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Response part 2

This is a second statement in response to the Race, Privilege, and Identity gathering. Below is more detail about some specific instances of racism that occurred during the weekend and in the emails that followed. Most of these instances have been highlighted already by people of colour, both at the event and in emails. This statement is not exhaustive.

Defining terms

There was no discussion of the terms Race, Privilege or Identity, or explanation as to why the gathering had been organised under this heading. It was obvious that many of the white participants did not have any thoughts about racism and white privilege. During the first session, flip chart papers were put on the wall and participants were asked to write their own definitions of each word but these were not discussed. Many of the suggestions on the paper were evasive of discussing race and therefore racist. On the paper headed Race participants had written: ‘culture’ and ‘what is race anyway?’ There was no discussion of the way that these suggestions were problematic. It was very clear that anything people had chosen to write, however offensive, would have been an acceptable contribution.

In discussions during the weekend, the word ‘racism’ was seldom mentioned. People instead talked about ‘prejudice’, ‘stereotypes’, etc. These are all things that white people can also be a target of. The intended effect was to deflect attention away from discussing racism.

At both the event and in the white organisers’ statement, racism was defined as a force/structure, (eg. the white organisers’ statement says that “patterns of conscious and unconscious racist behaviour came to dominate the space”), as if racism was something ‘out there’ which magically arrived at the gathering, at no fault of the white people present. To discuss racism as something structural, without reference to how it is white people who create and maintain that structure, is a way for white people to evade personal involvement and investment in maintaining that structure. This definition of racism was maintained on the responses on the blog to the first White Allies Statement. One poster suggested that it is unrealistic to not anticipate future racism ‘given the society we are brought up in and conditioned into’. Talking about ‘society’ and ‘the space’ is a way of not talking about people who are racist.

Lack of ‘safe space’

Throughout the weekend white people dominated conversational space, and the physical space of the building. White people took up space by crying when their racism was pointed out. This is racist.

The ‘safe space’ statement (“All racism, homophobia, sexism … will be challenged”) was mentioned only briefly at the beginning of the weekend.

Safer space should not be an equally safe space for everyone, no matter what the topic. The notion of space equally safe for everyone was used at the gathering for white people to express their racism in a safe space.  Comfort and safety was provided for white people, which allowed them to say whatever came into their heads about race (when it was discussed). This was racist. Social space is always safe for one group of people: the group with control of, and rights to, that space. White people in discussions on race and racism do not require the same level of safety as people of colour. If a safe space is being created for people of colour to discuss race when white people are present, then those white people should not feel the same level of comfort and safety as they do when they are exercising their social dominance and right to space in the supremacy that they habitually enjoy. It was clear at the gathering that the term safe space referred to the safety of white people. Use of the term ‘safe space’ instead of ‘anti-racist space’ during workshops that focused on race and racism made this privileging of white safety and comfort explicit.

There was no translation or any thought put into making the space accessible for people with limited English speaking skills.

The film screening of ‘Travel Queeries’ and discussion

The choice to screen the film ‘Travel Queeries’ to launch this event was inappropriate and served to set the scene for the rest of the weekend. In this film a white American queer woman travelled around Europe documenting and interviewing people in ‘queer communities’. This marginalises queer/LGBT people of colour and imposed a North American/Western European perspective on what ‘queer’ is and who qualifies as being part of the queer community. This film reinforces racism, white privilege and western cultural imperialism.

This film was shown to make white queer people present feel even more at home. In the discussion which followed, it was clear that many white people had actually taken away a positive message from the film, eg. ‘queers can do anything’, ‘the queer community is inclusive of everyone’, and were not interested in engaging in a critical discussion about the racism and white privilege exhibited in the film. Several white participants directly challenged the idea that queer communities could be racist. This denial of racism was reinforced when the facilitator suggested ending the discussion right after several white people in the audience had challenged a person of colour’s assertion that the queer scene is racist. A person of colour had to insist that the discussion was allowed to continue. This way of controlling and containing conflict to the advantage of white people was a common theme throughout the weekend.

The “icebreaker

(from here on referred to as the “ice-creator”)

One ice-creator exercise demanded that people to get into small groups and tell each other about the origins of their name. This encouraged the exoticization of people of colour.

An exercise asked participants to stand in different parts of the room to show whether they agreed, disagreed or were ‘unsure’ about statements such as ‘people are always more oppressed because of their ethnicity than their sexuality’. This encouraged participants to compare oppressions. This negates people who are made to experience more than one oppression. The exercise encouraged the white people present to play hypothetical mind games at the expense of  people of colour’s lived experience.

An exercise asked participants to stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about the statement ‘communication differs between cultures’. Cultural difference is a way for racists to avoid talking about racism, whilst still getting to talk about people of colour.

Another exercise asked participants to stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agreed or disagreed or were unsure about the statement ‘everyone is racist’. Nobody in the room was unsure. The group of people who abstained from the exercise, composed mainly of people of colour, were asked to give their reasons for abstention. A person of colour stated finding the questioning of her lived experience of racism through the question of whether or not people were racist, racist. The facilitators followed her statement by asking people from the Agree and Disagree groups their reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. Apart from opening up space for unguarded racism, the facilitators were racist in proceeding with the very questioning that a person of colour had just stated to be racist.

