“At 15 she was old enough to know what she is doing”. This seems to be the conclusion to the case of Shamima Begum, most lately taken up by the Supreme Court, who in 2015 was an east London 15 year old school girl groomed online to join IS in Syria. The Supreme Court have ruled that she cannot have a fair trial in the UK due to alleged national security concerns associated with returning for it and have approved her British citizenship being removed.

In light of this ruling, the first of many questions is, why has Begum’s childhood, for she was 15 at the time, been discarded so readily from the equation in the Supreme Court’s ruling? And what is the significance of denying her childhood? Being a child usually means we are granted innocence. But that innocence is denied when children belong to marginalised groups. In this case Begum’s Muslimness — under the system of oppression, Islamophobia — has her as a threat, and a danger, above all else.

Image of a statue of “Lady Justice” holding scales, wearing a blindfold, with a sword in her right hand. A Gavel is seen, blurry, in the background. Getty Images/iStockphoto.

And it’s not just Begum. Prevent, instituted in 2003 and later becoming a…

This post is an offering to anyone who would like to better understand the need to take a stand when it comes to the injustice Palestinians are facing; why this isn’t a ‘complicated issue’ that we can prevaricate over; and why Palestinian liberation is connected to liberation struggles the world over — including the fight against antisemitism. As many people were drawn to grow their anti-racist practice, as the global movement for Black Lives reignited after police murdered George Floyd, this piece seeks to also connect the fight for Palestinian liberation within a wider anti-racist and anti-colonial framework.

By Asher Firestone, Hanna Naima McCloskey and Sara Shahvisi

Over the last couple of weeks, the fight for Palestinian liberation has gained international attention once more as right wing Israeli settlers — with the backing of the state — have been expelling Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, an area of annexed East Jerusalem (to the East of the Green Line, the line that refers to the pre-1967 border between Occupied Palestine and Israel).

[Image description: map of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas illustrating where the Green Line runs with Sheikh Jarrah to the right of it and Israel to the left of it. The image also illustrates other boundary lines as defined by the British, Israel and Arab municipality under Jordanian rule from 1923 to the turn of the century. Photo by The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA)]

The attention has been in large part due to Palestinians being able to share the violence they have been enduring by the Israeli Defense Forces…

In light of the murders in Atlanta by a white man, Robert Aaron Long, of 8 Asian people, 6 of them women, and wider commentary surrounding it, I have put together an offering to those who wish to deepen their understanding of Anti-Asian Racism, specifically with relation to East Asian communities. It is no more than a starting point. I did this for a former participant to support them make sense of what happened. This is not exhaustive, however I hope it might be helpful for those who want to orient themselves with how this violence was made possible and to see how this act was not isolated but in fact part of a longer process — in order for us to strengthen our solidarities with Asian communities. While what follows focuses on America, anti-Asian racism is not confined to that geography but also has happened and is happening in Europe.

The first point to raise is that what people have been calling anti-Asian sentiment or hate is actually anti-Asian racism. It is crucial to use accurate language to describe what has and is happening because language shapes our understanding of the world. Both ‘sentiment’ and ‘hate’ individualise the nature of the harm to mere personal grievances that some people may have towards Asian people, which erases and obscures the systemic nature of racism, allowing us to dismiss violence as the consequence of the odd ‘bad apple’. Further, hate as in ‘hate crime’ is best understood in the words Ruby Beth

You might think this is too obvious a sentence starter to be useful. Of course there is a problem with it, I hear you exclaim — there are many, in fact! But what if the problem wasn’t just how it manifests but also its very conceptualisation?

‘Privilege’ has been in the mainstream for some time, increasingly so in recent years, as a term that is used to describe the ‘unearned advantages’ afforded to a group of people based on their identity. Many people, including Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University, trace it back to W.E.B Dubois’s idea of the ‘public and psychological wage’ of whiteness. It gained later prominence through Peggy McIntosh’s 2003 article ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack’, in which she lists 50 examples of ‘white privilege’ that she is afforded.

The identification of sites of privilege can be very useful…

Many companies are seeking to hire Diversity and Inclusion Leads as a response to what has been revealed to them through the Black Lives Matter uprisings over the last 6 weeks and their confrontation with the absence of their action. If your company is going down this route, we offer some questions that could feature within the interview process.

