International students face deportation: Students and staff remain defiant

International students at London Metropolitan University were left in shock on Wednesday night, as they were informed that the university’s license to teach international students from outside the EU had been revoked by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). In a disgusting and provocative move by the UKBA, over 2,500 students were left with invalid visas, with only 60 days to find enrolment at another institution, or face deportation.

This crisis for international students comes at a time when tensions between the UKBA and academics and students at London Met have escalated. The UKBA flaccidly claim that students had not been keeping up attendance, that their English was not upto UKBA’s standards, and that some visas appeared to be invalid.

On the face of it UKBA may appear to have a case, but this is a politically motivated attack on its students – one which they haven’t the sufficient data to back up. The “Highly Trusted Status” has actually been revoked due to the non-compliance of sections of the University’s staff and students with the requirements of the new points-based immigration system, which requires academics to pass records of attendance and changes of circumstance to the UKBA for their international students.

When these controls were introduced lecturers and staff across the country came out to condemn the government’s move to monitor international students more closely than their UK peers – a move that was condemned as racist. Academics refused to hand over attendance records, backed by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS). The UKBA and the government have exploited the situation at London Met in an attempt to target a university whose record of standing up for student rights and defending their multicultural student body has been exemplary.

The UKBA have earned a reputation as an institution full of itchy right-wing thugs, intent on deporting the UK’s migrant population, in line with the UK’s right-wing stance on immigration. Their actions have left many students devastated. With many university courses now fully enrolled, many will be unable to find a place at another institution where they can continue their education. Emmanuel Eqwu, International Students Officer at London Met condemned the UKBA’s decision: “This period is a very tense period – most universities have finished enrolling students. So how is it possible within 60 days to get a place at a university to complete a year?”

Those who will lose out the most are the students who are left without valid visas. If you thought UK national fees were high, international students often get the sharpest end of the deal – university management who have attracted students from across the world will now be cashing in, whilst these students are left without a qualification, and huge debts. Tunde, a Nigerian student studying for an MA in Information Technology at London Met has been left with an impossible situation: “I’ve got 60 days to stay in the country” he said, “I’ve paid £9,800 for nothing and no-one is talking about refunds. I can’t call my mum to tell her – she is responsible for my fees. How can I tell her this?”

This move by the UKBA has been backed by the government, who are making it increasingly clear they wish to see London Met closed. This debacle has come weeks after university management announced plans to privatise virtually all of its support services in a £75m deal – a move that is dangerously putting profit before the welfare of its students.

Students and staff have protested and occupied their university against a huge package of cuts levelled at the university two years ago by the Higher Education Council, after mismanagement and national funding cuts. Staff at the university have also bolstered student protests against the cuts with a series of strikes that have built a united campaign on campus. Increasingly the government appear frustrated with one of the defiant campaigns against the education cuts, and Tory think tank, Policy Exchange, has targeted London Met for closure – one of the first potential casualties in the governments rolling cuts to education.

Students and staff at the university have already launched a protest outside Downing Street, calling for students to support their international peers. Amid fears that the licenses of other universities will be revoked, students are circulating a petition condemning the actions of the government and the UKBA, declaring “Hands off our students – Hands off our classmates”. On 20th October at the national TUC demonstration and on 21st November at the NUS national demonstration, students and education staff will demand an end to student deportation, and the UKBA’s harassment of London Met students.

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Why We Should Be Fighting For Cece McDonald

Find this article at the F-Word Blog!

Trigger warning: Violence, transphobia, racism, incarceration

Many of us now know about African-American trans woman, Cece McDonald,who was sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison for surviving an attack by racist transphobes in Minneapolis, MN, USA. As activists in the US, and more recently in the UK, have been organising, we have seen how Cece’s case is just one of many attacks on trans women of colour. Her case highlights the transphobia and racism in wider society, and more pertinently, economic and state sanctioned oppression of trans women of colour.

Though the state and the police department claim they do not discriminate against trans women of colour, their treatment of Cece McDonald at every stage of the process has suggested otherwise.

