Tag Archives: racism

Nationality, Ethnicity, Heritage & Me

 

2017 is being an intense year for the Western world, marked by the rise of nationalist movements. Anyone with a basic understanding of fascism, xenophobia and white supremacy would have probably seen this coming in the last few years.

When politicians across the spectrum use migrants as a basketball ball to score points, when challenging racism becomes a bore-some activity for so called progressive/liberals, when dealing with inequality and xenophobia is seen as a matter of “overrated identity politics, when people pretend only white people are working class and suffering since the financial crisis of 2008, when the media is still unable to check their biased language, and when all of the sudden everyone wants to pretend we are all equal as if a few decades of brown and black people seen as human (debatable) erases the effects of centuries of genocide, slavery and colonisation, well…. You get this. A region in which racial supremacy and discrimination are okayed again (to be honest, were they ever not okayed?) in the name of freedom of speech.

At the same time, everyone willing to challenge this bigotry is called a “regressive leftist” by people who genuinely believe they are progressive leftists, while being moderate centrists, if anything. Neo-Nazis and conservatives might refer to them as “easily triggered snowflakes”, which is ironic since they turn purple and angry whenever you call their statements ‘racist’. “Clueless social justice warriors” is another label used often by people who still don’t know their right to freedom of speech can only be violated by governments and their agencies/bodies, not by fellow citizens counterarguing what they say.

And lastly, my personal favourite one: “entitled millennials”, a tone-deaf term used by adults who believe young people under 30 years old are all middle-class babies who had everything handed to them (working/lower class young people don’t exist anymore), were rewarded for mediocrity (seriously, where are all these awards? I didn’t get mine) and can’t live outside safe spaces (apparently young people live in protective bubbles away from the cruel real world, I can’t believe I didn’t get one!).

I’m not going to go any deeper into the political situation in the West, I’m still on an indefinite break from writing about social issues at a non-personal level. I just wanted to give a brief look at the context in which this personal article is set. The ongoing discussions about nationalism, patriotism, culture and ethnicity have made me think deeply about my own identity. How I identify and how I am identified. I struggle to determine to where I belong and to which countries/regions I should be loyal too. My national, ethnic and cultural identities are complicated to the point in which I’m uncertain I have any of these.

I was born in the Basque Country, an autonomous region in Spain. I lived there till 2012, the year I moved to England, where I currently reside. My nationality is Spanish and despite living in Britain for over four years, I still have a strong (Northern) Spanish accent. At the same time, I have adopted various British customs, such as saying “sorry” non-stop without an actual reason, eating roast on Sundays, being passive aggressive and drinking a lot of tea throughout the day (just joking!). Despite all this, I was born (and I live) in a different place to where my parents and grandparents were born. Hence, my nationality and place of residence say little to nothing about my ethnicity and heritage.

My mother was born in Equatorial Guinea, located in Central/Middle Africa. Her mother (my grandmother) is from there too, while her father (my grandfather) was originally from a West African country, either Cape Verde or São Tomé and Príncipe (I can’t confirm which one it is since I have been told different things). As you can see, simply in my mother’s side there is already a mixture of ethnicities, which would be even bigger if specific ethnic groups/tribes would be considered (which I won’t do because I don’t want to overcomplicate this article).

Although it might seem confusing, describing my maternal heritage is easy compared to my paternal heritage: my biological father  (from whom I inherited my genetic traits) differs from my legal father (who legally recognises me as his daughter). I have never met my biological father and I know little about him. Meanwhile, I was raised by my legal father and he is the only person I consider a “father” in my life. I was told that my biological father is Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean (both West African countries). My legal father is from DR Congo and his parents (my grandparents) migrated there from Angola. Both countries are in Central/Middle Africa.

I learnt most of this information about my family during the last couple of years. Growing up, I was never curious about my ethnicity and heritage. I never even tried to define them. The only things I was sure about were my race (black) and my nationality (Spanish). While I grew up immersed in Spanish culture, I never felt part of it: it wasn’t something I could claim as my heritage. While Spain is a “colourblind” country in many aspects (when I lived there, race and ethnicity were not officially recorded as in UK), racism and xenophobia are common. People always give you subtle and not-so-subtle reminders about you not being “originally” from Spain.

