My name is not BAME*

* This is a continuation of my last post,’ I don’t want to talk about this but…(Part 1)’

20 THOUGHTS ON RACE

  1. My name is not BAME. My name is Funmi. I am not a minority or a victim. I am a champion. I am not a person of colour. I am a person. #Wordsmatter.
  2. Before I was Black, I was a human being.
  3. That said, I cannot afford to be ‘colour-blind’. That shit will get you killed in parts of the country. But, if you truly believe you’re colour-blind, please click this link.
  4. Racism is a state of mind. Discrimination is action. #Languagematters.
  5. It’s hard to ‘prove’ a mindset. Please don’t ask me to. 
  6. I prefer overt racists to covert racists. The latter love me in public and hate me in private.
  7. Yes, it’s true. There’s no proof George Floyd was killed by ‘racist’ cops. (See Point 5). The only certainty? He was killed by cops. Irrespective, something has shifted, something has changed. Why? Why now?
  8. I squirm when I hear the terms, ‘White guilt’, ‘White privilege‘. (See Point 9) I want to hear of ‘Action’ from those who hold power not guilt or tokenism or another enquiry or review or white paper or commission….
  9. A one-sided conversation is pointless. We, the collective, need to engage in uncomfortable conversations about race without getting defensive, guilt tripping or ‘cancelling’ one other. Demonising people only drives them underground. Light does not live underground.
  10. I’m tired of seeing Black folk being given a public platform only when the discussion is about knife crime or ‘youf’ work or gangs or poverty. I want to hear about Black people thriving, not dying. I want to hear about Black painters and sculptors, entrepreneurs and pioneers, creatives and cyclists, thrill seekers and randomites. #portrayalmatters
  11. ‘Black lives matter’, is sometimes met with the response, ‘all lives matter’. This response which misses the point is not worth my breath or finger strength to counter. That said, I won’t applaud companies/politicians who are saying/hashtagging BLM but really don’t care about Black people. Did somebody say bandwagon? BLM is not a slogan which empowers me personally. Why should I beg for something I already have (the right to be treated with humanity and dignity)? BLM is not a slogan I would use but it is a slogan I would defend. More so when phrased as a question. Do Black lives matter?
  12. My declaration of strength does not negate your strength. My beauty does not negate yours. Black people are intelligent, powerful and beautiful though mainstream media ignores or throws shade at our beauty.
  13. Nina Simone’s song, Young, Gifted and Black empowers me. It counters the narrative that Black is bad or criminal, or poor or dying, of Corona and other maladies.
  14. My pain does not invalidate yours. But ‘our’ pain is invalidated when we are told, ‘it’s a figment of your imagination’, ‘prove it’. Black people cannot keep ‘proving’ their pain’. When collective or individual pain is dismissed that pain is swallowed up until it explodes and kills ‘us’ or ‘you’ or causes sickness of mind or body or both.
  15. We are not a homogeneous group. Don’t treat us as such. We have shared experiences but we are not One. The term ‘Black community’ is a misnomer. It’s a plea (come unity). It’s as real as the term, ‘White community’.
  16. If you choose not to counter racism, you are complicit in it. I once sat at a table where the P word was used to reference Indian (not Pakistani) people. No one at the table spoke up except for me, the only non-white. Why?
  17. I struggle in all-White environments in a way that I never used to. I once worked for an organisation whose nod to Black History Month was to ask the following ‘trivia’ question: how often were African Americans lynched before Black History Month began to be celebrated? Suffice to say I didn’t hang around for the answer. When I was young, I had the mental strength to shrug off this and other Nonsensebut as I grow older, I grow more tired and more anxious in these settings. The result? I avoid/remove myself from these environments. (See Point 18) #sanitymatters
  18. Before I was Black, I was human. Don’t ask me where I’m from, don’t tell me about the Black people you know, don’t centre our conversation around race and don’t dismiss the prejudice which slips from loose lips. (See Point 17).
  19. I don’t want to see any more traumatic images of Black/White interaction. I don’t want to see more Amy Coopers or so-called ‘Karens’. I don’t want to see videos of Black folk being abused/brutalised. It makes me mad, reminds me of the negative interactions I’ve had with White people. The negative interactions don’t outweigh the positive ones. But the negative ones remind me that some people will never see beyond my race. I love my race but I am more than my race.
  20. I want to talk about something other than race but this world won’t let me.

 

 

 

Shamima Begum: why being British is a question of race

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGAxm6KJTWE

Let me make my position clear from the outset.

I am not going to defend Shamima Begum‘s action in going to Syria to join ISIS. I am not going to use her age as a defence nor am I going to use the possibility that she was groomed as a defence. I am not going to use the fragility of new mothers to defend her interview remarks and nor will I mount any other defence for her. That is for others to do should they wish to.

I do not know if Shamima Begum’s return to the UK will put the country at risk. I do not know if she intends to come back and start wreaking havoc about the place. I do not know if there are sufficient resources to monitor her if she did return to the UK. I do not know if she should be in jail or if she has committed serious crimes. I do not know if she was brainwashed or if she truly holds the views she espouses. That is for others to decide.

