Memories of Resistance
I remember the 1970s and the 1980s. It was bloody awful. I was a child then, but I remember the first Indian kid at my school, and someone saying something racist to her, and me shouting at them. I told them that they were afraid of her because she was different.
People would openly say the N-word, like all the time. And when my parents sold their house in 1987, the neighbours came to ask them not to sell it to anyone non-white.
And if you challenged anyone’s racist crap, you got called a n*****-lover.
And the “jokes”. OMGs the utterly sick “jokes” that were bandied around.
And the sexism — utterly blatant. The homophobia — utterly blatant. It was horrible, all of it.
I remember a woman telling me that in the seventies, she went to open a bank account, and the bank manager asked if she had her husband’s permission!
I remember seeing National Front graffiti on walls.
When I was a teenager, I used to dress in a gender-neutral way and can remember people shouting after me “are you a boy or a girl?”
When I was 17, a kid at my sixth form college proposed a motion in the debating society that “all homosexuals should be rounded up and shot”. The debate was allowed to go ahead. I’m not even sure if anyone considered banning it, actually. Before the debate, there was a vote, in which something like 40 people supported the motion. I opposed the motion. I won the debate. At the end of the debate, twenty fewer people supported the motion than had done so prior to the debate. Standing up to bigotry is important. It shows minorities that we are not alone; and it may even change people’s minds.
I remember when Section 28 was in force, which forbade the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. It was only repealed in 2003.
During my years at university, there were boycotts of the apartheid regime in South Africa. I had a bank account with NatWest instead of Barclays, because Barclays propped up the apartheid regime. As cash-points (ATMs) were not interchangeable in those days, that meant long queues at the cash-point. It was also the time of the miners’ strike, one of the longest running resistance movements in the UK in recent memory. I remember Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (the subject of the film Pride); I remember going on a demonstration in Lancaster in support of the striking miners.
A friend of mine who resisted apartheid has a great series of articles on his memories of that struggle: Tales from Dystopia.
We thought that those bad old days were over, that racism and misogyny and homophobia and transphobia were on their last legs, on the way out with the dregs of history. Yes, we knew they still existed, but we thought that education would eventually eradicate prejudice.
But sadly, they seem to have returned in all their disgusting bigoted hatefulness — which is why we need to build solidarity, and learn of solidarity networks and tactics that have worked in the past.
When all the terrible things that are happening now seem overwhelming, it is useful to reflect on past struggles and try to find what worked. It is clear that broad coalitions are needed between different groups, as happened with the miners’ strike and LGBT people — the miners supported same-sex marriage when it came up as a policy in the Labour Party. Solidarity is real.
I am writing a longer article on memories of resistance to racism and fascism in past decades, to inspire younger activists who are scared rigid by the election of Trump and the vote for Brexit. I will post the article(s) on Medium.com and Gods & Radicals.
I would be very grateful if you could share something with me for the article. Please feel free to share this link with other seasoned activists.
It doesn’t have to be long, but it would be helpful if you could describe things you or your relatives and friends personally experienced, whether it’s anti-racism, feminism, or LGBT-rights related. Photos would be awesome too. And please let me know how you want to be credited — anonymously, by name, or by pseudonym (and religious affiliation, if you want). Ideas for building a network of resistance particularly appreciated.
Please comment on this post with your contribution.