Black lives matter

The article that I will analysis in this blog is about the violent arrest of a 20 year old black youth, Martese Johnson (BBC 2015). I could discuss what happened to him, however this is unfortunately not a one off incident. It is the result of an ever growing culture of greed, ignorance and deeply embedded racism. The rapid escalation of structural racial violence in the name of the Criminal Justice System in the United States is because of the rise of neoliberal capitalism and the privatization of the prison system (Davies 2014).

Neoliberal    Neoliberalism is a political economic doctrine that argues that social progress can be most effectively furthered by ‘liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework, characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade’ (Harvey 2005:2) In other words, it is the progression and restructuring of the advanced capitalist system. Neoliberal policy involves minimizing the role of the state to enable the free flow of the market.

Neoliberal ideology is built on a meritocracy model, where by everyone is seen to have equal chance to gain access to rewards in society, thus neoliberalism is essentially colour blind(Aulette and Wittner 2015).As neoliberalism sees human agency as simply a matter of individualized choices. Colour blindness within a social economic system produces systemic and institutional racism by ignoring past histories of slavery and colonialism (Davies 2014).


Today people of colour continue to be disproportionality incarcerated, policed and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counter parts. While people of colour make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates (Kirby 2012). Whilst the rate of imprisonment for black male youth is extortionate, it should also be noted that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American prisoners are the largest group per capita statistically (Davies 2015).

Angela Davies

Today under neoliberalism attention is deflected away from the reality of institutional racism and toward blaming the ‘culture of poverty’ or ‘drug and ghetto culture’ (Ansell 1997:111). This kind of discourse falls back on the old cultural stereotypes that have been generated throughout colonial and imperial history. In the U.S policing has increased to combat the ‘war on drugs’ however because of colonial based stereotypes, this means that the war on drugs is directed at African American youth, even though research on drug use shows that the ‘races’(because race as a concept is a social construction) are similar for different racial ethnic groups. This gives the police and in the case of Martese Johnson the Alcoholic Beverage Control the ability to justify the rise of surveillance and racialized random police checks (Aulette and Wittner 2015).

Giroux states that “mobilization of state violence is symptomatic of the neoliberal, racist, punishing state emerging all over the world” (2014:1) Racialized repression under capitalism can ultimately linked to the birth of slavery, under slavery black bodies were used as commodities as resources to be bought and sold. Wacquant (2002) makes suggest that modern racial discrimination and the rise of the prison industrial system has horrifying similarities to slavery.


The prison industrial complex has become a for-profit business in which inmates are the product. In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies who use (low paid/ free) prison labour, such as Motorola and Microsoft are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy(Davies 2015). This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics often targeting minority and underserved groups to fill cells (Buczynski 2014).If the notion of punishment is a source for profit, then a the colour blind (racist)neoliberal system and ideology makes mass punishment become a normalized aspect of society (Davies 2015).

The Prison Industrial Complex

The masking of racism and the mass incarceration of people of colour in the prison industrial system is repeating history. Communities of colour, immigrants, the unemployed, the undereducated, the homeless, and in general on those who inhabit the substratum of the hierarchical based society are being used as commodities, as products to make capital that can be pumped back into the ever advanced system of capitalism. The prison system was once supposed to be used for rehabilitation to help citizens to get back on their feet, however today under the confines on neoliberalism is just a packaging plant, a place to manufacture capital through free labour, it is a modern day system of slavery (Davies 2015)).


            This is all very disheartening and makes one wonder why we are not fighting back against this neoliberal capitalist system that is debilitating every aspect of our lives. We can!!! In fact there are bunch of grassroots organizations that are fighting to not only end the prison industrial complex, but fighting to smash boarders, prisons and the state (and eventually take down capitalism and all forms of oppressive hierarchical structures). One of these organizations is Kingston based [EPIC] and have information available at


Ansell, A, E. “New Right and Reaction in the United States and Britain”. Washington Square New York: University Press .1997

BBC.” Virginia Governor calls for inquiry into student arrest”. BBC News U.S and Canada. Accessed on April 2 2015. Retrieved from

Buczynski, Beth. “Shocking Facts about Americas for Profit Prison Industry”. 2014. Truth Out Retrieved on April 1 2015. from

