SATURDAY 20th DECEMBER CENTENARY NIGHT OUT TO MARK THE 1914 CHRISTMAS FOOTBALL TRUCE STARRING KATE SMURTHWAITE

A Philosophy Football Christmas Night Out to Remember. An evening of comedy, ideas, live music and comedy inspired by this historic moment when football stopped a war.

Opened by Musa Okwonga, performing a specially commissioned poem in tribute to Walter Tull, one of the first Black British footballers, in 1914 he joined up, was made an officer and lost his life serving his country in 1918. With comedy from Kate Smurthwaite and Simon Munnery. Headlining set from Grace Petrie and her band The Benefits Culture. Folk legends Finlay Allison and Jimmy Ross play a specially commissioned set of 1914-8 songs of peace and resistance ‘ Its Never Over by Christmas’. A night of ideas too with acclaimed US sportswriter Dave Zirin who will be joined by David Goldblatt author of the football book of the year The Game of Our Lives, with football writers from Germany. Plus dance-floor filling set from our house DJ Melstars Soundsystem.

Doors open 6pm, show starts 7pm at the superb Rich Mix Arts Venue in East London. Tickets just £9.99, from http://www.philosophyfootball.com/view_item.php?pid=1039.

My response to The Times on Malky Mackay.

This is 2014.  This is actually Britain, in 2014. Where Jeremy Clarkson uses the N-word and doesn’t get so much as a minor fine by the BBC.  Where Malky Mackay uses language on his work phone that is so vile, so prejudiced that it reminds me of the BNP flyers that used to get dropped through my front door during the local by-election in the late Nineties: where Mackay then goes on to walk into another job to relatively little public concern.  And I am trying to keep a lid on this, really I am. Because I never really used to write about racism.  When I first began to write about football, I wrote about things like Xavi’s passing and Kanu’s dribbling and AC Milan tearing every single team apart in the Sacchi years. You know, on-the-pitch, football stuff.  The majesty of Van Basten’s first touch, etc, etc.  But now, I am seeing things about the sport that I love that I cannot ignore.  I am seeing racism encouraged either actively, via apology or via apathy.

I have just read an article by Alyson Rudd in The Times, entitled “Mackay’s move proves that you can learn from your mistakes”.  The article is no longer available for free on the Times website, so I will provide you with a summary. You may feel that I have taken the following quotes out of context, so I can only reproduce them at some length and allow you to make your own judgement.

Rudd states that the text messages sent by Mackay – she omits to mention that they were sent to members of Cardiff staff apart from Iain Moody – “do not prove beyond doubt that the two men are racist or sexist or homophobic”.

Let us look at some of the texts that were sent.

One of them stated that there was “nothing like a Jew that likes money slipping through his fingers”.

This is language that could have been taken straight from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

A South Korean player was signed by Cardiff, to which Mackay’s response was “Fkn chinkys. Fk it.  There’s enough dogs in Cardiff for us all to go round.”

“Fkn chinkys”. Fkn chinkys.  If that is not racist, I do not know what is.

One of them referred to an official from another club as “a snake, a gay snake”, and “the homo..not to be trusted”, and another to “an independently minded young homo”.

Now, some might not think that is homophobic, but to my mind that is not the language of someone who is particularly accepting or even tolerant of gay people.

Of a player’s female agent, he states to the player in question that “I bet you love her falsies”. That is sexist to put it mildly.

And so on.  Rudd’s article continues:

“It cannot be concluded that the victims are disliked purely because they are black or female or gay. When annoyed or overly exuberant, some people will fall into disrespectful language because it is, they think, witty or even perceptive. It is, they might think, even a bit daring, close to the bone and a way to let off steam.”

There is no mention in her article of the anti-Semitism or the racism towards Asians, which is pretty eye-watering, but it is pretty clear to me that the language used to describe women, blacks and gay people is indicative of a strong dislike of those groups.  What is more, Rudd makes the argument that this language may be “close to the bone”.  Let us look at the context. In a sport where women, gay people and black people readily face discrimination, it is fairly obvious that this language is not that of daring.  It is the language of entitlement, of the status quo.