It was also hard for me to feel attached to my African background because I didn’t grow up with my family (except my siblings). Now and then, I did have access to my parents’ cultures, mainly during family celebrations and spiritual rituals, but these were limited. I can name some basic Congolese food dishes, some basic Equatorial Guinean food dishes. I can understand some words of Lingala (Congolese language) and Pichinglish (Creole language in Equatorial Guinea). I’m aware of some rituals and customs. But my position regarding these cultures is the one of an outsider, rather than someone actively involved in them. In addition, till no long ago, I silently rejected my African background because of the gender roles that were being forced on me in the name of it.

Moving to England and becoming a young adult triggered in me an interest to know more about my roots to define my ethnicity better. In England I saw how most black people, even if British, embraced their ethnicity a lot, not just as “African”, but as Nigerian, Ghanaian, Jamaican… Or even specific subgroups, such as Yoruba. I felt a lot of envy about this, I wished that was me. Meanwhile I realised that I would never be considered Spanish and I wondered if I wanted to live in this continent forever. In addition, when deciding what to study at university, I remember how my dad pushed me to go for something that could help people “back at home”, meaning DR Congo for him.

All this inspired me to learn more about my roots. I asked questions to my family, and I did an Ancestry DNA test to proof-check their answers. While Ancestry DNA isn’t 100% accurate, it is an indicator, and I’m hoping to do a 23andMe check soon, since it is considered more reliable. Here are my Ancestry DNA results:

(*Trace regions are regions/countries which are only possibilities and might appear in the results by chance.)

My reaction to this data was a mixture of confirmation and surprise. I suspected most of my ethnicity would be African. I knew I had some European ancestry because my maternal grandfather was creole/mulatto. I thought I would get a small percentage for Native American (defined by Ancestry as indigenous groups from North to South America) because I was told my maternal great-grandmother has an Indigenous Cuban ancestor (the ancestor might be too distant to appear). I definitely have Afro-Cuban ancestry, something common in my mother’s home country, yet it isn’t reflected on the test since Afro-Cubans, as other Afro-Latinos, are direct descendants of black African slaves sent to the Americas.

I was surprised by the percentage for the Middle East, and although it is just a chance, it might be true due to extensive presence of Middle-Easterns in Africa, particularly in countries that make up my ethnicity. Regardless of this, I’m happy with being just black African, that’s how I have always identified. (Black) Afro-Hispanic is a label that wouldn’t bother me either, since linguistically speaking, I’m indeed Hispanic, which is not the same as Latino by the way (though I do have Latino [and Caribbean] heritage since I have Cuban ancestry and I grew up quite influenced by it).

When comes to individual countries, I already knew I had Senegalese roots, though I didn’t think it would be my biggest percentage. Conversely, I knew I had Bantu background, since my maternal grandmother’s ethnic group is Bubi, a Bantu subgroup, but I didn’t think the percentage would be so small. I was dazed by the rest of African countries and for the lack of mention of Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde or/and São Tomé and Príncipe, in the list. However, a small look at African history helped me to make sense of this.

Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe were supposedly uninhabited islands when the Portuguese arrived to colonise them. They were populated mainly through European settlers and slaves from continental Africa. That’s probably why countries like Congo and Benin appear in my Ancestry DNA: many slaves were taken from there. A similar logic can apply to Equatorial Guinea: that country was inhabited prior to Portuguese and Spanish colonisation (by ethnic groups like the Bubis), but there was a lot of migration from neighbouring areas afterwards.

Except for two, all the African countries/regions in my results are in West & Central Africa. Considering how European-made national borders in Africa don’t respect ethnic groups and tribes, the variety in my ethnicity makes more sense: the ethnic groups I belong to could be found in various countries in the area. Nationality might not be the greatest indicator for ethnicity in Africa. It is also important to keep in mind I don’t have full access to knowledge about my biological father’s family background. And, as I mentioned earlier, Ancestry DNA isn’t 100% accurate, although my results look more right than wrong.

As you can see, my ethnicity and heritage are heterogeneous. My mother, my legal father and my biological father are all from separate places, even different to their own parents. It is important to mention that while I didn’t inherit genetic traits from my legal father, his heritage and ethnicity still influence my cultural identity. Now, add my nationality (Spanish) and my place of residence (England). To which country in the world am I supposed to be loyal? To which country in the world am I supposed to show patriotism? I identify as black African normally, but I’m aware I’m legally Spanish and I’m a citizen of England.

Having a transnational, multicultural and mixed background is supposed to make me richer in knowledge and experiences, which is not untrue. Yet, it doesn’t make you richer in company. It can be very isolating. You belong to so many places that you end up belonging to nowhere. And more nowadays, when nationalism and ethno-supremacy are such a trend worldwide. It is easy to force nationalism upon people when you haven’t been rejected by your country of birth, when the country where you live doesn’t hate you and when you don’t have a transnational family.