The police have ignored all of the facts that point to Cece’s attack as a hate crime. She was the only one arrested at the scene, reinforcing the oppressive notion that violence against trans women of colour is insignificant. Despite all the evidence in her favour, and evidence pointing to the fact that her attackers were fascists, Cece now faces 41 months in a men’s prison, again re-enforcing another oppressive notion – that if you defend yourself against hate crime, despite having no choice in when/how it happens, you will face the full force of the law.

Marc Lamont Hill’s article in Ebony Magazine quotes studies showing that despite only comprising 8% of the LGBTQ community in the US, nearly half of all LGBTQ hate crime murders are of trans women. Trans women of colour are also nearly twice as likely to be subjected to violence as their white counterparts. Half of the trans women of colour interviewed by the National Trans Discrimination Survey faced harassment at school, and 15% have been physically assaulted in their workplaces.

Despite living with the continual threat of attack from wider society, trans women are regularly harassed by the police. Accounts of trans women who have been arrested for soliciting sex when they were just walking down the street, arrested for using “false identification” and using the “wrong” bathroom, are very common. As the Sylvia Riveria Law Project shows [PDF], the criminalisation of trans people (on low income) means that arrest and incarceration are everyday risks in transgender lives.

The US police force and the judicial/prison system continues to attack incarcerated trans people and people of colour – refusing to acknowledge the gender of trans prisoners and housing them in the wrong prison, which completely ignores the violence committed against trans people in prisons. Trans people are 13 times more likely to be abused by prisoners and prison officials, and 59% of trans inmates are sexually assaulted whilst serving time in prison. The transphobia and racism behind Cece’s attack are now being continued by the US state and the prison system.

LGBTQ activists and their allies have joined the campaign for freedom and justice for Cece McDonald, who joins a long list of high profile cases of injustice against trans women. As Mara Keisling points out at Advocate.com: “this Spring, there’s been so much hate violence against us: Coko Williams in Detroit, Brandy Martellin Oakland, Deoni Jones in Washington, D.C., and Paige Clay in Chicago–all transgender women of color killed because of who they were.”

This month holds particular significance for sexual/gender liberation and anti-racist activists, as trans activist and writer Leslie Feinberg pointed out when ze was arrested at a solidarity demonstration for Cece:

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth: celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation–the formal Abolition of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defence against racist violence.

June is also the month of the Stonewall Riots, where LGBTQ people in New York, led by trans women of colour, fought back against police violence. Stonewall is often claimed as a victory for gay men and lesbians, often forgetting that it was trans women of colour that lead the resistance. Marsha P. Johnson was one of those leaders, who went on to set up the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Sylvia Riviera – a ‘house’ that was set up to provide poor trans women with food, health care and shelter. Johnson was found dead in the Hudson river in 1995, and despite a huge amount of evidence suggesting it was not a suicide, a police investigation was never launched. Susan Stryker’s documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Comptons Cafeteria attempts to bring together interviews and footage of trans women, in order to show how trans people were at the forefront of the struggle.

Our history shows that transphobic, homophobic, sexist and racist violence needs to stop. Cece’s website calls upon all of us to support her campaign and protest in solidarity with her struggle against her transphobic and racist incarceration. In the UK activists in London have protested outside the US embassy, and solidarity groups are coming together to organise actions and benefits for Cece in London, Birmingham and Leeds.

Cece’s case should serve as a rallying cry for the LGBTQ community. Whilst we allow these injustices to continue, we allow our trans sisters to be targeted. Whether it is a section on your local pride march dedicated to Cece, a meeting on her case, or a benefit for her campaign – join the fightback!

A smiling Cece McDonald, with curly shoulder length hair, wearing a blue t-shirt

Student Power: What Does It Really Mean?

This article is also featured on the Education Activist Network website here

As our HE institutions found out they could manipulate the rhetoric of the surge in the student movement in 2010 – we are now being asked to side with management in order to scrutinize our lecturers, and affect their pay, working conditions and ultimately, their jobs. But why have the government and our universities spent so much time and resources restructuring assessment, taking on the language of ‘student power’ and why do they want to come to the table with us?

