In defence of Blackness

I joined a Facebook group today. Black4 Palestine.

After over two decades, I felt joy in seeing the rising of the colour black, and a greater one on seeing that it was Black4Palestine.

In Britain as well as the US,  apart from people of African descent, most Asians have almost stopped using the term black to describe themselves. Asian artists, comedians and bloggers often call themselves Brown.

Not long ago, in Britain, people from Africa and Asia, were united around the colour black. Around a common slogan: Black People Must Unite – Here to Stay, Here To Fight.

We Asians, didn’t stop being Asians, when we called ourselves black: Pakistanis were still Pakistanis; Indians still Indian; Kashmiris still Kashmiris. It was inclusive, based on our shared and common experiences. And calling ourselves black didn’t upset our God, or gods, or disbelievers: Muslims were still muslims; Sikhs still Sikh, Hindus still Hindus; Christians still Christians and the disbelievers still disbelievers. Infact, when racists attacked a place of workshop, no matter who we were, we defended each other.

The white people we saw, were not paper white, but  a blotch of pink. Yet, we the people of colour, had a colour problem, but it was not skin deep. It was not with a shade of brown, for that is all ‘black’ is –  we had a common enemy – racism.  Black and White were, and are political colours,

In 1981, British streets erupted with the first major national youth uprising, involving thousands of black- Afro-Asian youth, but also many working class white youth. The overwhelming majority of white youth did not come to attack us, but stood with us.


The British state, following Lord Scarman’s recommendations, began flooding the ghettos with money. Many of those who had yesterday, stood on a black platform, an independent platform of community self organisation, began to chase the money and fragmented into Ethnic Minority and Monitoring projects of all shapes and sizes.

Joining the Black4Palestine FB group, also reminded me, that we were only black in a white world, in the belly of the beast, and Black4Palestine, reminded me of another lesson. I used to believe that Palestine was a Muslim-Jew thing. But then I came across the name of George Habash. It was in the Bradford Central Library, in Yorkshire. I saw a magazine called Free Palestine. I couldn’t understand what a Christian had to do with Palestine. I read all the magazines.

I learnt that Palestine was a land occupied by Zionists, in the name of Jews. Zionism was an unchangeable racist ideology. An illegitimate child of white supremacy, not Judaism. Around the same time I heard of the term Black Power.

When I first heard the term Black Power, it hit a nerve I didn’t know I had. I didn’t want to admit it, but I liked the idea. I was young. A forced migrant to Britain. I didn’t understand what it really stood for, but it meant something to me, something I could not quiet articulate at the time. What I didn’t need to articulate was the lesson of the English street.. This was in the late 1960s and ’70s onwards. On them, and in school playgrounds, on the buses and on the way home, a thousand and one taunts made me into a Paki, a wog and a black bastard, among other expletives. The educational world of the school was white. Christianity with a blue-eyed Jesus Christ, was not the Arab Prophet I had been told of; history was a glorified white, and whites were right, and right was might and wasn’t the ‘black whole of Calcutta’ so terrible for all those kind innocent white people; and how amazing white people were,  the only man to talk to the animals in Africa was a yodeling white man, Tarzan. I often ran from white terror on the streets, and hid deep inside racist myths in school, for a while.

When I first heard the term Black Power, I believed white people,were omnipotent. It was by accident I learnt otherwise. A white boy, who often bullied me, came to hit me. I raised my hand and unintentionally struck his nose. He bled. He cried. His blood was red, like mine. He hurt, like me. I lost fear of whiteness, and never let a white boy hit me again, without hitting back. But  whilst I had lost fear of whiteness. Then I had no idea of the strength of blackness. I still saw my problems as mine, not ours, and didn’t know who us might be.

The future is not white – but beautiful black.

Let us reclaim the colour black.——–END

For more info on Asian Youth Movements

My new novel

You're Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s