This post refers to an article from the Guardian newspaper, from 6th April 2019, titled 'White Australia can't solve black problems. White Australia is the problem'.
I am returning to the issue of colonialism here.
Firstly, due to a need to re-emphasise the critical importance of it as an issue. To acknowledge that it does *exist*, here, in London, in 2019. And also to promote and argue for a collective deconstruction of the forms it has taken here in West London (something that the Review into Institutional Racism will no doubt contribute to).
Secondly, in order to link this local exisitence to the ongoing international reality, I am taking an opportunity to show how our local example corresponds (sometimes quite remarkably) with international insights into the pracitices, behaviours and, in the end, relentlessly damaging outcomes of colonialism. In this case, with an extract from a piece of work focused on one of the most recognisable examples of this hugely influential cultural phenomena that persists across every continent on earth. A phenomena that billions of human beings find themselves at various stages of extracting themselves from.
On reading words from the new book from Melbourne University's Professor of Politics, Sarah Maddison, my mind, as it so often does, effortlessly translates those words into our local context.
I say 'effortless' specifically.
It causes me no effort to read passages that make complete sense when transposed to another setting. There is no tension, no friction. There is an instant and lucid recognition that whilst the Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people of Australia have suffered loss and persecution and marginalisation on a level some distance from my own and that of the North Kensington community in all its diversity and relative privilege, we do sit together, with billions of our fellow human beings on an uninterrupted spectrum marked 'living with colonialism in all its varied forms'. And hence we can reasonably take heart from each others progress along that spectrum, as much as we feel the pain of each others ongoing suffering and setbacks.
The people of Australia (and the Americas) are dealing with the theft of many millions of acres and the genocide of many millions of people over hundreds of years.
The respective numbers are 23 and 72+* for North Kensington. But, the need for self-determination and having "substantive decision-making power" (in the words of Stephen Cornell from the Native Nations Institute in the US) in local hands is similar.
The closeness of our possible relief from the local suffering - because we believe we have identified solutions and are constantly frustrated in implementing those solutions - is a source of consternation.
Let us be absolutely clear. We know for a fact that the influence of Westway23 members and wider community operating *outside* of the organisation has brought about by far the most change to the organisation.
Nothing less than a sea change in representation within the organisation has a hope of making a sustainable difference.
It is ludicrous to claim that we are even remotely adequately represented because seven (out of 14) members of the board (including non-voting co-optees) are local, when:
- One is a member of Westway23. A co-opted Trustee who was blocked by the Executive (yes, blocked) from taking a place on the full board, even whilst another member of Westway23 was stepping down due to the draining reality of tokenism
- One of them is a co-opted Trustee who was previously a tokenistic community Trustee for nine years and admitted to letting down the community by not raising the alarm on the Insitutional Racism she witnessed all the way back in 2014.
- One of them is a member-nominated Trustee who has publicly supported Alan Brown and all his racist tendencies and has said objectionable things about members of our community
- One of them is a former planning professional from St Quintin's Estate (an estate where regeneration equates to multimillionaire basement refurbs) who has publicly suggested that Westway23 are a little too noisy in our objections (objections that led directly to him being recruited as a co-opted Trustee as it happens)
- Three of them are political party councillors
It is not credible. It is a perversion of statistics to retain a status quo that benefits an elite (elite only by way of income generation by the way, as far as I can see).
"Drawing on decades of research on the resurgence and success of Native Nations, [Cornell] argues that three important things happen when Indigenous peoples gain power over their own affairs. “First, bureaucratic priorities are replaced by Indigenous priorities, thereby gaining Indigenous support for initiatives and programs. Second, decisions begin to reflect local knowledge and concerns. One of the great fantasies of colonialism, still alive in the Indigenous affairs bureaucracies of the world, is the idea that ‘we know what’s best for you’. But we don’t. And the third thing that happens is that decisions get linked to consequences. When Indigenous peoples themselves are in charge, they pay the price for bad decisions and reap the rewards of good ones. Jurisdiction, in other words, creates accountability.”
The reasons for such self empowerment for Indigeneous people are clear for Cornell. And my argument is that those reasons ring similarly true for a socio-economically vulnerable community that has suffered the ongoing exploitation of its resources by an organisation that has produced hundreds of millions of pounds intended as compensation, yet never had significant or sustained local leadership from that very community.
Westway23 continues to demand and work toward a complete and immediate rebalancing of the Westway Trust board of Trustees, to ensure a real opportunity for radical change.
Westway23 continue to demand the end (in as quick a process as possible) of a corporate Executive structure that enables millions of pounds to be funnelled out of the local area each year through salaries and professional fees.
To paraphrase the linked article's headline: Professional outsiders cannot solve North Kensington's problems. Professional outsiders are the problem.
*In addition to the further uncounted deaths that can be attributed to addictions, malnutritions, mental health tragedies, pollution and violence that have resulted in a life expectancy gap of 20 years.
THE GUARDIAN ARTICLE:
Westway Trust Exposed 2015 AGM