Tag Archives: racism

Rare Racism Topics: Targeted Harassment

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People of Colour are often punished or harassed for the same things that white people can and do get away with.  From things like being arrested, imprisoned and ‘mysteriously’ dying in police custody (very U.K specific example), to being targeted for harassment online.  This is a sometimes-subtle way that POC receive racism.  And the further down in people’s estimation we are, the poorer treatment we receive.  I’m going to concentrate mostly on online harassment, although these are often played out offline too.  The more life-ending examples are too painful for me to write about right now.

Example 1: A cisgender man of colour makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  He will get the inevitable pushback and defensiveness from white people, the “what about..?”, the “Not all whites,” and “You’re the real racist,” alongside some other horrible responses blaming him for the situation.  A few days pass and things will mostly die down.

Example 2: An Asian person makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  They will get all of the above, plus accusations of being a terrorist, Islamaphobic slurs (whether they’re Muslim or not), and in some cases they’ll have their photo, if they used one, altered in photoshop so they appear to be carrying an explosive (yes, that’s happened).  Some respondents will send DMs to the poster, with pics of atrocities against Muslim people (I’ve also had that happen to me).  Things will take a very long time to die down.

Example 3: A black woman who is heterosexual and cisgender makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  She will get all of the above two examples, but in much higher numbers.  She will get these reactions from people of all ethnicities and genders.  Her DMs will be full of thinly-veiled, or outright death threats, rape threats, details of personal information that go on to be shared (doxxed).  She will be hounded off social media, live in fear for her life and that of her family &/or friends.  She will receive very little support.  The police (U.K example) will not help unless she is very famous, which isn’t that likely.

Example 4: The most subtle and insidious example is of people who are not often considered human by bigots in the first place.  People like me: Black, nonbinary, fat, disabled and bisexual.  So I’ll use my own personal experience here:

I don’t make a post about racism.  I only press the “Repost” button, or maybe I respond to a post on racism with, “Thank you for this.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders inundate me with horrible responses, using many of the things in the three examples above.  The original poster does not receive anything near the volume of abuse that I do.  I wonder why this is the case, and then remember that I am open about who I am online.  I have photos and posts about fatness, blackness, gender, disability and bisexuality.  The abusive respondents have taken a few minutes to have a look at my online presence.  I am deemed to be “bottom of the barrel,” or an “Easy target.”  They know, and are often correct, that nobody is going to support me or respond to their public hate.  I also receive sexually violent images and threats in emails outside of the social media platform.  Many people will blame me for my own harassment.  I am told to “Ignore them!” Or “Don’t feed the trolls.”  The original poster will often ignore what is going on in their mentions/replies/comments section.  This has happened to me so many times online and offline too.  Things don’t move on until months or even years have passed by.  I leave social media, or at least leave for a very long time before I return, scared in case anyone still remembers me.

In the first three cases, the original poster will experience stress, worsening mental health, fear, and physical reactions to trauma, whether potential or not.  In the fourth example, people like me, who are often the most vulnerable in society, experience thoughts of suicide, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse, desperation, and all of the things experienced by the victims of the first three examples.

Racial Harassment is not equal.  Even within minorities there is still a “pecking order.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders carry out this kind of thing.  So called Progressive people carry out this sort of thing, particularly when it comes to Fatness, especially if that person is fat and black.  It is a soul-destroying thing to be on the receiving end of.  Social media is often the major means of communication for vulnerable people like me.  When we leave, our world becomes infinitely smaller.  More needs to discussed about this.  But for now I just want you to acknowledge it as an often hidden racism topic that is far bigger than it seems.

People like me at 12-step groups

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People like me aren’t supposed to ask for help when we have problems.  Black people are supposed to be resilient and strong.  According to the Bisexuality Report (Open University, 2012) Bisexual people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than straight, gay and lesbian people.  Biphobia and racism inside and outside of LGBT+ communities can also lead to worse mental health outcomes than others in the groups above (Bi’s of Colour report 2015).  

