BSC Race Matters Network
Race, policing and criminal justice: Statement from BSC Race Matters Network on events in the USA
After recent events in the USA, culminating in the death of George Floyd, The Steering Committee of the BSC Race Matters Network wishes to express its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those African Americans and other minorities whose presence is regularly violently threatened by the state itself.
The rage and anger spilling out onto American streets is the result of a chain of events that include the murder by white vigilantes of a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, while jogging and the filming of a white woman in New York maliciously and spuriously calling the police to arrest a black man complaining to her about her dog’s behaviour in Central Park. These events across a matter of weeks link the memories of black Americans through innumerable, unforgettable episodes of police violence and white hostility. The images of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers in 1992, and the riots that followed the acquittal of the police. The fate of the Central Park Five, the black American children falsely convicted of an appalling rape in 1989. Their case was largely invisible to white eyes, certainly on this side of the Atlantic, until the Netflix series ‘When They See Us’ revealed the depth of white complicity in their fate amounted to a malicious conspiracy.
We do not wish to repeat the litany of innumerable incidents that extend this chain back through US history to the lynching and slavery of its plantation economy. In expressing our solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement we draw attention to state violence and white hostility against black people and minority religious groups such as Muslims, in this country and ask people, especially white people in the UK, to reflect seriously on the meaning of that title, ‘When They See Us’.
In the USA the criminal justice system is rightly identified as a mechanism that destroys black lives and delivers more pain than protection to minority ethnic groups. In this country figures from arrest to incarceration reveal patterns of disproportionality that are similar to, and have at times been even greater than, those in the USA. The youth justice system in England and Wales reflects this trend: black, Asian, mixed and other minority ethnic children and young people represent more than half (51%), of the youth custody population and almost half (48%) constitute the population of those remanded in youth detention accommodation. The magnitude of the problem becomes clearer when we consider that black, Asian, mixed and other minority ethnic children and young people represent only 18% of the entire youth population.
The scale may be smaller, and no country on Earth has a prison population anywhere near the size of the USA, but the patterns are the same or worse. The history of the criminal justice and immigration system in the UK is littered with miscarriages of justice and deaths in custody where race has been an active ingredient. We remember Rashan Charles, Sean Rigg, Jimmy Mubenga, Gareth Myatt and Sarah Reed among others who have died in custody. All too often the appalling violence of the US system is raised as a defence of our own system; not even the lesser of two evils, but a paragon of virtue, the mother of parliaments, and so on. But racism and race are written through our system of government just as it is in the USA, with all the fatal and life-limiting consequences.
While the shadow of American race relations grows longer and darker, it is incumbent on us as academics whose work inevitably tangles with criminal justice systems, to face the arguments around race posed long ago by James Baldwin. Visiting Switzerland in the 1950s, the black American writer saw how white Europeans ducked the questions white America could not when they saw black people:
“It is an argument which Europe has never had, and hence Europe quite sincerely fails to understand how or why the argument arose in the first place, why its effects are so frequently disastrous and always so unpredictable, why it refuses until today to be entirely settled. Europe’s black possessions remained, and do remain, in Europe’s colonies, at which remove they represented no threat whatever to European identity. If they posed any problem at all for the European conscience, it was a problem which remained comfortingly abstract: in effect, the black man, as a man, did not exist for Europe” (Stranger in the Village, in ‘Notes of a Native Son’, 1955)
These are arguments that surface in the BBC’s new film, ‘Sitting in Limbo’ (01/06/20) that tells the story of Anthony Bryan’s expulsion from Britain in 2015 to the Caribbean island he had left in 1965 as an eight year old boy. The film tells of the Windrush generation of Black people who came to the UK at the invitation of the government to help rebuild its war-shattered country, and who subsequently became the victims of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’. Criminologists in the UK can (and should) rage against the atrocities in the USA, but we must confront the UK racism that sees black people as secondary to white people; visitors, migrants, illegals, threats, and least of all citizens. In the USA Black people demand to be seen as American citizens. Here, on this side of the Atlantic, they are still seen as ‘in Europe, but not of Europe’. We must change this.
