“You are part of the problem”

This, by Patrick Benjamin, is superb: Dear White People, If You Have Ever Said Any Of These Things Then You Are Part Of The Problem.

These riots are happening because no matter how black people have said it: taking a knee, marching the streets, bumper stickers, banners, signs, or chants, you still don’t get it. That doesn’t mean you’re bad people. That doesn’t mean you’re racist. It only means you’re white. And that’s not a crime, any more than being black is. The difference is, police aren’t going to shoot you in the street for it.


2020 is the most… what?

Here’s an interesting thought, which someone (I’ve lost the link, sorry) posted on social media earlier.

What if 2020 isn’t the most awful year we’ve experienced, but the most important?

That’s not to say it isn’t awful. Of course it is. But history is full of awful times that, with the benefit of hindsight, turned out to be hugely important. They weren’t just periods of awfulness; they were periods of transition. Sometimes very painful transition, but transition nevertheless.

What if 2020 is one of them?


It couldn’t happen here

Like everyone, I’ve been watching the US police brutality with horror. US racism is hardly new, but this – these vicious attacks on peaceful protestors, and the deliberate targeting of press photographers and cameramen and women – feels like the culmination of so many recent trends: the deliberate infiltration of the police by white supremacists, the militarisation of police forces, the mainstreaming of far-right views and the characterisation of the media as the enemy.

I’ve also seen a lot of British people posting on social media that they’re glad they live here because it isn’t a racist country. You’ll never guess what colour those people are.

The UK may not seem to be racist if you’re white, but of course it is and it has been for a very long time. It’s just not as visible as it is in the US. But this is the country of Grenfell and Windrush, of the hostile environment and Go Home vans, of Nigel Farage and racist newspapers and a Prime Minister who’s long traded in racist stereotypes. It’s a country where 1/3 of the deaths in police custody are Black or members of other ethnic minorities, where more BAME people than white people die from COVID-19 and where the report into those deaths is suppressed for fear it may “stoke racial tensions”. And of course, this is the country of Empire, an empire many of us choose to see through rose-tinted spectacles. We certainly don’t teach our children the murderous reality.

Some people would say that that’s England, not Scotland, as if Scotland is somehow better. The attitude was expressed perfectly over the weekend on social media, where I saw some apparently educated Scots claiming that Scotland’s participation in the slave trade was forced on it by the English. But it wasn’t. We were enthusiastic participants, and many Scots built their fortune on Black people’s blood. Many Glasgow streets are named after the slave trade crops, and many of Glasgow’s mansions were built with slave trade money.

You can’t learn lessons from history if you refuse to learn history in the first place. And you can’t make a better nation if you don’t understand where your nation needs to be better.

Scotland is not special and we are certainly not immune from racism. The author and playwright James Kelman wrote about this thirty years ago in his piece, Attack On These People Not Racist, Says British State. It’s about Britain as a whole but describes racist violence in Scotland and racist coverage by the Scottish press.

we all know that racist abuse and violation, including murder, are the experience of the various non-European communities from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

…The general public rarely gets to know about everyday racism except where it occurs in front of their nose.

Last year, more than 80 artists, academics, lawyers and activists signed an open letter warning that attitudes towards race and racism in Scotland are rolling backwards:

Solutions cannot be reached without discussing how racism operates as a social and institutional structure, fuelled by protections and advantages people perceived as white have received over time and in the present day.

If you don’t see racism here, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It means it isn’t happening to you.


“The violence of white women’s tears”

There’s a blistering editorial in the New York Times about Amy Cooper, the white woman who was asked by a black birdwatcher to put her dog on a lead in the park. She responded by threatening to call the police and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life – a potentially lethal lie in a country where so many black men and boys have been murdered by the police.

She may believe these statements to be true. But even here she betrays her sense of white superiority; even if she didn’t intend to physically hurt him, she certainly was letting him know she had the power to do so and was attempting to corner him into submission.

…Ms. Cooper is not an exceptional example of racism but the latest in a long line of damsels who leverage racial power by dominating people of color only to pivot to the role of the helpless victim.

In America, Black women have a term for this: Karen. A Karen is a white woman who uses her whiteness and the privilege that comes with it to cause trouble for black people; she demands to call the manager in the hope of getting a key worker fired, or calls the police pretending a black man is threatening her.

Here in the UK, we like to think that we’re better than the Americans. And it’s true that while we have our own problems with racism – right now black people are more likely to be stopped for suspicion of breaking lockdown rules, for example; there are no end of examples of people of colour suffering abuse of authority – Amy Cooper’s threat wouldn’t have been quite so frightening if she were a Glaswegian rather than a New Yorker, because our police officers are less likely to be heavily armed racists who shoot first and think later.