When I’m told by well meaning people to “Pray on it,” or “Get support from the family and church,” this advice is not so useful for me.  I’m an ex-runaway who fled their family of origin almost 30 years ago.  Most churches in the U.K are not welcoming towards LGBT+ people, and if by chance they are one of the few queer led congregations, they definitely are aimed at lesbians and gays only.  Detox and Mental health services in the NHS have little experience or willingness to learn about the intersections of ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion: one size fits all is what I’ve been offered in the past, but their little boxes of recovery can’t hold all that I am.  So I looked to group support in 12-step groups.

I’ve attended three 12-step groups in my life: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA).

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation I had heard about in media growing up, but I had never heard of the other two groups until I was floundering around in libraries for information, long before the internet really existed.  The AA groups I attended were always overwhelmingly straight, white and male.  S.I.A and OA were very much straight, white and female.  I was usually the only black person in the room, and I was often made to feel unwelcome, but I persisted with each group, sometimes over the course of years, until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I exist at the intersection of many marginalised identities.  People who are in the cultural majority often find it difficult to understand why this affects everything I do, including how I heal and work through issues.  In most 12-step groups, differences are ignored in the most part, and the baseline is simply a “desire to heal”.  But I can’t heal if white straight people talk over me, ignore my hand when it’s raised in meetings, or laugh when I share about how oppression affects me.  

In the last AA meeting I attended, I shared about racism I’d faced in previous meetings I’d attended in various locations in London.  As I left the building, a white man approached me and said, “Maybe we should all wear boot polish next week, then we’ll be the same.”  He walked away quickly after my retort of, “I can’t believe you just said that!”  

At many OA meetings, people had the tendency to hug each other before leaving.  As a survivor of sexual violence, it has taken me decades to be comfortable with hugging people I don’t know well, unless they ask if it’s okay to do that first.  At the end of my last OA meeting, a man launched himself at me with arms wide and a big grin on his face.  I stepped back and said, “No thanks.” 

The man looked at me with eyes wide in shock and said in a very angry tone, “I wanna hug you.  I’m not gonna hurt you!”

At a different OA meeting, someone brought their dog, and left the animal free to wander around the small room.  When I asked them to keep their dog away from me, as I’m scared of most animals, I was met with an aggressive white woman spitting words at me, and stating I was at a ‘dog-friendly’ meeting, and I should ‘get used to it or just go’.

These outbursts left me scared and upset.  We all have different ways we interact with the world, but because of how I look and am perceived, it’s assumed I can handle everything thrown at me without a word of complaint; the ‘Strong Black Woman’ trope is alive and well it appears.  I’m rarely seen as a human with feelings, but just a jumble of stereotypes.  Also, I’m nonbinary.

Disbelief, silence, a lack of respect toward boundaries, sexism, biphobia and general racism before, during and after meetings, were an everyday occurrence in the groups I attended.  London is a multicultural city, but when I went to meetings, I may have well been in the most isolated rural settlement.  There was nobody to speak to about my problems I encountered in meetings, as 12-step groups don’t operate with a system of leadership or even culpability.  I simply found myself alone and unwanted everywhere I went.  I no longer attend any group and it saddens me, because I can see how much they have helped white people; I can see the potential that could exist for me too, if I wasn’t the person I am. But I know I should never feel forced to change or ignore who I am, in order to get the help I desperately need.

Mental health services are shit

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TW: Suicide, Suicidal ideation

If you’ve had to use mental health services in the UK, you’ll probably know this already.  I have several mental health diagnoses: depression has given me a whole heap of trouble, despite the fact it’s one of the minor mental health ailments I live with.

In January 2018 my doctor sent me to Casualty after I told her I was suicidal. I was referred to the Home Treatment team, and that was where the nightmare really began.  Over the course of a week, I was seen by 5 different people, most of whom hadn’t read any of my notes, so I had to start from the beginning with them.  Each one said they would return, or that I’d see a maximum of 2 people from the team.  That didn’t happen obviously.  What really made this all even more horrible was when I was seen by a black woman who ended up being very biphobic and queerphobic, and could hardly look at me after I spoke to her about how biphobia affected my life in a negative way.  To get this behaviour from a professional in my own home felt truly awful.