These changes come because students and workers have built links during the student movement – we have organised together, protested together, and occupied together. It seems strange that Liam Burns is welcoming this new ‘student power’ – however as a rank and file student activist, it is easy to see how the leadership of the NUS spend more time in the boardroom than organising from the grassroots as we have done on each of our campuses.

If it weren’t for the student grassroots pressuring the NUS conference, and the staff at our universities pressuring UCU conference, we would not have had the huge demonstration against cuts and fees in November 2010, where students and lecturers stormed Millbank. The rank and file of this movement will remember joining their lecturers on the picket lines as their pensions were under fire, occupying with them to stop the privatisation of education, and organising meetings to rally students on our campuses.

The solidarity we have with staff is what is stopping management from marching ahead with more cuts and privatisation, our solidarity with lecturers threatens their ideology of a neo-liberal, free market education for the rich. If we break from our lecturers, we not only betray a section of the resistance to the governments attack on education, but we sow the seeds for the failure of the movement.

We must make our message clear, we will not side with management and betray the hard work of education activists. We should not get distracted by the empty rhetoric of ‘student power’ from university managers. Now we will take our message onto our campuses and onto the streets like the students of Quebec – we are not lackeys for the highly paid managers and Vice Chancellors.

If we are faced with student committees on our campuses that have a say in attacking lecturers working conditions, pay or jobs – we need to organise to stop them. If the government is going to take up the rhetoric of democracy we must let them hear what we have to say. Whether it be protesting, rallying, occupying or packing out these student-management meetings with activists – we need to remember that our numbers and solidarity with staff is what will stop these attacks on education.

See you in London!

More background on this post here

Join the debate about ‘Student Power’ on the Education Activist Network website!

A Critical Response To The Coalition For Equal Marriage’s New Video

So i’m assuming many of you will have come across the Coalition for Equal Marriage and their newly released video, for those who have not seen it, find it below!


Now I think its important to stress that equal marriage is an issue of equality that has been fought for by members of the LGBTQ community. It is also one that has had a right-wing backlash and caused anti-LGBTQ groups to desperately send out the word that ‘gay marriage’ must be stopped. The calls by prominent Catholic and Church of England figures, along with recent efforts to encourge children in catholic schools to sign a petition against gay marraige has created a political landscape to the demand for gay marriage, that has powerful and wealthy religious institutions and political forces set against us.It is with that consideration that I stress my utmost solidarity in fighting against these reactionary and devastating ideas.

However, I have some serious criticisms of this video and the way in which they have decided to portray LGBT and Queer people, and also take issue with the way in which LGBTQ liberation has been ‘whitewashed’ in order to appear “acceptable”.

One of the problematic elements to this film is that its director, Mike Buonaiuto, decides to portray a gay couple reunited after one of them has served time in the army – it’s a lovely storybook affair, the camera pans across the families waiting for their loved ones waving union jacks, and our gay soldier sees his partner running to a nice lovely long… hug.

Buonaiuto is referencing the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the US army last year, which was a victory in challenging legislative discrimination in the army. It was another issue that made headlines, people petitioned and protested, and finally won. The director, Mike Buonaiuto comments in Pink News: “the film looks to tackle the opposition head on, arguing if all, regardless of sexuality have the right to serve in the British military”, however he continues “[they are] risking their lives for our national security”. This comment is part of a worrying trend in sexual and gender activism, presenting “status quo” images of LGBT and Queer people that fit into current or acceptable political rhetoric – “we support our boys, we love our country too!” Activists in equality movements have often been tied to anti-war/anti-imperialist causes, so why show an explicit and quite nationalistic support of the army in a video about gay marriage?

The idea of taking a more “acceptable” political line plays out again in one of the worst aspects of this video – its completely sexist attitude toward gay marriage. We are shown one representation of LGBT/Queer people, that of two white (MAB) men, who are young, good looking, and well turned out. After the romantic embrace we are shown two captions at the end ‘all men can be heroes’ and ‘all men can be husbands’… i’m sorry, but, when was sexual and gender liberation about men being heroes and husbands? It seems again like a useless and reactionary addition to the video.