My nationality is culturally and ethnically meaningless. Living in England matters to me, but the current war on immigrants and Brexit make things harder. While I’m trying to learn more about the countries that compose my African background, I still don’t feel attached to them. That’s the main reason why I can’t get behind any person or idea that doesn’t consider that who I am comes from more than one country or region, and tries to shame me for not being nationalistic. I simply have a borderless identity not confined to a single culture or place. And I wish people understood this, just as I respect their right to be patriotic. Hopefully one day, people like me will be considered during political discussions about culture, ethnicity and nationalism. Hopefully.

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Poem / Song Lyrics: Nowhere

“Crisis

Crisis

That’s how

I see who I am

My humanity

Is questionable

Indefinable

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Passport

Passport

Worthless document

They think it is fake

My nationality

Defies fascism

Racism

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Colour

Colour

Just pigment

Yet, key in my life

My race

A construct

Conduct

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Roots

Roots

The truth

Although, recovering it, is painful

My ethnicity

Most important

Constant

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Identity

Identity

African heritage

Stolen, erased, trashed and enslaved

My soul

Invisible essence

Distress

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?”

 

By Emilie F. Yaakaar

All Rights Reserved © 2017

 

 

#Brexit: So, Now What?

On Friday I woke up to chaos in social media. After months of campaigns, debates, articles and nothing but claims, United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU). Even though this decision affects me severely, since legally I’m an EU migrant living in UK, I would be lying if I said that I was very concerned about the referendum. Not because I didn’t care, but because I have learnt to not panic about things I can’t control or have a say in. Moreover, there wasn’t (still isn’t) any factual information on what was (is) going to happen to EU migrants in UK if Leave was chosen by the majority, and I’m not a fan of baseless assumptions.

I moved to United Kingdom from Spain in summer 2012 due to family circumstances. From the beginning, my plan was to settle here indefinitely. Although my time in college was far from great, I adapted to English life and I ended up liking it more than my old Spanish one. For the first time , going to university was a real option for me. I became involved in many volunteering and social action opportunities (NCS, Team v Leader, Red Cross), something I never had the chance to do before but I enjoy doing it a lot. I met inspirational people, widened my professional networks, and while not many, I made great friendships I want to keep forever. At present, I’m studying in a university I love, living independently, doing a great course, with a nice job and having opportunities to do things such as attending summer schools in South East Asia (I will be off to Singapore on Wednesday if my current poor health allows it!).

Of course, life in UK isn’t perfect, and since last year, it has been harder. I would say it all began with the general election campaigning although it was probably there before. As many already know, there has been an increase in nationalist and far right parties/groups across UK. Anti-immigration discourse dominated the political sphere before the elections, and it revived with the EU referendum. While I didn’t follow the campaigning for the EU referendum thoroughly, I noticed that the Leave side used nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric while the Remain side wrapped themselves in classicism and fear mongering. I also read complaints regarding the poor quality of TV debates and the use of this decision to further personal interests inside British political parties.

Long story short: the campaigning for the EU referendum was messy. To be honest, I can’t blame anyone for this, since it was and still is uncertain what could happen if (when) UK leaves the EU. Making claims and promises is fine, as long as you have evidence, facts and willingness to back them up. Anyways: UK voted to leave the EU. And my first thought after finding this out was, “So, now what?”.  As a development undergraduate, I’m concerned about what will happen to the poorest and most disadvantaged in UK and the EU. As legally an EU migrant, I’m concerned about what will happen to EU migrants in UK. And as an individual, I’m concerned about my academic, professional and personal plans, which seem ruined and uncertain right now.

I have never liked politics. Due to my career aspirations, I have been more involved in them since last year. But it has rarely been a pleasurable activity for me. I hate politics. I hate parliaments. I hate governments. I hate political parties. Not only at an ideological level, but at a personal too. I’m from a low (sometimes zero) income background. I’m a daughter of immigrants, granddaughter of immigrants. I’m black, a minority in Europe. I’m a care leaver, I was under social services care from when I was seven years old to when I was nearly sixteen. Due to all this, I’m quite socially disadvantaged, and the reason has a lot to do with politics.

