After the UK Riots: No Voice for Blacks
Distorted coverage and racist analysis outraged black Brits, who are now shut out of the post-mortem.
At a recent community meeting in Manchester, black teenagers expressed their despair at the news networks' failure to recognize their achievements in enterprise and education.
The British media are aware that there are deep reasons behind the crimes that took place this August. A lack of education, a lack of aspiration and deep feelings of hopelessness all need to be confronted, and discussed with balance within our media outlets.
Informed and intelligent black voices on the left, center and right all have a place on the endless panels that are convened and reconvened on our rolling news channels. Failing to respect the backgrounds of political commentators and educators such as Darcus Howe and Gus John is viewed by many as a lack of respect for the black voice.
Last night I hosted a community panel that included local black business owners, young black teenagers, a member of Parliament and youth charity workers. All were in agreement that the mass media have been intent on ignoring black voices and anyone who expresses a centrist or left argument. Black youngsters were angry that they were being portrayed by some sections of the media and the government as sick, scum and feral creatures.
Interestingly, the U.K. riots appear to have united journalists and communities of color in England's major cities. There is now a strong desire to discuss the root causes of the riots, regardless of the media's willingness to report on our experience.
This week, John wrote an open letter to the prime minister calling for an end to political rhetoric and poor reporting from some sections of the media because it leads to a " 'Big Society' of bullies, self-righteous and otherwise, and a spurious moral crusade that can only breed cynicism and discontent and fuel social exclusion."
Yesterday, the deputy prime minister announced the members of the Riot Communities and Victims panel. The panel lacks color and youth -- once again it seems that there is no place at the table for the voice of black Britain. And they wonder why we feel disconnected from society. Or do they?
Karen Gabay is a freelance radio journalist and TV-film producer based in Manchester, England.