When FAB Asks reported on equality campaigner Simon Woolley’s comments that the London riots had pushed back race relations by possibly a whole decade, I began to think about the shattering effects and consequences this would have on society as a whole. Like an aftershock that is not only an effect but a reminder of the earthquake that took place before it, this weeks events have already and will continue to cause a wave and backlash of resentment and anger.
With the riots beginning last Sunday, by Tuesday I had already heard some of the most derogatory remarks about ethnic minorities, with many people using their ill-informed judgements to claim that the majority of the looters were made up of blacks. As an avid reader, writer and supporter of active debate between the varying groups that constitute British Society, I’ve trawled through many blog posts, articles and even Facebook and Twitter feeds to gage people’s opinions.
What I found was that while the main pieces presented the issue from alternative angles and encouraged debate, the comments that were left were astounding. I noticed a transition from debating whether the rioters were a disaffected group of people or whether they were criminal opportunists to claims that most of the looters were black, to the most extreme of cases with suggestions for a cure to the cause being to ship blacks ‘back to where they came from.’ Racist rhetoric was being entangled in political speech much like British conservative politician Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood Speech. Made 43 years ago Powell spoke of what he described as the dangers of the migration of Africans, Asians and Caribbeans to Britain. Borrowing from Virgil’s epic Latin poem The Aeneid, Powell said:
As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.
I’ve spoken to many friends this week who have told of me of their fears for what lies ahead in this country. When I was alerted about the National Front and the English Defence League marching to protect their borough’s from looters I thought what a perfect time for these groups to take advantage of the events, using what’s happened to fuel their own policies and gain momentum for their following.
I’m worried; worried for my family, friends and the state of race relations in this country. I am most concerned for young black men, an already marginalised group who will suffer the consequences of what occurred this week. I have a 14-year-old brother who is funny, intelligent and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s a typical teenager but as a young black man I worry about what lies ahead for him. I’m a big believer in working hard in the face of adversity and I’ve been brought up not to use my race as an excuse for not succeeding in life. But I’m not worried about his potential; I’m worried about the everyday nuances that he will have to deal with, the looks he may get and the whispers that may follow his journey.
So I write this to him:
Dear young one,
As you grow up in this crazy world of ours, be prepared to face the resentment and hatred that may be directed towards you based not on your words or actions, but on the colour of your skin.
These feelings grew like a flower, with the seeds planted into the soil of fear of the unfamiliar, fed and watered by assumptions and lies and eventually the bud bloomed into a flower of bitterness and evil.
But I assure you this comes only from a particular segment of society because there will be those that love you not because of the colour of your skin but because of your words and actions.
So hold your head up high young man. Walk down the street knowing you are giving back to society in the way it has given to you. Let the stares, sniggers and jeers roll of your back like raindrops on a window pane. Don’t let it hinder you nor use it as any excuse for any of your failings or wrong doings. Take pride in what you say and what you do, not only as a black person but as a man.
Love your big sis
They say that you can only really write about what you know. I write from a place of my experiences in the past and present and my fear for the future.
What are your thoughts?
Are you concerned for the future of this country?
For those of you in other countries what are your take on things?
Let us know what you think?by