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Resisting racism in times of national security

In times of national security, scholars and activists who hail from the communities under suspicion attempt to draw readers and listeners to the complexity of the world we inhabit. For those who campaigned against the SUS law in the 1980s, when young Black men were being routinely stopped in the streets, the wave of counter-terrorism legislation and policy that exists today will be very familiar. Similarly, recent discussions about the impact of drill music in the culture of young Black men has drawn questions around the ways in which they should be securitised, with senior police calling for the use of terrorism legislation against them. In this environment, when those who study and have lived alongside the communities who are at the scrutiny of the state raise questions about the government, military and police policy, they are often shut down as terrorist-sympathisers, or apologists for gang culture. In such environments, there is an expectation on scholars and activists to condemn what society at large fears. This volume is about how that expectation has emerged alongside the normalisation of racism, and how these writers choose to subvert the expectations raised on them, as part of their commitment to anti-racism.

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‘You know nothing, Jon Snow’
Asim Qureshi

Reflecting on his own personal experiences in being asked to condemn terrorists, Asim Qureshi begins the volume by detailing the psychological and physiological trauma that accompanies these moments. These personal reflections are placed in a wider context of a culture of condemnation – where routinely Muslims and Black gangs are expected to condemn the violence some choose to associate with their communities. The Introduction seeks to enter into a conversation between all of the contributed chapters to identify a few key themes that speak to their collective experience. While the chapters largely focus on the contemporary experiences of the authors, a number of them explicitly reference how the history of colonisation and empire is directly relevant to current discourses, particularly in relation to the ubiquity of ‘Whiteness’ as a system of violence and power. The underlying racism of society has been transformed into a form of ‘public safety racism’ as the authors evidence how communities are placed within a threat matrix. This matrix brings with it an expectation for those very communities to condemn their own, the central concern of all the contributors – who feel caged by this expectation. The chapters highlight how those who hail from these communities at times engage in acts of performance in order to pander to demands of those who expect condemnation – a form of betrayal through public performance – but what these scholars and activists demonstrate through their lived experience is a genuine praxis of resistance.

in I Refuse to Condemn