The creators completely ignore same-gender relationships between women, or other gender identities within our community. Again it is the acceptable and well known tv trope of affluent young gay men ‘fitting in’, and it’s boring. It is one our essential demands about gender that we find roads to rid ourselves of archaic notions of “heroic men and gentle women”, and challenge the gendered hegemony that pervades our capitalist media – this video fundamentally sells out on those principles in order to win another battle.

The tactic of pandering to the status quo is really poor politics. Can we really resign ourselves to chasing promises of single reforms when our oppression is part of every part of our lives, not just our relationships? It raises the question of how we relate to each other – it may be easy for the white, middle class, professional gay man to assimilate, but for the working class, black, queer mother, assimilation is impossible. Our demands for sexual and gender liberation may include marriage reform, but are much more radical that this video shows them to be – they are also intrinsically tied for to demands for jobs, pay and pensions and the demands for black and disabled liberation.

If we want to push positive representations of gender and sexual liberation into the public arena, then this video serves as a critical warning – if we do not show our diversity and solidarity with one another, than we will fail to get the support from each other that we so desperately need – we will fail to encapsulate the demands from the grassroots. Solidarity with each other under oppression is key to articulating what we need to change, so our demands are more than a few reforms here and there, but a reshaping of our attitudes toward sexuality and gender entirely.

Just a few thoughts and feelings, feel free to respond with any other perspectives, agreements/disagreements on here or on Facebook!

Cultural Appropriation Continued…

So after publishing my article yesterday, I have had some really constructive feedback from some other activists online. I wanted to address a few of the points raised out of the discussion and make a few amendments. Firstly one of my friends challenged the idea that the ‘Mohawk’ is a direct cultural appropriation:

“I agree that the name is more-than-problematic, but in terms of the actual cut I’m not so certain. the Mohawk/Mi’kmaq woman you cited says that she thinks that white people can wear a ‘non-traditional mohawk hairstyles (the ones you see at punk concerts)’ its obviously complicated cos the hollywood depiction of Mohawks had the ‘modern’ mohawk, which actual Kanien’kehá:ka Iroquois don’t wear themselves.”

Totally agree here, the haircut that we see at concerts has been incorrectly named, the hair of the Mohawk people is traditionally plucked leaving a patch on the back of the head. I think it is useful to make a distinction between actual appropriated culture – i.e. dressing up as a Native American for a costume party – and appropriated language – the use of the Mohawk name to describe a hair cut that is not actually part of any Mohawk tradition. Therefore I think it would be fair to accept that whilst the punk “Mohawk” is not a direct appropriation, that giving it the name “Mohawk” is problematic. Suggestions for a new name anyone?

Another example of a linguistic appropriation was pointed out to me here:

“Take the ‘Navajo wrapped drinking flask’ from Urban Outfitters. Some people were arguing that using that kind of pattern (usually and problematically labelled things like ‘Navajo’, ‘Native American’ ‘Indian’ ‘ethnic’ or ‘Aztec’) is a form of cultural appropriation. Now i think if these kind of patterns were labelled ‘geometric’ instead of ‘ethnic’/whatever racist tinged name’ then it would be a stretch to say “that’s a cultural appropriation” because more-often-than-not these prints and patterns are very very different from any original Native design and the connection to said-appropriated culture would probably disappear if the name wasn’t there, otherwise you are saying that this neon dress with triangles and diamonds ‘looks Native American to me so therefore its cultural appropriation’ – you end up repeating the same kind of problematic stereotypes really.

I think that there are two separate arguments at play here:

1. That direct cultural appropriations are problematic.

2. That the labelling of something that is culturally non-Native American as ethnic, Native American, Navajo, Mohawk, Aztec (etc) is problematic.

This means that whilst we should not appropriate Native American culture, we should also cease to use names that misrepresent and stereotype Native American people. So maybe the punk hair cut might come back soon people!