Rudd then suggests that by giving Mackay “a public platform and a chance to display his humility and acceptance that he was a fool to stoop so low, the campaign against discrimination will be boosted.”  She concludes that “there are others out there who fool about and trade insults and stray into unacceptable terminology. Mackay is proof both that such mistakes can lose you a job and that learning from them can give you another chance.”

What can be said here, coherently, through a fast-falling glaze of fury?  There are other ways to give people public platforms if they want to make a show of contrition than putting them in charge of yet another group of players whom they can discriminate against.  There are no indications that Mackay was offered the job because he had learned anything from his mistakes. For goodness’ sake. Mackay is not Malcolm X returning from pilgrimage and renouncing his views on racial prejudice.  He is a talented manager who imposed his bigoted beliefs on a club for a time, and has merely found another club where the chairman has a history of not finding bigotry a problem.  That’s it.

I find it frightening that the author either believed every word of this article or published it without conviction in the hope that it would be provocative – to “spark a debate”, as if this were a game. We are currently in a climate that is as hostile to ethnic minorities as I can remember – as hostile, in fact, as those days in the late Nineties when the local area was so racist that black people had faeces posted through their letterboxes.  We are in an environment where the Football Association is worrying slow to act upon racism in the game, and where we need mainstream journalists more than ever to show institutional support for those being marginalised.  And instead we see editorials that purport to provide nuanced, alternative analyses, but which instead rigidly enforce the structures of discrimination that continue to blight English football.  And I can find no better way to describe this approach than both irresponsible and dangerous.

On Malky Mackay: why prejudice may be costing England World Cups.

Prejudice may be costing England World Cups.  Why do I say this? Well, we haven’t won it since 1966, and we’ve come pretty close twice, in 1986 and 1990.  We’ve barely had a sniff since then.  In major international tournaments, these games often come down to to the smallest margins, with the last two World Cups having been at the very end of extra time.  We hear so often that every small factor can make the difference – fitness, conditioning, whether the players are happy within the camp. But what about prejudice?

The Germany team who won in Brazil had players drawn from all over the country, and from diverse communities.  They had players from the poorer East, and players of Turkish, Albanian and Ghanaian descent.  They had an environment where gay players could feel protected, with their coach Joachim Low stating in January 2014 that Thomas Hitzlsperger, who came out after he retired, was someone who “should be treated with respect from all sides”.  Inclusivity isn’t just some wishy-washy concept dreamed up by navel-gazing liberals.  It’s good for your football team.  There was a time, after all, when even Brazil barred black players from its leagues, which is something when you consider this is the country that would later produce Pele and Garrincha. It is entirely logical that you stand the greatest chance of success if you draw your talent from the widest possible pool. And that talent has to be happy to work for you, to perform for you.

This is why anyone hoping for England to achieve their true potential at international tournaments should be concerned by the FA’s inaction over Malky Mackay.  Mackay has been given a new job at Wigan Athletic only months after the revelation of a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages that he sent to his friend and to members of Cardiff staff.  These text messages, based upon subsequent tweets from former players of his, were indicative of a wider atmosphere where those from ethnic minorities often felt less than welcome.  The FA has so far failed to fine or even reprimand Mackay for his actions.

“Why should Wigan wait?” his defenders may ask.  “Hasn’t Mackay already suffered enough in the court of public opinion?”  Yet if they pose such questions, then they are probably not thinking about all those talented people who are dissuaded from working with people like Mackay because of his views and corresponding behaviour.  They are not thinking of the damage being done to the English game as a result.  They are not thinking of those people, who count black people, gay people and women among their dearest relatives, who would do anything rather than work in an environment allegedly as toxic as that which Mackay ultimately created at Cardiff.