What I do believe is that the Home Secretary’s decision to ‘strip’ her of her British citizenship is downright dangerous, a threat to the rule of law and a threat to all non-whites (in particular) in the UK.

The Home Secretary’s decision is not surprising

Last year, I spent a couple of days in Croatia. What a beautiful country it is. In Dubrovnik, I was approached by a white American man in his late 70s/early 80s who asked me where I was from. I said that I was from London, UK. His reply to me was the following ‘you don’t look like someone who would be from the UK.’ His assumption that I was not from the UK could not have been based on anything other than my race. My accent is British, I was not wearing any garms which could be said to be particularly non-British and nor was I speaking in any other language but English. He later added to his question by asking me where my parents were from. When he told me he was American, I did not ask him whether his parents were actually Italians, Greeks or Scots. I did not make any other assumption. I was not able to and nor did I choose to.

And whilst I consider myself to be both British and Nigerian, truth is, I have spent most of my life in the UK and was born in the UK and am pleased to say, I consider it my home. Nigeria is in my heart and in my blood and if anyone dares to put down Nigerian jollof* or tells me that traditional attire is not beautiful and that the Yoruba language is not full of wonder, I will mount a strong defence. I may not do the same when it comes to Nollywood though. Jokes aside, the UK is the place I call home.

The Home Secretary’s position on Shamima Begum reflects something that many Blacks and non-whites experience in day to day life.

  1. We are asked where we come from as though the default thought of the person asking is that we are not British because we are not white.
  2. Our race is one of the first things highlighted about us when we are ‘losing’ in life but when we are ‘winning’ in life our Britishness is the first thing that the glory hunters set upon. We are claimed as one of them, a Brit.
  3. We are expected to be grateful for being in the UK as though it is only by grace not right that we are British.
  4. It sometimes feels as though non-whites are tolerated in the UK rather than accepted as being just as British as those who are white.

 

Why the Shamima Begum decision threatens the security of non-whites and second generation Brits in the UK

The decision of the Home Secretary is dangerous for the following reasons:

  1. It means that anyone who has a parent born in another country outside of the UK,  can be deemed not British if they are deemed a threat to national security.
  2. It means that irrespective of how long you have lived in the UK and irrespective of whether or not you were born or brought up in the UK, your right to be called British is not a given.
  3. It means that a white British girl in the same position as Shamima Begum would be allowed back in the UK whilst non-whites and those who are second-generation Brits (plastic Brits- let’s say) would not be accorded the same right.
  4. It means that there will be one rule for White British folk and another for non-White British folk and whites whose parents were not born in the UK.
  5. It means that we as non-whites are simply here by the grace of the UK government. We cannot assume that our British citizenship will always be guaranteed to us.

 

Why the Home Secretary’s decision is a threat to the rule of law

Shamima Begum was born in the UK and is a British citizen. No-one disputes that. But, the Home Secretary has decided that since Shamima Begum’s mum is Bangladeshi, Shamima will have claims to Bangladeshi citizenship through that, meaning that she can be stripped of her British citizenship.

The UK Immigration rules, Part 14, 401 states that:

401. For the purposes of this Part a stateless person is a person who:

  1. (a) satisfies the requirements of Article 1(1) of the 1954 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, as a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law;
  2. (b) is in the United Kingdom; and
  3. (c) is not excluded from recognition as a Stateless person under paragraph 402.

402. states that:

A person is excluded from recognition as a stateless person if there are serious reasons for considering that they:

  1. (a) are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations, other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, protection or assistance, so long as they are receiving such protection or assistance;
  2. (b) are recognised by the competent authorities of the country of their former habitual residence as having the rights and obligations which are attached to the possession of the nationality of that country;
  3. (c) have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provisions in respect of such crimes;
  4. (d) have committed a serious non-political crime outside the UK prior to their arrival in the UK;
  5. (e) have been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

My reading of 401 means that even if Shamima’s mum is from Bangladesh, at present, Shamima herself could not be considered to be Bangladeshi because she has not made an application to be considered as such. So at this particular moment, she cannot be considered a Bangladeshi national. It seems to me that the government have taken advantage of the fact that she is not in the UK to make her, in fact, stateless.

But, if I skip to 402, it seems to me that if she has committed a crime against peace or a war crime etc,  the British government may well be within their rights to exclude her from recognition as a stateless person. 

To my knowledge, Shamima Begum has not been tried in a court of law so it has not been proven that she has in fact committed any of the crimes which may mean that she is excluded from the rules about statelessness. That said, she has been tried in the court of public opinion and deemed a threat. Yet, I firmly believe that the rule of law must never give way to the court of public opinion.

Finally……

The Home Secretary made it clear after the first Shamima Begum interview was aired, that he would do everything in his power to make sure that she was not able to return to this country. He has made good on his word. Well done. A round of applause to you fine sir.

Unfortunately, what he has also done is threaten the rights of all British non-whites in this country and made the ground we walk on feel just a little more unstable today.