Davis. Y. Angela. “The Meaning of Freedom and other Difficult Dialogues.” NewYork : City Lights Books 2014. Retrieved from

Davis. Y. Angela. “Masking Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”. From History as a weapon. April 1 2015. Retrieved from

Epic. “Fuck your racist Prisons, Fuck your Racist Nation: Imigration Detention and the Prison Industrial Complex” in End the Prison Industrial Complex [ Zine] Accessed on April 2 2015. Available at

Giroux, A. Henry “State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability: From Emmett Till to Eric Garner.” Truth Out December 5 2014. Available at Accessed March 28 2015

Harvey, David. “A brief history of Neoliberalism”. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005

Kerby, Sophia. “ The Top 10 Most Startling Facts about People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States: A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in Our Nation’s Criminal-Justice System”. A center for American Progress. 2002 Retrieved on March 29 2015. From.

Root, Aulette. Judy and Judith, Wittner. “Gendered Worlds” New York: Oxford University Press 2015

Wacquant, Loic. “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: Rethinking the ‘Race Question’ in the US”. New Left Review 13. 2002 Retrieved April 1 2015. From


Exist and Resist . Indigenize and Decolonize

Cultural Appropriation
Cultural Appropriation

I write this blog post from the understanding that I, as a visitor from Northern Ireland am sitting on the occupied and stolen land of the Anishinaabe peoples, Haudenosaunee. This article I will write about was written by Âpihtawikosisân (2012), a Métis from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. ‘An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses’ looks at the issue of cultural appropriation, specifically looking at the ‘hipster’ trend of headdresses (otherwise known as war bonnets) at festivals such as Coachella and Burning man (Adrienne 2012)

The article looks at cultural appropriation through restricted symbols and unrestricted symbols. Showing that some symbols have an allegorical meaning attached to them, that they represent aspects of culture that have been earned. For example, war bonnets, the impressive feather headdresses commonly seen in western movies, are typically only worn by the Sioux, Crow, Blackfeet , Cheyenne and Plains Cree, from the Great plains region and only worn by chiefs and warriors (Âpihtawikosisân 2012).

Cultural appropriation is when someone or a group takes someone else’s practice without permission and makes it their own without knowing the correct meaning. Instead of appropriating native culture, try to celebrate it instead, in ways that does not add to negative stereotyping and commodification of culture.(Link in references on how to do this) She understands that people make mistakes and may not know that something is not respective (âpihtawikosisân 2012).

A question that often arises in online discussions is often similar or identical to this one “[T]here are plenty of Native-American descended Hispanics that love White people stuff and European stuff, so why can’t White people like Native stuff too?”(Lever 2011)

Firstly one cannot appropriate the dominant, especially if the ‘supposed’ appropriation was non- consensually forced upon a whole culture. There is a power imbalance that involves years of violence and an oppressive colonial history (Mycultureisnotatrend 2014) Cultural appropriation is another negative outcome of imperialism, capitalism, oppression and assimilation.  Imperialism is the creation and maintenance of an unequal cultural, economic and territorial relationship, based on domination and subordination, designed to pillage people and lands. Thus under capitalist imperialism, culture is seen as a resource commodity, ready to be stolen and sold on the market (Unsettling America 2011).

Secondly it ignores the forced assimilation practices that colonizers enforced upon indigenous peoples. Claiming indigenous peoples were savage and uncivilized, sanctioning the settlers to rationalize their actions in the name of civilization and Christianity. The theme of assimilation defined a framework for solving “the Indian problem” “the great aim of our civilization has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the dominion, as speedily as they are fit for the change” (Sir John a McDonald as cited in Flearas Pp196) Cultural appropriation speeds up this process, because it is profitable, a marginalized culture can become lost, cultural identities can be blended into the dominate culture and then exploited for profit.

black and tan

On top of this cultural appropriation is the extension of racism, genocide and oppression. The headdress and other cultural appropriations could be seen as settlers mocking their victims by mimicking them through tried and practiced cultural production of stereotypes that were used to dehumanize indigenous peoples, making the public support their deaths and turn a blind eye to their continued suffering. Similar to the name of a drink ‘ black and tan’ that is consumed in North America. It is named after the uniform of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which were part of the escalation of violence, civilian attacks, police militarization and brutality in Ireland in 1920 (Northern Ireland is still occupied today and still in conflict) (Lowe.W.J 2015 and Michael 2014)

These comments ignore the colonial history and imperial rule that carved native history into the traumatized cultural genocide of an entire continent to the imposition of residential schools, creation and implication of systemic and institutional racism, stolen generations, and the eradication of entire groups of people and their cultural traditions. Ignoring the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination (Hooks 1984).