All of that talent is being silently lost, week after month after year.  For all we know, so much may have been lost already, long before those people got to work with managers as enlightened as Sir Bobby Robson.  There are the anecdotal stories, and so many of us know a handful of them: the stories about those companies you wouldn’t play for or those clubs you wouldn’t join because of their attitudes to black people, to gay people, to Jews, to Asians, to women.  They’re the stories that come out over dinner tables with your trusted and loved ones.  The City law firm you avoided because the anti-Semitism from one of the senior partners was off the scale.  The professional football team your mate halted trials with because of what they said about gay people.  The commercial banker who went off on a light-hearted rant about bloody shirtlifters just after you signed that deal.

Imagine what England’s footballing infrastructure is losing every single time the FA is faced with an event like the Mackay scandal and it fails swiftly and firmly to rule that this is not remotely acceptable within the fabric of the game.  Just think about the opportunities that are being wasted. Look how little time it has taken for previously unheralded managers to sweep into the Premier League and deliver outstanding results.  And now imagine the young untested coaches from ethnic minority backgrounds who are looking for someone to take just one chance on them. They are out there just as surely as Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino were once out there.  Of course they are.  This is England we’re talking about, one of the most diverse countries in the world. Imagine the brilliant specialists and the coaches and the players who are thinking, “you know what, I love the game, I just don’t fancy working with such a lack of support.  Life is too short to try to change these institutions from the inside”.  And some might say that if they were tough enough they’d put up with prejudice like this, and if so they’d be missing the point.  Professional footballers and football managers are plenty tough enough. Many of them have dealt with the possibility of rejection their entire careers. They’re not looking for handouts or special status, just the opportunity to be respected and judged on the same basis as everyone else.

And now Malky Mackay is walking unhindered into a job at Wigan, where he will determine the fates of many more footballers and the destination of many more millions of pounds.  And we see the foundations of English football weaken a little more, as we see other countries and professions scooping up the talent that our game with its apathy towards prejudice consistently casts aside.  And, finally, we can look at Germany with a degree of envy, and wonder why we too can’t just get it together.

 

Rape is bad. Police, write it down.

Argh! This is too much.  I have to write this.  I have to write a university reference for a former colleague but I have to write this first.  I have put myself on a timer so I do not run away with myself.  Right.  Shivering primarily with anger, and also with the aftershock of a cup of black coffee consumed on an empty stomach, here goes.

Rape is bad.  Rape is very very bad.  It is horrific.  So when a woman walks into a police station, let alone picks up the phone to call in such an assault, the police should be all ears.  Yet it appears that they aren’t.  A new report has been released – I can scarcely contain my rage as I type this, I feel like stepping away from my keyboard and howling in fury at my empty room – which reveals that “police officers fail to record a quarter of sexual offences – including rapes – and one-third of violent attacks.”

The article in The Independent continues: “More than 800,000 offences are left off the official crime figures each year in England and Wales…HMIC condemned the performance as ‘inexcusably poor’ and accused officers of failing victims, but found no evidence of a systematic attempt by police to cover up the true scale of crime.”

Argh! Where to start?  Where to start? Where to finish? I am on a timer so I have to finish soon so let’s go.  A quarter.  A goddamn quarter.  So one in four times that a woman gets in touch about a sexual offence, one in three times that someone gets in touch about a violent attack, you are effectively telling them that you don’t care enough about their suffering to write it down. To write it down.  They have been assaulted and you can’t even make a record of it.  “Oh it’s not that simple.  Think of all the paperwork.” No it is that simple.  It is literally your job.  That is actually what you are paid to do.  You may be afraid of the ramifications of proceeding with her case: after all, the perpetrator may be someone particularly powerful in your community, or someone you vaguely know socially. But guaranteed, guaranteed, you have not known anything like the fear of the person who has come to you.

