#ShutDown

The burden of the brutalised is not to comfort the bystander. That is not our job. Stop with all that. 

If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an already established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions for those who do. 

Sit down. 

– Jesse Williams 

I extend my solidarity and support for the brave activists who #ShutDown across the UK yesterday. 

The problem with the left

And I say that somewhat ironically. There is not a problem with the left but a problem with humanity. A problem, which with further thought, you discover is not so much a problem but a reality. The left – like any group – is not homogeneous. What binds us is wanting a “fairer world”.  Yet we come with varying spectrum of politics, opinions on priorities, names that we call ourselves (the -ists) ideas on how to organise, beliefs on what the perfect world should be.

So I find the whole question of “the problem with the left” as being problematic in itself.

What inspired me to write this post in the first place are two things:

  1. Owen Jone’s dissertation length piece on Jeremy Corbyn
  2. Some direct actions or social media actions I have noticed recently

So first onto Owen Jones. He made several interesting points and highlight many issues that needs to be dealt with. But he offered no solutions. And this is the thing, he spent a large chunk of his piece reaffirming his expertise and credentials. Then surely he should be offering solutions – if not the likes of him then who?

And onto the direct actions – I am referring to London Black Rev organising a direct action to chuck bugs into Byron as part of the resistance against them. The following sums up my thoughts on it:

While I appreciate the symbolism of the cockroach thing at the ‪#‎boycottbyron‬ protest yesterday, gotta be honest and say I don’t back it.

London Black Revs – which is an individual masquerading as an organisation tbh – acted without consulting those who called the action.

Those who participated in the insect action didn’t think about the affect it’d have on workers; by this I don’t just mean the clean up but how those with precarious immigration status might feel about police being called inside the restaurant itself.

This isn’t the first time London Black Revs has acted irresponsibly. Last week, LBR put out a call-out about UKBA vans in N London. Myself and two friends responded and went to the location to provide support. It became clear that not only was LBR not even there, but was actively sourcing information from racists on Twitter to pass on to us. This was thoughtless in the extreme, and could have put us in very real danger.

I don’t trust someone who tips off journalists about an action and not their fellow activists. I don’t trust someone who acts recklessly in situations where it’s not their neck on the line. I urge you all to think carefully about whether London Black Revs is an individual you trust in a political or a personal capacity. If not, there are other (better!) groups to invest your time and your effort in. Stay safe friends xxx – Ash Sarkar

And this brings me onto the thing that links these two: unity within the left. I have a lot of people saying that people are traitors for speaking out, that they are doing the jobs of the right-wing media.

“Unity” is used as a silencing tool. A shut up and take it. No – when something does not sit right we should speak out. That is the only way we can make sure we remain progressive, and not stuck in a bubble waiting for the next burst (think Conservatives getting in at the last two General Elections, Brexit, and the very likely election of Trump).

My worry however is how to ensure we are united enough so that the efforts we put in mean we are making significant steps forward in the right direction. This is why I never fell for #Lexit – I knew the left are not organised enough to be able to take over the narrative sufficiently to be useful.

And it is disheartening. We are consistently under-resourced, unorganised, dealing with internalised racism, sexism and abuse – I just don’t see a way out. We need leadership – and it will not come from middle-class white straight men.

The solution is accepting this. Look at the #BlackLivesMatter movement – started by three queer Black women. And it grew from Twitter and Facebook. We should be taking lessons from these rather than using them to push forward our own political agendas once again (side-eye to London Black Revs).

The revolution will be led by Black, queer, disabled, Muslim women. And until these groups are respected enough to be given space it will only lead to the downfall of the whole movement.

Do more

The world woke up today to the news of another black man murdered by the hands that are sworn to protect him.

My brothers Philando Castile‬ and Alton Sterling‬, your names join the long list of black people killed by the state. 114th black man killed by the police in America in 2016. We will say your name, we will mourn you, we will fight for you. May you rest in power and may your children grow up in a world where they do not meet the same fate. 