I was also encouraged to attend a support group at a day centre.  Again I was met with bigoted and racist views from a Clinical Psychologist who ran the group.  I finally wrote a complaint letter in February.  I met with 2 of the senior staff (one glared at me the whole time).  They said they would review how things were done, but nobody apologised.  In fact it was December 2018 before I got an apology from the head psychiatrist.  She told me she would get an Occupational Therapist and a Psychologist to contact me after the Christmas period.  I heard nothing until 4 months later, I phoned the mental health centre to discharge myself.  I had barely ended the call when I got an incoming call from the Occupational Therapist apologising for the long wait.  “Maybe you’ll think about staying with us,” she said.  “I’ve been thinking about this for 4 months, and the answer is no,” I replied.

I love the NHS, but when it comes to mental health, things are chronically bad.  There is no consistency of service, no awareness of multiple marginalisation, no LGBT+ training.  The only thing in abundance is the volume of lies I’ve been told.  There are no other services for suicidal adults in my part of London.  I can’t get seen by another borough on the NHS.  I have precisely zero options when it comes to this.  Being suicidal is bad, but the way I’ve been treated has magnified that into being intolerable.  These people are supposed to help, but they’ve made things far worse for me, and what tops it off is that the next time I’m suicidal, I’m supposed to go to Casualty where the only thing they can do is refer me to the same people who treated me like shit.cropped-tumblr_os67y3q7tk1qd3j1wo2_1280

White revenge TW: Rape, Racism

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You may or may not have heard about what the actor Liam Neeson has been up to lately.  A friend of Liam’s (a white woman) was raped by a black man.  When Liam found out, he admits he went out looking for a black man to kill. Link to Guardian article.

What Liam did was want to take revenge when the survivor of a terrible experience didn’t ask him to.  He took away her agency, using his anger to have revenge on all black men.  This is something I’ve seen an awful lot.  A white woman or girl is hurt by black men, and all black people, involved or not, must pay for that.  This is in stark reality to the higher numbers of women, femmes and girls of colour who are raped, abused and treated violently by white men.  Who goes after their rapists?  Who cares what happens to them?

Nobody does.

Sadly not even men of colour seem to care about the fate of black women and girls.  If you have a look at images for any Black Lives Matter protest when a Black man is brutalised, there will be massive crowds.  Now look at a protest when a black woman is brutalised.  It will be a hell of a lot smaller, if it happens at all (especially if that woman was a sex worker, trans, disabled, fat etc)

In the UK, the tale of white girls who were sexually abused by Muslim men in Rochdale is a terrible example.  Instead on focusing time and resources helping the girls to heal, the far-right and many other white men have used this to demonise Muslims everywhere.  It’s almost as if they don’t actually give a shit about the survivors of abuse.  If they did, they would take action on the high numbers of children sexually abused by men of all ethnicities (with white men topping that list of abusers).  They would make it feel safer for all victims and survivors to speak up.  But once again, white men have used their idea of white female fragility to fuel their need for violence against men of colour who hurt “one of their own”.

As a survivor of 2 decades of incest and sexual abuse, I know that my abusers were black men, black women, and white men.  I know nobody’s going to try to get revenge for me and what started when I was only three years old.  The thing is, I don’t want revenge.  Apart from the fact that it’s almost impossible – the major abuser (my dad) is long dead, and I never learned the names of the men in vehicles who my dad led me to in a car park on the outskirts of Epping Forest.  What I want is for there to be better support for people of all genders who survived incest, sexual abuse and rape.  I want white men in particular to donate to charities who help the most vulnerable survivors who are People of Colour, disabled, old, and hurting so much.

Keep your revenge.  It doesn’t do me any good – it just satisfies a lust for control that you crave.  I was never yours to start with anyway.

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On World Suicide Prevention Day

These targets on my back are weighing me down:
Biphobia/Fatphobia/Racism/Ableism
“Wait your turn!” Says the well-meaning activist
“Why are you so angry?” Says the self-proclaimed ally.
“My back hurts,” I respond.  “I need help.”

My body is covered in bruises
From people touching me with barge poles:
“I’ve always liked fat girls/black girls/bisexual girls,” says the fetish guy.
“I don’t like holding hands/acknowledging you/kissing you in public,” he says later.
“I’m lonely,” I respond.  “I need help.”

I find a home at the bottom of a barrel:
“If you only lost some weight/wore a wig/lightened your skin,” says the media
“Don’t make this about race,” says the bigot
“Bisexuality is a cop out!” Screams the lesbians and gays at Pride.
“My world is full of hatred,” I respond.  “I need help.”

