Auntie embarrassed at hideous colonialism alive and well in the Highlands

I walked the West Highland Way last August with my sister and brother-in-law, who came all the way from Aotearoa (New Zealand). It was an experience that was both profound and delightful.

I fell in love with Scotland all over again, and was proud as punch of this country, which is both an adopted and ancestral homeland for me. My connection to this patch of earth and its people runs deep in my blood and bones, and it teaches me about how to approach other places and peoples with appropriate respect and openness.

So, yeah. Proud as punch. Except for one moment of embarrassment. Deep embarrassment.

Bridge of Orchy, August 2011

My sister Elaine and I at the Bridge of Orchy.



First They Came for the Travellers: Solidarity with Govanhill’s Roma

It is International Romani Day AKA Roma Nation Day on April 8th 2012. Join us in Govanhill to celebrate: see our Facebook page. Read about day of action in London here.

International Romani Day flag

The Romani flag proposed by the 1971 World Romani Congress.

I’m worried. I’m worried about the drift to the right in Govanhill, in Glasgow, in Scotland, in the UK, in the World. I’m worried about encroaching fascism. I think the time for saying “You’ve just Godwin’d yourself on your own blog” is over. It’s not funny any more: ask Trayvon Martin’s family. Ask the ethnic minorities and Jewish families of Toulouse. Ask the families of 77 dead teenagers in Norway. Actually, ask me. I live in Govanhill. They haven’t stared coming for me and mine yet, but my neighbours may be at risk. You think that’s hyperbole? At what point will you start worrying?

I was in a taxi last week, and was treated to a diatribe on how dreadful things are these days in Govanhill, where I live, as the taxi driver knew, because he picked me up there.

Glasgow Taxi advertising lapdancing club

This is not the taxi. But it is a Glasgow Taxi advertising a lapdancing club. Another reason to stop using Glasgow Taxis. Photo by lenivor on Flickr

Specifically, how awful the Roma in Govanhill are. This speech culminated with a self-satisfied description of how the driver’s sister had thrown a bucket of water out her back window onto an older Roma woman who was using the garden below as an outdoor toilet. ‘What kind of people go to the toilet outside?’, he asked indignantly, without pausing to consider that maybe one answer is ‘The kind of people whose bladders aren’t that reliable after years of childbearing, who live in grossly overcrowded conditions with no working toilet or no running water or too many other people using the toilet’. That’s without even considering, ‘The kind of drunken idiots who pee in public on their way home from the pub’, many of whom I have seen in Glasgow over the years, mostly male and white. More

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