Book review: “Black Star – Britain’s Asian Youth Movements”

October 28, 2013 in Gus talks, Reviews

“Civil liberties, from a working class point of view, are about having the space in which to engage in political struggle – to organise alternative bases of power which can lead to the transformation of society, to record the struggle as it progresses and to express, in theory and in practice, an independent class position. This space is always contested and the occupation of any part of it carries no security of tenure…” (Ian Macdonald QC)

This extract from a review of E P Thompson’s ‘Writing by Candlelight’ (1980) by the internationally renowned immigration and human rights lawyer, Ian Macdonald QC, captures in every detail the historical significance of the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs) in Britain which helped to define and reconfigure the ‘political culture’ in Britain in the 1970s through to the late 1980s.

Anandi Ramamurthy has ensured, through her study of the AYMs, that the politics they made and their dismantling of the settlement the state and the Labour Party thought they had reached with Britain’s South Asian population would not be written out of the history of post-war Britain and of the growth of South Asian communities in the UK. Read the rest of this entry →

‘Go Home or Face Arrest’: promoting ‘community cohesion’ in ‘post racial’ Britain?

August 10, 2013 in Blog

The year is 1990. The place, Hackney in East London.

A man is walking along Homerton High Street accompanied by his children whom he is taking to join the public library. A builder’s truck passes by and a wooden plank is hurled at the man, accompanied by a shout of ‘Go home, you stinking Paki’. The man is hit on the head and falls to the ground in front of his horrified children. Fortunately, although suffering a serious head wound he lives to tell the tale and thankfully is not the victim of yet another racist murder.

Who was he?

He was a primary school teacher from Trinidad, of Indian heritage, a descendant of indentured labourers who were brought to the Caribbean from that great outpost of the British Empire, India, beginning in 1845, to replace the enslaved Africans who had moved away from the plantations following the abolition of slavery in 1838. He had never been to Pakistan or anywhere else on the Indian sub-continent. Before Trinidad won its political independence and became a republic, he had carried a British colonial passport. Read the rest of this entry →

Why Doreen Lawrence’s peerage could harm the Stephen Lawrence cause

August 7, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Print

Print screen from The Guardian's website (http://bit.ly/158a5tr)

Print screen from The Guardian’s website (http://bit.ly/158a5tr)

Now that Doreen Lawrence has been made a life peer, her canonisation by the British establishment is pretty much complete. But while her undoubted achievements are lauded by the entire British political class, other campaigns related to racist murders and unlawful killings continue to be systematically obstructed and obfuscated by the state and its institutions: campaigns for justice for Sean RiggsAzelle RodneyChristopher AlderRoger SylvesterJimmy Mubenga and more; campaigns which the state would no doubt prefer us not to know about, much less to join.

Over the past 20 years, we have become used to hearing newsreaders say: “Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence…” And it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly who this woman is, and why she was thrust into the limelight: Doreen was a mother seeking justice for the murder of her innocent son, cut down in his prime while going about his lawful business; a mother who, assisted by the wider African and Asian community, was able to place her son’s murder by white racists in context; a mother who was able to gain strength from the active and prolonged support of activists and campaigners within this wider black community, many of whom kick-started the campaign that supported the Lawrence family in holding the Metropolitan police and the home secretary to account for the investigation of Stephen’s murder. Read the rest of this entry →

Doreen Lawrence’s Gain Is Black Britain’s Loss

August 5, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Print

Print screen from "The Voice"'s website (http://bit.ly/16v3cHp)

Print screen from “The Voice”‘s website (http://bit.ly/16v3cHp)

IN THE past few days, I have had many people from the Global African Diaspora, women especially, express their delight that ‘Doreen is now the Right Honourable Baroness Lawrence’ and that ‘there is one more of us in the Lords’. They all thought I was being churlish and, as one put it, ‘typically anti-establishment’ when I disagreed.

One wonders why Doreen Lawrence was made a Labour peer and not an independent ‘cross-bench’ member of the House of Lords, the unelected second chamber of the British parliament. After all, she has been held up by the entire British political class, not just the Labour Party. She is the revered emblem of the British establishment and an ambassador for the supposed ‘openness’, ‘inclusiveness’, ‘justice’ and ‘antiracism’ of British society.

In 2003, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for ‘services to community relations’ (sic). In July 2012, she received worldwide exposure as the totem of the British establishment when she took part in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, carrying the Olympic Flag. In October 2012, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 14th Pride of Britain Awards. And now, as Baroness Lawrence, she has reached the top of the totem pole. Read the rest of this entry →

Racism, tokenism and totemism: the disturbing case of Doreen Lawrence

August 4, 2013 in Blog

Print screen from the BBC's website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

Print screen from the BBC’s website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

In April this year I wrote a blog which I titled ‘To Iconize and Canonize – the State We’re In 20 Years after the Murder of Stephen Lawrence‘. In that article, I examined the process of iconizing Stephen as the victim of a racist murder and canonizing his mother, Doreen. That canonization is now pretty much complete with Doreen being made a Life Peer of the realm in the last week.

In one sense, if one is disposed to be especially generous, this mother of all gongs could be seen as the expression of a ‘Big Ben’ of a ‘mea culpa’ on the part of the British establishment. I fear, however, that is much more sinister than that.

In the last few days, I have had many people from the Global African Diaspora, women especially, express their delight that ‘Doreen is now the Right Honourable Baroness Lawrence’ and that ‘there is one more of us in the Lords’. They all thought I was being churlish and as one put it ‘typically anti-establishment’ when I made the same arguments I was prompted to write in April, not least the following: Read the rest of this entry →