Sunday, June 27, 2010

Black Bloc Tactics

I am writing this here in a response to black bloc tactics and the accusations thrown on them during G20 protests. I am not an Anarchist, I identify myself as what western media calls is “Socialist” (although they are more of Islamic values for me). I whole heartedly support black bloc movement/tactic.

One of the criticisms that black bloc tactics have that it is under taken by pre-dominantley white males and that it is oppressive to women of color and indigenous women. I, a woman of color facing multiple systemic barriers of status, access to name a few and I being a person is just speaking for herself but I would like to say that black bloc tactics doesn’t oppress me or makes me vulnerable. Thus I would like others to keep such assumptions to themselves and decide what keeps me protected.

People forget the point that black bloc ain’t just an offensive tactic but it is a defensive tactic too. Many folks forget the fact that it is a strategy like many others and it cannot be judged like any other strategy. Sometimes strategies work at other times they don’t . We also forget the fact that the work on the principle of “no comrade left behind” which is admirable. It shows the courage, the high level of organization and unifying factor of the tactic which is simple amazing and which has been one of the main cause of de-arresting comrades.

To say that it is a tactic which is adrenaline driven is to delegitimize it. The fact that there are people who put themselves in the front of the line to save others is extremely courageous.

Its problematic to say that black bloc is just about breaking windows and this brings us to the point to see if window breaking is effective or not. Well its not about window breaking and it is about window breaking at the same point.

Another point where people say that black bloc members are anonymous. I don’t think if they are anonymous, and anonymity is not cowardice, its a way of protection against state surveillance and policing. Other than that black bloc comrades are not the only one who wear masks, there are several others who have done that in other parts of the world and its a part of tactic that makes it unique.

Another accusation that if black bloc engages in violence. I think its useless for me to go into that debate as we are questions from the wrong side. If we want to engage in a debate over violence, we need to look into security measures taken, threats issued to protesters, random house checks and surveillance, invasion of privacy through different social networking outlets. We need to talk about the police who threw tear gas at comrades and trampled them with their horses. We need to talk about how our tax money of over a billion dollars was paid to keep these head of states safe so that they can carry out decisions. So what is hurt over here through black bloc tactics are lifeless windows and cars. No life was hurt.
As far as effectiveness goes, I think we need to give a same merit to all tactics, it shouldn’t be “I am better than you, because I say so?”
So next time we have a rally outside City Hall, lets talk about its effectiveness.

Black bloc tactic is not just “young hooded white men” who just go around and smash windows. Its more than that and its a part of a movement. So you can’t generalise it, it can be great and it can be useless but there is nothing inherent about it.

The idea that “black bloc” doesn’t have credibility in main stream media (well, we never had any to begin with), is like harping on the bandwagon of what main stream media considers good or not, or what State considers good or not. Its like creating a divide of good protesters and bad protesters when in the end you are just a protester and your goal is the same.

Direct action happens because there is a need for it, it happens because people fight back and it just demonstrates that people are not just waiting for the revolution to take place.

In solidarity,
Ayesha A. Hussain

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Annoying Activists

A super-late unofficial briefer from events transpired at Bodies of Dissent: Trans Access Conference – Peterborough, November 2008

(1) Just don’t dare say our families and social support networks are not open or educated enough
Lets get the first thing straight. If we don’t have access to resources, its because of institutionalized racism, systemic oppression, social services bureaucracy, lots of other things and because of you. Not because the Western education system didn’t educate us enough!

(2) Reports and statistics don’t speak the lived experiences of people of colour
Perhaps you have read a report that has given you numbers and statistics, perhaps you work for a social service institution where you have lots of fancy material, perhaps you do some sort of special academic/community research that you deem ground-breaking…either way, that just doesn’t mean you know what racialized communities go through and need.