The Race Matters Network aims are to:
- Foster greater attention to the dynamics of race and racism in criminological projects and practice, including in the wider work of the British Society of Criminology;
- Offer support, solidarity and academic development to Black and minority ethnic scholars in criminology, as well as those working within the subfield of race and criminology;
- Engage with local communities, practitioners and policy makers to influence, listen and inform around questions of race and racism;
- Foster wider recognition of the contribution of Black and minority ethnic scholars to criminology, historically, nationally and internationally.
To achieve these aims the Network will engage in activities that include:
- Organising and hosting conferences (including panels at the BSC conference), seminars, and an annual Black History/Criminology Month;
- Disseminating information via email, scholarly publications, social media and other means;
- Responding to policy consultations and/or requests for information;
- Engaging in tendering and funding bids;
- Collaborating with members of the ASC People of Color and Crime division and the BSA Race and Ethnicity Study Group, and other networks of relevance.
Chair: Dr Monish Bhatia, Birkbeck College – email@example.com
Professor Peter Squires, University of Brighton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Rod Earle, Open University – email@example.com
Dr Anthony Gunter , University of East London – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Zoë James, University of Plymouth – Z.James@plymouth.ac.uk
Gemma Lousley – email@example.com
Dr Suzella Palmer, University of Bedfordshire – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Patrick Williams, Manchester Metropolitan University – P.Williams@mmu.ac.uk
Dr Tara Young, University of Kent – T.L.Young@kent.ac.uk
Dr Pamela Ugwudike – P.Ugwudike@soton.ac.uk
Professor Coretta Phillips – email@example.com
Dr Alpa Parmar– firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Brooks-Wilson – email@example.com
Angela Charles, Open University
BSC Race Matters Network Race and Justice Seminar Series – 15 March 2024
Speaker: Professor Jamelia Morgan, Director of the Centre for Racial and Disability Justice, Northwestern University (Chicago).
Title of the talk: Status Enforcing Criminal Laws
15th March 2024 16:30-17:30 (GMT)/10:30-11:30 (CST)
Location: Zoom (virtual). The event is virtual and free to attend. Register here.
Bio: Professor Jamelia Morgan is an award-winning and acclaimed scholar and teacher focusing on issues at the intersections of race, gender, disability, and criminal law and punishment. Her scholarship and teaching examine the development of disability as a legal category in American law, disability and policing, overcriminalization and the regulation of physical and social disorder, and the constitutional dimensions of the criminalization of status.
Prof. Morgan received a B.A. in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Sociology from Stanford University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School.
Prior to law school, she served as associate director of the African American Policy Forum, a social justice think tank that works to bridge the gap between scholarly research and public discourse related to affirmative action, structural racism, and gender inequality.
Race and Justice Seminar Series
Tuesday 14th November 2023 15:00-16:30 (GMT)
TO GO TO JAIL TOGETHER: I HAVE A DREAM – PROF BIKO AGOZINO (Virginia Tech University, Department of Sociology)
Abstract: The key question in the proposed seminar is whether the history of decolonization poses challenges to Criminologists, Sociologists, Political Sociologists and the general public who approach identity politics with the assumption of zero-sum games – who gets what, when, and how? Groups of people are presumed to be in competition for scarce resources and so, those who feel relatively deprived will organize to secure more resources for their interest groups while those who are privileged will mobilize to defend their privileges and exclude others. I follow Martin Luther King Jr in theorizing that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and I observe that the racist prison industrial complex does not affect only Black people adversely. When I see many White people support the campaign of Black Lives Matter in the US and around the world, I do not see them as doing charitable work for Black people. As Martin Luther King Jr. Prophesied during the march on Washington speech, people of all racial backgrounds will have ‘to go to jail together’ in racist-sexist-imperialist societies, though Black people remain over-represented.