Another point that has been raised is that we live in a multicultural society, which is a blend of cultures:

“I was just interested to ask though where you think cultural appropriation lies in relation to multiculturalism? I ask because to me it seems that a multicultural society relies upon the breaking down of all artificial divisions between people of the same class, created by capitalism – and in that sort of society I can imagine people of all different cultures learning from and embracing elements of each others view points, dress sense, forms of art and music etc etc, and in doing so it seems likely that blends between these cultures will occur. 

“I think this can have great positive effects too. A good example is during the 1970s, when the National Front were trying to manipulate working class people into dividing against black communities, and bands emerged such as the Specials, who created a fusion of Jamacian music with punk by working with musicians from that culture. This was a very good example for a generation of young people, as it encouraged people to welcome different cultural backgrounds, and create fusions between different cultures. The Specials music became an anthem for the Anti facist struggles and the National Front hated it.”

Again, I agree that multiculturalism, and the blending of cultures helps to undermine racism – racism loses its power if we cannot be categorised and divided off into distinct racialised groups. However, prevailing white supremacy within colonialism and capitalism has left many non-white cultures devastated. As Native Americans have seen their culture nearly wiped out, part of their struggle is bringing back together the culture that was once taken away from them by white colonialists and capitalists – when it comes to challenging cultural appropriation and building a multicultural society, I don’t think that one necessarily hinders the other, in fact I think it builds a better more respectful multiculturalism.

It is important to respect that Native American people would not want to see their culture appropriated, as it is very closely tied in with their fight for liberation – Native American people wish to fight against racism and/or capitalism, but also must protect their separate and distinct cultures from being erased again. However, I don’t think all cultures have undergone the same process of “whitewashing” as Native American cultures, so it may be fair to say that Native American Liberation is distinct in the fact that it is both marked with a desire to break down the system that oppresses Native American people, whilst also defending the distinct cultures that colonialism/capitalism has tried so hard to erase. But it is important to remember that we have a real struggle on our hands, and it takes unity to fight for liberation – as one activist put it to me, we should be wary not to come full circle and repeat the racist mantra “east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”.

Another example of possible appropriation was suggested in reference to the keffiyeh worn by many white activists to signify solidarity with the Palestinian struggle:

I found it particularly powerful when during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009, more and more people started to take to the streets wearing one. It seemed to be a clear sign of solidarity with the struggles of the people in Gaza, even if a lot of people were wearing it partly (or mostly) because it looked good. I’ve spoken to a few friends from the middle east about this too – and they think it’s a great thing that the keffiyeh has become a fashion statement in the west – as even if only in a small way, it still opens up a potential gateway for people to find out about the oppression they are facing, and the struggles they are undergoing against Zionism.”

I think that the keffiyeh above all is an excellent show of solidarity to Palestine; I own one which I wear often to show my solidarity to Palestinian struggle. Their struggle has been marked on the one hand with an ideological struggle against racist Zionism, and on the other hand with war, genocide, rape, torture and ultimately the forcible removal of Palestinians from their homeland. However, I think it is fair to say that after a surge in the Palestinian solidarity movement in recent years, we have also seen lots of fashion outlets selling not just keffiyehs, but also new ‘fashionable’ takes on them. Many white people would end up buying one, without any knowledge of Palestinian struggle, or even any sense of being part of the movement for liberation. I think it is Lowkey who actually challenges this appropriation in one of his songs, challenging listeners to find out what the scarf round their neck means.

So I think cultural appropriation is still relevant to the anti-racist movement. In challenging our appropriations we are building understanding and trust with Native American people, in respecting their identities and how they are misrepresented in wider (often commercial) capitalist society. I also think it is very important to talk about the way capitalism markets cultural appropriations in order to open discussions about anti-capitalism and revolution. From all of the blogs and accounts I have read I think the biggest change that white people should undertake is looking critically at cultural misrepresentations and damaging appropriations – its more about a change in attitude than a road to liberation, because ultimately it takes us all on the streets, regardless of colour to bring down racism. Though we are looking to build our multicultural societies, we must respect that Native American cultures are being preserved for a reason, and that it is incumbent on white people to show respect for Native American cultures and build trust enough so that we can fight together against racism, colonialism and capitalism.

