My CV in Fighting Racial Prejudice

1960  Aged 16, I organised a debate at my school “This House condemns Apartheid in South Africa”.

1962 I joined the Anti Arpartheid group at LSE

1965  As President of Debates at LSE, I helped organise Malcolm X’s visit to LSE

1967-1969 I worked with  Ronnie Kasrils in London (he was at LSE for a while) to organize opposition to the  South African government.

1970- 1975 I worked in Notting Hill and Chalk Farm with various anarchist groups. We fought racism by supporting local black groups fight police busts, racist landords and racist government officials. I was part of a group in Chalk farm who went with black Londoners (mostly from the Caribbean) to fight for their rights in local magistrates courts and government departments, notably social security. I worked with a radical solicitor (Bernie Simons) on a number of cases to defend innocent black Londoners against trumped-up charges.  I was also part of a group who gave evening classes to local young people (many of whom were black) to help them with their school studies.

1972 – 1974 I worked with radical black groups in Chicago and with the San Francisco branch of the Black Panthers. I gave two series of seminars to members and followers on Marxism and Anarchism and I rode in cars with armed Panthers who followed the police to monitor their stops on black African Americans.

1960 – 1980 In the UK, I was involved in a number of conferences and workshops involving local officials and members of the government where racial prejudice was attacked and solutions proposed.

1980 – While living in Spain, I have taken an active part in various campaigns to combat racial prejudice and spoken out every time I’ve ever heard people making racist comments or treating people of colour disrespectfully.  

All my life I have fought racial prejudice. I’ve been beaten up by cops and racists. I’ve lost jobs, been arrested and put in prison for my efforts. I have on a few occasions started fights in bars and restaurants when I’ve witnessed people being insulted or badly treated because of the colour of their skin.  

I feel obliged to defend myself in this way because recently I’ve been accused of being a racist on Twitter and other parts of the Social Media. All of the attacks stem from an exchange I had with a black American who accused me of racism because I said he was talking crap. My “guilt” was sealed by a review I did of an article that the same man wrote with two co-authors. “He’s done it again!” tweeted the now twice offended black guy.

And the same man recently said on Twitter something like “It seems that years ago he spoke truth to power, but now he’s just a sad, cranky old man, unwilling to accept his obsolescence”. He refuses to acknowledge that his accusation is false, he uses my age to insult me in a way I never insulted him, and he uses my age and whiteness to dodge the criticisms I make of his published work. His followers, and those who are only too happy to see me insulted, back him up.     


On 31st May, Rob Sheppard tweeted the following thread about this post      


My concern in this post is to support my claim that the accusations of racism made against me are wrong and unfair. I give my “CV” in order to suggest that the comments I made about Gerald’s tweets and articles are unlikely to be explained by racism. After a life dedicated to fighting racism, why would I suddenly stoop to it for the first time in my life when arguing with Gerald on Twitter?

Sheppard’s tweets seem to say “Today, we’re less concerned about people being racists and more about combating the ways that we all inevitably participate in racism. Since you frequently critique people’s work in a way that many [including Sheppard, of course] strongly disapprove of, and since you tried to “tear down” the work of a young black scholar, you should stop making all this effort to defend yourself and, instead, reflect on the consequences of your online behaviour.” The message seems to be: it’s your own fault that you’ve been called out as a racist.

First, I do not participate in racism; not in what I say, nor in what I do. However much the current turn in anti-racist work might be about combating general social attitudes and practices, I’m defending myself against a personal attack: I was personally “called out” as a racist.

Second, I think it’s an unfair exaggeration to say that I tried to tear down Gerald’s work. I supported the attempt of the authors to bring attention to the problems of what they call “Standardized English”, and suggested that they needed to build a stronger case. My remarks about Gerald’s style were seized on as evidence of racism. See my reply.

Third, I know perfectly well that many people intensely dislike many of my posts, and maybe many of them intensely dislike me. That’s OK by me. I appreciate that I’ve been rude about individuals, although I have, pace Sheppard, on a number of occasions, publically recognised and apologised for offensive remarks, and deleted the offending blog posts. Still, I recognise that I’ve “blotted my copybook”, so to speak, enough times for Sheppard’s remarks to have some force. He’s quite right to say that I too often adopt the wrong tone and that I show little sign of learning from my mistakes.

But what isn’t OK by me is being called a racist. I find the accusation abhorrent. That’s why I’ve taken the trouble to defend myself by 1) answering a series of tweets describing me as a “trash person”, … “called out for racism”, and 2) writing this “CV”.

Gerald’s accusations of racism about me are unfounded and unfair, as are similar remarks made by others. Nobody who has called me a racist has given any but the flimsiest of evidence to support these accusations, and I hope my “CV” serves as counter evidence. Of course, it’s hard to prove that you’re NOT a racist or to live with the smear, once it’s been made. Sheppard might like to reflect on that.

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