As a poor child in care who didn’t choose to be born or having a dysfunctional family, hearing people talk so carelessly about destroying the welfare state that ensured my survival isn’t nice. As a black child who is not to blame for the horror of colonialism and slavery, hearing stories about family members not being hired because of their skin colour isn’t nice. As a Spanish child born in a country that she considered her home, being told “go back to your country! You are ruining our culture and values!” isn’t nice. I always try to respect political ideologies across the spectrum. Freedom of speech and all that. But when my identity becomes dehumanised, limits with my tolerance and patience are reached. And this happens constantly within political spheres in Europe, from Spain to UK.

Last year, I tried to get involved in politics a lot. I followed the general election campaigning in UK and researched policy proposals. At some points, I felt motivated and even thought about joining a party. I felt like a democratic citizen. However, this changed drastically on summer, when the refugee/migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea erupted. While sections of European society and some states tried to help and follow international law, the reaction by many politicians, media outlets and the public was more than disheartening. European fascism and racism rose dramatically. Or better said: Europe showed its true colours.

You may think this shouldn’t affect me personally. After all, I was born in Spain, Europe. I have Spanish nationality and an EU passport. But it does. Because I’m black. When someone looks at you dirty or directs racist abuse at you on the streets, they do it because of your physical appearance (sometimes accent/language) and they don’t ask for your documentation. And despite of where I was born, I’m African (mainly West African, too many countries to mention). I can’t pretend that xenophobia towards African migrants doesn’t hurt me. The majority of adults in my family are migrants who moved to Europe to study, live and/or work. And I don’t feel good when people hint or pretend that “I’m okay” but African migrants demonised 24/7 aren’t, just because of a piece of paper and an accent. I’m not even proud of being assimilated into European culture and I wish I grew up in an environment in which I learnt about my roots.

For months, I have struggled to say “I’m Spanish” when people ask about my accent. I just say “I was born in Spain”. At the same time, I’m not close at all to my African ethnicities, so I can’t claim them much. My parents are from a variety of countries in the continent. It is difficult to pick one or two for my cultural identity since I don’t know much about any of them. Fortunately, I can always learn, yet I feel uneasy claiming cultures I wasn’t born or raised into. I’m just an outsider wherever I am and wherever I go: a cultureless outsider. I don’t want to join the Spanish society in my university, but I don’t feel comfortable joining the African-Caribbean one, in which everyone seems so confident and strong about their cultural heritage.

UK voting to leave the EU has led to many reflections about “shared European identity and culture”. While reading them, I have been wondering many things. What do people mean when they say “European”? What is being European? Who is considered European? I have always felt indifferent about my nationality and European citizenship, I’m everything but patriotic and more taking into account the not-so-great relationship between Europe, my race and Africa. Now I can certainly say I don’t feel culturally Spanish or European anymore, whatever that means. I know that these essays talking about European identity and culture have racial implications, both intentionally and unintentionally. And I don’t care enough to reclaim my nationality and continental citizenship. I’m ~fine~ not having a cultural identity and identifying ethnically as just black African.

However, there are real implications for my life when comes to Brexit and trouble within the EU. My right to work and live in this country is uncertain. While I think no one is going to be forced to leave, working rights, welfare, healthcare and education are likely to worsen for EU migrants (some of these were already becoming worsening). I feel privileged and shallow for complaining about this, after all that’s what non-EU migrants go through, as well as many others around the globe. I believe that it is unfair that people have more privilege than others just for being born in a country when both contribute to it. I’m firmly against the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees also, together several of the new policies introduced by the Home Office to restrict the rights of non-EU migrants in UK.

However, I still complain about Brexit because as a normal human in this world, I had plans. I like my university, and it ranked first in the world for my subject when I started my course last year (second now). I wanted to stay and do a masters, but the fees for non-EU migrants (which probably EU migrants will get unless agreements with the EU states are made) are too high and I don’t even know if I could get a postgraduate loan. The scholarships that my university offer are not enough. I have currently no financial support from my family or anyone other than the university, the student finance company and my job. And I don’t know if I will be willing to stay in a country in which working and living could become a hassle.

Now, here comes my biggest problem: I can’t go back to Spain. For me, it is not easy as packing and going back to “my country”, as some are suggesting. What I dislike most about politics is that the consequences of decisions and policies are always analysed at a macro-level, without looking at the individual. Not all EU migrants will be affected in the same way by this decision. I don’t have a home anymore in Spain. I don’t have family there anymore with whom I have a good close relationship (to be fair I don’t have a good close relationship with 95% of my relatives). I have friends, but our relationship is not the same as when I left four years ago. And the most important part: I don’t have a future there. It isn’t because of the recession or because of the high unemployment rates. I never did.

