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.

Links:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/27/the-windrush-scandal-tv-drama-people-will-be-up-in-arms-when-they-see-this
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/may/31/when-they-see-us-review-netflix-ava-duvernay-central-park-five

About

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.

Steering Committee:

Chair: Dr Monish Bhatia, Birkbeck College – m.bhatia@bbk.ac.uk
Professor Peter Squires, University of Brighton – p.a.squires@brighton.ac.uk
Dr Rod Earle, Open University – rod.earle@open.ac.uk
Dr Anthony Gunter , University of East London – a.gunter@uel.ac.uk
Dr Zoë James, University of Plymouth – Z.James@plymouth.ac.uk
Gemma Lousley – g.lousley@bbk.ac.uk
Dr Suzella Palmer, University of Bedfordshire – suzella.palmer@beds.ac.uk
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 – coretta.phillips@lse.ac.uk
Dr Alpa Parmar– alpa.parmar@crim.ox.ac.uk
Sarah Brooks-Wilson – s.brooks-wilson@bham.ac.uk
Angela Charles, Open University

Forthcoming Events

BSC Race Matters Network Race and Justice Seminar Series – 16 May 2024 The Law of Racial Resentment
 
16 May 2024,  4 – 5pm
 
Speaker: Dr Yuvraj Joshi (Brooklyn Law School, New York)
 
Discussant: Dr Aaron Winter (Lancaster University, Sociology Department).
 
Register here.
 
 
Speaker Bio:
 
Dr Joshi is an Associate Professor at Brooklyn Law School, where he teaches and writes on constitutional law and issues of equality. He is also a Faculty Affiliate at the UCLA Promise Institute for Human Rights and a Research Scholar at the UC Berkeley Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law.
 
Prior to joining Brooklyn Law School, Professor Joshi taught at the University of British Columbia Allard School of Law. His career experience includes extensive work in human rights research and advocacy, including for Human Rights Watch and Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund. He practiced with Linklaters LLP in London, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.
 
Professor Joshi’s research is in the areas of constitutional and comparative law, racial equality law, gender and sexuality law, and human rights. His latest scholarship is published or forthcoming in the Columbia Law Review, the California Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the Georgetown Law Journal, the Northwestern University Law Review, and the UCLA Law Review. His work has received accolades from the Association of American Law Schools and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers. He is also a regular media commentator.
 
Professor Joshi created a “Law and Inequality” course which hosts leading equality scholars from across the world. He has been a featured speaker on equality issues at more than forty institutions internationally. He has also held fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies.
 
Discussant Bio:
 
Dr Aaron Winter is Senior Lecturer in Sociology (Race and Anti-Racism) at Lancaster University. Prior to Lancaster, he taught at the Universities of East London, Abertay, Sussex and Brighton. His research is on the far right with a focus on racism, mainstreaming and violence, and on race, counterextremism and counterterrorism. He is co-author, with Aurelien Mondon, of Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream (Verso, 20202), and co-editor of Discourses and Practices of Terrorism: Interrogating Terror (Routledge, 2010), New Challenges for the EU Internal Security Strategy (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), Reflexivity in Criminological Research Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless (Palgrave, 2014), Historical Perspectives on Organised Crime and Terrorism (Routledge, 2018) and Researching the Far Right: Theory, Method, Practice (Routledge, 2020). He has published in the journals Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of Political Ideologies, Sociological Research Online, and Women and Performance, and is co-editor of Identities and the Manchester University Press (MUP) book series Racism, Resistance and Social Change. He has been interviewed by the BBC, CBC, LBC, NBC, Radio France, The Washington Post, The Times, The Telegraph, Wired, NewStatesman, HuffPost, Oriental Morning Post, Dundee Courier and Gara,. He has also appeared on the podcasts Surviving Society, Politics Theory Other, The Malcolm Effect, Who do we think we are?, Enemies of the People Pod, The Sociology Show, and Hope Not Hate. For further information and publications please see: https://uel.academia.edu/AaronWinter

