As a life-long activist, I’ve found that one way to resolve a problem is to share it with others and listen to what they have to say. Thinking about it, all the best activists I know do something similar. We don’t presume we are right – especially when we stand accused of sinning, as I do at the moment.
Please understand that I have absolutely no problem with the content nor the woman myself – indeed, I am very grateful for her honesty and clarity however she chooses to express it. My only problem is that if I cease and desist in my behaviour of inviting interest from people of colour, I believe I would be breaking the law and my integrity won’t allow me to do that.
That’s my only objection and we are both free to say No and disagree with each other in my reality with no harm done. Indeed, from this angle, should the lady and I ever agree with each other on something, I’d suggest we might be looking at a universal truth. This is why I value disagreement – it tests the evidence.
The issue I am seeking to raise relates to Human Rights law as it pertains to British people. The conversation started, not with me but with my fellow activist, Jayne Linney; she records her experience here. It continued here, and has been on-going, between Jayne and I ever since. Between us, and our respective networks, it would seem that the idea of referring the UK government to the International Criminal Court has both traction and agency.
In addition, the recent judicial staying of the #OpCotton trial, particularly highlighted by the presence of Alex Cameron QC under pro-bono circumstances, underpins the breach of both the individual and society’s right to a fair trial under any Human Right convention. There is evidence to suggest that HR lawyers are taking a look at the idea.
So – here is my problem as an activist.
If I am pursuing a human rights issue, and especially when I am working with others, my contribution has to be to human right’s standards, whether paid or voluntary. My own understanding of this standard says that excluding any voice on the grounds of ‘difference’ is prohibited. What do other activist’s handbooks say?
There is one thing I know about true activists: the personal is professional. If we see abuses, we challenge them and we learn how to win by choosing our battles carefully. Jayne is a winner, and so am I. The reason I think we win is because our own lives are on the line. It makes a difference in how we address priorities, I’ve found.
So, to all my fellow activists, I ask this.
How would we go about organising such a legal referral to the ICC using Human Rights standards (this is assuming we are taking the suggestion seriously)?
The current advice for ‘start-ups’ such as this evolving idea is to attend to the Human Resources issues from the outset which also contains a working standard that exclusion on the grounds of race is forbidden in a truly diverse environment. It doesn’t matter what colour, or gender (or whatever other label anyone chooses) I am, if I don’t ask keep asking people of colour in my society if they want to contribute their voice to the practicality of this referral, I’m blameworthy of of institutionalised racism. That’s against the rules in my handbook.
If folk don’t want to be involved, that’s their free choice and must be respected. I’d appreciate it if everyone honoured her request to keep me out of her mentions as this is also a matter of respect. I have no problem with this request and will say no more on the matter.
However, there are folk who may want to consider this. What kind of legal instrument must we, the people impacted by UK government policies towards us, create to produce a proper prosecution of said government through the appropriate legal channels? As a Human Rights issue, this affects ALL of us and is about as intersectional as we can get, nor are we the only activists considering or taking this form of action. It would make sense to co-ordinate the legal stuff provided we are all agreed that the personal and ethical conduct of whichever legal team winds up holding the reins of this team of wild horses already meets our practical Human Rights standards.
I’ve always found procedures to be very useful when everyone agrees upon them, particularly when it comes to how we treat each other. In abusive times, this becomes particularly important when dealing with people who have been abused for who they are or what others believe them to be.
This is how I’m thinking. We have a human rights problem? How do we manage it? Certainly not without the clear voices of people of colour!
Finally, and just on a personal note, I’d like to say that I’m not sure I fit the stereotype of a white feminist. I certainly have middle-class tendencies but my actions and labels stick me right out there with the exiles. Still, better be damned for doing something rather than not, at least that’s true in my reality for a no-win situation. People want to throw white privilege at me, go ahead – I am the product of nearly 60 years life and it’s impossible for me to change now! You wouldn’t believe me if I did! So I’m afraid you’re stuck with who I am. Since the present signs suggest that my time on earth is limited, I’d like to die the way I have lived, trying to change it.
When I reflect on the subtle demands of others to be something that is simply not achievable – at least in this woman’s lifetime – because it’s not who I am, we are in the realms of projection so magical answers are acceptable. So to the charge of #racism, I plead guilty. I’m happy to take on the collective karma of white privilege but, in mitigation, I’m going to need several lifetimes to do penance properly. It”s going to be a long hard job but I’m willing to do it if you’re willing to let up on me about all my failings and take a look at this idea.
That’s the reasoned bit. The next sounds like emotional blackmail: I make this request as an aging white feminist who might not be around much longer. For those who ‘know’ – and grief is a common teacher in this emotional realm – or who are become women with experience of this edge, it’s designed to explain the reason for my urgency. I don’t have time to waste anymore.
Appearing racist does not rate on my importance score anymore because the activist people of colour I’ve met, in prison and out of it, have enough experience to see past the messenger to the message.
Stopping the criminal fascists in Britain has become my priority. This looks like a lawful way to do it. My contribution is required to be lawful.
Anyway, that’s how far I’ve got in my thinking and this is a human resources/rights issue so I’m sharing it because I believe it to be deeply important for all of us but affects women particularly and women of colour especially.
How do we go about ensuring UK women of colour voices are heard loud and clear this time around with the working standard set by them? To me, a working standard demands only what is humanly possible from the individuals concerned. This means making mistakes is part of the deal and we all get to make them. We are measured by how we respond to the situation afterwards.
In considering all the routes out of this part of Hell, the above path described seems to have both agency and traction for a number of people given the evidence we have accrued, across the spectrum from the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry to the DWP Mortality Statistics, trying for the ICC seems like the kindest for everyone in the circumstances.
What do my fellow activists think? After making any allowances due given the circumstances I find myself in. It frequently results in rather outlandish suggestions – I believe it to be a consquence of abuse but I could be wrong.
Last January, a young wise woman asked me what I meant by ‘medicine woman’. It has taken all these months of careful reflection to find a response that met my definition of authentic.
A medicine woman or shaman, as I clearly call myself in these blogs, is a sacred task and there are many contemporary white people who have appropriated ideas from living sacred indigenous cultures/practices and rendered them profane. I apologise unreservedly if I have ever done this; I do not doubt that I am guilty too. Additionally, my actions have rendered me harmful to others in the past when associated with my conception of this social role except…
I have always been this way, even when my mind was convinced magic was an illusion, I’ve always been spiritual. All my life. It’s how I have learned that it’s not possible for humans to be harmless unless there are clear social standards we willingly and collectively abide by. It’s why we created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it’s why Britain, in particular and as a country, was among the architects.
When the unelected British government is suspected of wholesale breach of the UCHR, up to and including crimes against humanity, this needs to be in front of a judge/s. Good Law is good medicine – that’s a Universal standard and often held to be sacred in many differing spiritualities as well as governing the mundane actions of humanity. When we understand the Law we have collectively elected to use, some complicated issues often simplify themselves. I don’t know if this ‘medicine’ will work but it’s as close to reality as I can get it. I’m heartened by the response from my activist sisters.
So, I’ll answer my friend’s question by asking another one (which I understand to sometimes be regarded as impolite but I believe it might be Ok with my friend):
What do you think – does your definition of what I’m proposing in the above post and ‘medicine woman’ have any meeting points? I ask because I don’t know the measures you are using.
The above blog has been the first real opportunity to contribute to my community since you asked your question: If such a creature as an authentic British aging white woman shaman existed in the real world, what would she look like?
I mean… might she look or behave a little like me?
Thank you so much for the gift of your question – the resulting self-examination has been deeply creative.