On June 7, 2016, just under five years since I moved to Washington DC to start my Ph.D study, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. It is entitled (in an admittedly straightforward but accurate and easily searchable manner): “LGBT Asylum Seekers and NGO Advocacy in the United States”.
Although the defense itself was predictably a little nerve-wreaking, I was grateful for the opportunity to present and discuss my work and found the conversation to be productive—a unique forum in which to think through and rearticulate my choices, analyses and conclusions. Asked by my committee only to add a few paragraphs to my conclusion, I was able to complete revisions swiftly and with pleasure. In fact, the entire experience of preparing for, carrying out and then writing up my research was on the whole enjoyable—at turns challenging and draining, but always stimulating. My interlocutors, mentors and colleagues helped ensure that was the case, and I’m extremely glad that I had them alongside me during various stages of the process.
I’m generally not one for “listicals” – those “ten things…” articles that, in our post-Buzzfeed age, are shared widely and more often than not stride confidently over the thick line distinguishing informative content from clickbait. Post-EU Referendum, however, I wrote one, prompted by a notable rise in violently xenophobic and racist actions across the UK. Or, to be more precise, prompted by the shock and despair expressed by friends in response to those actions.
Commentators’ suggested ways to oppose and combat xenophobia eschewed structural analyses and instead focused on individual and reactive gestures: one popular (and justifiably derided) campaign encouraged people to wear an empty safety pin on their lapels, ostensibly to signal that were pro-immigrant and anti-racist. Others blamed “little Englanders” and reckless politicians for fueling hate, willingly overlooking Britain’s history of and ongoing battle against institutional racism.
So, despite my dislike for the format, I put together a link-filled list of practical and proactive things people in the UK can do to combat racism and xenophobia (along with a few other intersecting and co-constituting oppressions). The full article is posted at Red Pepper, replete with further information and contact information for relevant organizations. Here’s the abridged version, and the closing paragraph:
1. Support anti-fascist organisations
2. Support pro-immigration organizations
3. Recognize and resist structural racism
4. Support and celebrate local communities and marginalised voices
5. Intervene and report attacks — when it is safe to do so
6. Proactively contest hate speech and prejudice
7. Know who – and what – you are voting for
8. Advocate for workers’ rights
9. Recognise your complicity – and refuse to perpetuate oppression
10. Be ready to critique the EU
“Overall, we must not forget that if the Referendum result had been different, racism and xenophobia would still exist in the UK—and throughout Europe. Far Right parties have been gaining traction for over a decade, and popular European governments have enacted startlingly racist and xenophobic laws. The Referendum has only opened eyes to prejudices that were previously closed to a long-standing reality. To fight back against them we have to be in the fight for the long haul.”
As commentators have noted, Brexit campaigners are ramping up their focus on immigration as the key debate in the referendum. Pushback from the left has been largely cloth-eared, and unsuccessful. In my extended circle of friends and family, there are also people keen to leave the EU because they are worried about immigration. Dismissals and statistics are not going to convince anyone who feels exploited and exhausted by contemporary UK life that they are wrong to be angry about immigration.
We are witnessing the result of years of scaremongering and scapegoating, led by the Conservative Party and other right-wing elements in the UK–tactics that have not been effectively challenged by the Labour Party. People in the UK are absolutely right to be angry that life has become increasingly painful, difficult and expensive; that those who are not rich are being squeezed and hung out to dry. The public has been actively misled, however, and encouraged to blame “immigrants” for social outcomes that were not only caused by, but were always intended by policymakers.
The question to ask those concerned about immigration-now, but also long after the referendum has passed-is this: What are you worried about, and who really is to blame? What would improve if we closed our borders?
We will bomb them!
(And we will sell our bombs to those who fund them)
(We will lamentably create more refugees)
And reject or detain these “migrants” as they reach our shores.
We must show our strength.
(We will throw punches with our eyes closed tight)
(We will lamentably have civilian causalities)
But no causalities shall have passports stamped “HRM”.
We must not do nothing, as women and children die.
(Our lips remain sealed for tyrannical allies)
(We lamentably have no long-term plan)
Our will remains resolute in the face of despair.
We are Great Britain. The world needs us.
(Grasping for relevance, we will pummel the earth)
(We lamentably have no idea what to do)
Destroy and “rebuild” is what we do best
We will not let terror win!
(War without end is terror defined)
One of the most enjoyable aspects of working as a journalist is being presented with opportunities to learn about something I previously knew nothing about. Last month, I was invited to cut together a short film to accompany an interview published in Red Pepper entitled Digital Labour: Wages for Crowdwork. The interviewee, Byron Peters, is an artist and labour organizer making pretty incredible work. It was an eye-opening privilege to research and edit together clips of interview, his own film projects and found footage to illustrate his ideas.
Though I’ve followed critiques of Amazon.com and Google’s business and labour practices, the terrifying MechanicalTurk was new to me, and I had no prior conception of the depth of exploitation occurring around the world as people are paid peanuts to scan documents, click links, produce animations and perform various tasks central to the maintenance of the internet as we know it. Click through to see the video interview I made – but I strongly encourage people to read the full interview with Byron as well. It will undoubtedly change the way you think about the digital world and labour practices in the contemporary moment. Continue reading
On Saturday 8 August, a coalition of anti-detention activists gathered at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre to demand an end to immigration detention and rally in support for detainees protesting conditions inside. The demonstration, lead by Movement for Justice, was the second major action organized at Yarl’s Wood this year.
A similar protest in June saw 400 protesters pull down fences to reach the inner walls of the center. At the August 8 rally, protesters were allowed direct access to inner walls – which were kicked, shaken and daubed in graffiti by the end of the protest – and broadcast phone calls from inmates to the gathered crowd. I reported on the action for Red Pepper, and produced the video report below.