White people have rightly been called upon to challenge other white people’s inappropriate behaviour towards people of colour whenever it happens and this is just what I am doing by this article. I am calling out the entitled white men and ‘socialists’ at yesterday’s demonstration in City Square, Dundee who tried to tell a young black woman what she is and is not allowed to say.
Since there are already positive reports of yesterday’s (7th of June 2020) demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter and people of colour who face discrimination in society, I would only be repeating what others have said if I were to make similar reports. My concern here is to make clear the very problematic and unfortunate event that took place in the midst of the protest.
Given the spirit in which the event was being held, it was particularly important that people of colour had the opportunity to speak, and they did. It was important for white people in attendance to hear what people of colour had experienced in Dundee, so that they could better understand what experiences people of colour have had in Dundee that white people cannot experience. Several black women and men took to the microphone and shared such experiences, their view on the bases of racial discrimination and what attitudes others have to take to begin to eliminate racism.
At one point, another young black woman took her turn to speak on the microphone. The main point she wanted to make was that the demonstration was about Black Lives Matter and every awareness that can be raised in connection with it; she stated that it was not an opportunity to promote socialism, referring to the widely arranged presence of ‘socialist’ groups in the square. At which point the the stall, huge banner and all their newspapers at once appeared ridiculous. She had said exactly what was obvious all along: why are they here with a stall and selling papers? For this point she received a very enthusiastic round of applause from the public. She then said she wasn’t joking, and turning to the ‘socialists’ gathered on one side of the square and said, “please, fuck off!” And she got another round of applause. A member of FRFI retorted by shouting something in disagreement at her.
From behind the crowd at the opening of the square came a shout of, “No! You can’t fuckin’ say that!”. And into the crowd came running town idiot Nick Brown. For myself, I hoped that he was making his way to argue with the socialists for repudiating the young black woman on the microphone. Alas, after he threw down his bag in anger he marched straight towards the young black woman, swinging his hands around and shouting at her that she was not allowed to say what she had just said. At this point, myself and other members of the public confronted and surrounded him, and told him it was in his best interest to shut up and leave the square. After some resistance he left, while trying to argue with other people that told him to get lost as he did; two police officers approached him at the edge of the square, whereupon he sprinted away towards the Murraygate.
Once the young woman had finished speaking three members of the Socialist Party Scotland, all white males, took turns on the microphone after her, each attempting to justify themselves by saying that the ultimate problem is capitalism and that only by abolishing capitalism, through socialism, could we end racism. One of the speakers had already had a turn on the microphone earlier. The young woman was meanwhile surrounded by friends and members of the public, who commended her for speaking out and that her calling out the socialist groups was much needed. Another young black woman who had earlier spoken on the microphone reassured her that she had been very strong and not to feel undeterred by what had happened. At this point it was obvious that the public who had gathered at the square were either neutral about the situation, or were against the ‘socialists’. For myself, I think it is fortunate that the young woman who spoke out has good friends who backed her and that members of the public also supported her, rather than be left feeling alone and unsure if she had done the right thing or not.
What the ‘socialist’ groups did not give in response to the young woman who called them out was an apology, nor did they humble themselves and accept that they could possibly be in the wrong. Having been questioned by a person of colour as to whether what they had done was appropriate to the Black Lives Matter movement their response was not one of humility or apology, but to instead attempt to justify themselves with the same self-serving rhetoric they also use to promote themselves with. As such, it was utterly shameless. Anyone with some humility would have taken what she said to them on the chin and attempted to open dialogue, at least.
So too, when the young woman was under attack from Nick Brown, not one of the socialists got to their feet to defend her. It was members of the public who came to the young woman’s defence; the social that is otherwise claimed in the ‘socialism’ of these groups. There, in plain sight of the ‘socialists’, was a young black woman being shouted down by an angry white man who was telling her what she was and was not allowed to say, one of the very incidents that all ‘socialists’ who took to the microphone professed to stand against, and none of those ‘socialists’ made any effort to diffuse the situation.
Two attitudes were possible here. They may have been too proud to do it because they had just been questioned on how appropriate their activities had been, whereupon the well-being of the young black woman was relegated to a secondary concern for them. And if they did not refuse to defend her out of pride, it was because they wanted to have the possibility of shouting her down for themselves. If they were truly socialists, they would have defended the young woman despite being in disagreement with her. But they instead sat back in spite of her. When Nick Brown ran on to the square and began shouting down the young woman he entered an open space between the speaker and the gathered crowd, a space that made any occupant of it easily visible to everyone, so not one of those ‘socialists’ can retort that they simply didn’t realise what was going on.
Whatever their attitude, we need only point to a slogan on placards around the world right now: silence is violence.
It is true: an outcome of Sunday’s demonstration is that a young black woman was shouted down by an angry white man and patronised by a group of angry white ‘socialist’ men. There is no aspect of this that is not a complete failure and the opposite of what the demonstration of solidarity with people of colour was supposed to achieve. Nick Brown is merely an idiot and no more than a public liability that can be addressed very straightforwardly. But a ‘socialist’ group that already has a reputation for turning up to any event they think they can get away with selling papers at – just to sell papers – and that has no shame and so begs to repeat the same debacles over again, is an endemic problem.
Those so keen to repeat their woeful botches will do so in many different contexts and in any situation they find themselves in. That they are so predictable means we can take their follies and imagine what other, more severe situations they mght feature in and make a disaster of. Yet, for the love of the cause that Sunday’s demonstration was in aid of, nobody imagined that they would have made such a disaster at a demonstration against racism – especially in the wake of a world-wide movement of outcry against yet another murder of a person of colour by a police officer. Demonstrations were taking place world-wide, putting City Square in Dundee on the world-stage itself, and it was on this world stage that Nick Brown and the ‘socialists’ did what they did.
My final word for both FRFI, Socialist Party Scotland and Young Socialists in Dundee is this. I dare you to have the humility and the radicality to out-do yourselves by humbly, publicly and sincerely apologising to all people of colour originally involved in organising the demonstration, to all people of colour who attended it and to the young black woman whom you refused to come to the defence of when she was under attack and who you subsequently patronised by attempting to justify yourselves in spite of. And if you do not do it, then remember this: everyone is laughing at you because you are no more than the typical ‘socialist’ group that continuously makes an arse of themselves in every performance, something that everyone has expected of you for a long time now. You will have to go from opportunistically turning up to people’s birthday parties to sell papers, to openly advertising that you facilitate them just to keep yourselves afloat.