It’s begun. In the aftermath of the riots, everyone who’s anyone comes out of the woodwork to blame everyone else. The poor blame the rich. Labour blame the Con-Libs. The Lib-Dems blame the Tories. The Tories blame Labour. Black people blame white people. White people blame black people. Adults are blaming teenagers. Teenagers are blaming adults. Parents blame their children and children blame their parents.
It’s the fault of Capitalism for putting shops on display. It’s the fault of the recession (and therefore the Governments and institutions who steered the world into it) and it’s the fault of unemployment. It’s the fault of the police. It’s the fault of the ex-Government for tying the hands of the police. It’s the fault of the CPS who won’t hand out tougher sentences. It’s the fault of Kenneth Clarke for not wanting prison as the only solution to crime. It’s the fault of soft society. It’s because we need Sharia Law. It’s because we don’t have enough CCTV. It’s the faults of the schools for being off. It’s the fault of the internet and blackberry. It’s the fault of the decline of the churches and the governments who let them. It’s the fault of the schools for not teaching kids to be moral, responsible individuals. It’s the fault of the parents who let their kids go out on the streets. It’s the fault of the kids who don’t know right from wrong. It’s the fault of the middle-classes, since many of the crimes seem to be perpetrated by them. It’s the fault of the student protests for showing kids how to get organised. It’s the fault of the immigration policies. It’s the fault of immigrants. It’s the fault of whites. It’s the fault of integration. It’s the fault of the class system. It’s the fault of MTV for giving people the attention span of gnats. It’s the fault of bands who encourage rioting and looting. It’s the fault of the government doing ‘too little, too late’. It’s the fault of having 10 other kids to look after. It’s because we have police brutality. It’s because we don’t have police brutality. If you’ve not got power, it’s the fault of the people who have power. If you’ve got power, it’s the fault of the people who had power before you. It’s the fault of the banks and it’s the fault of money. It’s the fault of the politicians who got off scot-free. It’s because we don’t have National Service.
It’s your fault for being rich
It’s your fault for being poor
It’s your fault for being white
It’s your fault for being black
I watched David Starkey’s outburst with embarrassed horror. He doesn’t surprise me though. The Daily Mail once called him ‘the rudest man in Britain’ so I take everything he says as a bit OTT and an attempt to give a bit of a show. He was also utterly terrible in ‘Jamie’s Dream School’ – although everything offends me about most of what Jamie does – I don’t even like his cooking – he should get that right before he moves on to improving education with his big cow-sized tongue in his man-sized mouth. But David Starkey is a little bit right: there is an MTV Cribs culture on the streets which is all about money and possessions. I won’t say it’s black or white: it’s a culture in which money is easily gained through fame rather than talent. People forget the MTV Cribs stars have earned their right to these houses with some degree of talent or at least business acumen. I don’t like Katie Price one bit, but she’s a hell of a business woman. Everyone knows I hate Victoria Beckham, but good luck to the woman, fame and notoriety are her thing and she’s good at getting it despite having very little talent. Reality TV shows us that we can become famous for nothing and more importantly we can become rich. I’m not blaming it on that, that’s just how it is. Maybe someone will say it’s the fault of ostentatious wealth and show – it’s the fault of people like Kerry Katona and Katie Price and Wayne Rooney who make it look easy to make money for doing very little.
Then there are the reactions to David Starkey’s interview – one of which I watched this morning. It should have been good. It was a black man talking about how blacks are not to blame. But it wasn’t good. It did just what Starkey did, which was fling a bit of opinion about without any real fact. Plus, some of it was wrong. DS might have been morally outrageous, but he wasn’t factually wrong, and people got caught up in his ‘racism’ rather than his somewhat unclear OPINION that being materialistic in the style of bling-bling wannabe Jamaican (but really American) rappers and the fact that this has been universally adopted is to blame for the riots. Bling-bling, by the way, IS via Jamaican sub-culture and America. What this video did was become equally racist and outrageous. It was not as bad, but it still wasn’t listening to what DS had said, just like everyone else who wants to take what he said about a particular type of (and I’m being really careful here, because it’s neither white nor black nor Asian) culture that has become socially acceptable and edit it to show him coming across as SUPER-racist. Ironically, the (black) woman did much better at explaining what he meant once she got over her own outrage. It’s about materialism, not colour.
