancellor, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary are all politicians of colour. What does it mean that white prime ministers have now appointed four successive chancellors and three successive home secretaries from minority backgrounds?

Many assume that there is nothing to see here except that, significantly in historical perspective, the Conservative Party now accepts – indeed promotes – ethnic minority politicians. The party which long epitomised the racialised British Empire; with an iconic wartime leader, Winston Churchill, who later wanted to fight an election on the slogan ‘Keep Britain White’; and which produced the notorious anti-immigrant racism of Enoch Powell, has now had more people of colour in senior roles than Labour.

There clearly has been a cultural transformation in the elite and the parliamentary party, if perhaps not so fully at the grassroots. Having the right political attitudes and class affiliations (especially having gone to private schools) now appears to trump ethnicity.

Yet the outgoing Prime Minister was notorious for his racial language ("piccanninies"), and his exploitation of racism to first win the EU Referendum and then the Conservative leadership ("bank robbers"). Truss seems to have less overt baggage but she dismissed "fashionable" concerns with racial equality when Johnson made her Equalities Minister, and recently referred to "setting up your own business" as a Jewish value, a view which was widely seen as antisemitic. 

At the policy level, the Conservatives’ euphemistically renamed ‘compliant’ (formerly ‘hostile’) environment for mainly less-skilled and lower-waged immigrants, as well as their cruel, internationally illegal policies towards refugees, reflect the ongoing importance of racism to their political offer.

It is striking that (with the exception of Sajid Javid’s challenge to Conservative Islamophobia in 2019) all ministers of colour have fully accepted, like their white colleagues, the party’s elements of continuing political racism, including the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

In the context of Johnson’s racist vocabulary and the exploitation of racism for electoral gain, it is legitimate to ask: why have white prime ministers surrounded themselves with senior colleagues of colour to an extent which is heavily disproportionate to the representation of minorities within the Conservative parliamentary party and membership, and even to UK society as a whole?

The question is difficult to answer conclusively, as neither Johnson nor Truss have said anything which directly aids an answer. It could also be argued that, while the pattern is suggestive, the period is short, the sample small (the total of these ministers is still in single figures), and individual factors have played important roles (the new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, for example, is a long-time collaborator and close friend of Liz Truss). 

It could also be argued that some of the ministers may have been the best candidates for their roles.

Nevertheless, there are three ways in which racial attitudes could have played a part.

First, the appointments of Sajid Javid (by Theresa May), Priti Patel (by Boris Johnson) and now Suella Braverman as Home Secretary have been widely viewed through the lens of racial stereotyping, because their family migration backgrounds made them ideal proponents of the Government’s reactionary immigration policies.

Second, but more speculatively, the fact that all three of Johnson’s chancellors were very rich, partly or wholly self-made, men could be significant. His well-known personal obsession with money suggests that he could have viewed them as capable because of their financial success.

Finally, there is the question of whether these appointments of minority politicians may have been seen as intrinsically rather less threatening than those of white candidates. It might seem anachronistic to raise this question after Rishi Sunak came fairly close – with a plurality among MPs and 42% of the membership vote – to winning the Conservative leadership. It should be remembered, however, not only that he ultimately lost to a white candidate, but also that his prime ministerial potential was hardly foreseen when he was appointed Chancellor. 

Johnson first appointed Javid as Chancellor. He was then the sole Muslim in senior Conservative ranks, who had stood for the leadership in 2019 but was eliminated before the membership vote – while polling during the campaign showed that more than 40% of members would not be happy with a Muslim prime minister. When Johnson appointed him, he must have calculated that he had a chancellor who would be less likely than others to successfully exploit the second position in government to challenge his own position. 

Javid surprised Johnson, however, when he resigned over his diktat that the Chancellor should subordinate his special advisors to Dominic Cummings. Johnson then promoted Sunak, a second-tier and relatively unknown politician, who accepted the terms which Javid rejected. Johnson must have thought he had a pliable minister who was unlikely to prove a threat. Neither could have envisaged Sunak’s prominence as the face of the pandemic furlough scheme led to his becoming as the most popular politician among both Conservative members and the public in 2020-21.