Native American Appropriation: Respecting the Struggle of Native American Liberation

I would like to say before you read this that these are some of my own reflections about cultural appropriation, and I have tried to bring in as many Native American accounts as possible. This isn’t a definitive account or set of ideas, but I have written this primarily to draw attention to the work of activists and the ways in which they have tried to raise awareness of Native American oppression. I welcome any comments or criticisms about what I have said: I think this is a discussion that needs to be had in order to shed more light on Native American Liberation, and how allies can best respect Native American struggle, culture, and history whilst fighting together to stop racism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Yesterday, I was shown a few discussions about ‘cultural appropriation’ by my good friend Lukas, in particular the appropriation of Native American culture. Just for those who might not have come across the phrase ‘cultural appropriation,’ the blog Native Appropriations (http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/) defines it as the use of other cultures, traditions, languages, and images in popular culture, advertising, and everyday life. For background on cultural appropriation, the blog signposts this article. Lukas also showed me this zine, challenging the way in which “Mohawks” and dreadlocks have been appropriated by white people, often without any historical/political/cultural understanding of where these come from (here: http://zinelibrary.info/files/dreads.pdf). In order to understand the basis of this discussion, it is important that you have had a look at the Native Appropriations blog, the zine, and this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPyPLmmtcig) outlining some of the arguments against cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation rears its ugly head everywhere in the capitalist west, from white people wearing the traditional dress (or an often disrespectful take on one) of another culture to a costume party, to mystifying or ‘othering’ of culture; at its core, it is politically and culturally entrenched racism. Native Appropriations discusses Bon Iver’s new song ‘Towers,’ (here: http://tinyurl.com/6sfdv32) focusing on an article in the Huffington Post about the new video. As the blog points out, the creators talk about Native American ‘preservation land’ (something that no longer exists for Native American people), and they play into a stereotype that paints Native American people as a homogenous whole, rather than a diverse group of many individually distinct cultures. The video makes no reference to Native American culture or traditions, nor does it represent the struggle or oppression of Native American people, despite referring to it as a ‘tribal tribute’ – as Native Appropriations puts it:

Why mention it was on Native land at all? Because it adds to the mysticism. It gives it a hipster-edge. “We didn’t just shoot a video in nature! We shot it in NATIVE AMERICAN NATURE!”

and again:

I’m really, really tired of the rhetoric of “honoring” or “tributes” being drawn upon to somehow erase Native peoples anger at the way we’re being represented by outside forces. Mascots? Hipster headdresses? YMCA Indian Guides? Quotes about Bon Iver music videos? Don’t get mad, we’re honoring you with our gross mis-representations of your culture! 

Please don’t tell me that I should be “glad” that Native people are being “recognized at all” and throw out the “Would you rather that Native people were just forgotten completely and never mentioned or shown again?” I’m sorry, we’ve been somehow “disappearing” for over 500 years, yet we’re still here. Our cultures are still strong. We’re not going anywhere. So your ridiculous “honors” and “tributes” that do nothing to truly represent our peoples and our cultures aren’t “saving” us from extinction. They’re continuing to oppress, erase, and marginalize our living, breathing existence.

The history of the oppression of Native American people cannot be ignored. Ever since white European ‘settlers’ came to America, Native American people have had their culture and way of living destroyed: land was taken away from them, they were forced to ‘integrate’ into a new way of life, having their culture stripped away and barbarised as ‘savages’ (a damaging stereotype that still rears its head throughout capitalist media), subject to a violent political rhetoric of ‘civilisation’. Native Americans were put through genocides, imperialism, and colonialism, forced into slavery and, after the Abolition movement, thrown into prison and forced to work through the new ‘convict lease system’ – in Angela Davis’s book ‘Are Prisons Obsolete?’, Davis traces how slavery was transformed after abolition, as capitalists developed a new way of exploiting free labour due through the expansions of the ‘prison industrial complex.’

