It has been a week since the riots in London began, and as the intensity of the unrest settles under increased police presence, it’s getting harder and harder for Britain to deny: It has a race problem.
While America has struggled publicly with its race issues, Britain has largely managed to stay out of the spotlight when it comes to race. However, with looting and rioting making its way across the country, Black Britons are beginning to speak out in an attempt to redirect the focus of the country’s discussion on the origins of the violence.
Speaking on British television network Sky TV, Black journalist Marc Wadsworth shared the on-the-ground sentiment about the tragic shooting of Mark Duggan and the subsequent riots fueled by Duggan’s death.
“It’s very sad and regrettable...but some views from the street would say that what happened was a casualty of war. A war against injustice, poverty...against racism that’s continuing. And we need an engagement that addresses that, sensibly,” Wadsworth said.
The mainstream response to the riots has varied, but the overall tone seems to reflect the feeling that riots are simply the idle handiwork of a lost generation of spoiled, confused, degenerate youth that one U.K. columnist described as “wild beasts.”
Speaking on Democracy Now! days after appearing in a controversial interview on the BBC days earlier, outspoken writer and activist Darcus Howe shared that the riots are not simply a product of one isolated incident of police brutality or wayward youth, but indicative of a widespread culture of disenfranchisement and racism.
“There is a mass insurrection. And I’m not talking about rioting; I’m talking about an insurrection that comes from the depths of society, from the consciousness, collectively, of the young Blacks and whites, but overwhelmingly Black, as a result of the consistent stopping and searching young Blacks without cause,” Howe said.
The British police have not only ramped up their showing of security in terms of numbers, but the government has now authorized raids of London homes whose residents are found to have participated in rioting. People who live in public housing and are convicted of crimes related to the rioting could face eviction, a move that has the potential to have a devastating effect on the thousands of racial minorities and immigrants who live there.
While calmer streets are certainly preferable to violence, Wadsworth feels that stepping up police efforts just won’t do when what’s really needed is a national dialogue.
“The police has a license to kill when it comes to Black people,” Wadsworth said. “These grievances, these concerns have got to be properly addressed in an adult way. Stop the knee jerk of the condemnations that are right out of the script book of politics. Policing can only succeed by consent and where consent breaks down, there has to be dialogue.”
(Photo: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)