#blackprivilege - Being the President.....



I like Twitter and I spend an inordinate amount of time on it, as any visit to my timeline can testify - it’s my secret guilty pleasure.

As a black activist, I have often thought about the power of the internet as a force for good, particularly in challenging racism and oppression.  Back in 1998, one of my proudest achievements was to create and publish the first radical UK Black Website www.blink.org.uk that at its height attracted as many as 750,000 hits a month.  The internet offers the massive potential of a truly global movement against racism and yet its predominate usage, at least in the west is a porn gateway and shopping channel.

So, there I was tootling along the internet superhighway and bam! There it was a hashtag fired my synapses like no other. It’s been about ten days now and #blackprivilege has gone international with huge input from the UK, the US, Canada and spreading fast.

#blackprivilege started as a satirical and ironic look at the black experience of racism and discrimination but this topic began to trend like no other.

It is interesting for a number of reasons; one is the huge potential it demonstrates to achieve a global conversation about race and racism; secondly, one look at the tweets illustrates how the black experience of racism in the western world is remarkably similar; thirdly there is a profound insight to be found that whether male or female, straight or gay, black folks from both sides of the Atlantic, suffer the same discrimination and profound marginalisation that racism enforces. It’s this universality of the transatlantic black experience that was so apparent and that I found most intriguing.

We all know that racism is an international problem, but the granular detail of our cognitive response to racism that is so eloquently revealed in these tweets jumped out at me.They reveal a shared intellectual and emotive response to racism, that is at times, poetic, irreverent, tragic, sardonic and as such profoundly insightful.

 The current and prevailing political climate, in the UK, US and throughout Europe has seen the routine denial of the reality of racism return, as the cultural and political default setting of the political and media elites. As the growing global economic crisis of western capitalism has become increasingly acute, so the global right has become increasingly hysterical. The economic crisis, the architects for which were the greedy bankers and a neoliberal political class bent on imperialism and militarism, has seen scapegoating of the ‘other’, become the dominant narrative of western politics.

The goal of the white right, is to appeal to the latent racism and prejudice in societies, by promulgating the politics of fear, using the narratives of terrorism, crime and security alongside the notion of the deserving and undeserving poor, pitting workers against the unemployed, black against white, immigrants against citizen, straight against gay, non disabled against disabled.

This tactic is as old as time itself. The maxims divide et impera and divide ut regnes (divide and rule) were utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon. This was the principle tactic, of the old colonial powers, in dominating the indigenous people of America, Africa and Asia.

Divide and rule was the order of the day then. Divide and rule is the order of the day now. 

In Britain, racism has virtually disappeared from political discourse, reduced to individual acts by small handful of ‘dysfunctional racist or idiotic fascists’ neither of which, it is claimed, are representative of wider society.  The routine dismissal of the reality of racism, reflects the growing neoliberal trend that seeks to pathologies the poor, the black, black women feminists, people of colour, the Muslim, the vulnerable, the immigrant, the other.

In the US, African Americans are told, that the election of President Barack Obama means that America is a ‘post racial society’.

What is clear, is that this deeply reactionary narrative now dominates the majority of discussions about racism in the western world.

So discovering the hashtag #blackprivilege was a real treat and came to me like rainwater to a desert. I strongly recommend that you take an hour, grab a coffee and go through this ever growing a thread.

I think you will find it provides a small insight into the transatlantic black condition of some black people.  This type of discussion could point the way to facilitating a broader international discussion and the nature of racism and its effects. Already I’ve found a number of blogs that have initiated or picked up on the issues raised in relation to racism and it’s largely invisible product - white privilege.

These can be read here , and here and finally here. Take some time, explore the debate and let’s begin a real discussion about the international reality and rise of racism.

The power of social media can be a force for good or bad and on the issue of racism, it has to be said largely the latter. Last weekend the debate on Twitter saw my spirits raised and my consciousness lifted. Long may it continue.

Thank you Twitter.

Lee Jasper