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Illustration by R Fresson
Young people can’t change US gun law alone – but they could tip the balance
In May 1963 a white police officer in Birmingham, Alabama, tried to scare some black children as they went to protest against segregation. As fellow policemen turned hoses and dogs on black youngsters nearby, the kids made it plain they knew what they were doing and continued marching towards the demonstrations. A reporter asked one of them her age. “Six,” she said, as she climbed into the paddy wagon.
Students take part in a lie-in outside of the White House, February 19, 2018. (AP)
Out of Bloodshed, Hope for Gun Control
There is a learned hopelessness about mass shootings in America that creates the foundations for an emotionally hollow, politically impotent, media-saturated response. Conservatives offer prayers for those who have died and oppose any action that will prevent more deaths. Liberals offer outrage at the carnage and demand that something must be done, but then go on to do relatively little. (Gun owners are almost twice as likely as non–gun owners to have contacted a public official about gun policy, and almost three times as likely to have donated to a group that takes a position on the issue.) The rest of the world looks on aghast that an ostensibly mature democracy could witness such a tragedy and decide to do nothing to prevent it from happening again. Cable-news channels screen mawkish portraits of the dead and arm’s-length, usually posthumous profiles of the killer. Talk of evil is “balanced” by calls for legislation. Then, after a few days, the talking and the calling stop—until the next time.


‘In another part of the sermon Ram Trucks used, King literally tells the congregation not to be fooled into spending more money than necessary on cars by sharp advertisers.’
Photograph: Anonymous/AP
Big business is hijacking our radical past. We must stop it
In 1966, shortly before Martin Luther King branded America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and insisted “capitalism forgets that life is social”, a Gallup poll showed two thirds of Americans viewed him unfavourably. In 1999, when Gallup asked Americans for the most admired figures of the 20th century, King came second to Mother Teresa. When his monument went up on the National Mall in Washington in 2011, 91% of Americans approved.


Sivanandan renamed Race, the IRR’s journal, Race & Class, to reflect his ideas on institutional racism.
Photograph: Jane Bown for the Observer
Ambalavaner Sivanandan obituary
In 1958, Ambalavaner Sivanandan, later a leading intellectual of the left who changed the way that race relations were viewed in the UK, dressed up as a policeman in his native Sri Lanka and brandished a gun without any bullets, in order to save members of his Tamil family from a Sinhalese mob. Later that year Siva, as he was more commonly known, left what was then Ceylon and came to Britain, arriving only to witness the anti-black race riots in Notting Hill. “I knew then I was black,” he later wrote. “I could no longer stand on the sidelines: race was a problem that affected me directly. I had no excuse to go into banking or anything else that I was fitted up to do … I had to find a way of making some sort of contribution to the improvement of society.”


Illustration by R Fresson
Britain’s imperial fantasies have given us Brexit
In his recent book Behind Diplomatic Lines, Patrick Wright, a former head of the UK diplomatic service, provides an illuminating account of Margaret Thatcher’s worldview. The former British premier wanted South Africa to be a “whites-only state”, and believed the Vietnamese boat people should be pushed into the sea before they reached Hong Kong. In addition, the late prime minister was particularly gripped by “Germanophobia”.
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