Perhaps I sound judgmental.  But then I am thinking of the 800,000 victims of offences who are simply being left to grin and bear it, and of the fact that in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases where women make allegations of sexual assault they are not lying.  They are telling the truth and it has taken them tremendous courage to do so.  Heroic courage, actually.  To pick up the phone, still less to arrive at a place ready for medical examination after what they have been through, is a level of bravery of which most people would not readily imagine themselves capable. And those who don’t report their assaults have made the depressingly pragmatic calculation, based on statistics like these – a quarter! – that they won’t be believed, respected or protected if they do so.

And this is the other thing.  Whilst HMIC did not find any attempt of a systematic attempt to cover up the levels of offences, I suggest that, in the absence of such a conspiracy, they found something far worse.  At least, with a conspiracy, there is a sense that after you have rooted out the orchestrators it will all be fine.  But this – this looks like a culture of messy, entrenched prejudice, of casual disregard for victims, with no indication where it will fail them next.

 

I have written this only because I did not want to sit and shake my head in frustration, and thought it would be more productive to type this in twenty minutes rather than say nothing.  I don’t want to be in a world where I am desensitised to statistics like this, and I don’t think most people do either.

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(This is the first in an occasional series of blogs, called P.O.O.P, or “Painfully Obvious Opinion Pieces”.  It is for all those articles that I begin to write by thinking, what the hell, it’s the 21st century, I can’t believe I’m even having to say this, but some things have to be said, if only for the record.)

Boris the Killer Clown elected as London mayor

London is bracing itself for an uncertain future after a killer clown was elected as its new mayor.  The floppy-haired circus creature, known only on the ballot paper as Boris, won with a Twitter campaign composed entirely of emojis. During the victory parade, the clown celebrated its win by reaching out to a jubilant supporter and tearing both his arms off.

“I’m going to make London’s citizens laugh again if it kills them”, howled the clown, as its terrified fans ran screaming from the streets. One of them, professional lad John Ellis, was almost too distraught to speak to the press, but relented once they offered him a retweet. “That guy the clown slaughtered was my friend”, sobbed John, pausing his tears to snap a selfie next to the bloody, lifeless form. “We elected Boris for the banter, but we never knew he’d do this to Leon.” In the depths of his grief, the student looked up to see a Romanian street cleaner ambling past. “LOL a scapegoat!”, he yelled, grabbing a nearby pitchfork. “Got to go.”

The killer clown then inflamed tensions by stating that it pitied those countries who had not experienced British colonial rule, a remark which resulted in the spontaneous combustion from self-loathing of his black and Asian staff.  When confronted about its latest praise of wholesale exploitation, it responded with a swift succession of fart sounds, and then tore out the reporter’s throat.

“Beware the Black Sainthood”: my speech at Edinburgh University’s Student Union.

On Monday 13 October 2014, I gave a speech at Edinburgh University’s Student Union, “Beware the Black Sainthood”. The speech examined how the legacies of great black figures throughout history are often sanitised, and how black history is often marginalised if not destroyed altogether. The transcript of my speech is below.

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The title of this evening’s talk is “Beware the Black Sainthood”. I should probably start, then, with an explanation of what the “Black Sainthood” is; and, during the course of that explanation, it will quickly become clear why we should be afraid of it.

The “Black Sainthood” is a status given to a revolutionary black leader after his or her death. This status is typically bestowed by those who vigorously opposed him or her in life; and its intention, conscious or otherwise, is to soften the edges of their legacy, to stop them living in our minds as a symbol of resistance.

If any of you in the audience tonight wish to qualify as a Black Saint, you must have the following four characteristics.

Firstly, you must be a black leader committed to the racial equality of his or her people.
Secondly, you must have lived a public life of astonishing dignity and restraint in the face of horrifying provocation.
Thirdly, you must have a group of troublesomely radical allies from whom, after your death, all connections can be conveniently severed by historians*.
Fourthly, you must make at least one major speech or declaration which allows your life’s philosophy to be nebulously defined after your death as “peace and love for all mankind”.

