On BBC's Newsnight, noted historian David Starkey rips into black culture as the cause of why whites were a part of the recent London riots, saying, "The whites have become black." In the exchange, which features Starkey, author and scholar Dreda Say Mitchell and Chavs author Owen Jones, Starkey equates black culture with gangsterism. He takes aim at Jamaican immigrants for "intruding" on English culture and blames hip-hop for promoting rioting
Mitchell challenges Starkey on homogenizing black culture and on blaming hip-hop culture, much of which promotes materialism, which is a distinctly upper-class pursuit. Owens chides Starkey for demonizing black and working-class youths by essentializing black culture. Owens also points out that 50 percent of black teens are unemployed, which might spur uprisings.
Our question is this: If black culture and hip-hop caused the riots, then what caused the riots in the 1640s during the English civil war? What about the riots during the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688? Too far back? What about the poll tax riots of March 1990? To equate all of black culture with nihilism and violence is ridiculous. To blame black culture for making whites behave in a way that they otherwise would not is preposterous. To pretend that these riots have nothing to do with current social and economic factors is disingenuous.
Let's see: Parliament let the banks off the hook — you know, the ones who helped run England's already suffering economy officially into the ground — while not letting homeowners off the hook, putting them out in the street. The government has also failed to offer any real or sustainable job-creation initiatives. Let's not forget reports of police harassment and brutality that continue to surface, one of which kicked off this latest round of riots.
Did we mention "parade" waving the latest royal wedding in the faces of the have-nots — you know, the global event that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, which probably didn't sit too well with the have-nots, either? Instead, Starkey wants to blame M.I.A., patois and Kanye? Starkey needs to cop a copy of Dick Hebdige's Subculture and Jones' Chavs and go somewhere and sit down.
Those of us who live in the real world could see that this blatant dismissal of poor and working-class youths wasn't going to last much longer, which is also the case in the United States. At best, idle hands make idle minds. At worst for the government, idle hands make fists that fight against oppressive conditions like chronic unemployment.
David Cameron and Starkey need to stop pointing fingers at everyone else and start looking at themselves. This is what happens when downtrodden people are frustrated, whether it is with King Charles I — which was the case in the English Civil War — or chronic unemployment, which is the case now. As Mitchell articulates, "This blame culture has got to stop." I'd like to offer that "solution culture" has got to start.
Read more and watch video of the exchange at BBC News.
In other news: Summer Camp Behind Bars?