First off though, it’s worth saying that the very act of creating a D&I Lead where there was none does not in and of itself do anything. It is not absolution, an ointment, redemption or a remedy for times gone past. It doesn’t even mean that the future is bright. Further, in our experience it’s generally unreasonable to have just one person solely responsible for this endeavour. If you’re a small organisation, all the more reason that building equity into the organisation should be everyone’s priority, and if you’re a large organisation, a team will be necessary by definition to…

This week something has become rather popular during these Corona times: articles identifying that countries responding well to the pandemic are led by women leaders doing womanly leadership, see for example here and here.

This is great, isn’t it?! Go women! What critiques could Fearless Futures possibly have, we hear you exclaim!

Funny you should mention it, a few actually.

What’s often assumed though left unsaid, when making the claim that it is these leaders’ ‘femaleness’ or ‘womanly-ness’ causing these distinct behaviours, is the common idea that there is in fact some core essence to being a woman. A right way to be a woman that generates these wonderfully womanly behaviours we are seeing these leaders display.

Is it having the right primary sex characteristics? Or the right secondary sex characteristics? Or is it…

The spread of the corona virus, people’s responses in the face of information about new ways to behave, alongside government action, offer up illuminating insights for how we can re-think how we bring about change in service of inclusion in our organisations.

Image description: A view from outside a house into a living room as a person reclines on the sofa reading a book. By their front door is a delivery person knocking carrying parcels. Illustration by Brittany England.

ONE. Awareness is not enough.

One of the common refrains that we frequently encounter as we engage in the organisations where we work is that people ‘just need to be made aware of inequality’ in order for cultures of inclusion to be made possible. The argument goes that people are in a soporific state, unknowing, and that once we provide them with a lightning bolt of information — all will be made clear to them and their run towards inclusive behaviour will commence. Predicated at the root of this thinking is the latent ‘good intensions’ of staff. In this paradigm, staff actually are deeply committed…

Words have meanings. And as a general rule, it’s extremely useful to ensure definitionally we are all on the same page — otherwise we can end up in chaos. As such, we wanted to share that we often get asked, “why — given that ageism is an ism — do Fearless Futures not conceive of it as an oppression, when most of the oppressions you explore also have ‘isms’ at the end?”. We answer this pertinent question below using a handy conceptual framework to assist us with this analysis.

A loose and handy criteria for assessing an oppression is whether the phenomena meets the two key ingredients: Prejudice + Power. This was conceived by Patricia Bidol in 1970 in the context of racism. It can usefully be extended to other oppressions. To break this formula down:

Prejudice equates to the negative ideas that we hold about a certain group (to the benefit of another group for whom we conversely hold positive ideas by definition). For example, Muslim people are seen as a group as dangerous because of the construction of their faith as somehow inherently violent. …

This is from the Fearless Futures Newsletter, that goes out weekly on Wednesdays. If you’re like to receive it, please sign up here (link opens in new window).

There is significant alarm and panic about the Coronavirus that scientists have deemed to have originated in a Wuhan Market, in China, with information about its spread dominating the news cycle. Yet, already this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA estimates that more than 15 million people in the U.S. have gotten sick with flu, more than 150,000 Americans have been hospitalized, and more than 8,000 people have died from their infection, so tells NPR (opens in new link). Apparently, it’s not even a bad year for flu.

Why are flu-based deaths in the…

If you’ve not been confronted with this potent phrase, one among many toxic phrases that dominates ‘diversity’ conversations, then you’re lucky. Challenging the ideas bound up in the ‘lowering the bar’ accusation is central in the battle over who belongs.

“I’m all for the diversity and inclusion agenda,” they say, while nodding affirmatively, “but I just don’t want us lowering the bar!”

And, with those words, my smile turns to a grimace. Oh no. This conversation won’t be as speedy as I thought. We have a lot to unpack here.

Why do people say this? If we were to give people the world’s most generous interpretation ever for using this phrase, we might say that they are letting us know:

We are an organisation with high performance expectations and we pride ourselves on hiring the brightest people to solve the…

Hanna Naima McCloskey

CEO @ Fearless Futures. Educator. Innovator. Design for Inclusion.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store