As capitalist property laws expanded, Native Americans were faced with attack, rape, torture, and social conditioning in order to get them out of the way of the new American capitalist project – the drive for profit far superseded any dialogue or respect for the people that existed long before the ‘settlers’ did. As a white person, I can only touch upon the long history of oppression that Native Americans have faced, and I cannot claim to know how that oppression must impact the lives of Native American people today; I urge any serious non-Native American anti-racist/anti-capitalist to educate themselves by reading about Native American experiences of oppression and the history of Native American struggle that the capitalist west has sought to erase entirely.

So, the question is raised: how do we spot cultural appropriations, and how best can we respect Native American (and all other) histories and cultures? Here is a post from a Mohawk/Mi’kmaq woman (http://tinyurl.com/7uz84cj), who lists a number of cultural appropriations with an explanation of why these appropriations are offensive (but also outlining that she can only speak for Mohawk and Mi’kmaq cultures).

I also read this zine (here: http://zinelibrary.info/files/dreads.pdf) explaining how the writers feel that white people have appropriated Native American and Black culture through Mohawk and dreadlock hair styles. It was on reading this that I decided not to grow my Mohawk back, and that three of my white friends that have Mohawk hair styles decided to shave their heads. The zine explains that:

“Mohawk” is the name of a sovereign First Nation in the Iroquois Confederacy. Wearing “Mohawks erases Mohawk people and culture

Wearing “Mohawks” or dreadlocks plays into a racist society that believes that people of colour and our lands, bodies, cultures and spirit are up for grabs

For me, this zine is an account that was created for white people, challenging privileges and often a lack of understanding of how these cultural symbols have been appropriated, and also how my use of the word ‘Mohawk’ to refer to my old haircut was culturally insensitive. Not wearing a “Mohawk” is one example of solidarity with Native American Liberation that I have undertaken as a committed anti-racist; because I didn’t want to present myself as culturally insensitive to the seriousness of Native American oppression. The zine outlines the problem with the appropriation clearly:

The hairstyle called “Mohawks” is rooted in distinct Iroquois and other First Nations/Native traditions that have only recently (1978) been legal in the United States. Non-native people who wear “Mohawks” appear naive and condescending to this reality

So i’ve been asked “Does this mean that wearing Mohawk is racist?” Well, I don’t think that was what the zine was trying to say; the zine is talking about how cultural appropriation is received and how it could affect the anti-racist movement:

By wearing “Mohawks” and dreadlocks, white people demonstrate they are unaware of anti-racist struggles and deteriorate trust between white people and people of color/non-white people.

Being an anti-racist white person is counter-culture. Trying to present a countercultural image by appropriating other cultures is not.

I know that many people might not be aware of Native American struggle – white, western capitalism has re-written the history books, and Native Americans are denied platforms to educate others about their oppression – and, because of this, white people might not know about cultural appropriation. That’s why I have tried to bring together some resources so that people can learn more.

The forces that create division are also structurally entrenched: it is clear there is a difference between the racist/colonialist drive to eliminate Native Americans and the ignorance of a white individual wearing a “Mohawk.” It is our governments, capitalism, and the media that are continuing to deny Native American liberation, and it is these structures that we must smash in order to end Native American oppression entirely and serve social justice. However, we must come together to do this, and challenge every racist division in the process – if that means withdrawing cultural appropriations, then that is one thing I will do to offer solidarity.

After reading some of these blogs and other resources, I think that white people should seriously look at what they may appropriate in order to be ‘cool.’ Ignoring and denying these accounts of cultural appropriation is disrespectful and, yes, racist. If white people feel that looking ‘cool’ is more important than the possibility of giving up one of their privileges, then I think they should spend some more time reading about anti-racism and cultural appropriation before jumping to conclusions that this is ‘political correctness gone mad’ or trying to ‘correct’ Native American or other non-white accounts.

Written by Max Brophy (http://marixstqueen.worpress.com)
Edited by the fabulous Liz Sylvian (http://comeonlizzo.wordpress.com)