Being a Black Christian Woman in Brexit Britain

The February Diversity lecture at Newbold College of Higher Education was a sober reminder of the dangers of partial story-telling in the country and in the churches.

Speaking on the evening of 5th February in Newbold’s Smith Centre, the lecturer, Chine McDonald - Media, PR & Content Lead at Christian Aid, offered insights into three stories and the dangers of telling them lazily. The first was McDonald’s own story as an African woman growing up in the UK. Inevitably that story has intertwined with the Brexit story. And then there was the story of her experience in the church. All three offered challenges for serious reflection.

A Nigerian Ibo woman born in Lagos, McDonald moved to the UK at age 4. Chine recounted her heightened awareness of the way in which she and her maiden name, Mbubaegbu, were viewed. Some British preconceptions about Africa, the vast sprawling diverse and beloved continent of her birth, were betrayed by people’s questions: ‘Did you live in the jungle?', 'Have you seen a lion?', 'Did you have enough food to eat?' She often wondered whether these preconceptions formed barriers of 'otherness' that had to be overcome before people could get to know the person behind the name.

Working with Christian Aid, she has become particularly aware of the role of NGO communications in shaping foreign perceptions of African progress. Stories about poverty in her homeland and the myth of the 'white saviour' show that "we simplify each other into the stories we have about each other," she said. "We tell a lazy story about what is wrong the world. In all our storytelling we have to do better than this."

Focusing on to her life as a black woman in Brexit Britain, McDonald recounted her growing recognition as a child that to be black made her in some way ‘lesser’ and ‘other’ – and to be a woman was similarly marginalising. The effect of the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence when she was nine years old changed "the way we felt about our UK home," she said. "We felt vulnerable and conspicuous." When she was sneered at in the street on her way from the Brexit vote (before the result was known), she was reminded of that earlier time. Since then, the "unspeakable has become not only speakable but commonplace."

And so to the responsibility of the church. "Diversity is a fact but inclusion is a choice," Chine reminded us. People of faith have a responsibility to be destroyers of walls. We must listen to people from ethnic minorities who say they feel unsafe and unwelcome. We must recognise, call out and report racism both inside and outside the walls of the church. And this is advice for everyone. "However we voted in the [Brexit] referendum, we must not tolerate prejudice and xenophobia of any kind in our midst."

But McDonald was clearly not in favour of being colour blind or failing to enjoy diversity. She painted a picture of the multicultural Britain that she loves in Deptford, near her home: "Cockney butchers next to Halal butchers. Nigerian hairdressers being visited by south-east Asians and sharing food at lunchtimes." The important thing is "to appreciate better the advantages of otherness and difference" and "to offer each other the hand of friendship not in a trite and superficial way but with a deep level of understanding that is rooted and established in love."

She emphasised that we must overcome our natural tendencies to blame the other as she talked about more than just gaining understanding and building community across ethnic divides. In response to questions in the Q&A session, she shared her thoughts on the whole issue of gender in a world where she is frequently in the minority in the boardroom. Some female theology students in the audience sought recommendations on support and self-care for women leaders. McDonald encouraged them to develop a support network of women in leadership.

The lecture finished with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Birmingham [Alabama, USA] jail. "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and, in some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

The full lecture can be viewed online on the Facebook page of Newbold College of Higher Education: https://www.facebook.com/newboldcollege/videos/356839614904695/

This article was written by Helen Pearson and originally appeared tedNEWS, an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division.

Images courtesy of Victor Hulbert, tedNews.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9431
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As the Adventist Church is so passionate about “winning souls” – evangelism, we must be just as passionate, or even more, about social justice. This is the message of Isaiah 61. It is a shame that we would win a soul and care not about justice. Don’t we say we speak to the whole person–body, mind, and soul? We are still doing the same today. We care about numbers, not persons.

