It always seems to be that when there is social unrest in the UK, people are quick to blame ´racial´factors, unsurprisingly the usual suspects of The Daily Mail and Telegraph offered a number of articles with racial overtones;
‘The chavs have become black – the whites have become black’: Anger as historian Starkey blames ‘fashionable gangster culture’ for riots
Racial tensions reach boiling point in Birmingham as vigilantes arm themselves with baseball bats after deaths of three young Muslims http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024788/Birmingham-riots-Vigilantes-arm-baseball-bats-deaths-3-Muslims.html#ixzz1Ux9B6Dxb
These riots were about race, why ignore the fact? http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/katharinebirbalsingh/100099830/these-riots-were-about-race-why-ignore-the-fact/
More personally, I found there to be covert and overt racial references on my Facebook feed (not from friends I hasten to add) – this was by far the most shocking;
Gareth: “Why don’t we just get some American police over as I’m sure they will do what they do best and just shot anyone that doesn’t stop.. I don’t have a problem with that and I’m sure it will all stop very soon after that”
Robert; ” Ha Ha…’Trigger Trigger Shoot that N1ggar'”
Just like the riots in the 1980s, ‘race’ is clearly seen by some sections of society as a key reason for these examples of social unrest, yet how true is this?
Indeed, race had some part to play in the initial protests as Mark Duggan was a black British man who was shot by police, hence, it seems fair to say that many of the community would have felt that Duggan was a victim of racial typecasting especially given the lack of evidence that he shot at the police. Yet, just because there is a racial element, this does not make this a “race riot” – this expression connotes the idea of one ethnic minority rioting against the police or another race – yet ´this does not seem to be the case. Although, likely to have a liberal bias, The Guardian´s Paul Lewis stated,
“The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10.
But families and other local residents representative of the area – black, Asian and white, including some from Tottenham’s Hasidic Jewish community – also gathered to watch and jeer at police.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/07/tottenham-riots-peaceful-protest
What´s more, it is clear from the myriad of footage of the riots elsewhere in England showed a multicultural set of deviants – so much so, that it really makes it hard for the right wing to frame these riots as race riots – take a trawl through Google images and this proves the case…indeed, most of the Enfield and Eltham rioters were white for example…so although, there it is clear that ethnic minorities have been involved in both attacking and protecting communities, it is not prevailing cause as Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, which researches issues of race and equality claims:
“…Race is clearly playing a part in the backdrop to these riots, and where relationships are already bad I suspect it has made it worse. But I fear that people will rush to judgment, to the suggestion that this is all to do with black youths, for instance. From one side we hear that it’s about feral youth, and from the others its all about inequality. Until we hear the voices of the people involved – and at the moment we are not – it’s very difficult to say.”
Yet, it is clear that the right wing are hoping to exploit the race card, according to the Guardian; “the BNP says it will hold its “biggest ever day of action” this weekend and has published a leaflet titled: Looter beware: British defenders protect this area. The EDL claims its supporters are organising across the country and will provide “a strong physical presence, and discourage troublemakers from gathering in our town and city centres”.
I will continue to look out for any good debate on the issue…