(3) Stop enforcing labels and identities onto other people
Social justice, community development, transformative knowledge, and healing doesn’t happen through an obsession with naming and labels.
Its one thing to be able to identify oneself and have people and communities communicate with each other about how one identify, its quite another thing to get obsessed by what labels and words one should or should not use. Its one thing to look at words critically and what their meanings are, its another to get into an elite micro analysis of the history and semantics of such words.
Its one thing to reclaim medicalized, derogatory, discriminatory terms, its another thing to expect everybody to take on a name you think is universal.
We’ve had enough naming and labels put on us. Enough colonialism! No more colonial methods of naming and labels.

(4) Stop imposing English terms, interpretations and terminology if they don’t speak to us
What you may consider a universal umbrella term may not speak to us at all. What you may consider as your interpretation of a term may not be our interpretations of a term/word/identity/pronoun. Cultural-specific interpretations can be lost over translations. Don’t expect your interpretation to be universal.

(5) Adding the word “radical” doesn’t make one radical
no elaboration required, seriously…

(6) Intersectionality isn’t about how many identities or oppressions you can put in a list together
Stop listing out identities, its not radical, its not intersectional, that’s just not what intersectionality is about. That is not what anti-racism is about. If you think you can list out a marginalized group with race, it doesn’t mean you are anti-racist, it doesn’t mean you understand the relations or experiences

(7) Stop recreating your white innocence
This can take many forms. Stop blaming somebody else because you didn’t like how one of your workshop was scheduled simultaneously with a closed talk for people of colour and indigenous people. Stop pretending that you weren’t part of the racism that occurred.
And instead of going out and reporting how racist events transpired at the conference, reflect on some of the things that were exchanged and how you may have played a role in this situation.
Addressing racism isn’t about trying to be a white ally. Its not about talking to people of colour afterwards about how we felt. Its about taking your own responsibility first, reflecting on your own role first, and accepting you screwed up.

(8) Great bios aren’t about how many identities/groups you can attach to your name
Yes, we know how polished you are…all the great things you’ve done for different groups. Collect them all if you want, as many badges as you like, we are not interested in them…we don’t want your badge collection.

(9) Stop appropriating struggles
Something is clearly wrong when a conference with several committee members, organizers, and a multi-group initiative with efforts from people from colour, ends up becoming a single initiative consisting of only White people the following year.
You want to take the badges, take them, but don’t you dare appropriate our struggles and movements.

(10) Respect our spaces
Seriously, if there is a sign on the door that says this is a people of colour and indigenous people session only, you can’t just walk in coz you needed something in the room. Really we don’t need your presence in our safer places.

(+) Go through this list…and then go through it again…and then again…and again
…and if you think you finally understood what is being said, you clearly didn’t get it.

You=AWA (Annoying White Activist) also known as White activists/so-called anti-racist activists/so-called allies/academics/community developers/organizers/social workers
We=indigenous and people of colour who identify with these experiences

~ 10th April 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Obsession, Bear spray & Customer Service.....

I am sick of this...  is it just me or this town has some obsession with bear spray? I ain’t sure how many people keep themselves up with the local media but there was another attack on a 18 year old last Sunday (21st March, 2010). Police has not released the identity of the victim but the assailant was described as white, 20 year old male with black jacket and camouflage backpack.

I am hoping our memory is still fresh when last year several students reported assaults on them. We need to keep in mind that the actual numbers of violent attacks are always higher than the reported ones. The worst part is where all persons in authority place all the responsibility on the victim to go through the whole process which is a trauma in itself. Students don’t either want to get into the whole mess of reporting the incident and following up with the police which can be emotionally, physically and psychologically draining for the victim. It’s worse for an international student where various things are at stake for them including the fear of not being in a secure environment anymore.  Where students are scared that it will negatively impact them, it is important to remember that it is your right to be free from discrimination of any kind. You are protected under law to be protected from harassment and discrimination, don’t let people misinform you.
Last December when we saw an escalation in the violent attacks, I sent out a memo to students asking them to be more aware of their surroundings and be safe. I am aware that it is extremely unfair to ask people to take extra precautions when we should be trying to control the situation and take proactive measures but that’s something which ain’t in my power.  And please don’t send me any messages that you haven’t faced any racism because you are all high and mighty.  If you haven’t then my best wishes are with you and I hope that you never do because it ain’t a great experience to go through. I am in no way implying that the attack on Sunday was a racialised attack, what I am trying to point out here is that there are violent attacks going on in City and anyone can become a victim due to sporadic nature of these attacks.
In light of this new incident, I really want to ask the university administration what they have done so far, what sort of measures have they taken for protecting the students of this university especially racialised and international, as they are more vulnerable, apart from all talk and no action or are they waiting for someone to get severely hurt so that they will finally do something about it?
I hate to talk in terms of dollars and cents but if the university administration doesn’t cares about the rights of students then they should care about the money that fills their pockets. At the end of the day, we pay your salary, so we better get some customer service over here!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pocket full of Posers