If we go through those characteristics one by one, we can see that the most illustrious recent member of the Black Sainthood is Nelson Mandela. Committed to racial equality? Check. A life of astonishing dignity and restraint? Check. Troublesomely radical allies? Let’s see: Mandela had Cuba, and the Communist Party. Check. And finally, peace and love? Check.

Following Mandela’s death, he was celebrated by many of those who had either been apologists for apartheid, if not actively enabled it. Their tributes were characterised by one common element: they chose to remember Mandela merely as the elder, possibly cuddly statesman, the supposedly anger-free great-grandfather, and not also as the young trial lawyer of fearsome resolve. What also passed largely without comment was why Cuba was given such a prominent place at Mandela’s memorial ceremony, with Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, giving an address. For many years, Cuba was a staunch ally to Mandela in fighting apartheid, even supplying training and troops. Indeed, Mandela visited this country shortly after his release from prison in 1991, and told Fidel Castro that “the Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa.”

The benefits of such a selective remembrance are clear. They allow those who perpetuated perverse systems of injustice to scuttle away from the scene of the crime. They allow them to make a clean break with the past, to treat the Black Saint’s legacy as some form of holy water which washes away all of their responsibility for the wrongs which he or she had to overcome. They allow them to say, for example, that apartheid was just what people practised back then, as if there were not significant numbers of citizens – and countries – who were horrified by it at the time.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who elevated Nelson Mandela to the Black Sainthood did so deliberately. He led a remarkable life, and was an inspiration to millions; the temptation to regard him as more than merely human is immense. Yet to do so actually diminishes his power. Because every time that anyone working towards social progress states that Mandela’s deeds were beyond emulation, they are simultaneously telling themselves that “oh, well, I could never do that”. And that, I think, is contrary to the true spirit of activism. As activists, all you are ever really doing is chipping away at whatever wall of oppression you face. You never know if it will be you who makes the breakthrough, and if you do, you will owe everything to those who came before you. Activists, whether or not they end up their names in lights or on street corners, are nothing more than ordinary people responding to extraordinary challenges. That, if anything, makes Mandela’s achievements even more praiseworthy – that he was just a man, like anyone else.

The danger is that we are so dazzled by the glory of the Black Sainthood that we ignore those who contributed to their success. We forget the names of those who were in jail alongside Mandela. We forget those who came before them, like Steve Biko. This, of course, is a mistake, because those who helped to devise these strategies often have the most compelling stories to tell. In fact, whenever we look at a Black Saint – someone who is hoisted up on history’s pedestal – we should always ask ourselves: who were their contemporaries? Who were their friends, their mentors? By doing this, we can better understand the complex narratives that existed at the time.

For example, many people know that Rosa Parks was not merely some disgruntled black woman who got spontaneously fed up with the back of the bus. What Parks did that day was the result of a carefully-plotted protest. What most people don’t know, though, is the name of Claudette Colvin, who did exactly what Parks did almost a year earlier. In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Colvin refused to concede her seat to a white person, and was arrested for her trouble. Colvin, who was only 15 at the time, then went on to become one of four plaintiffs to challenge Alabama’s bus segregation laws; in Broader vs Gale, a case which they won. Yet Parks, and not Colvin, was chosen as the face of the civil rights movement, and Colvin herself has no doubts as to why that was.

“They didn’t think teenagers would be reliable”, she told Margot Adler, in a 2009 interview with National Public Radio. What’s more, she noted that Parks’ physical appearance was more socially acceptable at that time. “Her skin texture”, said Colvin, “was the kind that people associate with the middle class. She fit that profile.” Colvin, along with being teenaged and dark-skinned, was also a single mum; she was therefore not deemed wholesome enough to be a figurehead for progress, even though she was probably more representative of the protesters at the time. As the author David Garrow has noted, “the reality of the movement was often young people and often more than 50 per cent women”.

Colvin’s story is so important because, when we glance at the Civil Rights movement, we mostly see heterosexual black men at the helm. If we look no further than Black Saints like Dr. Martin Luther King, we therefore end up with a misleading picture of history. Our refusal to recognise the central place of many women and gay men in that movement has implications for how we regard those groups today.