For one, the guy adopts a view that the Moors – which he equates with Africans – added a lot to the world. They did. But they weren’t a homogeneous group of people. Mostly, they were Arab settlers moving along from the Caliphates as Islam spread. I can accept Islam had a lot to offer the world, not least mathematics and science, but you look at a list of famous ‘moors’ (and I’m not accepting Othello, as his only example of a Moor, since he’s fictional!) and the names are mostly Islamic ones. There were Berbers in there and there were some Africans. But one thing is for sure, their influences were middle eastern and Islamic, not African. They looked to Mecca and they brought the Persian empire into North Africa
Unfortunately, the guy goes on to talk about Jamaica and Australia as if English (and therefore white) people had the soul claim to looting and pillaging from other nations. Let’s get something right. Everybody does it. Everybody has done it through history. Violence, murder, genocide, robbery, riding roughshod (how I love that phrase) over other cultures, inter-tribal warfare (and I mean English). Maybe we English could blame it on the Danes. After all, they looted from us way before we ‘looted’ Jamaica (and to be honest, we built rather than destroying… talk to the Spanish and the Conquistadors about real looting of wealth and possessions. I’m sure the Aztecs won’t be holding the English responsible for the looting of Techoctitlan. And on that note, much of Spain and Portugal have dark eyes and hair because, guess what, their Moorish ancestry makes them part of the people who the guy claims to be a part of… Maybe, if we’re talking about colonialisation, we should look to the Romans, who in fact gave us much of this language called ‘English’ – likewise the Viking raiders. Few Celtic words exist anymore and nothing exists of language before Old Norse, Old German and Latin. Not one word we use in every day life in England is actually an ‘English’ word, other than perhaps some place names.
Yes, white people took part in colonialisation and slavery, but so did most cultures, bar a few distant tribes in the Himalayas. Talk to Genghis Khan about colonies and expansion. Talk to Caesar about it. Talk to Alexander about it. And yes, talk to us about it. But don’t talk as if it was ‘done by’ whites and ‘done to’ Africa – when much of the expansion of the Islamic empire in the Seventh – Eleventh centuries made their way into Africa, following the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Egyptians. Moses led slave tribes out of Africa. Everybody has done it and everyone will continue to do it unless we stop this blame game.
Neither is England responsible for the class system. You can look elsewhere for that. Yes, we have classes and it’s not perhaps the way forward, but class systems exist in other systems. Ask the Tutsi and the Hutu.
Neither do I think it fair to look to the Moors and say we Europeans were still ‘bashing each other over the head with clubs’ when Greek civilisations had medicine, theatre, philosophy, art – and the Egyptians and Mayans had astronomy and astrology which impacted on Greek then Roman culture, which has shaped Southern European life. It’s a shame this ‘intellectually circumsized buffoon’ tries to use recent black history to justify his claims without thinking about what England was and how it came about. He does the same things he accuses DS of. And yes, DS should have thought about what he was saying.
There’s a valid point about the museums being full of looted stuff – I’m not even going to say anything much about the Elgin marbles. But Egyptian pyramid looting was going on to such an extent 2,500 years ago that the Kings were buried in tombs hidden from sight. Thus the tomb of Tutankhamun was only ‘discovered’ in the last two hundred years because it had to be so well hidden.
The guy talks about gangs, too – and he’s wrong about everything. Gangs didn’t start with the Corsicans after the war – or Italians or anything else. Documented evidence exists of gangs back in Victorian England – such as the Scuttlers in Manchester. And that was mainly a working-class thing sure. You don’t see gangs of the aristocracy because they serve no purpose.
Plus, I REALLY take issue with the fact the A-Team weren’t black. Sure, three of them weren’t but nobody would question BA Baracus’ skin colour. Nonsense. Iraq? No. Looters of the Cradle of Civilisation happened thousands of years before we did. If you want to know about the destruction of cities, find out about the real archaeology of Jericho, destroyed 3,000 years ago several times.
