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Question. What do US president elect Donald Trump, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, and British banker turned serial killer Rurik Jutting all have in common?  Answer – their behaviour was enabled by their White Male Privilege.

WMP, as I shall refer to it from here on, is a security-blanket that is the constant companion to the male children born of rich white parents.  Along with the silver spoon, their WMP comes with a built in sense of entitlement, that allows those who enjoy its warmth to feel that the world belongs to them, and that other more lowly groups, such as women, people of colour and even poor whites, are put on this earth to serve them.  Infact more than a security blanket, it is more like Harry Potter’s Invisibility cloak, or Captain America’s shield, giving them super-powers that puts them above the laws that the lower orders must abide by.

all-male-board-room

It is people like this that make up much of the western world’s ruling class, for they are groomed to rule from youth, for it is their divine right. But never suggest to them that their great wealth, status and power are not well deserved, or they will tell you how hard they have worked to get where they are.  Their inherited wealth and the crucial role played by the fact that their parents could afford to send them to the best schools, which led naturally onto the best universities, and those family contacts which led to those great job openings, are all details that escape them, since they are convinced that they got where they are through their hard work and determination.

It is this self-delusion that allows them to apply for jobs for which they are neither suited nor qualified, but the delusion is reinforced when their application is successful, because the person doing the hiring is often another white man just like them.

donald-trump

Sounds very much like Donald Trump doesn’t it? But Trump he is only the latest and most high profile example of the type.  There are many, more sophisticated and better mannered examples in board rooms and cabinet rooms all over the world. Think of the 43rd US President George W Bush, another man of limited intellect who became the leader of the free world, purely through his family connections and some folksy charm. Younger brother Jeb Bush might have followed him into the White House too, were he not stopped by someone with even more wealth? But it’s not enough to be rich and white, you must also be male. Female darling of the Tea Party Sarah Palin was never taken seriously even as a VP, and Hillary Clinton being the most qualified person to ever run for the office was still no match for the power of WMP. It’s as if you’re a white middle-class man it is presumed that you are capable. But if you are a woman or a person of colour, it is assumed that you are not.  Hell, not only did Obama have to prove that he was up to the job, he had to prove he was eligible to apply!

But many beneficiaries of WMP exist outside of politics. Former host of Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson has a sense of entitlement, and an arrogance that allows him to travel the world, insulting other cultures and back at home, to verbally and physically assault subordinate colleagues when a hot meal does not come quickly enough.

We saw another example of this types readiness to disrespect other countries this summer with US swimmer Ryan Lochte.

Ryan Lochte

Lochte won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but he gained much more attention for what happened out of the pool. Lochte claimed he and his swimming teammates were robbed at gun point early in the morning of August 14 in Rio.

In Lochte’s original account, which he gave in a television interview with NBC, he said the taxi they were in had been stopped by armed men he believed were police officers, one of whom held a gun to his head before taking cash from his wallet.

But the Brazilian authorities opened their own investigation and found that things transpired rather differently.  They said that no robbery had occurred and the swimmers had destroyed a petrol station bathroom and urinated in public. They also said that while the security guards were armed, they stopped the swimmers from leaving only so they would pay the station manager for the damage done to the property, and recommended that Lochte be charged with falsely reporting a crime.  By that time though Lochte was out of the country, back in the safety of the good old USA.

Young men around the world, go out, get drunk and do stupid things.  But they rarely make up such elaborate stories to cover their tracks, nearly causing an international incident in the process.  What made Lochte tell such lies and think he could get away with it?  White male privilege.

For isn’t that the kind of thing that members of the notorious Bullingdon club also used to do?  Go out for drunken meals, trash the restaurant and then pay for the damage with their family money?

Incidently, do you know who Lochte gave his interview on NBC to?  Billy Bush, cousin of former US president George W.

billy-bush-nbc-today-show-donald-trump

Billy Bush was also the TV host who was with Donald Trump when he made those ‘hot mic’ comments about how he likes to force his attentions on women. The leaked audio was recorded during an interview with Bush when he was then host of Access Hollywood in 2005.

“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says in the recording. “You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” Bush replies.
“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump replies. “You can do anything.”