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The unresolvable question in all this is how far Sunak’s ultimate defeat was influenced by his ethnicity. Certainly his star had already declined before the leadership election and there were other reasons why Truss outsmarted him. These included the portrayal of Sunak as a global elitist; despite his 2016 Leave vote, he was ultimately not as convincing a Brexiter as Truss.

The proportion of Conservative members polled during the campaign who admitted rejecting Sunak on racial grounds was certainly tiny. But given the character of the membership, it is difficult to rule out the possibility that these could have played an unarticulated role.

Sunak is not a Muslim, but the well-documented Conservative hostility towards Muslims could represent the tip of a larger iceberg of unacknowledged prejudice among a section of members, no longer overtly expressed because it has been delegitimised, but which still weighs at least somewhat against minority politicians – especially when it comes to the premiership.

Liz Truss' Government's electoral hopes are likely to depend heavily on the large ‘social conservative’ minority of the electorate who are likely to share the Conservative Brexiter reservations which helped to sink Sunak. Truss cannot afford to dispense with the political racism that Priti Patel helped Johnson to orchestrate, any more than with the ultra-nationalism that she herself cultivated for him.

The paradox that white politicians have won the last two leadership contests against credible candidates of colour, and have then surrounded themselves with senior minority politicians, suggests that diversity has a range of uses for the UK’s new Prime Minister. But it may also have its limits.

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“Cancel Culture” and Its Perils

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/09/2022 - 6:53am in

There is no question that "cancel culture" is a legitimate tool of a vibrant democratic culture, especially as it allows the powerless to redress the abuses and the offensive behavior directed at them by powerful public figures.

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The post “Cancel Culture” and Its Perils appeared first on New Politics.

The Culture Wars, the Contradictions of our Age, and the Liberalism of Reparations.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/09/2022 - 10:38pm in

Once upon a time the United States of America was a de jure racist society. As was much of the world beyond its borders, controlled as it was by racist European empires. There was a broadly understood and explicitly codified and enforced racial organisation of who could live where, of how individuals could interact, of what sort of jobs were appropriate for whom, of how law and order would operate — or wouldn’t (Wells-Barnett 1895). The science (Morris 2015), sport (Rogosin 2007), and artistic culture of the day (Cooper 1892), were largely carried out in conformity with, if not support of, racist norms. Gross or subtle as it may have been in any given instance, the colour line ran through everything and one crossed it only at great personal peril (Du Bois 1904, 530).

But mountains crumble and rivers disappear, new roads replace the old, stones are buried and vanish in the earth. Time passes and the world changes. So it was that eventually this de jure racist system went the way of all things. The civil war overthrew the slave regime. Racial immigration laws were repealed. The civil rights act made various sorts of explicitly racist laws and practices impermissible. By the latter half of the 20th century it was clear an officially endorsed de jure racial caste system was no longer to hold sway in American life. Likewise abroad the great European empires fell, and in their place sprang up a plethora of nations governed by formerly colonised peoples. All things considered, the 20th century saw de jure racism suffer a world-historic defeat...

Whatever else changed, the people who have the stuff still tend to be white, and blacks must still sell our labour to them if we are to get by.

In this way American domestic politics mirrored the broader global trends of a post imperial world (Táíwò 2022a, ch.2). The European empires despoiled and depopulated nations (Davis 2002, Marschal 2017). What they left in their wake were often under-developed economies (Rodney 1972) and institutional structures ripe to be taken over by local elites who could simply continue the pattern of authoritarian wealth extraction (Fanon 1961, ch.3; Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). But the end of formal colonisation did not generally lead to reparations. For the most part agents based in the former colonial metropoles retained ownership of key resources and even infrastructure (Nkrumah 1965), and if anything inefficiencies in the credit market have led to a net capital flow from the former colonies to the former colonisers (Picketty 2015, 58). Neither domestically nor internationally did a change in cultural attitudes and legal permissions correlate with a change in racial patterns of ownership. As such, many of the material patterns of inequality from the bad old days of de jure racist regimes have survived the demise of their former ideological superstructure.

Returning to the US, these persistent material inequalities have consequences for occupational inequality....

