Ojeaku Nwabuzo works at ENAR as Senior Research Officer (Photo: European Network Against Racism)

"THE FASHION INDUSTRY CAN LEAD THE WAY IN SOCIAL CHANGE"

With the donations that are raised during our Anti-racism campaign on Black Friday 2021, we support the European Network Against Racism. We asked staff member Ojeaku Nwabuzo about the work of the organization, climate justice and the role of the fashion industry in the fight against racism. Nwabuzo joined ENAR in 2014 as a Senior Research Officer. Nwabuzo holds a Bachelor of Sciences in Politics from the University of Southampton and a Master's degree in Political Communication from Goldsmiths, University of London.

What does the European Network Against Racism do?

The ENAR is the only pan-European anti-racism network that combines advocacy for racial equality and facilitating cooperation among civil society anti-racism actors in Europe. The organisation was set up in 1998 by grassroots activists on a mission to achieve legal changes at European level and make decisive progress towards racial equality in all EU Member States. Since then, ENAR has grown and achieved a great deal. ENAR is about connecting local and nationalanti-racist NGOs throughout Europe and bringing their voice forward to bring lasting change at European and national levels. We are a strong and dynamic network of over 150 NGOs working to combat racism everywhere in Europe. Our member organisations are our strength: the bedrock of our expertise and the voice of victims of racism and discrimination throughout Europe.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

In our 20+ year existence, there have been many achievements. Most recently we’ve worked with partners to see the first ever EU action plan. It’s been a year since the plan has been launched and it’s really about implementation of the plan, so we can see the difference on the ground. Another important development in 2021 has seen the adoption of an international and independent mechanism to investigate and enhance accountability of police violence against Black people in the USA, Latin America, Europe and around the world.

What will you use our donation for?

Asphaltgold’s donation will contribute to our continuous work towards dismantling structural and systemic racism in Europe. Our network is at the heart of ENAR's movement, and this money will be used (among other things) to build the capacity of our network of civil-society organisations, most of which are grassroots movements working on the ground for anti-racist justice and liberation, and who do not always have access to public funds.

What motivates you to keep going?

At ENAR, we’re all working for social change and there is still a lot of work that we need to do to structurally dismantle racism, this keeps us going.

What factors drive racism and what is the key to overcoming it?

You have to understand that systemic racism impacts the enjoyment of rights across areas of society, such as employment, access to housing, access to quality education. Just imagine the compounded effect that can have on people’s lives. We have to look at the policies and process that reinforce the current system and change them, that’s what ENAR is working to do at an EU level. Of course there are many different ways to tackle this issue and we work with partners across the board to challenge racism.

What can each individual do against racism? What can companies do?

We need all the (right) allies we can get in this work to dismantle structural racism. Companies can pave the way towards real change in racial equality. They can participate in this work by acknowledging the systemic nature of racism that is commonly observed as embedded in their workplaces. Once acknowledged, companies should commit to implementing concrete remedy measures within and outside of their organisations. ENAR is also an actor of change in workplaces through its Equal@Work platform. Equal@Work is a multistakeholder iniative working towards racial equality in the field of employment so that all racialised people can equally access the labour market in Europe.

Have you noticed any significant changes since the Black Lives Matter movement?

Yes, there has been a huge shift in the social and political context that we are working in since the uprisings in 2020. We are having more conversations around systemic racism, how to decolonise EU institutions and discussions on racial and transformative justice and what liberation could look like for racialised groups.

The fashion world is often superficially seen as a leader in equality, inclusion and anti-racism. Is that true in your opinion?

Cultural and social identity and fashion are closely linked. The fashion industry could lead the way in discussions around social change. The question is how superficial is this discussion and to what extent do the dynamics of capitalism assure the status quo? It’s clear that many fashion companies must reflect on their actions and think whether they are supporting local, diverse communities or if they are working more parasitically on a "hot topic". The fashion industry, and all companies really, have an immense power to tap into society and shape it. What is problematic is when companies do not take responsibility for their actions and do not utilize their resources in a way that is fair, equitable and just.

Racist policing and criminal justice have been the center of heated discussions for a long time already. What does your research on that matter bring to light?

Our research in this area brings light to an issue that has been denied, refused and ignored for decades. We show how racialised groups are over-policed, harassed and beaten and how this is a result of institutional and systemic racism. In 2020, we wanted to collect data on racist police brutality, the topic was hidden in many parts of Europe. The media did not report on these incidents, complaints of racist violence were not adequately dealt with and in many instances this is still the case. Although 2020 saw a change in the public debates, many families are still fighting for some sort of accountability for acts of violence. During the pandemic, we have seen greater powers given to the police and law enforcement that have been misused in the most violent of ways. Not only acts against individuals but the ability to protest and demonstrate have been suppressed. In France, for example, the government proposed to limit individual’s rights to film misconduct by the police and in the UK, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill proposed chilling measures that limit freedom of expression. Today, the reality is that some of the most dangerous methods used to arrest individuals have not been outlawed and peoples’ ability to check police powers have also been limited, so racist police violence will continue.

Let’s tackle the topic of climate justice. How does climate change affect racial equality?

The climate crisis is unfolding here and now for racialised communities in Europe, who are impacted specifically and disproportionately by climate degradation. This is a result of interactions between climatic changes, and the manner in which structural racism manifests - such as racialised communities being denied employment, income, a healthy and safe environment, access to political decision making and representation, and more fundamental rights. The climate crisis is a crisis of (neo)colonial capitalism, underpinned by racism and today facilitated by states and corporations. We cannot continue to 'greenify' our development, because development is an inherently capitalist endeavour. We need a radical system change, and climate solutions need to be anti-racist, anti-class oppression, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchy, and anti-oppression generally in order to achieve climate justice.

Thank you for your time and continued success in your work!

Click here for the publications of ENAR

⟶ Want to dive deeper into anti-racism? Together with ENAR we have compiled a list of recommendable books, films, podcasts and other sources

This is how Asphaltgold continues its anti-racism campaign on Black Friday 2021