There are many other such examples, like former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who like Trump who seemed to think that women are put on this earth purely for his delectation.

Recently this predilection took a very macabre turn in the shape of Rurik Jutting.

rurik-jutting-after-arrest-in-hong-kong-532794

The British investment banker was recently found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for murdering two Indonesian women in Hong Kong, in a story scarily similar to the plot of the movie American Psycho staring Christian Bale.

In late October 2014, he tortured and killed Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 26, before calling the police to let them know what he had done.

Jutting was born in London in 1985. His first name Rurik was chosen by his mother, and literally translates as “great one” – it was an imperial dynasty in Russia.

He described himself as an ambitious boy who had a happy childhood. But even from a young age, Jutting displayed feelings of superiority and entitlement. He was admitted to the prestigious private Winchester College in his early teens but was disappointed that he ranked sixth in the scholarship selection, rather than first.

He was admitted to Cambridge University to study history and law at Peterhouse college. Jutting gained first class honours in his history degree but was disappointed to receive a 2:1 in law, and challenged the examiner’s approach. The inability to accept criticism, psychiatrists said, was another sign of his narcissistic personality traits.

On graduation, Jutting worked at Barclays bank, before being head-hunted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. His role involved developing complex tax products and, within a few years, his salary had risen to £270,000 ($334,705) per year.

On 25 October 2014 Jutting took Ms Ningsih to his flat, after offering to pay her for sex. He then held her captive, and tortured her using pliers, his belt, sex toys and his hands. He killed her on the third day, after he made her kneel in front of the toilet bowl, with her hands tied behind her back, and lick the bowl. He then cut her throat.

This is the most extreme example of where the WMP mind-state (when combined with drink, drugs, great wealth and a personality disorder) can take them.  Many had hoped that with the advancement of women and people of colour into more positions of power this century, the dominance and the wildest excesses of the WMPs were behind us.  But as so many examples from 2016 have shown us, white male privilege is still very much alive and well.

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Like most Black men of my generation, I have long had a long distance love affair with Brazil. As a child growing up in the 70s, like boxer Muhammed Ali, and the West Indian cricket team, their international sporting success made me proud to be Black, and was a tangible repudiation of those that argued that Blacks were inferior. Though the glory days of that team led by Pele are long gone, Brazil is still the default team for any Black football fan in the diaspora.

But even putting their footballing prowess aside, everything about Brazil seemed sexy and cool, and the African roots of so much of its popular culture was plain to see.  From the martial arts inspired dance form of capoeira, to the sexy rhythms of Samba, and the beautiful women that always featured in any music video or documentary shot there, to the world’s largest street Carnival in Rio, that made our own Nottinghill Carnival look like a back-yard barbeque.  Hell, even the waxing treatment to remove pubic hair and facilitate the wearing of high-cut bikini bottoms is named after the country.  And I’m sure I even read somewhere that they invented the thong!

rio_carnival

But the increased media attention that Brazil has enjoyed in the lead up to the World Cup has forced me to question whether my love was misplaced – like forming a favourable impression of someone you meet on-line, who turns out to be a disappointment when you finally meet in person.  Much to my horror I’ve discovered that Brazil is a deeply racist country.  Anyone following this media coverage over the last 12 months, couldn’t have failed to notice that in any documentary featuring  politicians,  media personalities, or entrepreneurs the interviewees are uniformly white.  In contrast, those documenting Brazil’s gang wars, crack cocaine epidemic , or shanty town favelas feature predominantly the country’s darker skinned  people.  As I’ve learnt over the last year, the majority of the Africans kidnapped for the Transatlantic Slave trade were taken, not to America, or the Caribbean, but to Brazil.  The practice was not abolished until 1889, making Brazil the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution, and  it is clear that 125 years after its abolition, the descendants of those slaves remain firmly at the bottom of Brazilian society.

