Race

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How to Deliver Social Change through Racial Equality in Northern Ireland

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The following is a submission by The Workers Party to: “A Sense of Belonging: Delivering Social Change through a Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014-2024″.

The Workers Party is an anti-sectarian, anti-racist, secular socialist party. We are anti-racist in the sense that we accept the scientific consensus that ‘race’ as an objective descriptor of human diversity does not exist. More importantly, we are also anti-racist in the sense that we oppose violence and discrimination against people perceived to be ‘different’ for whatever reasons. Races do not objectively exist but hate-crimes and other abuses against ethnic minorities are very real and the Stormont government and other bodies in our society must work to end them.

Added to well established ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland ( the Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Traveller communities), there has recently been an increasingly visible rise in migrant workers from very diverse backgrounds. It is fair to say that large numbers of people in NI embrace this rise in immigration as a positive development: the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey found that 43 per cent of respondents believed immigration to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’ for the economy, while half viewed Northern Ireland’s new diversity as having a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ cultural impact. The figures suggest that immigrants have indeed delivered for the local economy.According to recent research from Oxford Economics, far from constituting ‘a drain on the public purse’, between 2004-2008 migrant workers contributed over £1.2 trillion Gross Valued Added to the NI economy. However, this rise in the numbers of migrant workers has also been accompanied by a significant increase in racially motivated attacks and intimidation of ethnic minority people. PSNI figures for 2013/14 show that there were 982 racist incidents in NI, an increase of 232 (30.9%) over the previous year. Moreover, according to 2014 Peace Monitoring Report from the Community Relations Council, many more crimes go unreported, a failure which is exacerbated by the presence of paramilitaries in some of the affected areas.

It is our view that since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the Stormont Government has been remiss in its duty to protect people from hate crimes. This is a part of the overall unwillingness of the chief parties in Stormont Coalition to to tackle sectarianism at its roots in terms of education, housing, ‘peace-walls’ and flags and emblems. The continued existence of segregated communities in an environment of low-paid work and chronic unemployment and of poverty conditions sow the seeds for much of the racist scapegoating and violence that we have seen in working class areas. As journalist Peter Geoghegan notes:

The public administration of ‘Race Relations’ in Northern Ireland is undermined by a fundamental tension between a discourse of Good Relations and normalisation stressing equality and social diversity and a set of structures and practices which privilege sectarian identities. Although the Agreement includes a commitment to diversity beyond the ‘two traditions’ the text itself is a product of sectarian division and, in many important respects, continues to reproduce this bifurcation.

In relation to sectarian ‘bifurcation’ at government level, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) notes that, “the current Good Relations Policy: Together Building a United Community (TBUC) perpetuates the ‘two communities’ approach and omits consideration of race relations in any action plan.”

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Audio: “How can women defeat austerity?” Selma James’ Talk at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

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“How can women defeat austerity?” – Selma James at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

An MA Community Education, Equality and Social Activism podcast, available on the Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) website here.

Founder of the Wages for Housework campaign and coordinator of the Global Women's Strike, Selma James brought a lifetime of movement experience to bear in this electrifying talk. Asked to speak to organisers' needs in the current crisis, she spoke to a roomful of 30 activists and researchers passionately, clearly and incisively for an hour without notes.

To understand austerity, we have to understand the struggles which gave birth to the welfare state, the poverty which went before it and the attacks it has been under since the 1970s, and the first part of her talk tackled these themes. In the second part she discussed the weaknesses of movements since that time in responding to the attacks: how NGOisation has demobilised movements and left them dependent on funders, far-left parties try to substitute themselves for popular action while social-democratic parties simply represent a slower attack on people's basic needs. In the third and final part she discussed the urgency of building a broader movement which does not see class and gender, anti-racism or environmental survival, as separate and opposed issues. A lively and engaged discussion followed.

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DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES – Selma James at UCD

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PRAXIS and Equality Studies are proud to announce that a Communiversity event will take place on Tuesday March 12th 2013 2.30 – 4.30pm E114, UCD Newman (Arts) Building where renowned activist and author Selma James will address the theme DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES. The event comes at a time when austerity policies, triggered by the global economic meltdown, are devastating already-burdened communities. In particular, the rights and entitlements hard-won over the years by carers, overwhelmingly women, are being senselessly eroded. Despite all of this, care work and other work that women must do for the survival of families and communities continues, unabated and uncelebrated.

