Dissident organising

New community group Black Dissidents is taking direct action for racial justice. Zak Suffee explains why

October 1, 2015
3 min read

Post-war Britain has seen a 60-year history of black resistance, from the African Caribbean protest marches of the 1950s and 60s to the Asian Youth Movements of the 1970s and the police monitoring projects of the 1980s. Now, once again, in our Tory-dominated decade, the ugly bile of racism is rising.

New protest groups have been emerging in response. I am a member of a new group, Black Dissidents, which is promoting community grassroots organising and direct action around racial justice. Our members are exclusively people of colour. Principles of decoloniality and intersectionality are integral to our organising. We are non-hierarchical and try to be critical of ourselves and our society.

Using a critical lens to examine capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy, we have supported and organised actions that challenge borders, detention, state violence, domestic violence and transphobia, as well as solidarity actions with international liberation groups such as in Kobane. We are as much about direct action as we are about community engagement and self-education.

Actions we can talk about publicly include a ‘die in’ at parliament against drowning in the Med, graffiti on Yarl’s Wood’s walls, flyposting on the anniversary of Mark Duggan’s death, and a vigil and march to mark one year since Mike Brown’s death.

The treatment of people of colour by the police has hardly improved since the Macpherson report in February 1999. A disproportionate number of those who die in police custody are from black and minority ethnic communities.

Tackling white supremacy in everyday life, as well as homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism and patriarchy is essential. Understanding these complex intersections as well as their impact on our everyday lives and our way of thinking is essential for radical social change.

Defeating white supremacy involves challenging racism, but also drawing links between housing, immigration, policing, imprisonment, security, health and welfare and the broader neoliberal onslaught on rights and freedoms. This relies, of course, on the assumption that those particular rights include people of colour to begin with. New and emerging decolonial discourses have challenged the roots of a rights-based analysis. When the human is thought of as a white, middle-class man, what space is available for people of colour? When feminism directs itself at middle-class white women, what space is there for black feminists? As Sojourner Truth famously asked, ‘Ain’t I a woman’?

Deconstructing the basis of race and understanding its history can be a tool in the debate. Rich political elites have held administrative and legislative power for centuries, built on the thriving city of London, historically linked to slavery and oppression, capitalism and patriarchy. Exploring this can widen the agitation; only a movement that includes everyone, and is for everyone, can triumph.

Race is not just an American problem. Groups such as Black Dissidents exist because political movements in the UK have neglected a racialised critique, which can be used as a lens to examine the intersections of capitalism and patriarchy. Whether through organising with other campaign groups, such as Movement for Justice, or taking the lead from the United Friends and Families Campaign in commemorating the fallen, Black Dissidents is stepping into to a space left void by traditional left groups.

Talking openly about white supremacy allows for the unpacking of the systemic abuse of state power felt not only by people of colour but by all oppressed groups within the wider framework of power in the UK.