World Suicide Prevention Day comes around:
“Reach out and talk to someone,” says the Prime Minister
“Call this helpline that doesn’t know how to talk to blacks/bisexuals/old people”
Says the clueless straight white folks
“This life is too painful,” I respond.  “I just want it to stop.”

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Zine Fairs, or a Blizzard on a trestle table

I started making zines on Christmas Day 2014.  There was no snow, no blizzard then; that was reserved for later wen I started selling zines at fairs.  Zine events are white; really white, no matter where they happen in the U.K.  With a couple of exceptions* I’m often the only black person tabling, though there are usually a some POC attending as shoppers. The Blizzard Scale explained: http://j-applebee.tumblr.com/post/160014567848/the-blizzardscale

I’ve had discussions recently with a few organisers of zine fairs held in different parts of the country about the lack of diversity at their fairs.  Their responses showed a powerful ignorance of the needs and issues facing zine creators who are marginalised or oppressed (POC, Disabled, Working Class, Older, and LGBT+.  All these groups are likely to be poorer, so costs for tabling, production and travel to the events will be difficult to budget for.

Issues and Solutions:
Finding out about zine events is another issue, as plenty of fairs attract tablers by word of mouth or invitation only, so marginalised creators are unlikely to find out about these events until the publicity for attendees goes out.  I’ve been told by a one-woman zine fair organiser, “We can’t force marginalised creators to approach us for tables!”  This way of thinking is plainly ridiculous.  If organisers truly want diversity, then they have to make an effort to attract us.  This could be as simple as doing a general call for tablers, but stating you’re looking for marginalised creators too; having a quota, or offering tables for a reduced fee (even if that reduction is small).  These things show that you’re aware of us and want us at your zine fair.

Access:
I’ve tabled at zine fairs held in the basement of a pub, where zero customers visited.  The space was down a steep staircase, making it inaccessible to creators and customers with mobility issues.  This lack of consideration made me despair.  Accessibility isn’t just just for those in wheelchairs – I’ve also tabled at a fair in the back room of a noisy pub where my tinnitus played havoc the whole time.**. On one horrible occasion, a zine fair was held in a London bookshop which had a racist book prominently displayed there.

The U.K is a place with marginalised and oppressed people living in every part of it.  Zines are at its heart a tool created for these groups whose voices are often ignored and silenced.  Nobody would know that from the makeup of most zine fairs though.

*Thanks to:

NW Zinefest https://northwestzinefest.wordpress.com

Weirdo Zinefest https://www.facebook.com/events/865940280157674 (2017 event)

 DIY Cultures http://diycultures.tumblr.com 

Penfight Distro https://penfightdistro.com/zine-events/ has a calendar of Zine fairs throughout the year.

@POCZines http://poczineproject.tumblr.com is a mainly U.S based group that supports Zinesters of Colour

for actively encouraging marginalised zine creators.

**There is NO REASON to hold events in a pub nowadays.  Yes, pubs can be cheap or even free, but the majority of pubs are also very unfriendly/off-putting/inaccessible for:
Women & Femmes
LGBT+ folk
Disabled
People of Colour
Religious people (esp if they wear religious dress)

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Guest Post by @Angreebindii

People of Colour at BiCon: Are we really welcome there?

@Angreebindii works in Higher Education. She has a background in political activism and social justice campaigns. She is QTIPOC, disabled, a trade union organiser and is mostly angry about inequality.

Bicon is the UK’s largest and most consistent event dedicated to the bisexual community. It is the amalgamation of both a conference and a convention, hence the name Bicon. Bicon explores a whole spectrum of issues relating to bisexuality, kink and sex positivity. It came about in the mid-1980s after an event titled ‘The Politics of Bisexuality’ was the first to be organised in London, 1984. What followed was a series of similar events after fully concretising into Bicon shortly after. It is a yearly event where the management and delivery of the event is democratically run.

This year’s event was the second I attended. And it may well be my last. In fact, my first Bicon was on the cusp of being my last. My first Bicon was rifled racism. I found myself swimming in meagre attendance of people of colour in an oppressive sea of white attendees. It was an unsafe space fraught with white dreadlocks and well-meaning pretty white bindis. It also consisted of culturally appropriative events organised and led by white people. These included meditation mornings and tantric sex type of sessions. This year’s Bicon was  pretty much of the same old white thing. Even with Bicon’s sponsorship of first time Bis of Colour attendees, this year’s event was quite white.