While moving to England was a shock in my life, it was for the best. When I was young, I always knew that I couldn’t stay in Spain forever. I always saw it as a country in which non-white immigrants and their descendants couldn’t progress. Casual racism in Spain is very high, I never realised till I went back for the summer after living in England two years. However, systematic racism is even worse. I was raised in a country in which I never or very rarely saw non-white people in the media or adverts, except for foreign celebrities and TV shows. Always saw non-white people working in just low-skilled / service sector jobs. Noticed how non-white people in my city were marginalised into the most isolated/poor neighbourhoods.

Many of my adult family members have talked to me about their experiences with racism and employment in Spain. From my graduate uncle not being hired in a bank because he would be a “bad image”, to one aunt ringing up for a job, showing up for interview an hours later and being told there was never a job available there (my relatives with Spanish names and Spanish accents have had this type of issue as lot). My dad has worked in the same factory since I was born, and he has endured a lot of racist taunts just to provide for his family and survive. There is a reason why the majority of my adult relatives have ended up leaving Spain for other European countries or their home countries in Africa. Employment as black person is extremely limited. And this becomes frustrating. My dad has admitted a lot of times that if he didn’t have kids in Spain, he would have gone back to his home country long ago.

I know that UK is far from perfect when comes to racial equality and discrimination, but it is better than Spain. Much better. This can be something hard to understand if you have lived all your life in Britain and endured racism here. However, I have lived in both places and experienced both realities. I didn’t even move to multicultural London when I came to this country, but the differences were still big when comes to media, legislation and politics, as well as employment and education. There is a reason for it: when UK was receiving its big wave of migration from Asia and Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, Spain was in a fascist dictatorship that didn’t end till 1975. Immigration to the country only became significant after the 1990s, mainly during the 2000s and now.

Basically, Spain has  a lot of progress to do regarding racial equality. A lot. And I’m not sure if it will ever happen, and less now, when fascism and nationalism are on the rise again across Europe. I’m not interested in finding it out neither: I know that many things have changed in Spain since I left in 2012, but as I mentioned above, I have no nostalgic connection towards the country. My most significant personal and emotional growth happened after I arrived to England: I feel more connected to British society than the Spanish one. I even know more about its legislation, politics, and history.

Another big reason why going back to Spain is not an option for me is that I can’t pursue my desired career there. Things such as volunteering, social action and international development are not as prevalent in Spanish society and academic institutions as in English ones, and in most cases, this type of work is carried out by religious organisations. In addition, grants, scholarships, opportunities and affordable programmes to study, work and volunteer abroad are not common neither (ERASMUS being one of the few).

My future right now is very uncertain and as a realistic person, I see it grey. Dark dark grey. At some point, I believed that I would break the low-income/low-skilled employment cycle in my close family. I believed that I would finish my degree, do a master, get experience and maybe do a PhD to be a researcher. I believed that I would have a comfortable life and finally be happier. Now, I’m not so sure about it. In this neoliberal and meritocratic world, people always say that hard-work pays off. Yet, the recipe for success isn’t so easy for those at bottom of the power and supremacy pyramid. I don’t think that social mobility is a myth, but for a black girl from a care leaver, immigrant and working class background it is a big challenge.

I don’t want to suffer so much all my life: I don’t want to be forced into marrying someone to survive and I don’t want to be forced to get a permanent job I won’t like. I have seen too many people living with that sort of life and turning into bitter, hurting and depressed humans. That’s why I’m not conforming to the expectations society has about me. Nonetheless, the only big step I have made is attending university  and this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the privilege of being an EU migrant in UK (which is about to vanish). Of course, I can always move to mainland Europe and do a master in a country like Sweden or Norway. Yet, UK is the country with the best opportunities for me and my career in Europe.

However, I must admit that since the refugee/migrant crisis in the Mediterranean erupted and European fascism “reappeared”, I have been thinking about leaving the continent once I finish my studies. Racism and xenophobia have become normalised, and life in this continent is becoming scary. And this goes beyond my own identity. I have been very concerned as well about the treatment of Asian migrants and asylum seekers, growing Islamophobia and the attacks towards brown communities in Europe. This is not the type of environment in which I want to live, it is very toxic and my mental health is too fragile to become a full-time activist and challenge it. I know that other regions and continents in the world aren’t any or much better, but feeling this unwelcome and being so hated in the place in which I was born and which should be my home is not great.