Again, for example: as several people know – but still more do not – Dr. King’s mentor was a man called Bayard Rustin, whose role in the movement was largely downplayed because he was openly gay. It was Rustin, after all, who taught Dr. King and his peers the techniques of non-violent resistance that would go on to be so effective. Yet the names of Rustin and Colvin do not ring through the ages like those of King and Parks. Their unashamed homosexuality or their youth or their teenage pregnancies were an inconvenient truth, and in some minds they still are.

The Black Sainthood exists because too many people like their history to have a happy ending. But, of course, history does not end. To quote a character from the film Magnolia – a quote I use far too often – ‘We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us”. The structures that fortified apartheid did not all crumble the day that Mandela left jail. Indeed, given the economic inequality that persists in modern South Africa, some would insist that many of those structures are still firmly in place, and that Mandela accepted them too readily. I say this not to attack Mandela’s legacy, but merely to state that his work was not yet finished, that his life did not remove these entrenched injustices; something which he himself might have been one of the first to accept.

You might think that I am being unnecessarily reductive in my analysis – that no-one is using Mandela’s death to skim over the past. But if we look around, we see that historical revisionism of this nature has been taking place for years.

To quote a recent example, there’s this Guardian article from 18 April 2012, titled “Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes”:

“Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.

Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.”
….

“Clear instructions were issued that no Africans were to be involved: only an individual who was “a servant of the Kenya government who is a British subject of European descent” could participate in the purge.”

“Some idea of the scale of the operation and the amount of documents that were erased from history can be gleaned from a handful of instruction documents that survived the purge. In certain circumstances, colonial officials in Kenya were informed, ‘it is permissible, as an alternative to destruction by fire, for documents to be packed in weighted crates and dumped in very deep and current-free water at maximum practicable distance from the coast’.”

But back to more recent times. Barack Obama’s election was greeted with joy by many, who perhaps hoped that America was on its way to becoming a post-racial society – whatever that means. A few months later, President Obama found himself a somewhat unwitting candidate for the Black Sainthood, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama, who stated that he was “surprised” and “humbled” by the award, was nominated for it just a few weeks after taking office. The Nobel committee gave him the prize, in its own words, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”. Those “extraordinary efforts”, by the time of the awards ceremony in October 2009, consisted of little more than a few encouraging speeches on how to tackle climate change, nuclear proliferation and reaching out to the Muslim world. Given President Obama’s subsequent expansion of the drone programme and continued supply of arms to the Egyptian government, the Nobel committee may feel that this prize was somewhat premature. That is, of course, assuming that they didn’t award him the prize – as I still suspect – for the feel-good factor that he gave the world to see an African-American sitting in the Oval Office.

Of all the reasons why people would choose to promote Black Sainthood, perhaps the most insidious is white guilt. By “white guilt”, I mean the sense that many white people have that they may have been decisively complicit in maintaining a system of racial supremacy. When figures such as Dr. King, Mandela and Obama emerge, they are seen by many black people as symbols of liberation, but by many white people as impossibly clean-cut symbols of redemption. It is remarkable how kum-bay-yah the story of Dr. King has become; the lesson of his life supposedly being that you can have all the equal rights that you want, so long as you ask warmly and nicely. Yet Dr. King was much more than that. The sanitisation of his image has been so profound, even among black people themselves, that we must reassert his achievements. This has been done most effectively, in my view, by an article written in 2011, by Hamden Rice. This article is so good, in fact, that I will quote from it at length.

“Dr. King’s main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.”

Rice then goes on to describe a conversation with his father, in which he criticises Dr. King for not being radical enough – a perception which, I am sad to admit, I once shared. His father responded, ‘with a sort of cold fury”, that “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the South.”

As Rice notes, the Deep South was not merely a place of segregation, where black and white people merely used different drinking fountains. The real problem was that “white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually black men, and lynched them. You know all about lynching. But you may forget or do not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment. This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.”