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Racism and xenophobia can never be tolerated, full stop.
Nevertheless, it seems to be impossible to talk about British culture, what is to be admired and cherished etc without being called racist or encouraging those who truly are.
Surely there is a level of grief and loss involved when a local community becomes unrecognisable to its people.
Those in the West seem to be the only people’s without a culture worth celebrating and preserving. No one seems to expect the Japanese to turn Tokyo into a majority foreign born city and in fact, tourists would no doubt be disappointed if they had to go in search of the “old” Tokyo if the city had become segregated into enclaves.
If think Britain has been about as welcoming and understanding of the dramatic changes post WW2 as anywhere.

I suggest Brexit was about getting out of some unelected beauracrats in Brussels dictating to the British people how they were to function as Democratic Parliamentary monarchy as a people.

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I suggest Brexit was about racism and xenophobia, it was about “othering” and many more exclusionary ideas. Brexit was about scapegoating and scaremongering, it was about hiding the fact that the reason for austerity and lack of jobs was mismanagement and a lack of investment not from Brussels but Westminster. Brexit was about nostalgia for an empire and a world order that no longer exists, a world that has Britain controlling territories and able to rape people of their natural resources.

Regardless, since Brexit there has been an increase in hate related crimes, and these are just the reported figures. Coincidence? Maybe. But then there are plenty on anecdotal stories of people being told “We voted Brexit so you need to get out of our country”… and guess who is on the receiving end of the majority of the prejudiced statements. hint They have a lot of melanin.

That there is a level of grief and loss that is experienced when a community becomes unrecognisable, the British should understand… considering the amount of communities they have changed. Tell that to the communities they continue to change with their political manipulations, their interfering in Syria, the illegal war in Iraq and its repercussions. The list is endless.

Britain harps on about empire and the Commonwealth, but if is subjects are not able to come to Britain where all the wealth is hoarded, where is the common wealth?

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Just curious but is Brussels God to fix all that? Brussels is about a vision of a united Europe that protects a group of elite globalist, international banks and companies.
Just my take and obviously you are welcome to yours.

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Well just replace Britain with probably the most liberal, welfare supportive and welcoming country in Europe ie Sweden. The result of mass immigration is the same.

I am actually supportive of immigration, as have been almost all of Western Europe, but force it on a population too rapidly to the point beyond which reasonable integration is possible and you have seen the same result in each country.

Even Sweden now has no-go areas and a change in the National acceptance and openness.

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Brussels is not exactly causing the problem either.

Get rid of Brussels, and you still have a bunch of self serving elitists to deal with in Westminster. Except that now there are less protections for workers and workers rights. Except that now human rights granted through EU legislation is now gone.

Europe is not the cause of Britain’s ills nor are immigrants. Leaving the EU is not the answer to the problems the UK is now facing.

Your article was about leaving Brexit.
Every country should have a right to deal with their own problems through elected officials…not unelected beauracrats.

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But members of the European Parliament are elected, so any talk of them not being is not true. That Britain did not get to elect all is another matter. But then, when it comes to Westminster the Scottish could make the same argument… why should they be ruled over by “unelected beaurocrats”, as they didn’t get to elect all the MP’s themselves.

Not to mention it’s arrogant to assume that democracy is the only as well as the correct way of governance. Especially considering as Christians we know Israel was meant to be a theocracy, so no elections there. So your assertion that every country has the right to deal with problems through its own elected officials is based on a faulty premise.

It isnt a faulty premise in the present age. Britain is a sovereign nation.
This mentality of non democratic elections is what the US fights against. How many in the EU parliment did British citizens vote for?
How about the council and commission? It might seem ok to you…but not me.

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And Britain is still a sovereign nation even within the EU.

As for the statement regarding US elections, that’s still does not address the fact that it is arrogant to assume that democracy is the only form of correct governance when we can establish biblically it’s not. You may desire it, but that doesn’t make it right.

In the EU parliament I believe the UK has 2 or 3 representatives, although I failing to see the point you are trying to claim. It is a representative form of government much like Westminster, and any argument about it not being representative of the people can be also be levied at Westminster by any part of the UK. And in fact is often levied at Westminster.

As for the EU Council, that is formed of Ambassadors, heads of state and/or government ministers. They are the voice of the governing body of their member state, so for the UK they will present the position of the Tory government on issues. So this person could be an elected official ie a government minister or it could be someone unelected such as an ambassador, but that is down to the UK to decide.