Looking at international finance we are told that the Brazilian economy is one of the new vibrant economies (The BRICS) bucking the global recession and enjoying growth.  But as the street protests before the World Cup revealed, this new wealth is not trickling brazil protestsdown to benefit all in the country.  The protesters were angry that the government had spent $12 billion dollars on building new football stadiums to meet the standards of FIFA, whilst neglecting the country’s schools and hospitals.  But from what I could see from the TV reports, the majority of those street protesters were the country’s middle class whites, the poor Blacks presumably being too busy dodging the bullets and bulldozers that were enforcing  the government’s cold-hearted policy  to clean up and ‘pacify’ the favelas before the tournament got under way.

pacification of the favelas

No doubt much to relief of the Government and the country’s rich elite, those street protests came to an abrupt end when the tournament began, as the protesters put down their face masks and Molotov cocktails in order to support their national team.  But again the faces of those Brazilian supporters in the stadiums were uniformly white.  How could it be that in a country that is 51% Black, 100% of the national team’s supporters in the stadium were white?

white brazil fans

Clearly this sporting spectacle was for the enjoyment of the rich, with the bill picked up by the taxes of the growing middle class. And as for the poor?  Well they were just an embarrassing inconvenience to be bulldozed out of view. Out of (the tourist’s) sight, out of (the government’s) mind.

Had Brazil been successful in the World Cup, no doubt the country’s growing social inequality would have continued as before.  Just as with the Olympics in the UK, the government could argue that,  ‘yes it cost a lot of money, but wasn’t it worth it? Look how it brought the country together’.

Even if Brazil had not won the tournament, but had played well and lost in the final, that argument could still have held some weight.  But with the ignominious way that Brazil were dispatched by Germany,  that can no longer be argued.  The country’s team was not a source of pride, but a source of national shame.  Those expensive football stadiums that will remain long after the FIFA officialls have left, will now not be monuments to the national team’s success, but rather reminders of their humiliation.  Though the country was united in grief when their star player Neymar was injured, they shed few tears for the eight construction workers who lost their lives in the building of those stadiums. For a country that has for so long used football to form their national identity, this can no longer be the case.  Just as England have slowly had to acknowledge over the last 40-odd years, Brazil are no longer a leading world football power.  How many kids will be sporting Brazilian football shirts after this? They didn’t get knocked out of the tournament after fighting bravely.  They scraped their way into the semi- finals where they were humiliated.  Germany gave them a lesson in football, and Brazil will now have to take their national pride and identity from something else.

crying  brazil fan

The government cannot continue with business as usual.  The whole country needs a rethink, rather like George Forman after his shock defeat to Muhammed Ali in the legendary Rumble In the Jungle in 1974.  Foreman was the Mike Tyson of his day, considered ‘the baddest man on the planet’ and unbeatable. Ali proved that he wasn’t, and after Ali’s shock victory Foreman was forced to re-evaluate his whole life. He entered a deep depression, and completely retired from boxing three years later.  But he eventually turned his life around, becoming a born-again Christian, returning to boxing only to raise money for his church, and is now more famous as the smiling face of the George Foreman Grill than as a mean-mugging pugilist.

george foreman young

george-foreman-grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hoping that after their humiliation, Brazil will have a similar re-evaluation.  Since they can no longer take their national pride from the football team, what will they take it from?  Now that the entire world has seen their social inequality, the horrendous living conditions of so many in the favelas, the homelessness and crack epidemic that blights so many of the neglected underclass, I’m hoping that rather than ignoring the plight of their own populous and looking for plaudits from overseas, the government  will start to turn their attention to those of the population who cannot win them trophies, but still need jobs and houses.

-CHRIST-THE-REDEEMER-

There are things in life more important than football.  Of course no one wants to hear that when their team is winning.  But you are forced to confront this when your team are routed.  Here’s hoping that their humiliating World Cup defeat will make the Brazilian elite reconsider their priorities, and start to make it a country that even non-football, non-carnival fans can admire.

Lee Pinkerton

 

 

 

‘Does my bum look big in this?’ For years that was a question that when asked by a woman of a man, had only one acceptable answer – ‘no’. A small pert rear-end was desired, and any item of clothing that made it look any other way was to be avoided. At least that was the case among white women.
But in the parallel universe that is inhabited by Black folk a different aesthetic was in place. Back in 1992 West Coast rapper Sir Mix A Lot released the track Baby Got Back – a song and video in which he paid tribute to the ample posteriors of Black women.