They ignore the fact that there are hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases have never even been looked at. Indigenous women are far more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence. In a 2009 a Canadian government survey of the ten provinces, indigenous women were nearly three times more likely than non-indigenous  women to report being a victim of a violent crime. A report released in May 2014 states that 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered from 1980-2012. Because of gaps in police and government reporting, the actual numbers may be much higher (Amnesty 2014).

Canada prides its self on being a ‘multicultural mosaichowever it seems to ignore the fact that a large proportion of the indigenous population are in the substratum of the socioeconomic hierarchy. Canadian society is structurally based on the fundamental inequality between the settler and the indigenous. It is important to analyze the disparities in relation to the patterns of power between privilege and property. As long as these predominantly unequal intragroup relations continue to prevail and provoke the politics of race, ethnicity and indigenous relations will remain a contested subject (Fleras 2012).

exist, resist, indigenize and decolonize

Indigenous activists are focused on decolonization, which is as much a process as it is a goal (Walia 2012) which could start with ‘[A] dramatic reimagining of relationships with land, people and the state. Much of this requires study. It requires conversation (for example; with people wearing headdresses). It is a practice; it is an unlearning.” (Hussan cited in Walia 2012)

idel no more allyship

Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox (2012) from Idle no more suggests that “co-existence through co-resistance” is the responsibility of settlers, following and supporting Indigenous action and direction. For settler allies, having a place to land relationally creates a stronger rationale for unsettling established systems. This kind of relationship creates accountability and responsibility for sustained supportive action.


Âpihtawikosisân.” An open Letter to Non- Natives in Headdresses”. Âpihtawikosisân, Law      Language, Life: a plains Cree speaking Metis women in Montreal. , 2012. Web. Sunday 1March 2015. Retrieved from

Fleras, Augie. “Unequal relations: An introduction to Race, Ethnic, and Aboriginal Dynamics in Canada” Don Mills: Person Canada. 2012

Harsha, Walia “Decolonizing Together: Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity toward a Practice of Decolonization”. , Briar Patch Magazine: Fiercely Independent. 20. Web March 1, 2015. Retrieved from

Hooks, Bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre. Cambridge MA: South End Press, 1984.Print

Irlbacher-Fox. Stephanie. “#IdleNoMore: Settler Responsibility for relationship”. Decolonization indigeneity, education and society. , September 16, 2011. Web. Tuesday 03, 2015. Retrieved from responsibility-for-relationship/

K, Adrienne. “The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella”. Native Appropriations. 2012 Available at`atcoachella.html accessed on 01 March 2015

Lever “Is it disrespectful to get a tattoo of a Native American”. , Yahoo Answers. 2011. Web March 1, 2015. Retrieved from

Lowe. W.J “Who Were the Black and Tans”. , History Ireland.2015. Web. March 12 2015. Retrieved from

Michael. “How not to get tossed out of a pub in Ireland”. Changes in Longitude. Web. March 8 2014. Retrieved from

My Culture is Not a Trend “My Culture is Not a Trend: A Dialogue about Cultural Appropriation”. 2012. Web. March 1 2015

Native Languges. “Native Headdresses: Facts for Kids”. , Native Languages of Americas Website. 1998-2015. March 3 2015. Retreived from

Unsettling America. “Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation”. , Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory and Practice. September 16, 2011. Web. Tuesday 3 March 2015. Retrieved from

Exist and Resist . Indigenize and Decolonize

Film reveiw of 2015 Austrailian move ‘Drown’

Drown (Francis), a film by Australian, gay identified director Dean Francis depicts the brutal reality of immense and outward heteronormativity within the competitive sports world. It shows us what often happens when people step out of line of the naturalized state of hegemonic masculinity. This film sheds light on the physical and psychological bullying and homophobia that individuals who do not fit with in the sexual binary face.