In addition, going to Africa, reconnecting with my roots, and contributing with my skills and knowledge while cooperating with others is something I’m becoming fonder of doing with time, although it is a hard process. Even if I have African background, I’m still Western and my presence there can be patronising/more damaging than good. I also want to travel and live in other countries to enrich my knowledge and education regarding development, environmental and social issues, because I don’t want to have an Eurocentric perspective on them. I have discovered many South Asian, Arab, Caribbean and Latin American theorists and non-fiction authors whilst in my first year of university (African as well), and I would like to explore the context in which they wrote their works more deeply. I hoped I could do this whilst being primarily based in United Kingdom, but now I don’t know what will happen.

Before finishing this post, I would like to clarify a few things that have been bothering me about the post-Brexit climate in social media.

First, contrary to current popular belief, racism and fascism aren’t exclusive to the working class. A brief look into British history and politics is more than enough to understand this.

Second, being working class is not an excuse or reason to hold racist and fascist views. Also, stop erasing the non-white British working class. They exist.

Third, it seems as if rising fascism and racism was fine as long as it only affected non-white and non-Christian people. Little complaints I have seen before in my Facebook timeline about the awful treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and non-white migrants.

Fourth, (white) EU migrants are far from just the victims of the current climate. Fascism and neo-nazism have been raising across Europe as a whole, from Hungary to Germany. Not enough has been done to stop it, and again, few cared when refugee receptions centres were burned down and Nazi demonstrations targeting non-whites, Muslims and Jews happened.

Fifth, the Vote Leave campaign and supporters are not the only ones to blame for xenophobia and fascism. I know people who voted Leave due to economic reasons or personal interests. I personally think that getting behind a campaign that enables and empowers the far right is not good, nevertheless politics work like that. Also, Remain supporters aren’t free of responsibility when comes to racism and nationalism. There were Remainers who wanted to stay for economic and personal reasons and showed discontent about immigration.

And sixth, stop forcing a fake mask of solidarity and criticising others for ruminating. I respect the decision of the UK, but I have never felt more alienated in my life and I will react as I want. Besides, it doesn’t help if you pretend that “uniting to fight racism” will help while privilege, supremacies and power inequalities remain unaddressed. It won’t.

On conclusion: Brexit has shaken the lives of many people in and outside Britain. Mine is of them. While I’m not a fan of the EU, I think that its existence is key to moderate the rising far right nationalistic climate. Nevertheless, British people and Europeans have a right to choose what they want, and I’m not in a position to challenge it. I recently decided to remove myself from political spheres in this continent as I don’t think I belong to them and my voice isn’t valid/heard (except for inclusive grassroots efforts).

Also, I apologise if the content of this blog post makes it seem as if I’m only worried about myself when comes to Brexit: I’m not. However, I’m certain that no one else is worried about me and someone has to care. Even if there is panic about EU migrants, I don’t fit the narrative since Europe isn’t my region of origin. Current conversations and debates about nationalism and fascism are being whitewashed. I’m not here for (white) British right wingers dismissing racism as patriotism, and I’m not here for (white) lefties reducing racism to fear and calling for an unrealistic unity within the working class.

I hope that with time, uncertainty paves the way to facts and agreements, so I can make plans for my future. At the moment, all I can do is keep working and studying, try my best to succeed and achieve at least some of my goals. If I have to leave UK and/or Europe, I will. At the end of the day, migration is in my DNA. I’m a direct and not so direct descendant of migrants, even my African roots are highly mixed. If my ancestors and relatives struggled and survived, I will struggle and survive as well. I don’t know if everything will be fine and I’m not a hopeful person anymore, but I’m somehow determined. Having a name that means “hard-working” is a blessing with a life like mine one, and I’m glad it translated into my attitude and personality.

(P.S: Writing about this topic is difficult, I apologise if some of my ideas aren’t expressed clearly enough. I’m planning to write a blog post on migration and xenophobia on the future, which will be less focused on myself. Please, feel free to send your comments or messages, but abuse of any kind won’t be tolerated or approved under this post. And remember that this is my perspective and while you may have another one, you aren’t me and it might be hard to comprehend my feelings.)

