predicting & predictable outcomes

Should I be signing off from any engagement related to the justice issues I have been engaging with over all my 22 years of living in Britain?  There are enough fresher/younger voices to carry the fight, and these come from a coalition of interests fed up with things as they are and continue to be. I had hoped that in 2021 the task would have been lighter for the next generation. It looks, though, like every avatar of the fought over justice issues seem to ensure the survival of the status quo and even greater marginalisation. For sure the old tact of divide and rule is very much alive. Even more worrying is Empire’s co-opting of what used to be radical voices, which is more than the awards of OBE’s, MBE’s, and variety of Empire awards. Whiteness remains secure as it continues to drive a stake at the heart of “political blackness” by shifting the battle to an ethno-centric/cultural one. Quite a few of us have succumbed to the lure, as we jockey around for status, jobs, credentials, kudos and more.

To avoid my own death of spirit and heart by cynicism and losing friends in the process, I am wavering with the thought of bowing-out and follow my own exit plan. Every minority needs an exit strategy, ‘just in case’, which is quite often the case. Notwithstanding, a life of waywardness, stubbornness, and subversion would not easily allow me to go quietly. So here is my rambling ‘take’ and signifying’ on some of the things that continue to both bother and irritate me. These may either be a sign that things are changing, and I find it hard to accept and/or that it is just me who has definitely passed my sell-by date.  Perhaps, in the writing may prove cathartic and energising.

With the number of allies and voices of solidarity crawling out of the woodwork of establishment to engage in soul-searching decolonial stuff it would seem that the end of coloniality has arrived. Perhaps at the next Notting Hill Carnival we will be serenaded by some group pulling around colonial’s coffin firmly nailed, with dancers prancing away to the beat of steel pans, as the colonial nightmare makes its final journey into the furnace of purgatory, wholly expunged from the British psyche. Not wishing to dismiss any ally-ship and solidarity that would kill the colonial dragons, we may wish to think again with some deeper analysis of what is actually happening around us. Critically consider what these allies and colleagues are saying, writing, and proposing. Is it performative solidarity that begins and ends with hashtags, tweets, and online clicks lacking ownership? Are the allies really up for the consequences of thinking, doing, and dwelling ‘decolonial’? What is it that they are willing to give up? Have they considered the most critical demand of a decolonial habit and method: that of a radical change of the terms of engagement? Will white coloniality be able to cope with this? Are former colonised able to see how we have become ‘token’ voices, once again pigeon-holed, to be hauled on stage to get the show of ‘good intentions’ going while little is changing around? Yes, it may have changed for some of us, with various illustrious appointments to the ‘Club’ while for the many, colonial penury, habits, and legacies rule.

I have lost track of the number of zoom invites that come my way to participate (as an attendee) in decolonial stuff across all sorts of disciplines. Overnight decolonial experts are multiplying. Recently, I got a notification from an established Centre for theological learning with the fancy title of creating spaces for scholars on the peripheries. Commendable at first sight and kudos to the originators, here is the rub though: what is with a still White Centre, irrespective of having a few established scholars from the former colonised part of the world, for thinking it has the right to create spaces for scholars on the peripheries? Perhaps, scholars on the peripheries should be creating space(s) for the Centre to come-out, give-up, and make their resources available in the peripheral spaces so that the academic rating of the group of scholars on the peripheries may stand on its own feet with its own agency while determining the terms of engagement. The decolonial questions for this Centre and all such invitations should include: what kind of knowledge/understanding are they engaged in generating and why? Who is benefitting or taking advantage of such knowledge or understanding? What other institutions are supporting and encouraging the promotion of the knowledge and understanding? Who is setting the terms of engagement? Readers may wish to add their own questions.

I am really very sorry for academic colleagues whose jobs have been threatened through redundancies and closing of their departments.  I know the feeling of anxiety, despair, and anger. I have been there with an institution that saw all of its radical Black voices literally ‘pushed out’ for more pleasing and less critical Black and White voices. Not one white colleague from the largely White fraternity of theological education came to our rescue, though there were voices of solidarity here and there. The current demise for some of our White colleagues, which is so foolish (but calculating) of that particular institution, sees the outpouring of solidarity from all sorts of White dominated Associations linked to the particular discipline. This may be a sign that things are changing. But I still must ask myself: what is actually changing?  When the next set of minority colleagues get mowed down, shafted, and thrown out, for taking on ‘empire’s agents and cronies’, I am hoping that the solidarity and open letters would also flow and follow with equal persistence.

Currently (and once again) ecclesial and religious bodies are also doing a whole heap of self-interrogating around their practices both to check institutional racism and their own practices. The established English Church is in the limelight doing all sorts of somersaults to exorcize itself of the sins of its racist practices (past and present). The ‘what, where, how and when’ of this conversion remains urgent as ever and there will be much gnashing of gums and teeth on this! Can a State Church be otherwise than behave like one? Can it throw off this baggage and divest itself of its ethos, most likely linked to a sense of entitlement and arrogance which then frames a whole way of being, thinking and operating? Representation and participation of people of colour in the life of this ecclesial body is a small step but such is no guarantee that change will come, after all these years of reports and findings. Representation and participation of minorities will make little difference if the ethos and overarching constructions and the assumptions that sustain the locus of enunciations are not interrogated, exposed, and dumped; and most critically if the terms of engagement (not mere content, colour, or gender) are not changed (Michel Rolph Trouillot). Urgently needed is epistemic disobedience (Walter Mignolo and Sylvia Wynter) that delinks the theological and ecclesial deposits from the colonial matrices. I am yet to find an ecclesial community or organisation willing to take this risk and stick it out.

Is there a link between In the Line of Duty (BBC TV Series), the Report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Britain), and what I may be intimating here? Yes, there is: a deep-seated crooked shitstem that favours the dominant group bent on staying in power at all costs! And we should not underestimate its reach co-opting agents and worshippers along the way. Church is no exception, though one may wish to point out that the difference is the sophistication with which Church will carry out the crucifixions, and the numerous converts and saints that would also come to its rescue to perpetuate/save this establishment. It is very difficult to be an ally and genuflect at the altars of and to the ways of this ecclesial multi-headed monster. In this regard, ‘Dismantling Whiteness’ in ecclesial communities remains an urgent and an almost impossible undertaking. For along the way bodies of minorities will continue to be sacrificed to expiate the wrath of the gods of whiteness. It was the fool in me who expected an ending of In the Line of Duty that would have gone to the core of the corruption and evil. It seems that the arc of justice is still unable match the elasticity, teflon-ness, and slipperiness of the Shitstem.

© jagessar April 4, 2021

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