Dr. King and his peers taught black people to take beatings – they actually gave classes on how to brace themselves so it would be less painful – how to maintain their composure in jail, and generally to absorb the greatest assaults on their person and psyche that white people of the time could inflict upon them. And this is a part of his legend that is not so often taught, and that, I think, is that it emphasises too starkly the brutality of white supremacy at the time. Far better to focus upon the Dr. King whose message was one of compassion, collective healing and dreams, than of the one whose work held up a mirror to the horrors of his age.

How to prevent this from happening? How can we stop people and institutions from sweeping their darkest misdeeds under History’s carpet? Well, the only answer is: by maintaining constant, passionate vigilance. By reminding ourselves of the names of those whose struggle for racial equality and black self-determination has never made them eligible for Black Sainthood; people like Thomas Sankara, Chris Hani, Angela Davis. By remembering, whilst we talk of Black History Month, that a great deal of Black History has either been carefully curated or destroyed altogether. We should be wary of those who try to ascribe happy endings to history; who spend longer praising the abolitionists of slavery than they do in deconstructing why slavery was allowed to persist as long as it did (and, indeed, still does today). We should beware the Black Sainthood, and its attempt to Disneyfy the past. Instead, we should treat these great black historical figures with the nuance they deserve, learning from both their strengths and their flaws; because there, and there alone, is where true progress lies.

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*The correct word here would have been “revisionists”; indeed, it has been historians who have been most committed to nuance over this issue.  Many thanks to Simon M Stevens, History PhD candidate at Columbia University, for alerting me on this issue.

After the Shaw Shooting, a new hit US TV series, “The Anger Games”

Media industry experts are ecstatic at the news that a brilliant reality TV show is set to go ahead. Following a pilot programme that broke all records, The Anger Games is due to hit small screens across the US from January 2015. “This show is revolutionary”, gushed an executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. “When we heard the concept, we were like just, wow, this is incredible.”

John Bowman, the show’s creator, is “blown away” by the reaction. “I hoped we were onto something, but when we saw the numbers of people tuning in, me and the crew were – I mean, just tears of happiness,” he says, shaking his head. Bowman believes that the simple yet addictive format of The Anger Games is key to its success. “Every 28 hours, we choose a black community in the US at random, and then we get them to nominate a tribute – normally an unarmed black teenager”, he explains. “The tribute is shot dead by an unnamed policeman, and then we send the cameras in. That’s when it gets really exciting.”

As soon as the black teen dies, viewers across America are encouraged to place bets on how soon it will take black people to start crying, swearing, cursing, acting undignified in the face of yet another intolerable injustice, or just generally losing their shit. There is also a sweepstake for anyone who correctly guesses the minute that a Negro first burns an American flag. “John is a genius”, says Jenny Vale, the show’s co-creator. “He realised that there’s nothing more entertaining in America than black rage.” Bets can currently be placed using the red button on their remote controls, though there are rumours of a deal with a major smartphone company.  “An Anger Games app!” says Vale.

“We’re very excited about Season 1,” says Bowman, “we’ve got all kinds of ideas. We’re even going to allow one lucky viewer to join the police in the community, where they will be given one police uniform, a mask and a free can of tear gas. We really want our audience to get hands on.” He shakes his head. “I’m telling you, wow. I knew people would like the idea, but this – man, this really humbles you.”

Australia suffers horrific humanitarian intervention.

Australia was in turmoil today as a terrifying invasion took place.  “The people are in shock”, said former Prime Minister John Howard.  “We’re really hurting here.”  The invasion occurred yesterday night, and was apparently triggered by Mr. Howard’s entirely innocent comments that he did not believe that a genocide of Aborigines had taken place in his country.  No sooner had he uttered these words that a group of radical academics descended upon Australia, armed to the teeth with a set of irrefutable historical records. “We didn’t stand a chance”, lamented Howard.  “it was a massacre.”

