"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
The past few weeks, following the filmed death of a hand-cuffed black man in the United States while he was being arrested, has seen a massive rise in anti-racism demonstrations across the West. These demonstrations take on a range of issues, from the original question of police violence (both in the United States and abroad) to questioning the memory and historicism of slavery and colonialism (often by “attacking” statues of historical figures with links to the issues such as Belgium’s king Leopold or leaders of the Confederacy in the United States).
Race and identity are difficult issues. It’s even more difficult when it comes to factoring in historical events, with today’s perspectives. It’s also clear there are worrying issues today that have their roots in the past. The statistics on police brutality against African Americans in the United States are shocking, clearly the problem goes beyond “a few bad apples”, and now they are regularly filmed, impossible to deny. But even in development cooperation, while arguably not dealing with such blunt violence, there still are questions to ask about how we deal with race. And the questions may also be important for overall international relations.
I had to think of a quote in Ta-Nehisi Coates’, Between the World and Me, “Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible – this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe they are white. These new people are, like us, a modern invention.” Identity, individual and social, is really fascinating. It can be beautiful and build powerful links between people, but also exclude, cause violence and be tragic. All based on the social and chemical processes between us and within our brains.
18.06.2020, Brussels, Belgium.
Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.