Drugs and the aggravating circumstance of being black

Following the release of figures showing huge disparities in the way drug laws impact black and white people, I wrote an article for Independent Voices thanks to Writers of Colour. I argued that not only is the war on drugs a flawed concept, it’s not even working well. Although black communities are the collateral damage in this war, the shrapnel hits everyone.

Drugs and the aggravating circumstance of being black

Indydrugs

Despite taking fewer illegal drugs than their white peers, black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs in the UK, according to a report by Release and the London School for Economics (LSE) this month.

This is just a national average though and in some areas the discrepancy is much higher. If you live in Dorset, for example, you are 17 times more likely to stopped in the street and searched for drugs if you happen to be black.

The inequality doesn’t stop there, because if found with drugs, black people are then twice as likely to be charged as white offenders.

You might hope that once you are in court, justice will be blind and treat you equally, but black people are jailed at six times the rate of white offenders.

While it might be over-egging the pudding to say being black in the UK is a criminal offence, it seems it is at least an aggravating circumstance…

Read the entire article on IndyVoices

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I am proud to be part of Writers of Colour, – a collective of black and Asian writers challenging the lack of diversity in Britain’s mainstream media.

Twerking Miley Cyrus and ‘acting black’

When Miley Cyrus appeared writhing around the VMA stage one of the main criticisms levelled at her was that she was stealing from black culture. I argued that culture is there to be shared and appropriated but lamented that Miley chose to mimic a 2D stereotyped form of black culture and that she didn’t even do it well.

miley guardian

Former Hannah Montana sweetheart Miley Cyrus’s gyrating bikini-clad performance at last night’s MTV VMA awards left watching celebrities open-mouthed and set Twitter ablaze.

Miley, the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, the wholesome country and western singer with the ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, has been raising eyebrows for the last four years  as she moves further and further away from the teenage Disney channel character that set her on the way to becoming a $150m star at just 20.

Her hyper-sexualised set, which included rubbing her butt into Robin Thicke’s crotch and getting extremely personal with an oversized foam finger, drew criticism from feminists for degrading her sex and from some pundits for ‘picking the pocket of black culture’… (more…)

The Esigcaweni Nazarene Primary School – Swaziland

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The Esigcaweni Nazarene primary primary school is in rural Swaziland near the southern border with South Africa.

The school educates over 300 children from the Lumbombo region of the country.

Swaziland is one of the poorest countries on earth. More than a quarter of the population (26%) are HIV positive, the world’s highest adult prevalence rate and Global Age Watch says life expectancy there is just 49 years, the fifth worse in the world.

Many of the children who attend the Esigcaweni school have lost either one or both parents to HIV or other illnesses and for many, the meal provided by the school is the only one they will eat all day. (more…)

Oprah Winfrey and travelling while black

Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s richest women but it didn’t stop a Zurich shop assistant from assuming she couldn’t afford the bag she wanted to buy. I talk about the real risks of travelling when black and sadly, they are more troublesome than having trouble buying a £24,000 bag.

Oprah Guardian

Oprah Guardian

 

There was a depressing familiarity to Oprah Winfrey’s tale of racism in an upmarket Swiss boutique.

Billionaire TV presenter Oprah is a household name around the world but this didn’t stop the staff in an Zurich handbag shop from assuming she couldn’t afford the expensive bag she wanted to buy.

In Oprah’s case, she decided not to make a scene or to play the ‘do you know who I am?’ card, instead choosing to leave the shop and spend her money elsewhere.

Oprah knew just mentioning her experience would be pay back enough and already the owner of the boutique has apologised and tried to explain away the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’.

While £25k handbags are not normally on my shopping list, being made acutely aware of your race when you leave the safety of home is all too familiar…

Read the Guardian article

This article was originally published in the Guardian with thanks to Writers of Colour

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Serve me up a Frankenburger but go easy on the branding

Yesterday’s announcement that scientists have created the first fully lab-grown burger left many feeling nauseous.
We have an emotional connection to what we put in our bodies and the idea of a burger made on a Petri dish leaves many people cold.

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I don’t share this revulsion.
Even when the rules are followed and our food isn’t bulked out with horse or fed its own dead, the way our meat is produced is already pretty vile. (more…)

Dark girls and slavery’s lingering fingerprints

When my beautiful daughter was just eight, she corrected me when I described her to a friend as ‘black’.

“Dad, I’m brown”, she explained. “You’re black, mum’s white and I’m brown”.

While I couldn’t fault her logic, her words caused a strong emotional reaction in me.
It was a mini panic, unexpected and violent. I caught my breath and tried to explain that:

“Although races don’t really exist, the world we live in has conjured them up and the shared life experience you will have with your darker skinned cousins and friends defines you all as black, regardless of skin tone.”

Good luck explaining that to an eight year old.

No argument I came up with, would convince her she was anything other than brown and so I gave up.

Jess and I

Now she’s 22 and would define herself as mixed-race. (more…)

Trayvon Martin and the Fear of a Black Man

theblakwatch

“ ‘Not Guilty?’ the filthy devils tried to kill me/  When the news gets to the hood the niggas will be/ Hotter than cayenne pepper/  Cuss, buss, kicking up dust is a must.”
Ice Cube – ‘We Had to Tear This MF Up’

The’ Not Guilty’ verdict for George Zimmerman, the killer of  Black teenager Trayvon Martin,  confirms a fact that all Black men know, but hoped had changed.  The fact that many white people view us as a threat.

It doesn’t matter if the Black man in question is well educated and softly spoken. It doesn’t matter if he has not even finished puberty. We are seen as a threat that must be contained. Trayvon was an unarmed teenager, and George Zimmerman was an heavily set 29 year old with an obvious weight advantage, who also happened to be packing a gun.  But still Zimmerman felt that he was the…

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What the West can learn from Egypt

Egypt’s coup presents the West with a massive dilemma as leaders try to work out how to respond.

Just a year after taking office after the country’s first free election for 30 years, Islamist Mohammed Morsi was unceremoniously removed from power and placed under arrest.

Egyptian Coup

While neither Cameron or Obama will shed a tear at seeing the back of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, they feel they can’t openly support a coup, even one brought about by a popular uprising, for fear of  ‘setting a dangerous precedent’. (more…)

Obama and JFK – how messiahs break our hearts

This week, Barak Obama retraced JFK’s steps and spoke at Berlin’s iconic Brandberg gate.

The White House was going for a ‘JFK moment’ and the world’s media was keen to lap up the easy comparisons between these two handsome, eloquent men.

Obama at the Brandenburg gate

Obama at the Brandenburg gate

Of course it was no accident Obama’s visit came almost exactly 50 years after Kennedy’s famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech. (more…)

Why the Boston bomber is not evil

In the immediate aftermath of the terrible events at the end of the Boston Marathon last night, like everyone else, I am filled with sadness.

Marathons are a joyful occasion and I’m looking forward to cheering on friends who are running in London next Sunday.

bostonpic

That someone would chose to do this to an event which brings 500,000 spectators out to watch over 20,000 runners, many raising money for charities, beggars belief.

Looking for news on Twitter, along with the genuine shock and good wishes to injured and families of the dead, two types of response worried me. (more…)