The British press has been in a frenzy recently over nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum and her desire to return to the UK from the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. There are probably very few people in the UK who are unaware that Shamima travelled from the UK to ISIS territory in Syria at the age of fifteen, where she married an ISIS militant, conceived and lost two children before giving birth to a third (who also passed away) in the refugee camp in Syria she currently calls home.
“…this proposal has all the hallmarks of racism…Children are children, and to use their personal information for immigration enforcement is disingenuous, irresponsible, and not the hallmark of a tolerant, open and caring society”
– Lord Storey
Against Borders for Children (ABC) is a coalition of parents, teachers, schools and campaigners. Our aim is to reverse the Department of Education’s (DfE) policy to collect country of birth and nationality information on 8 million children in England in order to ‘create a hostile environment’ for migrant children in schools, primarily by encouraging a mass boycott of the School Census.
The seed for this article was planted when I was watching Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’: a clever, New York-based sitcom about a young, Indian actor trying to make it. Here was Ansari, a talented Asian comedian – who just by being himself – was getting the respect he deserved. Very few actors in Hollywood have been able to build their careers up to a point where they can claim producer/writer status; let alone those facing institutional racism. This guy had joined the ranks of Happy Days’ Ron Howard, creator of hit, indie show Arrested Development, and Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler, who went on to write the warm, bureaucratic satire Parks and Recreation. So why, despite all this, was I still feeling uneasy?
‘You are not alive to please the aesthetic of colonized eyes’
– Ijeoma Umebinyuo
An interesting thing happens when fully-assimilated BME in the West engage in politics, whilst retaining and proudly displaying their multicultural and racial identities as minorities—they become characterised as ‘radical’ and disruptive to the everyday function of society. Here are examples of how various politicking non-white figures have been portrayed:
- Prior to Sadiq Khan becoming mayor of London on May 2016, Khan suffered from smear attacks by Zac Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s attacks included ‘Sadiq Khan won’t stand up for London’s Tamil community’ and ‘his party supports a wealth tax on family jewellery,’ with the latter based upon the uncomfortable, racist assumption that this taxation is a defining political issue for South Asians. Goldsmith also branded Khan as a ‘radical,’ belonging to ‘a Labour party that thinks terrorists is its friends’.
- The newly-elected first Black Muslim president of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, depicted as an ISIS supporter for having been against a 2011 motion condemning ISIS, because of its apparent wording that demonises all Muslims, despite later supporting a revised version condemning ISIS and Islamophobia. She has also been criticised as anti-Semitic despite publicly declaring her stance as anti-Zionist due to Israel’s continued violation of human rights by its continued military occupation of Palestine.