The idea that Brussels is some shady organisation (well it’s no shadier than any governmental organisation) is based on ignorance and lies. The UK has a voice in Brussels it’s just that it does not exercise that voice.

Nigel’s Farage was elected to be a MEP and one of his colleagues shared his attendance stats from the floor… Mr Farage had attended about 20% of the time! That’s right, you read correctly. That’s not about sovereignty or anything else. If your MP, Representative or senator only attended 20% of the time, who would you blame for your voice not being heard?

Anyway, the ins and outs of Brexit are not what this article is about. The author wanted to address the suffering of minorities in the UK because of the Brexit decision, and an apparent lack of care or compassion towards minorities that are here legally. There is an upsurge in racist rhetoric, the drive by Mrs May to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants was in actuality a hostile environment for all immigrants. This has become worse since the referendum and will only get worse after March 2019

Actually, we need a king. Just not among men.
I dont care what a country chooses for itself with elections but I certainly can understand the British citizens desire for Brexit and the desire to get out of the grasp of the EU.
I fail to see why Brexit is the cause of all human ills in Britain. I am not doubting the authors genuine concerns.
A traditional free society doesnt take well to an “outside power” dictating the political terms of so much socioeconomic activity. That is a legitimate lesson for all nations.

The think tanks and globalist vision of the last 50 yrs. is coming unglued. It serves more of an elite class and is not enjoyed througout. Regular folks are rejecting it. More centralized laws and regulations don’t solve heart problems among different social networks. Limited government is necessary for order but then there is pushback. That’s Brexit as I see.
“If righteousness could come by any law Christ is dead in vain.”

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Who claimed Brexit was the cause of all ills? Let’s not exaggerate issues in an attempt to minimise people actual rational and realised fears. Hate crimes have gone up since the Brexit referendum, and at one point were up by a third. The author spoke of their concerns which are rooted in experience, both personal and shared.

Every current western government serves an elitist class, but in the UK which body has served to strengthen workers rights and which has sought to weaken them; the EU or the current British government? hint It’s not the latter

So when we talk about serving the elites, the reality is the British government does that all on its own.

Limited government is necessary, that is true. But how much is regarded as limited seems to be determined by the elites. Northern Ireland would like less government. As would Wales and Scotland, but they are not granted less involvement from Westminster, and why is that?

Brexit was a campaign run on the back of nationalism and xenophobia… and that never ends well for some portion of humanity.

Well,
When Merkel and the EU decide to be social planners and tell countries how to run their immigration policy you are going to get a backlash. It’s a human nature response.
I’m not prepared to say the EU response is moral. Why must a country give up its traditions by “excessive” immigration by those who will unlikely assimilate? It creates all types of social problems from work, medical care, schools etc.
Again, I am sorry for her plight but personally don’t feel Britain schould have joined the EU in fhe first place…
But, I’m not a Brit but had many friends in HK, a well run colony.
PS. There isnt a biblical basis for a country having to receive mass immigration. Israel did not. We see isolated instances. Being kind to a foreigner did not mean all were welcome to live. They would have been servants. There was no land.

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Britain has been through huge sociological change over a relatively short period since the last world war. I don’t know how seamless a transition you would expect? Where would such huge demographic change have been handled better for an immigrant family?

At the end of the day Merkel and her ridiculous and reckless immigration actions (obviously now even by her own admission) was the difference between Brexit no and yes. The EU, through their own complete mismanagement of the refugee situation made all the difference.

It doesn’t matter how welcoming a country and it’s people are, nobody likes chaos.

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IThe EU does not dictate immigration policy, that is a fallacy. What the EU does is guarantee freedom of movement to all EU citizens, a freedom many Brits take advantage of. And if you truly want to know who does not assimilate when emigrating, try visiting the Costa del Sol or the Costa del Bravo in Spain where the British have retired to and established their own enclaves that are little Britains. They don’t bother to speak the language or learn the customs. Brexit was based on arrogance, ignorance and xenophobia; do you know how many of the British living in Spain made statements such as “We bring too much money to Spain, they will never make us leave!”? On top of that it should also be pointed out the UK citizens that were living abroad and enjoying the advantages that freedom of movement that belonging to the EU provided were not allowed to vote in the referendum.