 
Spitting Truth(s) to Power: Rap Music as Evidence of Racial Injustice
 
30 May 2024, 12:30 – 1:30pm
 
Rap music is frequently admitted into court as incriminating ‘evidence’ that stereotypically portrays defendants as ‘criminally minded’, ‘gang-affiliated’ desperadoes, whose creative output becomes proof of their ‘bad character’. Writing against such racist mythologies that (re)produce stereotypical associations between Black music genres and ‘criminality’, rap is approached instead as an eloquent testimony of racial injustice that puts the legal-penal system on the stand. Drawing on UK drill music as the latest rap subgenre to be targeted as criminogenic, this talk outlines the carceral logics and tactics turn Black artistic expression into a criminal offence—arguing that the performative violence in drill exposes the actual violence with which it is suppressed, in ways that urge us to rethink our relationship with ‘the law’ and ‘justice’ as critical scholars and citizens alike.
 
Past Events

Race and Justice Seminar Series

BSC Race Matters Network Race and Justice Seminar Series – 27 March 12:30-13:30 GMT 

Speaker(s): Lucy Mayblin, Thom Davies, Arshad Isakjee, Joe Turner, and Tesfalem Yemane

Registration link (virtual event).

‘Bringing Order to Border’: Liberal and Illiberal Racism, Technocracy, and Postcolonial Borders in the English Channel.

In 2018 people began to cross the English Channel in significant numbers to seek asylum in the UK using small boats for the first time in several decades. These crossings were produced by the steady development of bordering and policing of the Channel, and the fortification of the port of Calais since the 1960s. These recent small boat crossings have sparked a political ‘crisis’ and a raft of new legislation seeking to criminalise people crossing the Channel, end rights to seek asylum in the UK and ‘offshore’; criminalised populations to third countries (including the UK-Rwanda partnership). As has been demonstrated extensively, none of these extreme responses will stop small boat crossings, they will only produce further suffering. In this event, we explore the interaction of two sets of fantasies that are advanced by politicians and mainstream political parties in the UK to ‘stop the boats’.

That is: the liberal technocratic fantasy – that this phenomenon can be efficiently ‘fixed’ through interventions in policing and multilateral cooperation with neighbouring EU states; and illiberal fantasy that extreme and performative punishments can solve it. These fantasies intersect and break at different points in time, ultimately feeding each other. They involve many of the same policy solutions which are represented in different terms. Importantly, both of these fantasies reproduce colonial racist logics and ultimately serve border imperialism.

 

 

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

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. 

 

5 December 3-4.30pm. Dr Esmorie Miller (Lancaster University, Department of Criminology): What’s it all about, Jose? Inventing the black, racialized youth as intractably deviant outsiders, in interwar Britain. Register here.
 
To date, race’s place in early twentieth-century British and Canadian youth penal reform remains unexplored in criminological histories. Yet rich histories of class and gender contribute to our understanding, by linking past and present. Scholars continue to reiterate a need to historicize contemporary concerns about race, crime, and punishment, beyond the American context. Indeed, extant scholarship draw attention to Black youth’s increasing rates of incarceration, exposing the normalization of extreme punishment for this demographic. This presentation identifies interwar England as two prescient examples. Against the backdrop of the deviance invention logic well established in youth justice, the presentation offers an expanded explanatory scope in the Intractability, Malleability (I/M) thesis (Miller, 2022). This is an original, integrated social theoretical logic with the capacity to progress the customary analytical scope. The I/M thesis advances a socio-historical account, exploring Black youth’s positioning as constitutive of the continuity of racialized people’s historic exclusion from the benefits of modern rights, including lenience and care. The I/M logic takes its analytical currency from a combined critical race theory (CRT) and recognition theory. Youth’s disproportionately high punishment rates are examined as a greater issue of exclusion.
 
 

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 linkhttps://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

Speakers:

‘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.

Discussant:

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. 

Dr Jamie Amparo Alves: ‘Blackscapes: Urban Precarity, State Violence and Insurgent Politics in a Zone of Nonbeing’ – 6-7.30pm, 30 June 2022.

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 – m.bhatia@bbk.ac.uk

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