I thought that I knew about 'em
Thought that they would never do me wrong
Well well they smile in your face
When all the time they
wanna take your place
Them backstabbers
Same old scene that
You've seen for so long
Always want to be around you
But as jealous as they come
Well don't want you to win that race
'Cause if you do it's gonna
lessen their space
That's when I decide to say

Goodbye, goodbye
To all the fake people in my life
I never wanted you around me
So be on your way now
You better think twice
Before you let people in your life
Because when you put down
No one is around you
You got a case of the fake people
A case of the fake people

I thought that I knew about 'em
The only ones that really care for me
Oh yeah
But they shouldn't be that way
Only down for as long as
You can give security
Same old scene that
you've seen for so long
Always want to be around you
But as jealous as they come well
Don't want you to win that race
'Cause if you do it's gonna
lessen their space
That's when I decide to say

Goodbye, goodbye
To all the fake people in my life
I never wanted you around me
So be on your way now
You better think twice
Before you let people in your life
Because when you put down
No one is around you
You got a case of the fake people
A case of the fake people

- - TLC : Case of the fake people, Courtsey to Sheanna

Monday, March 8, 2010

Olympics.. Canadianism

I ran into an argument with my fellow POC as I was of the opinion that people just got bragging rights of being ``Canadian`` due to Olympics and I had this heated argument on identity, citizenship and all the heavy academic words. It was like I had to compete in ``Oppression Olympics``, which is my least favourite thing. I don`t support Olympics because it has an oppressive history and I also don`t identify myself with the fact of being Canadian as I don`t carry ``Canadian`` values as I am an immigrant.

Here is a news flash for you, the immigration system doesn't exists over here because Canadian Government is generous towards the rest of the world. They don't have the manpower required to run this country which is apparently second largest land mass on this planet. There wouldn't even be a system of immigration and so-called multiculturalism, if Canada wasn't under constant threat of depopulation. Immigration is their source of importing labour who can do their blue collar jobs. I am not even talking about refugees and migrant workers, those poor beings are like undocumented people, at the bottom of the food chain. I am talking about “new comers” who legally come through points system and the way they are deceived by the system at large. They are denied unemployment because nothing is elite as Canadian education and work industry. I mean seriously, is 2+2 is not equal to 4 in rest of the world? Or is Canada, Atlantis, where laws of physics are different? This is just an overview of one of the many problems we face as ``new immigrants``.
People talk about assimilation with the society, I wouldn`t mind if that was something done by English men when they colonized the whole world. I would be totally cool with the concept if it wasn't just imposed on the minorities whether Native or Non-native. Why do we have to sacrifice a part of our identity to accommodate the people in authority, are we living in a fascist era. Identity..... is not the way a piece of paper describes you, its how the land treats you, how people accept you and how your heart responds back. Its not black or white. Its gray, its chaotic, its complex and it evolves.
And then I am told ``if you really don`t like this place, why don`t you go back to where you came from``How about Jason Kenny agrees to give us our money back which Ministry of Immigration took from us by making false promises, by making us literally become economic slaves. And now when we are clearing things, how about it also pays for the stress, economic troubles etc. caused by this whole system. I am sure they are totally up for it!

I don't even feel like applying for my citizenship. It doesn't gives me equal rights in reality as another white person. I will be still told that I can't work at some place because I am Muslim and brown. At the end of the day, it doesn't changes anything for me!