Selma James is known for coining the phrase “unwaged” in the 1970s to describe the unremunerated care work done almost universally by women. She continues to address these and other inequalities in her work, and information on her new book Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952-2011, is available at the end of this press release. She is co-author of the women's movement classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. James founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign and is coordinator of the Global Women's Strike. She is also the widow and former colleague of influential historian CLR James.

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Time to Stand up to Discrimination

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I wish to bring to your attention the numerous incidents of racism that have been in the Irish press over the last 2 weeks. What they amounted to was a public representative, be it a councillor or a senator, as well as a judge using either racist slang or making racist statements in the course of their work. These statements were largely brushed under the carpet by the media despite the long term effects they have on the oppressed groups they targeted. A statement by a Fianna Fail senator last week that he would not get into a taxi driven by an “obvious” non-national resonates quite closely with our own problems with racism in Galway city.

Despite numerous letters to the local media as well as reports categorically confirming that racism against African taxi drivers is rife in the city, the practice continues with more and more non-national drivers reporting incidents of aggravated racial assault and abuse, to the effect now that these men and women see it as normal for them receive racism on a daily basis.

Comments by this Senator only serve to cement such prejudice and make the day-to-day living of an African taxi driver that bit harder. In times of recession and economic crisis, it has been noted that racist attitudes begin to rise due to people lashing out at whoever is the easiest to blame. Surely our political representatives were elected to rally against such attitudes, and not stoke the fires of racism in a bid to represent, and ultimately win votes, from people who play on such racist attitudes, much like the Conservative Party in the UK covers such areas in a bid to make the British National Party irrelevant.

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Raceocracy: An Interview with Dr. Barnor Hesse – Part 1

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“If you’re going to mobilise against racism as an ideology and want to affirm the importance of democracy, you’ve got to realise that, in terms of its performative immediacy, western democracies promote racial equality and sustain racial inequality.”

In the first part of an interview series Dr. Barnor Hesse, Associate Professor of African-American Studies at Northwestern University, talks to student journalist Rónán Burtenshaw about how the performance of race shapes our politics and governance.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your intellectual background?

I grew up in a politically left-wing family in Liverpool, with a father from Ghana and a mother from Jamaica, and a younger brother also born in Liverpool. My father was particularly influential on my thinking, given his activist experiences in anti-racism, anti-colonialism, trade unionism and Left Labour party politics more generally. Without digressing too much into my background let me say, by the time I was doing my PhD in Government at Essex University during the early 1990s in the “ideology and discourse analysis” program, I had acquired enough intellectual and activist dislocations and concerns of my own to begin questioning the ways in which we have erroneously come to understand the political institution of race in the West and how black politics, has  been socially pathologized and violently repudiated by western liberal democracies, while remaining remarkably under theorized by its practitioners. Add to that gestation the fact that my approach to these matters is heavily indebted to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, African American studies, post-Marxism and post-structuralism, and you have a quick portrait of me as a Black British academic.

Since becoming a professional academic my particular theoretical interests have been focussed on rethinking the meaning and materiality of race as a form of western colonial governance, and trying to provide a more theoretically sophisticated account of black politics as symptomatically oppositional to that regime. The latter was always interesting to me because growing up and living as a person of colour in the west, it is impossible to escape being saturated with white western scholarship, where various lineages of blackness in politics, cultures and histories are pathologized, marginalized or exorcised. Routinely what you find as an black academic or activist, particularly in Europe, is that the intellectual lineages in which you seek to locate yourself are mostly available as raw empirical, statistical experiences or as histories of racist images for white European thinkers to theorise, and that’s assuming black related experiences are even seen as worthy of theorisation in the western academy; often they are not. This was always the difficulty with finding one’s self located in the British academy. Nevertheless I have always been interested in trying to understand the West’s European colonial formation and its politics of race as constitutive of its mainstream liberal democratic institutions rather than exceptions to their rule, which is the conventional understanding.

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