The videos posted online are heartbreaking. Infuriating. Numbing. And that is just the feelings I am feeling as a non-black women of colour. I cannot even imagine how my black siblings are feeling – having to navigate a world that has been systemically set up to use them as commodity and discard them without a care.

I am so sorry. But that is not enough. My prayers and my hugs and my love will not bring back your loved ones. Will not save you from the trauma of knowing that could have been you, your dad, your brother. Will not save you from having to read millions protect the murderers. And will not protect you from the injustice of seeing no one blamed, no one punished, no closure.

We must do more. And when I say we I am talking to my fellow non-black people of colour and white people. It is not enough that we go to rallies, and marches and write statuses and share a tweet. Do all these things, yes. But we need to do more.  Continue reading

Numbers and places 

The lives lost simply numbers and places. No photos. No names. No stories. But each and every one of them is a person like you and I. With families and loved ones. With livelihoods and paths they crafted for themselves. Destinies and dreams. This is just too many. Before we can even be done mourning there’s another one. Another death count. We hold our breaths praying it’s not someone we know. For if it’s not someone we know then they’re just a number.

We write a message online and send our prayers. Create a hashtag. #PrayforTurkey #PrayforBangladesh #PrayforIraq. And then we forget until the next and then the next.

And of course if it’s in the global south then we will forget very soon. Only the ones with roots there will know or care to know. No flags, no vigils, no news coverage. If it’s in the west we will mourn a little longer. But they too will be forgotten soon.

Unless it is your home, your friends, your family. Just numbers and places. Far away stories of evil men (and it is always men) continue. But it’s ok. We can breath, it’s not us. This time.

May Allah accept the fallen as martyrs and bring peace to their loved ones. And may we have peace and stability in our homes.

Ramadan diary: day 22-23

Only a few days left! I can’t believe how quickly this month has flown by. And what a difference a month can make!

Despite the gloom that is my last post, and the continual increase of attacks I am hearing about, I have been feeling a little more hopeful today. I guess I have accepted the inevitable changes that are to come and have decided to instead focus my energies of two things – being happy with myself (and this is on both a spiritual and worldly level) and doing all that I have energy for to improve the world around me.

But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. – Quran (8:30)

Yesterday I attended the London rally supporting Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. I don’t think Jeremy is the messiah. I believe in his politics. I believe in his mandate. I believe he can provide an actual opposition to the same kind of politics we’ve heard year in and year out, ever since I can remember.

We are continuously told he is a decent man but not a good leader. The 10,000 people gathered with under 24 hours and over 200,000 signing a petition would say otherwise. He is a leader. Just not the type we often associate with politicians.


I then went out for Iftar with old friends and new. Saying the food wasn’t great would be an overstatement but alhamdulliah the company made up for that. Again, reenergising my happiness battery.

Reflecting on yesterday I realise though the actions of people can make you loose hope in humanity, equally they can fill you right back up again. I am under no illusions that we have a fight in our hands and the country is in turmoil.

But at the very least we have our friends, our families and Twitter banter to keep us going.

And on that note here are my favourite two from the tragically beautiful Euro loss last night –

Brexit

It’s been a tough couple of days post the shocker that was Brexit. With so much initial numbness, followed by anger and then despair I was struggling to hone in on what I wanted to write about on here. I’ve decided to focus on me. You can find plenty of articles on the ridiculous reasons people voted to leave, the immediate retraction of promises from those leading and the frightening effect that’s already been put in place.

But this is about me and the thousands of British people of colour who no longer feel welcome here. Now don’t get me wrong – racism and xenophobia did not just appear overnight. Attacks – both verbal and physical – have always been around. It just so happens that this win has strengthened and empowered otherwise meek hate-filled people.

I have seen countless of reports – both from personal friends and those on social media – of abuse. People being told to go back because we’ve voted them out. People being shoved. People being beaten up. Continue reading

Ramadan diary: day 11

Yesterday was exhausting. I don’t know if it was simply from sitting through technical workshops trying not to yawn or my very unhealthy (but great) lunch of chips + baked beans but by the time I went back to the hotel I was done. Feeling refreshed after a quick wash I settled down to do some work on my bed and next thing you know I was out by 7.