He talks too about how white guys are the ‘shooting spree’ people; I guess massacres in Rwanda, in the DRC, in Chad, in Somalia, in Sudan, in Ethiopia, in Eritrea, I guess that’s white-on-black crime??! Yes, the Western ‘white’ world has done atrocious things. Stalin and Hitler are easy to identify in this pack. I guess Idi Amin means nothing to this guy though. Or maybe he’s an intellectually circumsized baboon too. We can all find examples. We can all cast the blame about. Ultimately, not one of us is able to escape historical blame for anything. We’ve all done shit to other people. We’ve all ancestors who’ve participated in atrocities in the past.
Rap music – a conscious and intellectual movement? I’m guessing the Sugarhill Gang were philosophers then? I know some of what Melle Mel did was social criticism, but the early rap tracks with disco backgrounds weren’t political and certainly not particularly intellectual. Neither were Motown or Sugarhill records owned by white people. Not a one of us ‘whiteys’ are going to claim musical superiority. We didn’t even invent Morris Dancing (moorish dancing… you see…) and yes, a whole load of it is cultural, political and wonderful – but that doesn’t mean there’s not rappers glorifying gang warfare and ‘fuck tha police’ – you can’t just write NWA off when Dr Dre is arguably the most significant producer and artist to come from rap, up there with Jay-Z, who, guess what? Perpetuates the same myths of guns and glory. Don’t get me started on the glorification of Tupac and Biggie – you can’t just claim rap music doesn’t influence lifestyle and pretend Tupac didn’t exist. His continually high record sales prove otherwise. And yes, their biggest buyers are white people. No doubt. But the whole guns and mindless deaths lifestyle – wherever it came from – does exist and there are as many black rappers perpetrating those myths as challenging it. Our only significant white rapper – Eminem (I’d like to count Vanilla Ice and Snow but it’s against my sensibilities) – is on a black man’s label. So don’t get me started about how the blacks in music are hard done to and how rap has been much maligned. I agree with the irony of ‘Guns Don’t Kill People (Rappers Do)’ from Goldie Lookin’ Chain:
Gun crimes, stabbin, and burglarisation,
Its on a rise all across the nation,
The safety’s off and the pistol is aimed,
Yardies and the Mafia always get blamed,
Politicians are shamed, and they haven’t got a clue,
Rap is more deadly than fucking Kung-Fu
The irony being that it’s not rappers but guns and that rap is a convenient scape-goat but it does, and you cannot argue with this, glorify the rags-to-riches story, create macho men and have little place for women. Rap is angry and rock is angry. White boy music is angry. We’re all angry.
Luckily, this clip redeems itself by taking some responsibility. But even then it becomes a blame game. It’s black rappers’ fault. It’s the fault of black comedians. He makes then the mistake of saying black people ‘accept’ bad white rappers. Excuse me? You embraced Vanilla Ice then? I seem to recall in 8-Mile Eminem had to cut his place despite being white. And let’s not talk about MC Hammer, shall we?
He goes on to talk about Bollywood, but this too is completely unresearched and unhelpful. The ‘whitening’ of Bollywood stars is well-documented. It’s a major media issue for India that they favour lighter skinned actresses and actors. If you’re Sri-Lankan dark, don’t think about getting a job in Bollywood. Kareena Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra – these aren’t girls who look any more Indian than an average Spanish or Latino girl looks Indian. Shahrukh Khan isn’t a very dark looking fella either.
I don’t think this blame game is okay. It’s making things worse. We all need to look inwards, at ourselves, and we need to look to the future, not the past. We can keep looking to the past, but someone like Starkey or the guy in the response because all those nasty skeletons in the closet keep falling out of it and someone always wants to know who put them there. Behind those skeletons, there are more skeletons and more skeletons.
The only way we stop it is if we close the door on it and move on. It’s time to stop blaming each other. It’s just inflaming hearts and minds and fuelling the fire of arguments to come.