Monday, April 9, 2012

Another Brits'-Eye View of Racism

When my Facebook friend, Imani Gandy, who blogs as Angry Black Lady, announced on her timeline yesterday that she was being interviewed for BBC World Service's Newshour, I made a point to listen. For those of you in the US, you can download the podcast of this interview here. Her part comes during the last quarter of the show, in a segment, which deals with "The Talk," or advice given to young African-American males by their parents on how to deal with figures of authority who may, who will racially profile them for no other reason other than the colour of their skin.

Imani, as always, was right on target, but I was disappointed by her interviewer, James Kumarasamy, who's a rising news media star within the BBC, and who, not only is a man of colour, like Imani, he comes from a biracial background.

I don't know whether Kumarasamy was sticking to the BBC's "dealing with Americans" script (which means: always take the moral high ground when dealing with Yanks or anything Yank) or whether he genuinely didn't get the message Imani was trying to get across, and then I read Gary Younge's column in today's Guardian.

The title of the piece is "Mamie Till's Warning Still Holds True in a Racist World," referencing the mother of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African-American boy from Chicago, who was brutally murdered on a whim, whilst visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954. As if his death wasn't horrific enough, the jury in the trial of his killers found the men (both white, needless to say) not guilty, and later that year, both confessed to the murder in an interview with Life magazine. Double jeopardy, you see.

Younge's article is an interesting read, and it perfectly balances the institutionalised racism that exists in some law enforcement bodies on both sides of the Atlantic. For every Trayvon Martin, there's a Stephen Lawrence. Google Lawrence, and compare how long it took to bring even two of the five, vicious, white thugs who killed him to justice and you might have a timeline of what to expect in pursuit of George Zimmermann.

For any lingering Progressives held in thrall by the belief that things are that much more sophisticated and post-racial in Europe, think again. As Younge so deftly points out:-

Black people in England and Wales are 30 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, even though less than 0.5% of those searches lead to an arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon.

Nor are these people simply going rogue. All these perpetrators were reported to the authorities and – in the absence of massive public pressure and media exposure – all were cleared. Both systemic and systematic, the racism these incidents and statistics reveal is embedded within the judicial system itself, rendering it part of the problem rather than the solution. This goes beyond the parental to the political. For it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the state, as currently imagined and experienced, is simply not set up with the purpose of protecting the rights of black people – indeed quite the opposite. It seems to function with the specific intent of violating their rights.

But what's more frightening and revealing about this state of affairs are the comments posted after Younge's article, by the very liberal readers of this very liberal papper.

Here are some of the less offensive examples.

From CritiqueandSalve:-

Gary Younge’s piece, along with the choice of accompanying photo of Mama Till, reveal a dated perspective on the age we currently live in.

In my area, black and white teenagers ride bmx bicycles in roving packs. They dress in black from head to toe and wear balaclavas. I often see them standing around with their hands down the front of their trousers and you don't know if they have a weapon or what they are doing.

We are supposed to pretend they are non-threatening and non-suspicious. When our own legislators walk around in a show of solidarity with hoodies on, it’s almost a type of societal surrender.
What on earth are they thinking?

Many white and black young people seem to enjoy the power of the hoody to scare people and to intimidate in order to boost their self-esteem. Trayvon Martin’s lifestyle, exhibited through his Twitter feed, is one that unfortunately has transatlantic appeal, but black community organisers and parents on both sides of the Atlantic should consider burning hooded sweatshirts in protest, not marching in them.

Rather than a devastating critique of gangster culture, we are repeatedly reminded of well-known irrelevant facts concerning Trayvon Martin’s choice of sweets and beverages and Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama. These are ineffective substitutes for real analysis which have no healing potential and only build scepticism, but the transatlantic media refuse to hold parents accountable for their acquiescence to destructive gangster culture and its artificial highs of self-esteem which exist independently of police prejudice.

So the fault lies with the hoodie (as in "the garment," right?)

And Murphed:-

How about you start being honest in your reporting of the Trayvon Martin incident? You, along with the rest of the media, on both sides of the political spectrum have behaved disgustingly over this matter.

I cannot believe for one moment that this will get to trial, it can’t do, it would be absolutely impossible for this man to be given a fair trial, and it will no doubt be impossible to find a jury that have not been exposed to the lies and innuendoes from the media.

That means we may never find out the truth as to what happened that night, and that is a travesty.