Dr. Onwubiko Agozino, a professor of sociology at Virginia Tech, is a scholar-activist who values inclusive excellence and diversity with critical attention focused on people of African descent and other marginalized groups around the world. He emphasizes race, class, and gender issues in his contributions to learning, discovery, and community engagement beyond the boundaries of the classroom. To learn more about Dr. Agozino, visit https://massliteracy.blogspot.com/
Date: 25th May 2023
Panel: Gendered-Racist Regimes of Detention and Deportation.
Speakers and Paper title:
Dr Dorina Damsa: Gender, Race and Deportation in the Nordic Welfare State.
Dr Francesca Esposito: Racist-Gendered Regimes of Detention Violence.
Dr Dorina Damsa achieved a PhD in Criminology and the Sociology of Law from the Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, Norway. Her research is centred around global inequality regimes, borderscapes, and im/mobility, at the intersections of citizenship status, gender, race, and class. Her approach relies on perspectives from border criminologies and feminist and post-colonial studies.
Dr Francesca Esposito is a Lecturer at the University of Westminster and Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ICSU Lisboa). She is also Associate Director of Border Criminologies based at the University of Oxford. Francesca’s work focuses on immigration detention in Italy, Portugal and the UK, and, in particular, on the intersectional mechanisms of power and violence at play in these sites of confinement. Over the years Francesca has collaborated with various feminist, migrant-justice and abolitionist collectives.
Date: Thursday 27 April 2023 (6:00-7:30pm GMT).
Speaker: Dr Sarah Turnbull, University of Waterloo
Title: Discover a world of cultures’: Diversity work as gendered racial governance in British immigration detention
Dr Sarah Turnbull, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo and a faculty member of the Balsillie School for International Affairs where she co-leads the Migration, Mobilities, and Social Politics Research Cluster. Her areas of interest include immigration detention and deportation; parole and re-entry; punishment, abolition, and the carceral state; postcolonial, antiracist, and feminist thought; and qualitative research methods.
Date: Thursday 2nd February 2023 (18:00-19:30).
Speakers: Dr Niina Vuolajärvi and Prof Nick Mai
Panel Title: Migration and Sex Work.
Registration link: https://www.bbk.ac.uk/events/remote_event_view?id=35804
Speaker 1: Niina Vuolajärvi
Title: Looking for a different kind of abolitionism. Sex Work, Migration and the Feminist Politics of Care
Niina Vuolajärvi is an Assistant Professor in International Migration at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her interdisciplinary research is situated in the fields of migration, feminist, and socio-legal studies. Niina’s projects have investigated migrant sex work, prostitution and migration policies, post-deportation experiences, and race and colonial legacies in Europe.
For more information, see: https://vuolajarvi.weebly.com/ and https://www.lse.ac.uk/european-institute/people/vuolajarvi-niina
Speaker 2: Nick Mai
Title: Queering Sexual Humanitarianism Through Collaborative Ethnographic Filmmaking
Nick Mai will present an analysis of the evolution of his research and co-creative filmmaking with migrant sex workers. He will present different attempts to queer the politics of representation framing contemporary humanitarian and other documentary genres (including ethno-fiction) in relation to the ethical and visual constraints posed by the stigmatisation of their protagonists.
Nick Mai is a filmmaker, ethnographer and sociologist working as Professor of Criminology at the University of Leicester. His research findings, publicatyions and films focus on the experiences and representations of stigmatised and criminalised migrant groups. Through collaborative, participative and co-creative methodologies my work aims to put their own priorities, needs and trajectories at the centre of the research findings, representations and policies. Nick is the author of Mobile Orientations: An Intimate Autoethnography of Migration, Sex Work, and Humanitarian Borders (Chicago University Press, 2018). For more information: www.nicolamai.org
15 December, 6-7.30pm
‘Counterterrorism in the UK: The Policing of Muslims in the name of fighting armed Muslim Groups’. Dr Rizwaan Sabir. Dr Sabir is an Assistant Professor in Criminology at the School of Justice Studies at Liverpool John Moores University (UK), and author of the book ‘The Suspect: Counterterrorism, Islam, and the Security State’ (Pluto, 2022). In addition to providing analysis and commentary in the written and broadcast media for the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, TRT World, and the BBC, he briefs lawyers, community groups, and policy makers at the UK Parliament, United Nations, and the Council of Europe. He can be contacted via email R.Sabir@ljmu.ac.uk or followed on Twitter at the following handle: @RizwaanSabir
‘The Muslim, State and Mind: The Psychologisation of Counter-Extremism’. Dr Tarek Younis. Dr Younis is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Middlesex University. He researches and writes on Islamophobia, racism in mental health, the securitisation of clinical settings and the politics of psychology. He teaches on the impact of culture, religion, globalisation, and security policies on mental health. As a registered clinical psychologist, he primarily attends to experiences of racism, Islamophobia, and state violence in his private practice. His book is called The Muslim, State and Mind: Psychology in Times of Islamophobia.