Full details of the conflict are only just emerging, but the early reports are horrific.  According to Howard, he and his fellow troops of genocide-deniers kept trying to blame the laziness of the Aborigines for their current plight, but the academics “just kept shoving us back into historical context.  Man, they were really rough with us.”  The academics, having landed in Sydney under the cover of darkness, advanced at dawn to all the largest educational institutions, where they established safe havens for rational argument.  From here, they spent their first day broadcasting from self-made radio stations, and generally telling the awkward truth about past colonial misdeeds to anyone who would bloody listen.

So bewildered was Howard by this ongoing assault that he is unsure what to do next.  “We might contact the UN”, he said. “Every country has a right to self-determination, and my Australia has the right to remain as firmly in denial as possible.” Howard also had strong words for the promoters of this dangerous new ideology.  “Militant realism is spreading everywhere like a cancer, and it must be stopped”, he warned.  “The violent progress of facts is the single greatest threat to Western civilisation.”

To you men who joke about assaulting women.

Every time you make a remark about assaulting women, and then defend it by saying “it was just a joke”, I think I know what you mean.  It’s not just a joke, really.  It’s not just a joke to the women, or to those who care about them; and, what’s more, it’s not just a joke to you.  It’s really important to you.  You’re saying, under the mask of laughter, something that you genuinely mean.

Don’t get angry at this fact.  You’re angry enough already.  You’re angry that you even have to disguise your intentions.  Because you know there was once a time when you could openly boast absolutely anywhere about the women you assaulted or were about to, and it would go unpunished.  Now, though, you’ve got to be a bit more careful.  Now you have to use jokes, and you hate this.

It’s obvious that you hate this, because when someone says that you are being offensive, you become furious.  Not immediately – at first, you try to patronise them, or laugh them off.  But if they persist with their accusation just once more, you skip past irritation to rage.  You might even start threatening them.  And this is why you’re pissed off – because you’re fed up with the whole fucking pretence, aren’t you? Hate having to bite your fucking tongue.  You wish this fucking bitch would just shut up like the other fucking bitch who had that smack coming.  Fucking hell.  You can’t fucking talk about anything these days, can you?

This is how it feels, isn’t it.  Your blood is up.  Fuck.  What you really want to do is say what you think anywhere anytime.  But you can’t.  Your hatred is like your cock – you want to fuck the world with it, unprotected.  But you can’t: you have to clothe it, so the joke is your condom.

And you hate having to use that condom, but it’s the only way you’re going to get any action.  Because if you hang out with your mates, and tell them straight-faced about the woman you took home who was too drunk to stand, there won’t be so many of those mates any more.  This way, if you joke about it, you can all sit in that pub and you can laugh and the cowards can cower into their pints and you can carry on.  That’s why you hate it when we call you out on your jokes.  Because what you’re really saying is Bitch don’t fucking make me take this seriously.  Because deep down you know it’s not funny and you try to think about that truth as little as possible.

It’s OK, I’m done now.  Go back to your beer and your banter, which is where you feel better.  Just don’t think that we don’t know, and that we don’t see you.  Because we see you just as clearly, when the beer clears and there’s nothing left but the bathroom mirror, as you see yourself.

 

When the UK dared Scotland.

Tell you what, let’s all really patronise Scotland. Scotland – Scotland, what are you thinking. Snot dripping from your nose from all that cold. Listen, take a seat. – No, not over there; away from your oil. Right here, at our knee. Scotland, look at the state of you. All poor and banged up. Pimpled from your poor diet. Scrabbling south for our scraps now and then. Look – stop eyeing the door over our shoulder. It’s freezing out there, you’d never have the guts to run for it. – What’s that? You’d rather risk death by exposure than being smugly smiled at in the comfort of our log fire? No, no you wouldn’t. Tell you what, we’ll even open the door, turn our backs and count to three, and when we turn back you’ll still be curled up right here. You’ll see. – Here goes: One. Two. Three. -

Scotland?
Scotland?
Scotland?