Regular readers will be used to controversy here—and I hope they believe it’s never just for the sake of it. But even those should hold on to their hats as we’re about to test tolerances in 21st century Britain.
Only those holidaying on Mars will have missed riots erupting in various parts of London and the puzzlement of police spokespeople as to how such dark forces of public disorder could hit out of a clear blue sky. The torching of cars and houses and the looting of shops was no isolated anger at the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. Several other London boroughs have further suffered anarchic behaviour, including today’s aerial footage in broad daylight of looting, gratuitous wrecking of businesses and a sporadic running battle with mainly passive police around Hackney station.
On behalf of his community, Tottenham’s MP David Lammy denounced a minority causing the riot; local civic leaders were quick to distance themselves and call for more help taking young people off the streets for a more productive future. All, especially the police, were at pains to dismiss comparisons with 1985. But the footage around Hackney clearly shows four out of five of those hurling bricks, breaking windows, looting shops and surging about as a mob have three things in common: they are young; they are male; they are black. None of the three has been reported.
Now, before anyone draws any wrong conclusions, I have lived in Stoke Newington and do not judge people by culture/origin, nor the colour of their skin. But in these events there is a social disaster here everyone is pussy-footing around. And lest anyone think this a white-versus-minority issue, allow me to refer you to the table below.
The eight boroughs include the four in which recent rioting took place (marked with *) and four others with differing ethnic statistics as contrast. Several factors that might have been linked to the rioting can be discounted by referring to this table:
- Political control of the council area is not necessarily associated with rioting
- Large percentages of ethnic minority are not necessarily associated with rioting
- Relatively less spend per head is not necessarily associated with rioting
But, however unpalatable or un-PC as it may be to highlight it, what stands out is that the four boroughs in which rioting flared are the four with the largest percentage black populations. Note that others with huge ethnic populations (but of South Asians and where most muslims are found) torched no police cars. Whatever genuine grievances there may be among blacks in those four boroughs, they cannot include money when the biggest black populations receive more spend per head than even pukka Kensington & Chelsea residents.
Even allowing for sensitivity to avoid ethnicity when reporting crime, it is still inexcusable that TV/press/politicians/etc have made no mention of this key dimension, one that we must both face up to and deal with. As well as Stoke Newington, I have hung wid da homies in East Oakland, parts of which make Mogadishu look like a model home estate. Their disenfranchisement from the American Dream is so acute that few homies ever make it out of the ghetto (rent Boyz ‘n’ da Hood for a graphic lesson in the reasons).
In London, as in California, South Asians and Chinese found themselves some niche to make a living and then dinned ambition and a hope for a better future into their kids’ heads. But—in Hackney or in Oakland—black kids have the hostility of cultural lepers, the resentment of witnessing someone else’s dream in a country they don’t see as theirs.
It is not just a matter of sensitive policing. Either those hoodies cudgelling Ladbroke’s windows in on Mare Street today start feeling ownership of their patch or it won’t be another 25 years before the next police car gets torched.