The New Mills Transition Reading Group meets monthly, currently on Zoom, to discuss a book, watch a film/video or host a speaker. This month we discussed Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Racism by Reni Eddo-Lodge. We are all white but some have close family members and friends who are people of colour.
Participants liked the book, found it readable and appreciated the author’s use of her personal experiences and anecdotes to explain well, in a few words, the situations and double binds that black people find themselves in when talking to white people about racism.
We found useful her explanation of the difference between prejudice and racism (prejudice plus power) and the discussion of institutionalised and structural racism. We found useful, if uncomfortable, her critique of the liberal approach which says ’everyone is equal’ but denies the existence of the power imbalance.
The chapter on black history was good and led to a discussion about the slave trade, the development in the 19th century of a pseudoscience of racism, and the ways in which groups are deliberately ‘dehumanised’ in order to allow exploitation, discrimination, mistreatment or justify war. We looked at how the definitions and categories of racism have changed over time and place.
We discussed the powerful role of the media and culture in shaping and supporting racist ideology but noted that this reflects the structures of power in our society. Living in a small, predominantly white town whiteness is easily seen as the norm and we need to make more visible the diversity of backgrounds that we already have in order to challenge that assumption. We discussed the section on feminism, racism in the women’s liberation movement (several of us are watching Mrs America) and the issue of intersectionality of different oppressions.
Being white and looking at racism from the position of privilege is uncomfortable but inaction is collusion. She puts it to white people to talk to each other and take action. We discussed experiences of interrupting racist comments and the Quaker response ‘I wouldn’t see it that way myself’. Change needs to happen in tandem between personal change together with social and institutional changes. Other suggestions from the group were – be friendly to counteract the hostility of white racism, get comfortable acknowledging mistakes.
We are delighted to welcome Peter Macfadyen, author of the renowned book Flatpack Democracy (and 2!).
Starting in the Somerset town of Frome in 2013, the Flatpack Democracy movement has shown that by standing as a group of independent local councillors working closely together, people all over the country can and do steer their local councils to thrive and prosper. Flatpack Democracy is a practical guide and inspiration!
Join us on Thursday, 2 July 2020 from 19:30-21:30, using the link below:
Feel free to invite your friends, too!
For further reading in the meantime, click here: https://www.flatpackdemocracy.co.uk/about/
The Transition New Mills Reading Group continues to meet monthly on Zoom, to discuss a book, watch a film/video or host a speaker. This month we discussed Dieter Helm’s book Green and Prosperous Land – A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside.
Dieter Helm is an economist and brings a pragmatic view to the discussion of how to repair the damage that has been done to the environment in the UK. He explains the concept of Natural Capital, these are free, natural assets. Some are non-renewable such as fossil fuels, others are productive on an ongoing basis and will deliver returns for ever unless they are damaged below a base survival level, for example our rivers/water supplies, land, marine environment etc
There are three principles underlying his proposal – Public money should only be used for public goods, the Polluter should pay and there should always be a Net environmental gain. He presents a strong argument for the inclusion of external costs (eg pollution) in the cost of things as this will lead to changes in behaviour. (we referred to the plastic bag charge several times as an example of how things can change behaviour overnight).
He chaired a government committee which has drawn up a 25 year plan to restore and improve the natural environment in the UK. It involves major changes to taxes, subsidies, regulation and enforcement but argues for local non profits (ie not government or private sector) to be the main agents to carry out the delivery. This is a very detailed and comprehensive plan which shows what can be done with the resources available to turn environmental degradation around.
We had some criticisms – that it only refers to the UK and some issues are global (eg. the aviation industry) and/or involve our relationship with other countries (for example food security) and there is no reference to wider issues such as class or decolonisation which could be relevant to the current situation.
With unprecedented national public interest in addressing climate change, the impact of and reaction to coronavirus, and the vision of the Community Conversation, Transition New Mills is poised for its most significant year yet.
There are lots of ways you can get involved to help reimagine and rebuild our town; you don’t have to be an environmental campaigner, an expert in anything, or have lots of time on your hands. None of us can solve the climate and natural crises on our own; we need to harness the collective energy and capacity of the town and everyone in it.
The diagram below suggests how Transition New Mills can operate. Anyone can place themselves on it wherever they feel most comfortable. For example, you might want to join in another group’s related activities (such as the Litter Pickers), a Transition supported project (such as the Repair Cafe), help with project mentoring or some of the administrative tasks, or join the Committee.
Looking forward to the AGM next Sunday evening (3rd May), we will be holding elections for up to 9 posts on the Committee. If you’re interested in that sort of role to help steer us forward, please do let us know beforehand by emailing email@example.com.
Alternatively, if there’s any other way suggested by the diagram in which you think you could contribute, do also get in touch and together we can start creating a resilient, sustainable and ethical future!
To attend the 2020 virtual AGM on Zoom, please see joining instructions and papers here.