Ignorance Is Innate But Keeping It Is A Choice

In the past couple of days  I have seen an enormous amount of  xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist comments on the Internet, from people like politicians trying to push their agendas, to teenagers with too much free time and no knowledge of history and geography. Normally I get angry and argue with people, trying to prove and show how wrong they are: how Muslims, people of colour and immigrants are humans as they are. How being an immigrant isn’t bad and migration is a natural process. However, I have reached a point in my life in which I’m genuinely tired. I’m tired of having to argue about the humanity of other people. I’m tired of having to argue about my humanity and right to migrate. I’m tired.

The terrorist attacks in Paris a few days ago were disgusting and horrific. However, it is time everyone stops pretending they are an excuse to not want refugees in their communities, to hate on Muslims and to close borders for migrants. They aren’t an excuse. If you think they are an excuse, go ahead and be bigoted. Call me “leftie”, call me “liberal”. I’m just educated. Educated enough to know that you can’t blame everyone from the same religion because of the actions of a few, and more when those few hurt “their” communities more than anyone else. ISIS has been terrorising Syria and Iraq for months. They are linked to a recent attack in Beirut too. Little concern I saw about this from all the suddenly “aware” people.

Muslims are the prime victims of this sort of terrorism, which has political goals rather than religious goals, just in case you didn’t know it. Muslims are also the main fighters against it. “Islamic” terrorism kills more non-Westerns than Westerns. Boko Haram is another good example. Millions of people have been displaced in Nigeria because of them. Thousands dead. All this in the last couple of years. Again, silence from the international community. And media isn’t even the blame. Media covers these events, trust me. People just ignore them. Because the headlines read “Nigeria”, “Syria” or “Iraq”. And let’s be honest: hardly anyone cares about Africa or Asia unless it is to be racist, to show how “good Samaritans” they are, to be a tourist, or to”invest” in their resources.

Another thing I would like to talk about is how people love to define what is terrorism and what isn’t. Terrorism is a threat to the world, yes. But “Islamic” terrorism is not the only type of terrorism that is an issue. Between 2009 and 2013, more than 55% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by ethno-nationalistic and separatist groups (Source: Europol). In 2014, separatist, anarchist and far left were the most common forms of terrorism in EU (Source: Europol). Moreover, attacks by far right and neonazi groups are currently on the rise. In Europe, in the last months, various refugee shelters have been intentionally burned down, many mosques have been attacked, anti-antisemitism has been proven far from gone and discriminatory attitudes towards immigrants and religious minorities keep being reported. In London, Islamophobic attacks increased by 70% between 2014 and 2015. Last month, there was a xenophobic attack in a school in Sweden in which two people died and another two were injured. In June 2015, a mass shooting driven by racist motives left eight people dead in an African-American church in USA, followed by various arsons in other African-American churches. However, these type of things aren’t called “terrorism” (they actually are!). They are just “hate crimes” and smalls efforts are made to tackle them at national or international scale. Because “racism just happens”, “it isn’t that serious” and “we have to live with it”. It is obvious that not all lives matter the same.

Furthermore, if you analyse carefully the current language of some Western politicians and media outlets when discussing migration and the present refugee crisis, you will find resemblances with genocidal language used by Nazis and by leaders of the Rwandan genocide. I’m not exaggerating. Research if you want. Jews escaping from persecution and smuggling into England or travelling to USA during and after the II World War were as demonised as current Middle Eastern and African refugees are. Politics of fear made tragedies like the Holocaust possible because everyone fed into them. And without doubt, nationalism and fascism are things that Europe hasn’t left behind. It is time everyone stops pretending just a few individuals are racist: we have a growing unaddressed problem. Because if we didn’t, politicians, governments and parties with a clear xenophobic ideologies wouldn’t be as followed, voted and popular as they are right now.

Racism is not only saying racial slurs and openly discriminating others. Racism is thinking you are inherently superior to others for no reason other than your race, nationality or ethnicity. Racism is thinking you shouldn’t allow people from a specific ethnic group in “your country” because you won’t be safe due to some “members” of that ethnic group being dangerous, like if your own ethnic group is perfect. Racism is automatically assuming brown people are terrorists and black people are criminals till “proven wrong”. It doesn’t matter if you make your opinion public or not. It doesn’t matter if you have black friends or not. It doesn’t matter if you donate to aid organisations in Africa. It doesn’t matter if you tell no one you agree with a xenophobic political party. You are still racist. You aren’t “saying it like this” by writing a rant on your Facebook about how Islam is evil and migrants come here to steal your jobs while simultaneously living off benefits (guess nothing is impossible!). You are just a bigot. An uneducated bigoted.

