THE BLOG

In Defence of The London 9

12/09/2016 09:32

What everyone has missed in the rush to condemn the London City Airport #BlackLivesMatter activists for being all white is that having respectful white allies participating in the struggle has always been thought of as a good thing before. Historically anti-racist movements have had no problem with genuine white allies putting their bodies on the line when the hour comes. We are able, and so we fight. That is what we have always done.

According to the theory of inter-racial solidarity, both black and white can, and must, unite together against racial oppression in all its manifestations. It is very funny, then, that gestures of inter-racial solidarity like the protest against environmental racism at London City Airport are all of a sudden being accused of being cultural appropriation. It is at best a misguided accusation, at worst a wilfully deceptive one which tries to divert from and discourage wider debate about the issues on the protest agenda.

Because the powerful splenetic rage directed at the group in the aftermath of their protest has eclipsed all rational considerations of their agenda, it is worth reminding ourselves what the group's message was. It is unarguable that the protestors were right on the main point of fact: air pollution is a race issue.

There is unequivocal truth in the slogan that the climate crisis is a racist crisis, because there is plenty of evidence from scientific studies that BME communities are more affected by global warming and bad air. The average urban white person will not be nearly as negatively affected as their black counterparts, with the latter being far more exposed to the effects of climate change and higher levels of pollutants in the atmosphere. This manifests in a higher mortality rate for minorities, showing why a BLM protest makes sense in an environmental context, where blacks are once again the main casualties.

Environmental racism is profoundly interlinked with the continuous expansion of London City Airport, which generates pollution and urban blight for the neighbourhood it inhabits. It is a case of those who did the least to contribute being burdened with the bulk of the problem; the average emissions of people flying out from London City Airport tend to far exceed those of the people who will die in penury from pollution. Those who have done least to create the climate crisis will be worst affected.

Protests like these are a reminder that complacency in the face of injustice is not an option. We need to act to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. We need to be more conscious of the relationship between pollution and racial injustice, because it exists, and is killing people. We must resist the continuous expansion of airports. We must disrupt and delay.

It's depressing in particular that this protest has elicited a tranche of negative ad hominem remarks accusing the protestors of being "hipster-looking flower-crowners" and "self-righteous snowflakes" etc. Because quieter than the diminuitive name-calling is the public debate about the salient issues, namely the disproportionate impact environmental pollution is having on BME communities.

Outrage against these activists is misplaced. They have succeeded in shining a bright light on environmental issues that most politicians are keen to keep on the back burner. They have forced daylight on to the ugly reality of environmental racism in Britain. Their civil disobedience is a reminder that complacency in the face of injustice is not an option. Attacks against their person only prove that their position is right.

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