On April 18th Tresemmé, you lot’s Prime Minister, called a snap General Election to strengthen the Conservative Party’s grasp on power during the country’s impending exit from the European Union (and off a cliff to a Thatcher like doom.) At the time, the opposition Labour party, who swing to the left of the Conservative’s right wing political stance, was in disarray and many assumed Labour would be easily defeated. However, in the last month campaigns like #GrimeforCorbyn have helped galvanise previously disillusioned young voters. Grime artists Stormzy and most prominently JME have come out publicly in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party Leader. The BBC reported of the 100,000 people who’ve registered to vote in the last seven days, 40% are under 25 years old and warn of a spike in numbers as the deadline to register to vote grows closer.
BlacksDontVote.com is another initiative aimed at energising the voting power of non-white people in Britain. So far Jamal Edwards, CEO of music platform SBTV, and Riz Ahmed, Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild Award nominated actor, have used their influence to back the campaign. During Ahmed’s impassioned piece to camera he says “The reason we’re making this film is because blacks don’t vote. And by black people I mean ethnic minorities of all backgrounds. We just don’t vote.” I winced as the words entered my ears. The idea of that all ethnic minorities can come under the umbrella of blackness during election time is called political blackness and last summer journalists Charlie Cuff and Melissa Owusu wrote soaringly about the problematic nature of the construct. Later in the year following Kent University student union’s use of images of Zayn Malik and London mayor Sadiq Khan to promote Black History Month Amrit Wilson, Kehinde Andrews and Vera Chok further analysed the idea of political blackness and questioned if it is still relevant in today’s British society. Wilson explains the term political blackness was born “in the united struggle of working-class African-Caribbean and Asian communities against racism and imperialism in the 70s." It was not uncommon for an Asian person to be called a nigger in those early days before racists could more easily distinguish brown people from black people as Melissa Owusu lays out in her piece for gal-dem.
At its core John Ridley's Guerrilla was a work of political blackness. The 6 part mini series told black women to be comfortable with the positioning of Frieda Pinto's character in the centre of the fight for liberation because in 1970's Britain we were all black. The problem arises in Guerrilla because black women characters played by Wunmi Mosako, Sophia Brown and Zawe Ashton do not benefit from the freedoms political blackness affords Pinto's character. These black women weren't completely erased from the narrative and did have their own storylines as the series progressed but were pushed to the fringes of a story they had all rights to occupy space within. The centring of Pinto's character while meaning to unite brown and black people with a common message (consciously or unconsciously) leaned on a historically quantifiable favouring of women with a proximity to whiteness. Pinto's character was a freedom fighter ready to achieve liberation by any means necessary while Wunmi Mosako's character was a prostitute informer thrust into action after being spurned by her racist police officer lover/punter.
The viewing figures for Guerrilla were dismal, (just 182,000 in a time slot that normally should draw 1 million viewers) and there are a number of reasons why might have low viewing figures but I know while a valuable concept for this TV show, political blackness that costs the malignation of black women will be ignored and in this case has been rejected. Charlie Cuff's article for The New Statesman explains British minorities despite our similarities have "hugely different racisliased experiences... to conflate them seems unwise and outdated."
When Riz Ahmed calls all ethnic minorities “blacks” despite his good intentions, the result of this use of political blackness is the erasure of the intricacies of our races’ individual experiences and as Vera Chock writes “narratives of non-black people of colour shouldn’t be flattened out in this way.” I would also go one step further; the idea of political blackness dictates there is one acceptable time to be black, one time that blackness is beneficial to non-black people of colour- when it’s time to vote. It is offensive to adorn yourself with blackness only to vote when black people cannot (and many of us would never desire to) alleviate ourselves of blackness after the votes can be counted. We are politically, socially, economically, spiritually, mentally and physically black, all the time. We must, as people of colour, actively dismantle the antiquated notion of political blackness because Riz Ahmed cannot be politically white any more than I can be politically Chinese. Political Blackness is dead.
“Dani, this post is divisive” sneers the troll from behind the screen of their iPhone 4. May I remind you can multitask, hoe. I can remind you all your voter registration deadline to ensure Tresemmé and her band of blazing idiots don’t lead this country into the bowls of hell is tomorrow Monday May 22nd at midnight, while simultaneously decrying a system of political thinking that seeks the protection of blackness and discard it once it is no longer useful. I don't like the name of the campaign Blacks Don't Vote cos it's not clear. Are you telling me not to vote or what now? I do, however agree with the sentiment, non-white people have the power to swing this election and Tresemme's so dumb she let us know in a tweet Labour only need take 6 seats in order to upend her. We can do it.
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