But the threat would still be effective, because there would still be a presumption on the part of the authorities that she was telling the truth: as a white, cisgender, well-spoken, well-educated middle-class woman with a respectable job many people in authority will respond to her in a different way than to people who don’t tick some or all of those boxes. And some people try to use that power differential to their advantage: the Karens of the world, who are not exclusive to the US.

Something I found interesting about the online reaction to the Amy Cooper story here in the UK was people’s surprise that Cooper isn’t right-wing. But this  isn’t about which side of the political spectrum you sit on. It’s about power, power that enables you to protect your personal position even if it means harming others; power that enables you to call on the police or other authorities to deal with anyone who challenges, inconveniences or criticises you. It’s about the privilege you have in society and your willingness to use it as a weapon against those less powerful than you.


“People aren’t protesting for the right to BE waitresses and hairdressers, they’re fighting for the right to HAVE them.”

This is the sound of a nail being hit squarely on the head (video in the link).


Hate crimes and political shenanigans

Neil Mackay in The Herald writes about SNP factionalism:

The SNP has always had a fractious, bitter, conspiratorial base, which some politicians have pandered to in the past. Now, it seems as if the base is coming overground, as if the base is set on taking the party over.

…will I ever vote SNP again? What if I vote SNP in 2021, backing Sturgeon’s vision for Scotland, and end up with something very different if she’s dethroned, something which I’ve no trust in, and which, frankly, repels me?

I reckon many moderate Yes voters like me – greatly discomfited by nationalism, but hopeful that a better Scotland can be forged away from the failed Westminster model – would think twice about voting for an SNP without Sturgeon at the helm.

And in The Scotsman, justice secretary Humza Yousaf responds to lurid claims that the Hate Crime Bill will criminalise freedom of expression.

The Bill’s provisions on freedom of expression provide reassurance that stirring up offences will not unduly restrict people’s right to express their faith, or to criticise religious beliefs or practices or sexual practices. Freedom of expression is not without limit, but this Bill will not inhibit controversial and challenging views being offered as long as this is not done in a way that is threatening or abusive.


It’s time to reopen Jurassic Park

Carlos Greaves, writing for McSweeney’s:

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!



Did your employer just requisition your home?

A thought-provoking piece by Dr Fiona Jenkins:

Although many employers are certainly being supportive, let’s not forget that those who until recently took their homes for private space are not gaining a privilege right now, but losing a set of prerogatives

…so “working from home” at present means something like this: employers have requisitioned the home as a condition of continuing to work, and they have taken away the office as part of what was previously offered to enable people to work.

I’m putting together some notes just now for people who are new to working at home. I work full-time from home and my work area is set up accordingly, not just with computer equipment but with furniture and accessories, some of which cost a lot of money. I chose my flat with the expectation of working from home, so it has sufficient space to do so; and the costs of working from home have been factored into the money I charge my clients.

But many people who are currently working from home have not got properties that are suitable, do not have appropriate equipment or furniture, and are not being compensated for the extra expenses of working from home – expenses not just including heating but the extra cost of electricity, of possibly requiring better broadband and so on.

And of course, those of us with children have to deal with the fact that schools are closed. I co-parent, so my children are not here all the time; I work on the days they are not. That isn’t an option for couples who may both be working at home.

Jenkins rightly points out that some employers are accommodating. She gives the example of an employer deciding that a 25-hour working from home week is full time. But many are not, and the costs their newly home working employees are incurring may be significant.


While I am completely behind the move to lockdown, and grateful to have an employer carefully addressing the issues so that we can maintain our core work, I worry that caught up in the urgency of crisis we risk forgetting just how problematic the “working from home” pillar of our strategy for mitigation is in multiple respects. Just because we accept the necessity of action in the context of emergency should not mean that we do not question its further implications and its practice.



Free course: gender representation in the media

You don’t have to feed your mind during lockdown, of course. But if you’re looking for something to interest, enrage and enthuse you Strathclyde University has a free course on gender representation in the media. I’m on week 3 and I’m finding it fascinating and thought-provoking.

The course is here. It’s hosted by Futurelearn, which does all kinds of free courses: a couple of years ago I signed up for one about forensics, because I thought it might be interesting. It was, and now I know how to get away with murder. Probably.


“There’s something quite transcendental about making love with a dolphin”

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff to laugh at. This, from the Mirror, had me in tears.

Man had sex with a dolphin called Dolly for a year – and claimed she seduced him

Almost every paragraph has a killer line, such as:

“At first I discouraged her, I wasn’t interested. After some time I thought ‘if this was a woman would I come up with these rationalisations and excuses’?”