Arun Kundnani. Kundnani writes about racial capitalism and Islamophobia, surveillance and political violence, and Black radical movements. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror (Verso, 2014) and The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain (Pluto, 2007), which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He has written for the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Vice, and The Intercept. Born in London, he moved to New York in 2010. A former editor of the journal Race & Class, he was miseducated at Cambridge University, and holds a PhD from London Metropolitan University. He has been an Open Society fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.
17 November 2022, 6-7.30pm.
Crisis Ordinariness and Racial Justice.
Speaker: Prof Nasar Meer. Nasar Meer is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences and Director of RACE.ED at the University of Edinburgh.
This talk explores how societies adapt to a form of ‘crisis ordinariness’ (Berlant 2011) in which the regularity of racial injustice prevails without the need for pre-meditated racist intentions. Underwritten by a ‘racial contract’ (Mills 1997), and propelled by racial mechanics in seemingly disparate and ancillary social spheres (Meer 2022), the argument advanced here is that social systems bear the imprints of older racial injustices that are not merely restated but re-articulated in ways that may be novel, and yet share common properties with how other racial projects have been curated and sustained. Seeing racial injustice as systemic, therefore, better allows us to grasp the nature of the challenge we face.
20 October 2022, 6-7.30pm.
Speaker: Professor Ana Aliverti, University of Warwick. Title: Policing the Borders Within: Globalisation, State Power and Magic
Ana Aliverti is a Professor of Law at the School of Law, University of Warwick. Her research explores questions of national identity and belonging in criminal justice, and of law, sovereignty and globalisation. She has led extensive empirical work in the UK’s criminal justice and immigration systems. She is the author of Crimes of Mobility (Routledge, 2013) and Policing the Borders Within (OUP, 2021). She was co-awarded the British Society of Criminology Best Book Prize for 2014, and received the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (BARSEA) (2015), the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Law (2017), and the British Journal of Criminology’s Radzinowicz Prize for her article ‘Benevolent Policing? Vulnerability and the Moral Pains of Border Controls. She is co-Director of the Criminal Justice Centre at Warwick and the Associate Director of Border Criminologies.
Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian: ‘Racialized Swarming, Sacralized Politics, and Criminal Penetratabilities: Occupied Jerusalem, and Settler Colonial Israel’ – 6-7.30pm, 02 June 2022.
Dr Ather Zia: ‘Decolonizing Postcolonialism And The Case Of Kashmir’ 6-7.30pm, 26 May 2022.
Dr Gemma Lousley: ‘Racialised Constructions Of Punishability in Sentencing Hearings For ‘Unwanted’ Migrants’ – 6-7.30pm, 24 March 2022.
Dr Jon Burnett (and Professor Avery Gordon as discussant) ‘Rethinking Work and the Carceral State’ – 6-7.30pm, 03 February 2022.
Professor Coretta Phillips: ‘Race Against the Machine: Febrile Politics and Stasis Criminology’ – 6-7.30pm, 19 January 2022.
Dr Aaron Winter: ‘White Terror: On the Far Right, Counterterrorism and the Racialisation of Violence
Joining and staying in touch
Please contact Monish Bhatia – firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the Network
Twitter – coming soon
Websites of interest
A compilation of resources that can be used for research, teaching, and other outreach activities from the American Sociological Association: https://www.asanet.org/news-events/asa-news/resources-race-police-violence-and-justice