And the political intelligentsia are still largely white, which has arguably affected the content and focus of their work (Mills 2017). This then is where history has placed us. The maddening ambiguity of our position is what leads to the titular white psychodrama. One cannot reconcile oneself to this society because it constantly pulls in two directions - it presents one with an ideological narrative that speaks of equality, and a material structure that witnesses rank inequality. At some level this society just does not make sense to itself, its own ideology out of whack with the plain facts of its own existence. There are those who are tempted to focus only on the positives, and see in this a story of triumphant progress towards racial justice or a post-racial future. And there are those who are inclined to see in it a story of eternal recurrence, racism ever reinventing itself. But both of these perspectives are too tidy to capture the phenomenon. For this story is of a world and a nation in contradiction with itself.

...How then do people respond to the facts relayed in this historical narrative, and what does it mean for their ability to reconcile themselves to their own social order?--Liam Kofi Bright (2022, forthcoming) "White Psychodrama" Journal of Political Philosophy. [Emphasis added]

Kofi Bright introduces his paper (with nods to Hegel and Rawls) with a methodological aspiration: "One might hope that [i] philosophy could reconcile ourselves to our social world and [ii] each other. To entertain this as plausible is to think [iii] there is some perspective one could reach via philosophical inquiry that [iv] shows our life and society to be as they are for good reason, [v] allowed us to see it all as in some sense rational." (Numbers added to facilitate discussion.) And while I have a growing self-awareness that many of these digressions are modest impressions on or an occasional, recalcitrant modest 'yes but' to Liam Kofi Bright's evolving oeuvre, I have never thought of philosophy as a means to [i-v]. Maybe I am too angry or vain to become identical with such a thought, but neither 'reconciliation' nor 'rationality' ever become applied to my conceptualization(s) of our lives and society. And this, alongside my close vicinity to (if not outright membership in) the "political intelligentsia," makes me suspect with growing dread that I may well be (one of the minor cogs that is) the subject matter of "White Psychodrama."

The methodological aspiration that introduces the paper is partially echoed in the question that closes the block quote at the top of this post (which is the culmination of a section titled, "A Narrative Of How We Got Here.") But there philosophy and 'us' are absent. So, lurking in Liam Kofi Bright's paper is a soft opposition, perhaps it's just a matter of degree, between the orientation characteristic of philosophy and that of the political intelligentsia. Both are thought to reconcile themselves to the world, but only in philosophy can we come to understand the world as rational. That is to say, lurking in Liam Kofi Bright's analysis is a traditional (familiar from Plato, Al-Farabi, Smith, Madison, Arendt, etc.) distinction between the opinions (or ideology) of the political intelligentsia and the episteme (or theodicy rationalizations) of the philosophers.

I don't mean to suggest that Liam Kofi Bright engages in the fallacy of the overlooked alternatives. He recognizes "there may not be such a perspective. Perhaps to see the world aright is to recognise it as a jumbled mess, with no progressive tendency towards greater coherence, and no satisfaction to be had in achieving superior insight. Perhaps there is no good end we are collaboratively working towards, no possible reconciliation with each other; maybe we are perpetually on the brink of descending once more into a Hobbesian nightmare." But what's important about this explicit recognition is that it suggests we're in a high stakes context: the inability to even conceptualise reconciliation is to be some way down a slippery slope toward murderous anarchy. Despite the British spelling, there is no option of mere muddling through (or exiting to a desert island) in his set up. Given that the explicit background is slavery, empire, and genocide, this may be fair enough.

Of course, the way the methodological aspiration is formulated might suggest a quietist attitude. But that would be misleading, Liam Kofi Bright also emphatically claims, "We ought then make the social world worthy of reconciliation." Let's call this the 'revolutionary impulse' in his argument. And, perhaps, my alertness to this impulse is my occasion to highlight the claim that the world and nation is in contradiction with itself. In material dialectics such a diagnosis of self-contradiction is, of course, the funnel toward certain kind of revolutionary action. As he puts it (echoing MLKjr's comments to Harry Belafonte, but unusually in a paper dense with references without citation,) "We cannot and ought not reconcile ourselves to a society wrapped up in its own contradictions, no more than we should seek to integrate into a burning house."