The workshop facilitators defended this exercise by saying that it was meant to ‘get people thinking’. This was racist, especially as those participants who felt they agreed or disagreed with such a statement were not challenged on their beliefs.

The structure of the exercise suggested that there was no such thing as a wrong answer. The facilitators of the ice-creator session displayed a racist patronising attitude towards the people of colour who abstained from the exercise, ‘congratulating’ them for using their initiative, rather than listening to the reasons why they were abstaining. If they had listened, they would presumably have stopped the exercise.

Some of the ways that racism was maintained during and after the event are as follows…

Silence

It took nearly three weeks to post a white organisers statement. During this time there was almost complete silence from white people about the event on lists such as LaDiDah, an email list for queer activists, where the event had been widely advertised. Prior to the event lots of people sent emails saying how great it was going to be, and those who could not attend asking for feedback. There was only one post in response to the event on LaDidah, and this was very racist (more details below). There was no response/reply by white people to this email on the list.

The white organisers statement was not posted on LaDiDah. A critique of the statement by a person of colour was later posted on the list. The white organisers did not respond to this critique – either in terms of the statement or the event itself.

Ignoring racism is racist.

Vagueness

When the white organisers statement was finally produced it was vague. It did not give any specific examples of racism. This avoids any individual accountability or identification and makes it safe for white racists.

Defensiveness

The white organisers’ responses to criticism were consistently defensive. Organisers repeatedly said such things as ‘we tried but we didn’t have enough people involved, enough resources’, etc. Lack of involvement and resources were used as an excuse for not challenging racism. If you can see an event is going to be racist then why go ahead with it? If people of colour are not attending your events, or are experiencing racism when they do, then surely you need to consider whether you should be organising events at all? By going ahead and then repeatedly defending the decisions you made you are basically ignoring racism.

Dismissal and attempting to control the terms and tone of debate

In the defensive emails following the event, the criticism, feelings and comments by people of colour were repeatedly dismissed. People of colour were accused of acting aggressively/ closing down the conversation. One white organiser used the term “shit slinging” when people of colour expressed their anger at the racism they had been subjected to. This implied that white people should be in control of people of colour’s responses to racism. This is a way of blaming people of colour for racism: ‘If only they’d talk to us nicely then we could sort this all out!’ White racists were saying that people of colour should be behave more like white people when pointing out white racism to white people.

During the final plenary of the event, after the extensive critiques provided by women of colour, a white woman repeated many of the same points that women of colour had already made, but in a slightly different way. She was suggesting that the point is not clear until a white person has made it.

A white man announced having had reservations about the racism of the event. He was using the space that people of colour opened to discuss racism in order to boast about his racism detective skills.

White Struggles

In the email on the Ladidah list, the poster recounted how she felt about being ‘the target of black women’s anger’ without actually mentioning her own behaviour. Similarly, one of the white organisers wrote in an email about the ‘positives from the event keeping her going in these difficult weeks post-gathering’. Talking about the struggles of white people, especially with regards to racism, is racist. It is also racist to boast about having gained positives from a racist event.

At the event itself, several white people cried when challenged on their racism. They were obviously expecting people of colour to reassure them. It is racist and manipulative of white people to expect people of colour to absolve them from guilt. If a white person is having problems dealing with their emotions in such discussions, they should remove themselves from the situation.

I’ve got black friends

The argument of “I’m not racist because my friend is black” was used in an email by one of the organisers. She not only named this friend, but quoted her to make it seem like the event was acceptable.  She also used her friend’s asylum status, cynically and unnecessarily, to add credence to her own attempt to justify her racism. This is racist.

Diversion

Diversionary tactics were used to avoid talking about racism and white privilege. This has continued in the responses to the event. In one of the emails on Ladidah, the poster talks about prejudice. Prejudice can apply to white people and was used to simultaneously avoid talking about racism and to apply a victimised status to white people.

The white organisers repeatedly talked about lack of resources and the logistics of organising an event. This was a racist strategy to both avoid talking about racism and to incite sympathy on behalf of the organisers.

Diversion was used to avoid talking about the racism addressed in the first white ally statement. One poster used the blog to discuss ‘safe spaces’ as a general topic, expanding the topic until she was no longer talking about racism.

Undermining

White racists undermine what people of colour are saying by suggesting the point they are making is factually incorrect. In one of the Ladidah emails, the poster questioned a comment a woman of colour had made about there not being any Black men at the gathering. The poster decided that there had been a Black man at the gathering. She assumed the role of definer of the race of people of colour. This was racist. She chose to address what she considered to be a factual inaccuracy, rather than engaging with the actual critique. This was racist.