In particular, there is a problem with the complex superiority of Christians, white Europeans and white European descendants in terms of terrorism and crimes. Society can’t keep sweeping under the carpet hundreds of years of genocide and slavery in Africa, America and Asia, which was in great part justified with Christianity, while pretending imperialism didn’t have consequences or it doesn’t affect current issues. Great part of the wealth of some European countries is inheritance of colonialism. And this didn’t happen long ago. Most decolonisation movements (and all the independence wars in which thousands died) are more recent than the II World War, yet in Europe we don’t hold massive memorials to remember this. Despite being a fundamental part of the history of the continent, nobody likes to remember colonialism and most schools don’t even teach it properly. Why? Because nobody likes to be associated with that sort of crimes against humanity, and less when they didn’t participate in them. Think about this if you constantly blame 1.6-1.7 billion Muslims in the world of the actions of terrorist groups like ISIS.

Now, let’s be honest: we are all taught prejudice and stereotypes about other races, religions, nationalities and ethnicities. In our family, in school, through media, through books. Many of us have unconscious discriminatory thoughts and we think it is normal and ok. I admit I have my own toxic thoughts about others which I’m working to eradicate. Ignorance is innate but keeping it is a choice, and more if you live in a multi-cultural society or/and with access to the Internet. A part of growing up is developing critical and logical thinking abilities, to judge and analyse what we read, see or listen. These abilities are developed to be used in our daily lives, not to just pass exams and get jobs. Question what you read in newspapers and what you see in TV. Discuss controversial issues with others. Research about topics first before giving an opinion on them. Don’t just try to be intelligent: be wise too. Wisdom is important.

Identity isn’t a reason to discriminate negatively. Nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion…. These aren’t reasons to discriminate and make others seem inferior. We don’t live in a fair world. We don’t. Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make it fair. We live in a world primarily divided by identity and it is upsetting to see it. Power relations are set in such a way that systematic oppression of certain groups depending on class, gender, race, sexuality, age and others happen in all societies across the world. And I repeat, it is upsetting to see it. I don’t have much faith in the world when comes to this: I don’t think humans will be able to live in global peace any time soon. People don’t stop putting identity before humanity and people don’t want to let go their power. I hope I’m proven wrong at some point in my future life.

I have little more to say. I will conclude this post with something I learnt recently in one of my university modules.

As you may already know, identity is a social and historical construction. Our differences from others (race, religion, gender) shape our identity. How we see ourselves is all about how we see others. When we acquire a form of identity, we are separating ourselves from others identities. Because of this, dealing with identity based discrimination, like racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, is not about others. Others don’t have to prove or show you they are humans as you are. If you are racist, the problem is not about the race you hate or dislike. If you are Islamophobic, the problem aren’t Muslims. If you are xenophobic, the problem aren’t foreigners. You are the problem.  Muslims don’t have to apologise for what happened in Paris nor publicly condemn it for you to know that ISIS doesn’t represent them. YOU are the one who has to sit down and re-check your thoughts. Tackling identity based discrimination is about dealing with yourself. Why you feel superior? Why you think others are inherently bad or evil? From where does your privilege comes? From where do your discriminatory thoughts come? And for people who suffer from identity discrimination: stop explaining yourself, stop proving your humanity and stop apologising. You don’t have the fault.

Sharing my thoughts,

Emilie

Actions, Death & Tornado

“I did something really bad once and I’m never gonna be the same!”– Seven Pounds (film)
Some actions we carry out in life will never be forgotten. They can be good actions or bad actions; but equally remarkable at the end of the day. However, bad things stay more time in our heads, giving us remorses, And even changing our personality and attitude. And, sometimes, you are never able to go back as you were before.
“I wasn’t lost, or frozen, or gone… I was alive; I was alive in my own perfect world.” -The Lovely Bones (Movie)
I always wondered what is behind death, till I watched this movie. I know it is fiction, but a part of me hopes it is something like this. It makes sense. And you can still live and be happy. Yet, on the other hand, watching the ones who love me suffer because of my death would just kill me again.
“18 people were killed in Jackson that night. 10 white and 8 black. I don’t think God has a color in mind when he sets a tornado loose.” – The Help (film)

No, he doesn’t. Skin colour is just skin colour. Race is a social construction. Racism is an irrational ideology invented to power colonisation and maintain the power of elites. At the end of the day, we are all humans. We all breathe, we all die. Natural disasters don’t understand racial segregation. Neither does God. We are all the same at his eyes.