To be honest however I am not sure you really are that concerned with the truth, if your last article is anything to go by you have already decided that Martin was killed because he was black.

I have heard what the left wing media in the U.S. has done to the 911 recordings, editing them to make it sound as though Zimmerman said he was suspicious of Martin because he was black, when in fact the full recording tells us that the operator asked Zimmerman what race the suspect was! Zimmerman only answered a direct question.

Now why would the media dishonestly edit the tapes to make it appear like something else?

You yourself in your last article are quite happy to tell us how young Martin was, and how much less he weighed in comparison to Zimmerman - but you completely fail to mention how much taller he was. Why would you go to the trouble to give us his age, his weight but not mention his hight? There is only one answer, dishonesty. I would bet anything had Martin been shorter then you would not have hesitated in giving us his hight. Am I being unfair? I don’t think so.

Even here, today, you call Zimmerman a vigilante, when in fact he was a member of an organised neighborhood watch. Why did you choose the word “vigilante”?

Were the races reversed and a young black man shot an unarmed white kid, would you be calling him a vigilante? Would you even be writing an article about him?

Until commentators on both sides of this debate start telling the truth then we are never going to get anywhere to the truth of what happened. But clearly you don’t care about that at all - you have already made up your mind.

Shame on you and shame on the Guardian for continuing to publish this stuff.

Or EvilCapitalist:-

Whatever the problem is, perpetually bleating about racism is not the answer.

In the area where I live, there are 'gangs' of both (mainly but not exclusively) black youths who just hang around, and waste their young lives. This saddens me. When I was young, I saw the world as a full of opportunities. No-one has ever given these people the cultural framework I had whereby the acquisition of knowledge, and the cultivation of interests of a wide variety, was seen as valuable. Nor has anyone introduced them to the idea of materially improving yourself through hard work.

Instead, they become steeped in mindless gansta and waste crucial years playing at being 'victims' as ordered by the Gary Younges of this world.

I'll bet you Gary would never allow his children to waste their lives in this way.

So why doesn't he criticise a culture which not only alows this waste but positively encourages it?

Well, that would undermine the fantasy that nothing has changed since 50s America. Lynchers on every street corner etc.

Or this revealing little observation from twiglette:-

I escorted an African American friend around London one night. We visited 2 or 3 clubs and a restaurant and a bar. I am used to the odd little marginally unpleasant encounter sometimes. But this was an eye opener! The level of open aggression and hostility (because of his race) was fantastic! I won't list the ugly words and incidents, but I think I counted 10 in that one evening. To deal with such hatred and threat whenever you leave your door must be very hard. White people need to do a lot of soul searching about this. Many of us jet about the world as though we owned it - yet we feel threatened when the 'other' is over here. The amount of times I've heard "London is a foreign city now - there are too many of them here!" Well we are 'them' when we travel abroad, and often receive a warm welcome. We should celebrate diversity, show respect, and learn one love! The world is a global village now. This racism has to stop.

What did I tell you? I work daily with white men, one of whom is not English, but Polish, and all of whom regularly use the word "cunt" in referring pejoratively to women or, indeed, anyone who doesn't meet their high standard of performance, and two of whom regurlary use the word "nigger" to speak about Afro-Carribbean people. These are not uneducated people either.

Or BryanAze:-

America is a disgusting country to live in.

A black man walks through a gated community and is shot dead by a white man

2 white English holidaymakers walk through a project and are shot dead.

Too many macho morons and too many guns.

Our country is fairer and friendlier, hence the highest number of mixed marraiges in the world.

Uhhh ... Bryan, that last bit ... Check out Portugal. And Google "Stephen Lawrence" again.

And, finally, someone who really does get it. Words of wisdom from mysticpangolin:-

20 years ago I was talking to a colleague about our sons. She said to me
"The difference between us is that you will have to talk to your boys about what to do if they are stopped, I will have to talk to them about what to do WHEN they are stopped" guess which one of us was the parent of black boys?

Says it all really. If all sectors of society were policed like young black men are then you would see the "crime rate" in the white middle classes rise. Conversely if young black men were policed like I am then the "crime rate" among them would plummet. Yes there are gangs, and yes they are unpleasant but wearing a hoodie and having a tattoo while being non Caucasian does not a criminal make.

You see, some problems and attitudes are universal. It's how we deal with them that's different.

1 comment:

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