In attempting to shut down a dialogue on the RPI blog about the future of white organising a woman of colour stated that she did not wish to hear white people talking about their future and boasting about their long life expectancy. A poster felt this was factually inaccurate and responded to the post, detailing that ‘[l]ife expectancy has more to do with access to good health care, nutrition, educational opportunities and work’, implying that people of colour encounter nothing but ease in relation to health care, nutrition, educational opportunities and work. She went on to detail white experiences of life expectancy and stated that ‘things are a lot more complex’ than the woman of colour’s post suggested. The gestures she made towards (white) working class people were inserted in order to perpetuate the threat of future white organising. This re-opening of discussion around the future of white organising enabled one of the white organisers of the gathering to use space on the blog to gather support for an anti-racist audit he had decided to do on a regular event he organised which he admitted was racist. This appropriation of anti-racist strategies is a socially expedient alternative to telling people of colour explicitly that white people previously involved in organising racist events will never stop organising. This white organiser also used an incident of racism to boast about his newfound anti-racism in relation to that of his white peers, talking about ‘one incident at the cafe I have repeatedly tried to call meetings on anti-racism and had little response’. There is no mention of the fact that he might close this racist event down.

Owning oppression, not privilege

White people avoided talking about racism by ‘talking’ about white people’s oppression rather than dealing with white privilege. At both the event and in the subsequent emails there were often references to lists of oppressions – ‘yes, there was racism, yes, there was able-ism, yes, there was classism, transpohbia, sexism and homophobia flying around that gathering’, as a way of deflecting attention away from the racism which was occurring in that space. The question ‘what is whiteness’ was also raised on a number of occasions by white participants. This is racist.

In the workshop run by the Bristol LGB forum’s ‘under one sky’ project (a project run by people of colour), the speakers told the audience about their work in schools and some of the conflicts which had arisen between the school and Somali parents regarding homophobia. A white participant suggested that Somali parents were privileged in that situation. A white audience member referred to a ‘Bengali-dominated’ area when discussing the complaints that Bengali parents had made about materials discussing same sex desire at the school where she worked. This was a racist choice of wording, suggesting that the number of Bengali people in her area had exceeded a maximum that she found acceptable. The same audience member claimed that if Bengali parents were unhappy with the education their children were provided, they should educate them in another school. She used the common racist suggestion that if people of colour don’t like it here, they can go home, applying this to the idea that they could ‘just’ find an alternative school. Her comments also negated the existence of Bengali LGB parents and children.

Rather than discuss the issues that the facilitators had introduced the  (white) audience derailed the discussion, using a few anti-homophobic gestures in order to better facillitate racism.

Another white audience member repeated the same point that a woman of colour had made and received a far more considered response. It was obvious that the white audience members felt more comfortable addressing a point put forward by a white woman. The same white woman also asked the panel how to ‘bring people of colour into LGB spaces’. This was highly offensive, negating the experience and organising of LGB people of colour and showing disdain for addressing the racism that is making the social spaces she is openly admitting are racist hostile to people of colour.  The discussion, having been manipulated by the interests of white people present, became another way for white people to further assert their identity by talking about themselves as victims of   homophobia with the added extra of being able to exercise their racism. No white audience member did anything to stop the workshop from being used in this way.

White ally response to the racist Bristol RPI (Race, Privilege and Identity) gathering and subsequent racist harassment by email.

Race Privilege and Identity was an event that happened on April 24-26th 2009 in Bristol.
The organisers of the event stated that ‘Its aim is to engage with issues of race, privilege and identity in radical queer-feminist communities through building dialogue, coalitions and resources.’

This statement comes after a call from POC who attended and heard about the event for white anti-racist allies to respond to the racism that they witnessed at the Bristol RPI event and its aftermath. All of the people involved in writing this statement are white people who attended and participated in the gathering and its workshops.

Our observations are as follows but this statement is not exhaustive:
It was clear from the behaviour of the majority of the white participants in the event that the white organisers and many of the participants had not really anticipated the presence of people of colour at the event. The racism in the way that many of the workshops were set up (an introductory question asking everyone in the room to talk about their first memories of the police), as well as the marked social discomfort (shown in racist comments about the personal appearance and manners of individuals of colour) shown by so many of the participants demonstrates that people of colour were not welcome at the event and that their presence seems to have both occasioned racist anxiety and provided a comfortable space for white people to express this. The fact that the words Race, Privilege and Identity were barely mentioned during the weekend’s workshops shows that these issues were not the focus of the event. It has also been brought to our attention that there were comments made by some participants that the people of colour at the event may not have enjoyed it as it was ‘not their scene’. This suggestion is racist.

That the presence of people of colour at the event seems not to have been anticipated shows that the intentions of the white organisers were not to create a space to discuss race privilege and identity but rather for the white organisers, and the white participants they imagined would attend, to represent themselves as anti-racist. We believe from observing it that the event was created in order that such individuals might appear anti-racist and better represent themselves as such. This is a cynical and racist strategy. It seems that the aims of the white organisers were to account for, and create a space for, anti-racism within their politics without challenging their own privilege or risking their own comfort. A service was being provided for any white person attending to feel that they were, as individuals, ‘dealing’ with racism by being at the event. This was evident in the way that so many of the white participants used the weekend to exercise their racism and the way in which they seemed not to question that this was their right. White people used the event to enjoy an idea of themselves as engaged with race. This is a way of profiting from racism.