Immigration from other countries outside of the EU, Britain is free to set its own policies of immigration for, and that has nothing to do with Merkel or anyone else.

As for the assertion that there is no Biblical case for mass immigration, Abraham when he travelled moved with a whole entourage and was welcomed in many places he went. Remember he was able to raise an army from his own men to rescue Lot. Genesis 14:14 says he called 318 trained men that were born in his household! So that’s only the trained men. What about the untrained, the women, the children? That’s one household moving and we can establish that there are at least 320 people in that unit.

As for Britain having been through many changes in a short period of time, that is true. But much of the changes were of its own making. Take the Windrush for example when Britain drained the beat and brightest of the colonies to come to the UK to be cleaners and do menial jobs that it’s white inhabitants did not wish to do. Look at how it is now treating those people and their children by illegally deporting them. When Britain needed a population boost it invited people from its colonies and ex colonies, but is now struggling as it no longer wants more melanated peoples.

As for Merkel and her immigration policy, she is apologising publicly but privately I bet she stands by her decision. Merkel’s immigration policy is based on population decline in Germany and a falling work force which meant less taxes being raised to support an aging population. Not to mention the impact a falling work force would have economically on the country. That was Germany’s decision, but nobody forced those outside of the UK to let people outside of the EU in as immigrants.

It should also be pointed out that the backlash that led to Brexit is not solely against immigrants but also in large against refugees; and a clear distinction must be made between the two. As Christians we have a duty towards refugees, and even for those who are not Christian, do we not have a moral duty to look after and protect refugees? Especially when a lot of the refugees are fleeing areas that the UK and it’s allies destabilised.

It’s not chaos people don’t like, it’s change.

But the world has changed.

Well, its a bit if a stretch to base modern immigration policy on being biblical based on a migrant Patriarch. The challenge remains OT Israel didnt have open borders.
As I recall part of the reason for
Brexit was the possibility of future quota threats from the EU. Mainly, the average citizen didnt feel the fruits of the economic policy with the EU and resisted the rules, cost and regulations from Brussels.
Fine if you disagree. Hopefully Britain is able to find a leader not so compromised with the elites at home who is willing to remove them from the grasp of Brussels.

It’s a bit of a stretch to use most things from the bible for modern comparison, but the fact of the matter is a large group of people freely moved to other territories controlled by other groups of people and were able to do so peacefully and were welcomed. That is the principle. And it is biblical principles we bring forward to modern times that influence how we live in a modern society.

As for Britain and forced immigration quotas, no that is a myth perpetuated by fear mongering xenophobes behind Brexit. The EU does not have the power to force any country that is a member to do so. It may have the power to regulate for refugees so as to disperse them so they are distributed fairly. But refugees and immigrants are not the same thing and there is international law regarding refugees.

As for not feeling the benefits of the EU, considering that companies are leaving the Uk, supermarkets are taking about possible food shortages and definite cost increases I would have to dispute the idea that the financial benefits were not being felt, they were just not understood and/or appreciated. Now import taxes and duties on food and other things produced in the EU will drive prices up and a lot of small businesses are already saying they are unsure if they will survive Brexit.

Furthermore the EU is not responsible for the austerity policy enforced by the current government and the tax cuts given to multinational corporations that have led to decreases in public spending. Nor is the EU responsible for the fact these corporations are paying wages that fall far below the minimum needed to survive. These are issues all made In Westminster.

The problem is in the UK Brexit was sold on a narrative of “The immigrants are taking our jobs”, “The immigrants are committing crimes”, “The immigrants are just coming here to claim benefits”. Brexit was sold on lie upon lie. Claims that money not given to the EU would be spent on things like the NHS were back-pedalled and exposed for the blatant lie they were the very day after the referendum results were announced. Not to mention that the leave campaign carried out an elaborate scheme to break finance campaign laws which is a criminal offence, and in and of itself should be enough to nullify the vote.

Unlimited workers for jobs = lower wages. You can’t argue for higher wages when you have unlimited supply of labour.

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