United Kingdom labour activist Zita Holbourne says it’s not enough to be anti-racist: the true activist ally must be for racial equality as well. In an interview with CUPE Communications, the national vice-president of the Public and Commercial Services Union shared several insights on how to do this effectively.
One example is better use of social media. Instead of just turning on your mobile phone to record a racist assault on public transit and then post it on Facebook without intervening in the assault, said Holbourne, why not call out the attacker?
“If everybody bombarded those people that are doing it, it would stop them in their tracks,” she said, noting an impressive new Facebook group set up by white Americans she discovered the other day.
“If you are being trolled online and you’re a person of colour, you just tag them in your post where it’s happening, and they will deal with it. Because their thing is, ‘As a person of colour you’re dealing with enough abuse all of the time anyway, so why should you have to stand there and argue with these people that have been abusive? We’ll do it for you.’”
Holbourne belongs to a number of organizations that combine media savvy with effective lobbying. After the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire disaster in London, which killed almost 100 (the final death toll is still unknown) in a building populated mostly by people of colour and migrants, the black activist organization she co-founded joined an umbrella group of racial equality organizations and black lawyers associations that came together to put pressure on the Conservative government.
“When we see that something on the ground is not going the way it should, we make sure that we amplify the voices of those who are impacted by getting it into the mainstream media,” she explained.
Working with Labour Party MPs like shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott, and media allies like the Guardian, Holbourne’s group has advocated for better housing options and financial support for Grenfell survivors. The group is currently seeking a complete amnesty for undocumented Grenfell residents.