We have been made aware that racism was anticipated as a result of the gathering in its early planning stages. That the event might cause people of colour to experience racism did not lead to a decision to not hold the event. This shows that the participation of people of colour was not a priority for its white organisers.

It was obvious early on in the event that people of colour were experiencing racism, yet the event continued to run. The racism at the event could have been stopped by ending the event earlier than planned. That this did not happen shows that the safety of people of colour was not a priority. The safer spaces policy that listed the kinds of behaviour that would not be tolerated offered no clear means of implementation. Listing worthy concerns is not sufficient to make a space safe. At the same time it is not inherently difficult to create a safe space. The failure to do so showed indifference to the experience of racism by people of colour there.

When the statement from the white organisers (posted on the RPI blog) proved insufficient apology from those organisers, and people continued to complain about the treatment of people of colour at the event, one organiser in particular sent a number of racist emails. No apology was offered for the racist abuse that was delivered to the inboxes of people of colour as she continued to express her racist anger towards them. There was also a racist email posted on LaDiDah (a closed email list) about the event.
Throughout the weekend white people continually derailed discussions that might have focussed upon racism onto their own oppressions. One participant mentioned squatterphobia: this was not appropriate. This is one way in which white privilege functions to create a victim identity for itself rather than address its power. It was deeply inappropriate for white people to try to own the experience of oppression at an event that supposedly prioritised discussions on Race.

In one organiser’s emails (sent to those at the gathering who had left an email address) she responds to the question of why the event was racist with: ‘why??? because we are learning, and we will make the mistakes.’ This suggests that it is acceptable to merely be engaged in a learning process with regards to challenging racism. It isn’t. Seeing the anti-racism of white people as a journey or process is racist. This particular racist attitude privileges the learning process of white people over the experiences of racism experienced by people of colour. People of colour will presumably have to wait until the learning process is over to be sure that they won’t experience racism from that individual. This leaves in place the threat of racism even as a white person claims to be challenging their racism. This is a way of holding onto privilege whilst claiming to challenge it. Secondly this learning process has no stated end-point. This shows the desire of white people to defer the point at which they would address their privilege, perhaps indefinitely.
Throughout the weekend white participants felt supported in bringing up the conflicted or complicated feelings they experienced as a result of thinking about their racism. Using the idea of complexity means not only that the white person’s subjectivity and self development is given paramount importance but also suggests that many different emotions are at work. This seeks to conceal that only one feeling is involved in white people’s resistance to committing to anti-racism. This feeling is the fear of, and resistance to, seeing their privilege as wholly unjust. This is a resistance to being anti-racist. It is the feeling white people get when they think their privilege is under threat.

There was continual reference from those involved in, and otherwise commenting on, the event that white people had an inherent right to be involved in anti-racist politics. Another email sent via LaDiDah highlights this racist sentiment. Its author seems to think it necessary for anti-racist politics to create a platform for whatever white people’s feelings might be at the time. On the subject of white people’s guilt she states that: ‘if one of the things white folks have going on around race is guilt it’s obvious that’s going to come up in various ways’. This places primacy on the right for white people to make their feelings a central part of being anti-racist. It is a way for white people to reassert their dominance. Her comment also shows that she wishes for it to be impossible for a process of dealing with white guilt not to be part of an anti-racist discourse. She is therefore stating that people of colour have no right to refuse to address white guilt. This is racist. The main concern shown here is for the social comfort and dominance of white people. Her comments show a clear desire for white people to be included just because they are white, and that anti-racist politics cannot happen without them. Separatism is already a solution to this problem. The suggestion that there is something to be gained by people of colour in listening to white people’s feelings first is the desire for white people to control anti-racist action, to monitor it, and to profit by it. The sheer amount of time that white people have spent justifying their racism over this event is itself offensive. Whilst apparently claiming ignorance of how to deal with their racism they have been using their time justifying it and demanding that people of colour use their time attending to it.

One white organiser made a comment on the RPI blog about somebody being £85 down in ‘personal funds’, this seemed to be intended to deflect attention away from the racism of the weekend. Another white organiser made a reference to the delicious food she and the other organisers were eating when they could have been trying to be anti-racist. This is flaunting privilege masquerading as owning up to it.
All the resources featured in the Anti-racist organising thread on the RPI blog were aimed exclusively at white people. This is another space where people of colour are being marginalised.

We have recently learnt that after the Bristol gathering the same community that got together to confront racism within itself, and should have left the gathering with the knowlege of having completely failed to do so, is now gathering for social events, once again on the pretense of providing an alternative space to the racist mainstream. This mechanical reverting to rituals which have been shown to be saturated with racism, is fully unacceptable and demonstrates that some individual will always be able to exercise the privilege to carry on as normal.