So I am sorry, if I am not excited about the Olympics, if I am fine under my skin and if I don`t feel like betraying myself. And, if you are still proud of your “Canadianism”, then whatever helps you sleep at night.

“Sarcasm helps me overcome the harshness of the reality we live, eases the pain of scars and makes people smile. It is not only related to today’s reality but also to history. History laughs at both the victim and the aggressor.”~ Mahmood Darwaish

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Progress.... seriously?

Over the holidays, I had a deeply troubling conversation with someone that made me realize just how many people still hold problematic views that work toward creating the bigger world that we live in. I have few words to express my frustration over it.

The person I was speaking with argued that linear progress is important for life because time is dynamic and things change all the time. This view fails to understand that while space and time change, human values such as “linear progress” remain. The colonial mindset has always been the same, thus the concept of “linear progress” has always been the same.

The Oxford dictionary describes ‘progress’ as a noun which means the process of improving or developing, or of getting nearer to achieving or completing. The following question arises: whose point of view are we considering when we are discussing ‘progress’?

So what is linear progress? During the 19th-century, classical social evolution theories claimed that societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilized over time, and equated the culture and technology of Western civilization with progress. This theory is considered obsolete in academia, but apparently there are people who still believe in it. I would say that it is rather a general mindset which is still found in our environment. Some forms of early sociocultural evolution theories have led to much-criticized theories, like social Darwinism, and scientific racism, used in the past to justify existing policies of colonialism, slavery, and problematic issues such as eugenics.

The European view of human progress is that a civilization begins with hunting and gathering, transitions to a pastoral life which is left behind for an urban life: civilization. North Americans have generally applied this study of progress to the indigenous land, in the exact same way it was applied to the rest of the world by British and other colonial empires. The indigenous population of all those lands were ‘savages’ in the eyes of ‘colonizer.’ They needed ‘progress’! In short, the native populations around the world were forced to change their ways so that they could be ‘civilized.’ This concept of progress was imposed on people without knowledge or understanding of their land, their values, or their way of life.

John Ralston Saul talks about progress in his book A Fair Country. He adds context by applying it to Aboriginal traditions in Canada. He writes that “one of the oldest Inuit traditions is that the first thing created out of primeval chaos and darkness was a word. If anything, oral cultures are more deeply intellectual than today’s reigning form of utilitarian linear society in the West. It is towards this equilibrium expressed through the oral that our Supreme Court is slowly making its way, while shoving linear parsed details to a secondary level. In other words, we are making progress, even breakthroughs, even normalizing, these Aboriginal ideas. And we are progressing in spite of the intense resistance of our governmental and intellectual structures.”

It’s not just about the aboriginal cultures, if you consider world history. You will see similar situations and patterns marked across the globe, because the sun never set on the colonial empire for a sinfully long time.

This is the exact same way Islamic culture has been stigmatized and stereotyped for the past few decades. It is considered a very juicy topic of discussion because Islamic civilization is founded upon strict rules and regulations and my people are considered ‘savages’ and ‘non-progressive’ because we have resisted Western norms and its ‘progress.’ And as a Muslim woman, I take offence to it! I take offense to all of the socio-cultural Western norms which constantly work towards defying my cultural values and my existence.

Just because we don’t follow your lifestyle, or our cultural values are different, it doesn’t mean that we need ‘colonial progress’ or civilizing. It’s a circle of life. We might see it differently but it’s still the same.

It’s not mathematics. Life is not a graph which can be divided into x, y and z scales. It’s neither linear, quadratic nor polynomial in 2-dimensions, or a hologram in 3-dimensions. It’s not an algebraic equation where you can plot time against standard/quality of life. It’s life! One needs to understand life from different perspectives and accept them.

So I will end with this thought by Outlandish;

Look into my eyes
Tell me what you see
You don’t see a damn thing
Cuz you can’t relate to me
You blinded by our differences

My life makes no sense to you
Each day you wake in tranquillity

No fears to cross your eyes
You worry ‘bout your education

And the bills you have to pay

I worry ‘bout my vulnerable life
And if I’ll survive another day

Move beyond your academic notions of ‘progress’ and start looking at life the way it is.

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