There have always been ongoing Bicon issues with whiteness. However, this year took more than an uncomfortable turn and it shook me. The organisers booked in Spectrum, the LGBT arm of the Home Office and praised the presence a uniformed Police Officer at the event. Many members from the Bis of Colour were uncomfortable and felt unsafe. I took to Twitter to highlight the issue. The response was mixed. At one point, it got very frustrating. My ‘views’ were disputed however, those of white people were not. For example: I, a migrant of colour got whitesplained about the police & the Home Office. However, ex-employees of the Home Office received support and compassion for stating the same thing as I did.

The very same weekend the police were aiding racists to attack people of colour in Charlottesville, Bicon was sharing pro-police & Home Office tweets. At the event, organisers and attendees were friendly and complicit with their presence. The lack of sensitivity, disrespect and outright racism at the expense of people of colour was hurtful. It certainly felt that our bisexuality counted less than white queers.

The presence of organisations linked to institutions such as the Home Office and the police is not only racist due to how the people of colour are treated but how our sexuality is discriminated against. Bicon organisers decided to defend their presence. That was racist as well a biphobic, classist, ableist and sexist. Their discrimination towards us were intersecting. The Home Office’s abhorrent treatment of queer, disabled, and women refugees cannot be ignored. The same is with the police. In fact, the police are responsible for killing people of colour due to the colour of their skin. These facts are not ignored by white queers at Bicon – they are debated then negated.

Following from these debates I had about Bicon, I decided that enough was enough.

Bisexuals of colour are told to engage in the event’s organisational processes. We are encouraged to attend, to contribute, and to make complaints within the existing structures. And when we do, we are thanked and our ‘views’ appreciated. However, those views, which in stark reality are in fact outright experiences of discrimination, are only ever just acknowledged. Racism becomes diluted to ‘microaaggression’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ almost as if that is an optional form of being discriminated against. It is as if we, queers of colour, choose to feel discriminated, hence actual change to create decolonised queer spaces become optional. That is all too convenient to white LGBT types. It suits them that we have done our job and contributed. And they have done their bit, they have acknowledged us. So the matter is closed.

Except that for us, queers of colour – the discrimination is ongoing. So each year, we have to do the same, contribute and be muted. It goes on until it becomes all too much for queers of colour. Then sometimes we let the less worse things slide. At other times, we get traumatised, burnt out and angry. Or just angry. Often we need to distance ourselves and take breaks whilst we carry on being racially discriminated against. All the while the racism never stops and nor do the white excuses. Hence, for us the racism never ends.

If we demand our rights, we are told that we are insensitive and unreasonable. We are told to appreciate that Bicon ‘is run by volunteers’. We are told that it takes a lot to organise an event. We are told that organisers get burnt out. We are told that it is a structural issue. All in all, we are told many things and are reduced to feel like misunderstanding children.  At the end of the day, all those things we are told are white excuses for racial bias. Respectability for the structure and the ‘volunteers’ outweigh our struggle to exist safely as bisexuals/queers of colour.

Bicon has been going for over 30 years, yet people of colour still face the brunt of bi-racism. I have been involved in political work since I was seventeen years old so I understand the dynamics of oppression. I have experienced such exclusive behaviours far too much. So for it to happen again, for me, is unacceptable.This is why I have made my decision.

Bicon and its white apologists are not worth my time. In an act of decolonised queer self-love, Bicon will never be graced by my powerful and important presence. Not until, real action occurs. By that I mean at least 1) a consistent increase of Bis of Colour year on year 2) a stronger decolonised code of conduct 3) the proper enforcement of the code of conduct 4) the end to cultural appropriation 4) POC focused session *run* by POCs 5) intersectionality.  

I encourage other queers of colour and their allies to demand the same. We need to stand up and own our power. It is an act of self-love to break an abusive relationship. People of colour everywhere deserve to be respected and valued. Until those changes in Bicon happen, we should stand up and demand change. Bicon’s reward would be our presence. And until then we will thrive by organising together our own events as queers of colour – in a decolonised act of self-love.