This thread is to create an online archive of resources, tool-kits and strategies for anti-racist organising, and to better understand what terms such as “ally”, “anti-racist”, “white privilege”, “safe spaces” and “accountability” really mean. None of these pieces provide magickal answers, and all are open to further critique and reworking.

Race, Privilege & Identity was a three day gathering that took place
in Bristol, UK, April 24-26th 2009

The decision to hold the gathering arose from discussions within various
connected queer communities in the UK in November-December 2008. These
suggested that there was a pressing need to explore issues around
anti-racism, disability in order to build stronger coalitions, address
power imbalances, and create safer spaces.

Originally the gathering was due to take place in Manchester. When it
became apparent that it was not going to happen there, a small group
of people decided to organise the event in Bristol. Everyone involved
was a volunteer. There was no formal funding for the event and a
breakdown of the costs is available on the blog:

https://raceprivilegeidentity.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/logistical-
feedback-from-the-gathering/

Over the course of the weekend patterns of conscious and unconscious
racist behaviour came to dominate the space, problems that were raised
throughout the weekend and were highlighted in the final plenary by a
group predominantly comprised of people of colour.

Examples of this behaviour are:

• White people dominating discussions, both verbally and emotionally,
and not being aware of how they take up space;

• Diverting conversations away from race;

• White people asking people of colour to educate them about their
oppression.

As white organisers of the gathering we take responsibility for how
the power dynamics were played out in the space. These issues were also
raised during the planning of the gathering and we recognize that we could
have implemented strategies that would have highlighted these behaviours
from the beginning of the event, so we would have been in a position to
better address them as they arose during the weekend.

We think that as a network it is important to recognise collective
accountability and ownership of these issues when they arise in the spaces
we create together.

We are keen to hear feedback from people who attended the gathering,
so that we can take what we are learning forward, as communities who
want to challenge racist structures and build relationships to overcome them.

Please send your feedback to this email address or post comments on the
blog so that they can be used as a resource for people who organising
future events.

The following statement was written by the white organisers of the Race,
Privilege & Identity gathering. Not all of the organisers were white.

In organising this gathering, I (Ryan) feel we should have been more up front
and transparent about a few things. First of all, I’ll give a full
breakdown of our costs and where our money came from through the
weekend, then I’ll say a bit about food.

Our highest individual cost was St Werburgh’s Community Centre. It was
wheelchair accessible and situated near enough to the centre of
Bristol both for people coming across the city and from out of town.
It was also the best location in terms of where our crash space was.
Also, compared to all the other suitable venues it was the least
expensive.

Of the rest of the money, the bulk of it was spent on food. Around
half was bought in bulk from the Essential Trading warehouse, a local
whole foods workers’ coop. The majority of the rest was bought from
the local Easton supermarket Sweet Mart, and the bread came from the
local vegetarian bakery Breadolution.

Various groups and individuals fundraised beforehand, and the rest of
the money we raised throughout the weekend. We also had a fundraiser
in Bristol before the gathering which lost money, resulting in one
member of the collective being down £85 of their personal funds. We
repaid this temporarily as a loan to the individual, but the
individual is committed to raising this to pay back to the gathering
at a future fundraiser in June.

We now have a surplus of £119 minus the cost of replacing a broken
cafetiere which was loaned to the gathering.

This money will be kept in Bristol until we can decide as a network on
a suitable project for it, but as a collective we are committed to it
going towards furthering anti-racist work.

Here is more of a breakdown:

Money in:

Manifesta (leeds) 107.5
Ladyfest London 150
Feminist Activist Forum 100 (50 donation, 50 loan)
FAG club fundraiser 40
Drunk Granny tour 38
Donations at event 697
donation towards food & drinks at kebele 18

Total 1150

Money Out:

St Werburghs 466
Photocopying 12
Resources (zines, pens, paper, etc) 70
kids’ space 10
veg 9
donation to kebele for space/kitchen hire 18
repaying travel expenses for asylum seeker participant 20
Food 291
Repaying FAF loan 50
Loan towards personal fundraiser loss: 85

Total 1031


VEGAN FOOD:

I also think it is worth talking about why all the food we provided
was vegan, as I find it problematic that we didn’t explain this
beforehand. I was coordinating food, I’m vegan for a number of
reasons, including personal health, animal rights, and land
use/sustainability. But this isn’t the time or place to talk about my
individual reasons, if you’d like to know more, email me
(aveganhaggis@gmail.com).

We tried to make this event as participatory and DIY as possible, but
when planning the food, other than providing tasty, nutritious food, I
also felt it important that we did as much prior preparation as
possible so that we could minimise the time people had to take out of
workshops to prepare food. Two of us (with occasional additional
volunteers) worked all day Friday to prepare the bulk of Saturday’s
meals plus the cake, and I chose jacket potatoes for Sunday as an
easy-to-prepare (well it would have been if the oven was working)
meal.

First off, we used Kebele for preparation, as it was cheap, local, and
had the necessary equipment, which St Werburghs didn’t (the kitchen
had very few utensils). Kebele is a vegan kitchen, so regardless of
our individual tastes, we had to respect that. Food hygiene is easier
to maintain with vegan food, as there is no risk of
cross-contamination with meats, eggs & dairy, and there are also fewer
worries in terms of storage temperatures.

It’s important to emphasise that vegan food is accessible to people of
many different cultures. Some cultures don’t eat particular types of
meat, some object to killing of animals outright, some won’t mix meat
and dairy. Vegan food is a safe bet, and covers all but those with a
particular intolerance, and where necessary we provided alternatives
for those with a wheat intolerance.

However the culture of veganism, or at least vegan catering, comes
from quite a specific background. I would guess that a large number of
the weekend’s participants came expecting vegan food, while for others
it would not have occurred to them, and this situation can be quite
alienating for individuals who are not “in the know”. So, what I’m
saying is that unless we want to appear to be an exclusive club that
you can only join if we are catering future events and serving vegan food,
we need to be up front about it and explain our reasons.

For more info on veganism:
http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/
http://www.vegansociety.com

We’re getting excited about the Race, Privilege & Identity gathering this weekend!

Is Bristol ready for the stampede of visitors? We hope so and are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

To give us courage, we invoke the power of Jayaben Desai, one of the principal leaders of the Grunwick strike that began in August 1976 and ended at the beginning of 1978.

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We will be showingThe Great Grunwick Stike: A History 1976-1978 on the Saturday night of the gathering. The film presents an important history of the strike which was led mainly by Asian women workers and was supported by impressive solidarity actions throughout the UK.

The film also depicts the violent policing of the strike which can only resonate, in light of the G20 protests, with the worst of police brutality we are currently witnessing.

grunwick220677lg

Certainly not to be missed…..

For folks coming out of town, here is information on how to get to the main venues for Race, Privilege & Identity.

Bristol is a nightmare to negotiate by bus, seriously. Here is the best way to get to the places you need to go.

Friday: 9 Bath Buildings. Here’s a map.

From Bristol Bus Station it is a short walk. You need to walk up Stoke’s Croft, this will lead onto Cheltenham Rd, Bath Buildings is the first road on your right.

From Bristol Temple Meads you will need to catch a 8, 9 bus into town, get off by Stoke’s Croft and do the same walk. There is no bus that goes direct from the station to this venue. Sorry!

Saturday St Werberghs Community Centre.

Here’s a map.

From Bristol Temple Meads catch a local train to Stapleton Rd train station. Walk onto Stapleton Rd, and then turn onto Waverly Rd, keep walking in a straight line, you will need to cross the motorway bridge and you will see St Werberghs Community Centre glistening (hopefully it will be a sunny day!)

From the Centre of Town, ie the bus station, catch a 25 or a 5 bus, get off on the first stop after The Better Food Company, opposite the Victoria pub. Walk down Stafford Rd, turn right slightly, then left. The community centre will be in front of you.

Good luck! Email us if this isn’t clear and we can try and make it clearer!

Programme


Friday 24th April, 7.30pm – 10.30pm @ 9 Bath Buildings, Montpelier

Film starts at 8pm

Film Screening: Travel Queeries (2009, 96 mins)

Travel Queeries is a documentary that examines the culture, art and activism of radical queers in contemporary Europe.

Through personal interviews and documentation of performances, festivals, multi-media visual arts and spaces, Travel Queeries puts an exciting international lens on queer fringe culture. With the aim of building bridges and awareness, Travel Queeries considers the word “queer” and explores the complexities, innovative values and spirit of queer within a progressive social change movement.

Following the screening there will be a discussion about issues of race, privilege and identity raised by the film.

Saturday 25th April, 10am – 11pm @ St.Werberghs Community Centre, Bristol, BS2 9TJ

Workshops will run over two days and there will be an opening plenary, an icebreaker followed by two simultaneous workshop streams and a closing plenary on Sunday that will be used to for evaluative purposes and future action planning.

10 – 11.30 Opening Plenary and icebreaker

Saturday, Stream One

12.00 – 1.30 Anti-Racist Space Audit: Part One

Facilitator: Sam Lamble

Too often racism is seen as primarily a problem of individual attitudes, prejudice or ignorance. Though certainly important, a focus on individual behaviour often obscures systemic forms of racism, namely racist norms that are embedded in institutions, community spaces, and collective practices. The physical spaces we inhabit, whether public buildings, resource centres, community workplaces or social squats, are often neglected as sites that require specific anti-racism work.

This two-part workshop considers the ways in which spaces we inhabit may reinforce racial, gender, class, and ability-based hierarchies.

1.30 – 2.30 Lunch

2.30 – 4pm Street Activist Coalition Building Across the Margins

Facilitator: Abher Behn

“Now we must recognise differences among (wo)men who are our equals, neither inferior nor superior, and devise ways to use each others’ difference to enrich our visions and our joint struggles.”*
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Street and community activists use face to face engagement as a tool to action change, raise awareness about social justice issues and the atrocities of state and nation.

If, as “progressive” activists, we confront many issues in solidarity with the marginalised communities they affect, why are the groups fighting for social justice still so lacking in diversity? Why are we are still struggling to embrace and include difference within activist groups? Why are the decisions of autonomous non-hierarchical activist groups still being dominated by white straight able bodied privileged men, in said and unsaid ways despite the rhetoric?

The anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist/feminist movements of the last 20 years have worked hard to be truly “inclusive”, to avoid the political replication of a rightwing exclusionary demographic (from which the leftist vanguard suffered to its detriment) and essentialisms, but are we really succeeding in doing this? In the very act of “including” we are announcing that there is “another” to include, someone we place outside of the socio-economic history of activist organisation.

If we continue to deny difference we deny access, despite the declarations of an open door and so our potential for movement and transgression remains a contradictory theoretical construct.

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In this workshop we will discuss and map the language of oppression and “inclusivity”, how identity and privilege work complicitly with race/gender/class/ableism in an immediate and destructive way in our lives as activists and community organisers. How in trying to sustain our communities and tackle local, global and personal oppressions we need to find ways to challenge the behaviour, language and actions of the self and one another beyond tokenistic gestures of tolerance and acceptance.

4.30 – 6 Remember Olive Morris
Facilitators: Remembering Olive Collective

Olive Morris was a key figure in Black British and Black British feminist history. A member of the Brixton Black Panthers, she also founded the Brixton Black Women’s Group, was a founding member of Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent and was at the forefront of London-based squatter movements in the 1970s.

The London based Remembering Olive Collective is a grassroots history project made up of a mixture of women from different backgrounds and ages. Their presentation will introduce the aims and objectives of the Remember Olive Morris? Project; including the activities they have already done, the use of the blog and, of course, collecting information about the life of Olive Morris.

http://rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com/

Saturday, Stream Two

12.00 – 1.30 Race & feminism: learning from history
Facilitator: Terese J

This workshop will start with a presentation looking at how racism and white privilege has been challenged, discussed, ignored and/or erased from history at different moments within feminism’s recent past (looking in particular at the 80s). It will also challenge the popular misconception that feminism in the UK has always been led by white women. The presentation will be followed by a discussion about how contemporary feminist activistscan engage with and learn from this history, and to think about ways in which we can avoid reinventing the wheel, and instead build on the historically-grounded, critically honest and accountable antiracist movements spearheaded by anti-imperialist feminists in the 1980s.

2.30 – 4 ‘Colonialism’s final frontier’
Facilitator: Bristol LGB Forum

‘Under One Sky’, Bristol LGB Forum’s groundbreaking project documenting the experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people of BME heritage / BME heritage and Faith present a workshop contextualizing their research to date within the historical and contemporary oppression of LGB people of colour in Britain.
http://www.bristol-lgb-forum.org.uk/

4.30 – 6 Too many prisons, not enough justice

Facilitator: Bristol ABC

Prisons are tools of social exclusion that remove and silence the criminalised other, often defined as such by gender, ethnicity, economic status or political affiliation. We can see this at work in the UK today, with people of colour being over-represented in the prison system, the growing number of women and young people being given custodial sentences, and the disproportionately long sentences meted out to political activists. This destroys our communities while keeping individuals isolated and vulnerable; communities and individuals are criminalised, excluded and disempowered.

Prisons reinforce the state and capitalism’s oppressive agenda: hierarchical, patriarchal, racist, heterosexist, homophobic, and imperialist.

In our workshop, we will explore the factors that increasingly contribute simultaneously to the criminalisation and victimisation of communities. We will also discuss ways of defending against the criminalisation and overpolicing of our communities to oppose the growing “prison society”. It is our hope that this will feed into any plenary session discussion regarding future action.

Bristol ABC works in solidarity with political and social prisoners to challenge state oppression by directly
supporting radical, anarchist and class war prisoners. We consider all prisoners are political prisoners. We look to examples of solidarity and mutual aid to find solutions in our communities.

Bristol ABC is made up of radical activists who are engaged in the day to day struggle against the state, capitalism, and all forms of oppression. We will draw on this knowledge for the workshop.
http://bristolabc.wordpress.com/

6pm – 7.30 Dinner

Saturday Night Film Screening: 7.30 pm onwards

The Journey of Bronze Woman, Monument of Love, the Installation (10 mins, 2009)

The first permanent statue of a Black woman in the UK was unveiled in Stockwell, London, in October 2008.
The film focuses on this historic event whilst introducing the inspiration behind the statue, 89 year old poet, composer and writer Cecile Nobrega, author of the poem ‘Bronze Woman’.

Kuchu Story (20 mins, 2008)

Rachel Wamoto’s short documentary presents candid interviews with British born lesbians of African and West Indian descent and those who have come to Britain in order to be out.

The Great Grunwick Strike 1976-1978: a history (64 mins, 2008)

This film tells the tale of the Great Grunwick strike at a film-processing factory in North London at the end of the 1970s.

The strike, led by Jeyaben Desai, was mainly comprised of Asian women workers. This documentary tells the story through footage and stills from the time plus contemporary interviews with forty-odd participants.

It offers an honest and direct account of how a small band of workers in a small back-street factory managed to bring out thousands and thousands of workers in solidarity for the simple right to form a trade union.

Sunday, Stream One

11 – 12.30 AIDS, Intellectual Property and Access to Knowledge

Facilitators: Mike & Dettie

Mike & Dettie will screen their work-in-progress documentary Patent Fever (33 min) which takes a fresh look at the controversy surrounding patents and access to medicines in the country hardest hit by HIV: South Africa. Patent Fever documents both the progress on access to treatment and the new under-reported explosion of HIV-TB co-infection that threatens to undermine it. The film draws on previously unseen archive footage and the personal testimony of key players – including Vuyiseka Dubula, the new inspirational head of the Treatment Action Campaign – to narrate the latest twist in the decades long global fight against AIDS.

After showing the film there will be the opportunity to give feedback to the filmmakers and discuss the issues raised during the film.

Watch the trailer here.

Sunday, Stream Two

11 – 12.30 Deaf and disability awareness

Facilitators: Marion and Lani

How can we make our events more accessible to deaf and disabled people? It is easier than you might think! In fact, attitudes and lack of awareness create the biggest barriers for deaf and disabled people. We will discuss practical strategies for improving accessibility which don’t require a lot of money or specialist knowledge.

We will also talk a little about the social model of disability and the history of deaf and disabled movements. What can we learn from them? We will be drawing on experiences of living as and working with disabled people, but we are not experts! Please feel free to discuss your own ideas and experiences, so that we can learn from each other.

12.30 – 1.30 Lunch

1.30 – 2.30 Anti-Racist Space Audit
Facilitator: Sam Lamble

While Part 1 of the workshop identified problems, Part 2 focuses on solutions. Participants will be asked to identify the five most pressing issues/concerns they identified in Part 1 of the workshop, and then brainstorm possible strategies and solutions. This will lead into a larger facilitated discussion, where participants can raise issues that come up in the audit exercise, discuss challenges and collectively share ideas for creating anti-racist spaces.

Closing Plenary 2.30 – 4

Race Revolt, the zine edited by fem-queer DIY stalwart, gold star lesbian & ‘queen of the workshop’, Humaira Saeed, has probably been the most influential publication within the feminist, queer, DIY community since it began in 2007. She will undoubtedly blush at that sentence, but all of it is true.

People just weren’t talking about issues relating to race, privilege & identity to any real degree, and were, for the most part, walking around in a white washed daze failing to notice any of the exclusionary tendencies endemic in ‘our’ communities.

Having a platform to discuss & share ideas is so important, and this zine has been crucial to developing consciousness & raising awareness about these issues – but it should never be the only outlet, we need to create many more.

In order to spread the inspiration further, we asked Humaira a few questions about the zine & what inspires her to keep fighting……

why did you start race revolt, is it a labour of love or fury?

i think for me, it’s always both. i can’t love the labour if it’s not fuelled by some kind of fury, and i wouldn’t have fury if i didn’t love, if i didn’t care about things. and so race revolt came from both of these places, from feeling frustrated and despondent and angry about the silences around race in the communities i inhabited, but caring too much about them to ever to just give up on it. and i really believe that this zine is part of something important.

what is your favourite issue and why?
probably issue 3, contributions from people of colour only, both because it’s the most recent ‘achievement’ but also because there’s something about it that feels urgent. i find so much unapologetic
bravery in all the articles which is inspiring to me and speaks to me very directly and personally. but of course i think all the issues are great!

tell us about the upcoming issue….

it’s themed whiteness and it should be ready for the race gathering. it’s shaping up well! i think this issue has had the most amount of interest so far in terms of contributions. it’s really amazing how all the articles complicate notions of whiteness and critique privilege in lots of different ways. it’s the second special issue, which seem to be good ways of focusing ideas – the issue after this will be a general one (late autumn 2009), then there’ll be two more special issues on intersections, one on class and race (spring 2010) and one on dis/ability and race (late autumn 2010).

what are your recommendations for films/ books/ websites/ art etc that you can recommend for people interested in exploring issues relating to race, privilege & identity?

oh audre lorde! i think the largest source of inspiration and strength for me since starting RR. her poetry i think gets overlooked a bit, she was such an amazing woman.

mimi nguyen’s website http://www.worsethanqueer.com

a book called ‘A Promise and a Way of Life’ which I hope to review for RR, it’s by Becky Thompson and about white anti-racist activism.

Ismat Chughtai’s 1944 short story ‘The Quilt’. It’s so beautifully written, south asian, and queer. so many more, but i’ll stop there.
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To contribute to Race Revolt, or to find out how to get hold of a copy, please email: racerevolt@riseup.net

On Saturday from 2.30 – 4, ‘Under One Sky’, Bristol LGB Forum’s groundbreaking project documenting the experiencesof Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people of BME heritage / BME heritage and Faith present a workshop contextualizing their research to date within the historical and contemporary oppression of LGB people of colour in Britain.

For more information, see Bristol LGB Forum.

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