I had a nightmare about missing work the next day so woke up disorientated and nervous. Frantically grabbed my phone and thank God it was only 3 AM. I had of course missed dinner and was feeling very thirsty. But as I was going to grab a drink I wondered if I should be fasting today.

See in the past my period has lasted an average of 10 days. But I noticed that for the last 2 months – the only 2 months I have recorded down – it lasted 8 days. And today is the 9th day. At 3 AM I was conflated on whether to fast anyway – even though I was super thirsty and the last meal I had eaten was lunch the day before. I would have attempted it but after some googling I found you shouldn’t fast until you are sure. Since I was unsure, and since my periods have typically lasted 10 days before, I thought it would be ok not to fast today.

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I’ll be travelling back home today anyway so can have a nice bath and get back at it tomorrow. Very excited to start fasting again – it’s just not the same not doing it.

I did catch the England v Wales game. Come on England! It’s weird how patriotic watching a ball being kicked around can make you. I was filled with gushing pride upon hearing the fans sing  the national anthem. It is interesting how many European anthems are about ruling and then you got the global south singing about the beauty of the land.

And on the topic of patriotism – my prayers are Jo Cox and her family. An MP who is fighting for her life after being attacked by a far-right, Britain First, terrorist. Of course this white man will not be named a terrorist. He is the wrong colour and follows the wrong religion for that. The hypocrisy is once again so clear and disheartening.

Terrorism has no religion or race. What it does seem to have is a gender. When we hear about an attack we automatically wonder about the race or the religion of the man. What was his motive? Never does it cross our mind that it could be a women. So when politicians consider banning or targeting a certain group, maybe they should consider that.

Edit: Jo Cox has passed away. My heart goes out for her two sons, husband and family. This was a political assassination yet is being reported as a stabbing. Not calling it what it is is unjust. 

Ramadan diary: day 10

Into double digits and we’re in the last days of mercy – stepping into the days of forgiveness.

Yesterday I had dinner with a colleague I am staying with. It’s just the two of us doing some work on this site for the week so we thought we’d go out rather than having hotel food.

Over dinner, the discussion of the EU and #Brexit came up. It’s pretty hard to avoid the topic – especially with the vote right around the corner. I was surprised to hear my colleague used to support UKIP, and much of his family members still do. I did ask why and was told, “well they’re a bit racist to be honest.” In other parts of the conversation, discussing parts of London he said “I have to be honest, it does annoy me when I’m walking in the street and I don’t understand what people are saying. I mean this is England but you wouldn’t know it sometimes.”

I was pretty taken aback but did the strenuous smile and nervous chuckle you may know too well. Not everyday dismantling racist views. Some days enjoy dinner. (Dinner itself was lovely – courtesy of my company expenses, thank you).

Normally these everyday reminders of living in a world that is so cruel is harsh and bares heavy on my soul. But I wanted to think of forgiveness. Often racist views are deep rooted in ignorance, upheld by racist structures. It is these structures that need to be dismantled and once we do this, I hope, we can start to rebuild a lovelier world.

Will we ever get there? Perhaps not. But we can hope. Does it hurt – absolutely. Is it our responsibility to teach others all the time – no, nobody has that much energy and self care comes first. But we can forgive them in our hearts and focus on the structures. Lets focus on dismantling the masters house.  

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices. – Audre Lorde

And since we are on the topic, here are my views on Brexit –

The European Union is an inherently problematic. It upholds structures that are Eurocentric and this is detrimental to the global south. However, given that we currently have a Tory government, it is dangerous to have such an upheaval happen now. It will mean cuts and lives being destroyed. The Left-wing argument of reform will fail – and we cannot take that risk. Look at what happened after the financial crisis. Happy to explain further in comments.