This is the second part to an article I wrote for comment is free today…
There is another part that we briefly covered in the documentary that I’d like to explore here – that of being called “a traitor” or similar when raising controversial issues within minority communities. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last.
Saying that brown people can also do bad things (as we did for the New Generation Network) always brings out the knives when said in front of white people. Don’t air our dirty laundry, they all demand angrily as many did during Behzti a few years ago.
It used to be that highlighting violence against women was trumped by race. Now religious identity is more sacrosanct. With embarrassed noises many say that communities should not be “demonised”. Women are being verbally and physically abused but let’s not worry too much about that shall we? Violence against women just isn’t sexy enough when the government, media, race and faith bodies are all dominated at the top by men. Except when they want to bash the other.
But why am I so intent on picking on those down-trodden brown masses, many ask me, when they are already under attack by racists? I think it’s important to answer and confront this question head on.
There are two parts to the answer. Firstly: just because a group is seen as under attack by bigots does not justify holding off internal social change until events are smoother. For this reason I don’t believe the Muslim Council of Britain or the state of Israel are above criticism just because Muslims and Jews feel they are under attack. These days everyone is a victim; even British Sikh and Hindu groups are busy painting themselves as such.
The latter communities are not under the media spotlight and there is nevertheless plenty of resistance and hostility to dealing with social issues. Being out of the spotlight doesn’t mean positive change takes place, it is actually the opposite – it allows people to get away with a lot more. And believe me they do.
The second reason is that I don’t see British ethnic minorities as helpless and constantly victimised masses that cannot do anything to help themselves. They can be empowered citizens. So for that reason, my criticism is oblivious and despite of the bigots that are out there.
To put it another way I don’t criticise the MCB to bring joy to annoying people such as Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle, Richard Littlejohn and Jon Gaunt, etc. I do it because the MCB, like other such “community leaders”, ends up hurting those it should be protecting. Similarly, I support Independent Jewish Voices because Israel’s foreign policy hurts both Jews and Palestinians (the latter more, obviously) regardless of whether it boosts the anti-semites or anti-Zionists.
For true progressives this should be the real test: advocating and fighting for positive social change regardless of the political climate and who is busy painting themselves as victims; applying those standards equally; being unashamedly self-critical when necessary. And of course being mindful of other agendas while forging your own.
Progressive change should be driven because it is right, not simply when the time is right. If some are guilty of attributing everything regressive towards minority groups, others are equally guilty of assuming they can never be progressive.
|Post to del.icio.us|
Filed in: Culture,Organisations