Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
To begin this story, cast your mind back a few months…
It’s May 2016. My facebook feed (the ultimate source of truth in our post-truth world) seems to be schizophrenic, or at least representing two entirely different worlds.
One world is the ‘green’ activists, who are in the middle of two weeks of global actions against fossil fuels. The spectacular actions in the US, Australia, the UK and most notably Ende Galende in Germany, have led some of my comrades to claim: “WE ARE WINNING!”
The other world is that of Monique Tilman, the young Black girl assaulted by an off duty police officer as she rode her bike in a car park. It is the world of police brutality, the world of indigenous people being dispossessed of their lands for tourism or ‘conservation’.
Surely, the ‘we’ that is winning can’t claim to include these people?
The green movement, under NGO leadership, seems to be content with shallow demands of CO2 reduction. Whilst the inextricable links between capitalism, ecological destruction, colonialism, white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy lie just below the surface, yet no one, within the nonprofit-industrial complex at least, seems to want to join the dots.
Fast-forward a few months and the world seems to have shifted. Brexit has happened and the world feels that little bit more dangerous for Black and Brown people in the UK, with a dramatic increase in racist violence over night.
In response though, anti-racist organizing seems to be gaining momentum. In the States, rage has spilled into the streets once more after police in Charlotte, North Carolina, shot a Black protest at a Black Lives Matter vigil over the police killing of Keith Scott.
Around the same time, the Standing Rock protection camp and the #NODAPL movement is gaining worldwide attention. Although the camp was started in April by indigenous youth, by now the camp has thousands of activists resisting the pipeline’s construction and protecting sacred sites.
More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that this site has brought together so many structural forms of oppression that are linked to environmental issues and brought them to a wide public consciousness.
In the UK the group Black Lives Matter UK, also drew links between climate and racism, when they shut down London City Airport by occupying the runway. The action sparked controversy for the use of white allies in the action, an understandable choice, however, considering the differential treatment of protesters of colour by the criminal justice system.
Despite being attacked by both right wing and the supposedly ‘liberal’ media, the action successfully drew attention to the fact that racism facilitates climate change and the effects are disproportionally felt by Black, Brown and indigenous people, mainly in the Global South.
In the place of single issue campaigning that will appease the ‘liberal’ media, more complex, militant and intersectional forms of resistance are today becoming possible and will become increasingly important in the coming years but crucial questions need to be answered before rushing to join the ‘intersectional’ bandwagon.
Time and time again I’ve come across well meaning white activists in the ecological scene who want to improve ‘diversity’ or know how to make their camps/actions/organizations more ‘intersectional’. Yet, few of them have any idea how to go about doing this.
In a world where whiteness is the norm, a white supremacist society, to be non-white is to be ‘other’ and is to be defined by your ‘race’ in your everyday life. Do you know what it is like to experience your life as a white person? In order to do this, you need to understand and contrast this to the lives of non-white people.
Colour-blindness is a privilege that most people of colour don’t have, as they are being defined by their skin tone by other people whether they choose to identify or not.
As with other forms of oppression, racism is like a smog that surrounds us, and we breathe it in and breathe it out every day. Without conscious effort, just in breathing out, we recreate these oppressive structures.
For instance, the simple unconscious act of who takes up more space in meetings and who tends to be listened to more (typically middle class white cis-males) reflects and recreates oppressions along lines of race, class, gender and sexuality.
Raising your own consciousness, understanding your own privilege and other people’s everyday oppression, is therefore a fundamental first step. White people need to actively seek out texts and videos to learn about this. It’s their responsibility.
We also need to remember that privilege is structural and not individual, and therefore it is society at large that also needs changing, through collective resistance.
Working across relative privileges is complex, messy and certainly isn’t as simple as ‘taking leadership’ from the oppressed because no homogenous group of ‘the oppressed’ exists who share a political vision to sign up to, nor can uncritical following be a path to collective liberation.
However, decentering the white middle class subject as sole agent of revolutionary change is essential to this and listening, really listening, to others experiences is crucial.
Often, I’ve heard white people presuming equality, and proposing that both groups need to listen to one another, not realizing that some people have been forced to listen for long enough.
Additionally, it often falls to people of colour, women, trans and non-binary people to repeatedly raise problems within groups and challenge oppressive behaviours which, at best can be chances to learn about relative privileges and oppressions.
Yet, when specific meetings are called to tackle these issues key people fail to turn up engage in difficult conversations. Thus, the status quo is maintained through white silence.
As sexy and topical as ‘intersectional organising’ sounds, attempting to decentre those with privilege and making space for those with less, is a messy process that requires humility and patience.
Ultimately, stepping up to the challenge means getting dirty. It means that privilege of race, gender, sexuality and ability, needs to be up for discussion and difficult conversations about how these privileges play out need to be had.
This process, however, is crucial in order to be able to collaborate to dismantle the structures that create privilege and oppression in the first place.
If we fail to do this, in anti-racist settings white people can only be on the outside, and our struggles remain compartmentalised into different ‘issues’.
By getting dirty though, we can hope to expand the ‘we’ that is winning, we can begin to tackle the multiple oppressions that run through every ‘issue’ and we can truly win.
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe