With Alexandrina Hemsley, Rob Jones, Seeta Patel and Rajni Shah, facilitated by Royona Mitra. The panel will discuss the structural racisms and racist silencing that operate in the contemporary dance sector. By centring anti-racist and decolonial works by dance artists and programmers of colour, the discussion will reflect on coalitional strategies for moving against and beyond the forms of racial violence and erasure that shape our field.
Independent Dance, Tuesday 3 December 2019; 7pm to 8:30pm.
Siobhan Davies Studios
85 St. George’s Road
Elephant & Castle
London SE1 6ER
‘What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable’… ‘For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own games, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.’
— Audrey Lorde 2007: 110–112: Comments at Second Sex Conference, New York, September 29, 1979. Cited in Mirza, H.S., 2018. Racism in Higher Education: ‘What Then, Can Be Done?’, in: Arday, J., Mirza, H.S. (Eds.), Dismantling Race in Higher Education: Racism, Whiteness and Decolonising the Academy. Palgrave MacMillan, London, pp. 3–23 (this quotation p.3)
White privileges are the relative advantages racism affords to people identified as white, whether white people recognize them or deny them. To be white is to be afforded one’s individuality. Afforded the presumption of innocence. Afforded the assumption of intelligence. Afforded empathy when crying or raging. Afforded disproportionate amounts of policy-making power. Afforded opportunity from a white network.
The inverse of white privilege is black deprivation.
This Thursday 28 November 2019 at Z-Arts in Manchester:
SKIN in the Game is a bringing together of a representative cohort of artists, journalists and researchers of colour from across the UK. It offers a platform to thinking and discussion around ghettoisation, radical constitutions, anti-racist work, representation and leadership both within Live Art and in culture. It is an open space for discursive honesty.
Another extract from some writing (this time by Vron Ware and Les Back) disguised as a blog post:
Putting his finger directly on the erratic pulse of “white writing,” [Mike Hill] continues: “the presence of whiteness alas within our critical reach creates a certain inevitable awkwardness of distance. Whiteness becomes something we both claim (single out for critique) and avoid (in claiming whiteness for critique, what else can we be, if we happen to be identifiably white?).”
Hill suggests that this conflict, characterized by “the epistemological stickiness and ontological wiggling immanent in whiteness,” might be called a second wave of white critique. By this satisfyingly graphic formulation I think he is trying to represent the problem that many designated “white” writers confess to in their own work: their motivation stems partly from a recognition that their “whiteness” ties them historically into a system of race privilege from which it is hard to escape, but by providing a critique of whiteness, they begin to situate themselves outside that system. Does this mean that they are in two places at once?
— Vron Ware & Les Back, 2002. Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics, and Culture. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p.29
A number of Enlightenment thinkers, including influential German philosophers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, defined humanity without really having much of an idea how most of humanity lived or what it looked like. “A universal understanding of human origins was actually created at the time by white men in Europe who only had indirect access to information about other people in the world through the lens of colonialism,” explains Porr. So when they went out into the real world and encountered people who didn’t look like them, who lived in ways they didn’t choose to live, the first question they were forced to ask themselves was: Are they the same as us? The problem was that, because of the narrow parameters they established of what constituted a human being, setting themselves as the benchmark, other cultures were almost guaranteed not to fit. In universalizing humanity by seeing themselves as the paradigm, they had laid the foundations for dividing it.
– Angela Saini. Superior: The Return of Race Science
I trained as a dancer in Melbourne in a conservatoire called the Victorian College of the Arts. The studios at the VCA are huge, and a key part of learning to be a dancer in those spaces was how to take up that space, how to consume that space. We were encouraged to ‘dance big’ and to develop the strength in our legs to fill these spaces; perhaps even to ‘own’ the space.
Part of my identity as a dancer is about taking up space.
Part of my role and work as a white person in anti-racist practices is making space, or more accurately giving up space, for people of colour.
Royona sent Arabella and me an article the other day called Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People. The author, Kelsey Blackwell, writes that “I believe that in most circumstances, doing race work in an integrated setting is harmful.” She demands that “white people step aside to support spaces in which PoC members of the community are invited to feel, to be, and to touch our humanity on our terms, in a way that feels not like colonization but like coming home.”
Stepping aside. It’s a different kind of dancing, but it’s a dance I am practising.
But the greatest facilitator of race-hatred against refugees isn’t a tabloid; it’s Facebook. Researchers at the University of Warwick recently studied every anti-refugee attack – 3,335, over two years – in Germany. They found that among the strongest predictors of the attacks was whether the attackers are on Facebook. The social network aids the dissemination of rumours, such as that all refugees are welfare cheats or rapists; and, unmediated by gatekeepers or editors, the rumours spread, and ordinary people are roused to violence. Wherever Facebook usage rose to one standard deviation above normal, the researchers found, attacks on refugees increased by 50%. When there were internet outages in areas with high Facebook usage, the attacks dropped significantly.
Obviously this doesn’t directly relate to the way racism functions in contemporary dance, but how our thinking and imaginations are infiltrated by media is profoundly related to the construction of our individual and collective identities in whatever groups or “tribes” we work in and for.