The Australian film immediate grips the viewer with its raw, beautiful and powerful imagery. The aural experience is enchanting, ranging from intense sounds of violence and emotion to the electric and euphoric build-up of pumping dance music that heightens the viewer’s excitement, awe and anxiety. It gives the spectator mixed emotions through captivating scenes of excitement and eroticism, parallel to this is a sense of uneasiness, an under lying feeling that something big and bad is just around the corner.

The film is based around two main characters, Len, played by Matt Levett, who is a mentally unstable hetrocentric hyper masculinized lifeguard, who is plagued by fear of not impressing his father and Phil, played by Jack Mathews a new life guard who steals Lens glory in the competitive championships, butchering Lens ego on top of this Len discovers that Phil is gay after he sees him kissing a man. This spirals Len into a series of self-doubt and confusion about his masculinity and his sexuality as he finds himself attracted to Phil.

Being a life guard is part of Lens familial and national identity, his father and grandfather both preceding him were also champion lifeguards. He has grown up in a fiercely hetropatriarchal family with an abusive father. Lens has the perception that there is a strict gender and sexual binary coming from a homophobic background. Thus when he starts to have feelings for Phil he internalizes his homophobic gender and sexual ideology upon himself.

He deals with his confusion and anger with violence. Len takes his feelings out on Phil, beating him in the shower rooms. Phil’s face is badly bruised and beaten, it obvious to their boss that something has happened between them and tries to kick Len off the team, However Phil backs Len up with a sense of brotherly solidarity or Australian mateship (Davies). This confuses Len even more and his feelings run out of control ending up with a drug and alcohol crazed night out ending in extreme physical and sexual abuse toward Phil.

This is a very engrossing movie with a good depiction of the bullying, alienation and homophobia that goes on in western society and many competitive sports. However the film plays upon a stereotypical cliché of homoeroticism and from critical perspective the film demonstrates the unconscious racist undertones within the western film industry. The actors in the film are all white, accept in one club scene, where there is a representation of a typical racialized and sexualized stereotype of a gay Asian male. He was portrayed as being very femme gay man, thus seen to be not a true male. This could be seen as a form of Edward Said’s theory on orientalism (Said), where by people from the orient are ‘othered’ additionally he was feminized because of his sexuality thus he could be seen to have been characteristically fetishized, sexualized and racialized  by the ever watching western ‘gaze’ (Foucault).

In addition to the lack of racial diversity this the film shows only one type of man, albeit there was slight sexuality heterogeneity as it was the main theme of the film, however every other male was picture perfect of Audre Lorde’s ‘mythical norm’ (Lorde), including having very toned and muscular bodies which is an unrealistic ideal.

It is hard to focus on one key scene of the film because of the way the film was laid out, to add to the suspense of the film it jumped from and between scenes and time frames, which added to the emotional tension. The film screening took place in the screening room, surprisingly it was not a full house. Reel out were running a little late thus the screening time of Drown was late also. They were supposed to screen a short film before the screening of Drown, but it was broken. There was a small talk from an alumni of Queens speaking about his experiences of homosexuality and internalizing his own form homophobia within high level volleyball. His story was interesting and heart-warming. Of what I remember before the film there was an acknowledgement that we were sitting on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, helping us to understand out positionality within settler context however this could have been before ‘In the turn’. Sitting at the back of the theater was a bad idea, as people were running up and down the stairs behind our seats in addition the sound seemed a little echoed at the back of the theater. However since this was my third film out of the six that I had seen in the festival it was enjoyable to see some familiar faces from within the queer community


Davies, Glen. Australian Mateship. 7 May 2012. Webpage. 3 Febuary 2014. <,4109&gt;.

Drown. Dir. Dean Francis. Perf. Jack Mathews Matt levett. 2014. Cinema.

Foucault, Michel. Disapline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. electronic resourse.

Lorde, Audre. Age, race, class and sex : women Redifining differance in Sister Outsider. Freedom: Crossing Press, 1984.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Film reveiw of 2015 Austrailian move ‘Drown’