Now at this point one may well suspect that one is listening in on a conversation that may not include everyone as agents in the earlier 'we'. I don't think that's right, but it is worth quoting the full passage to see how easy one can misread the essay:

Here I am interested in how our peculiar socio-economic conditions shape the contours and possible points of resolution in the cultural debate around issues of race. It shall be seen that characteristic responses to our social order, which I shall describe through stylised character archetypes, make it impossible for any lasting reconciliation to be had for participants in the culture war. Instead our responses both generate and constitute a kind of racialised psychopathology, that I describe as white psychodrama. Given this analysis of the social order and its sources of psychic incoherence, I will suggest a way forward. My hope is that this will at least help people of colour caught in the midst of this work towards a world we can live in, and by seeing ourselves as so working reconcile ourselves to our actual present social activities. We cannot and ought not reconcile ourselves to a society wrapped up in its own contradictions, no more than we should seek to integrate into a burning house. But we can come to see ourselves as knowingly and self-consciously working to resolve those contradictions, quenching that fire, and laying the foundations for a better structure that we may all live comfortably therein.

One may well think that the intended audience of 'we' here, is "people of colour" or "the PoC intelligentsia." And, if one reads hastily, one may well wonder if all of this isn't just a call to burn it all down.

But I don't think it's the only audience or that the content of revolution here is destructive. After all, Kofi Bright is not advocating letting the fire consume the house, rather he is explicit in calling for the fire to be quenched. And that quenching and rebuilding is only possible, if I understand him correctly, after reparations.* 

Now, at this point -- knowing my bourgeois, liberal proclivities -- you may suspect I will denounce the revolutionary ardor of Kofi Bright. But I don't view reparations or compensation for injustices suffered as a illiberal, a category error, or a radical step too far. After all, (recall) the Federal Republic of Germany, then governed by (relatively conservative) Ordo-liberals explicitly recognized the ideal of reoperations as the start of a proper response to the genocidal atrocities of Nazism and to make living in a common home, however imperfectly, possible. From the liberal perspective, reparations are the ground zero for massive historical injustices in order to make non-zero-sum interactions available to all of us.+ 

As an aside, Rawlsianism and (even more) utilitarianism have a tendency to privilege forward-looking theorizing and to encourage a kind of forgetting of the past. (This is a feature not a bug in much liberal philosophy.) And this leads them to the familiar sophisms that block reparations in their analyses;  that the status quo provides the solid foundations for the future.

So, clearly there is a possible task for the white political intelligentsia lurking in Kofi Bright's analysis and rhetoric: that is, it is to reject the Repenter stance (who leaves structures alone and only focuses on individual racial improvements) as much as the Represser stance (who would like racial bygones to be bygones). Now, from a Marxist perspective this is an invitation to be a race traitor. (There is no doubt that successful revolutions require them.) And one may well suspect that there are many incentives that despite the effectiveness of Liam Kofi Bright's rhetoric prevent the move from Repenter/Represser to pro-reparations (and "to realise racially egalitarian group ideals.")

But to make integration in the same house possible is, as Lea Klarenbeek (building on Haslanger's ideas) has shown, a two-way process. This process is, thus, much easier when the pie that is to be divided is being enlarged (and so liberalism and markets get a toe-hold back in). How to do so without worsening the climate crisis is a real challenge technologically, economically, and politically. But the task of the bourgeois intelligentsia is not to be a source of diversion, but to articulate the real social problems and to amplify the solutions that experts and social movements devise which will strengthen the survival of democratic self-government and rule of law.

So, while I agree that my kind is primarily engaged in "a conflict over how to psychologically manage the results of living in a materially deeply unequal society," I view reparations as the right thing to do and a sine qua non reformist move to make such stress much better manageable. Material and political inequalities are, I suspect, part of the human condition, but partially repairing the past as a means to more solid foundations is in our power, even now. And if advocating reparations is treated as Repenter-on-steroids-syndrome, I accept the moniker. 

 

*"But in any case, redirecting the conversation, practices, and ultimately resources, involved in how we deal with reparations towards specific climate ends requires powers we do not presently have, and a mixture of skills and dispositions that are rare. Indeed even thinking about things this way is often very contentious (see e.g. Táíwò & Talati 2022). However it is exactly the sort of shift in mindset and practice we will need if we are to carry out the Non-Aligned project of striving to actually resolve our material inequalities."

+Obviously, there is a cynical approach to reoperations that sees it as a cost of doing business. So, I don't mean to suggest writing checks is sufficient here.

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