Back then, infact throughout most of the latter half of the 20th century, the western ideal of beauty has been the skinny blonde: not a model that most Black women can fit into (or even aspire to without doing damage to their physical and mental well-being). Appropriately Black popular culture has always celebrated the fuller-figured woman. But traditionally the more robust phenotypes of Black women were looked down upon, or even scorned and mocked by the mainstream.
Remember Caroline Wozniaki – the tennis player who made fun of Serena Williams by stuffing her clothes with towels to mimic Williams’ curves?

Caroline Wozniaki
Caroline Wozniaki

But despite the disrespect from the mainstream, the Black camp maintained their campaign, mainly through rappers who’s videos consistently gave prominence to curvaceous hip-hop honies.
Now it seems that this centuary the two camps are meeting. I don’t know if it was down to J-Lo, or Beyonce or Kim Kardashian, but it’s clear now that even in the mainstream, bigger booties are in vogue. (Interestingly, whilst J-Lo tried to play down the interest in her butt as she attempted to be taken seriously as an actress, Kim K (in the absence of any discernable talent other than her body and self-promotion) seems to be accentuating her butt more the more famous she gets!)

The Kardashian sisters dazzle fans at their Nordstroms jewelry opening and then fly out together, Orange County.
…..by showing their behinds
jlo-butt-12
Both J Lo and Kim Kardashian got ahead ………

There was a time when white women would sheepishly cover their backsides with long shirts or jumpers tied around the waist. Not any more. Now they display them proudly for all to see, sometimes even encasing them in figure-hugging lycra for greater effect.
The mainstream’s new fascination with a fuller behind has even reached the highest echelons of British society. (Remember at the last Royal wedding all the fuss made about Pippa Middleton’s bum?)
Women of ALL races are now sweating in the gym, or even going under the knife in order to get a more shapely posterior. According to a new American Society of Plastic Surgeons report, last year, a staggering 10,000 buttock augmentation procedures were performed in the United States, up 16 percent from 2012.

And thanks to Miley Cyrus you can now enjoy the spectacle of white women with virtually no booty trying to twerk.

Miley twerking_2655244b
In 2013 Miley Cyrus and the ‘mainstream media’ discovered twerking

Apparently the new fitness craze is twerk-azize, or twerk-aerobics or something like that, though how you can achieve those moves if your back-side is best regarded as a flat expanse of flesh that connects your back to your legs, is beyond me.

When Lily Allen wanted to feature twerking in the controversial video for her last single and couldn’t deliver it herself , she recruited some Black girls to do the ‘booty shaking’ for her.

LilyAllen
Lily Allen thinks,…… ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’

Not only this, but white women are risking skin cancer in order to maintain a year round tan and even injecting collagen into their lips for a fuller pout.
So is this good news for Black women? Will they now move from being figures of scorn and derision to the ultimate symbols of female desirability?
Well unfortunately it’s not that simple.

beyonce booty
Miss booty-licious herself Queen B. Recognise!

While the ideal of female beauty may no longer be Kate Moss, neither is it Serena Williams.
While Beyonce is celebrated for her curves,

she works famously hard to make sure

she doesn’t deviate too wide of the size 10 ideal.

And while she’s happy to display her booty,

we have yet to see her natural hair.

I’ve no idea what Beyonce’s hair looks like in its natural state,

but I’m pretty sure it’s not straight and blonde!

When the super-producer of the moment Pharrell released a new album this year entitled Girl, he chose to adorn its cover with three models. When he faced criticism for not featuring a Black model amongst them, he was at pains to point out that in fact, one of the featured models was indeed Black. But you’d have to look hard to realise, as typically she was of the lighter-skinned variety. It seems that in Pharrell’s version of the United Colours of Benetton of female beauty, Crème Caramel is as dark as it gets.

pharrell_cover

Rather than the Black female archetype, the new beauty ideal in America is Latino (fittingly since they are that country’s fastest growing ethnic group) and in the UK the new ideal is something resembling mixed-race (appropriate since they are this country’s fastest growing ethnic group). Lightly tanned women of mixed heritage like Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Patton, and Zoe Saldana. Progress, yes, but we have not yet reached the promised land!

lupita
Lupita got a lot of love this year, but how much impact will she have?

There has been much fuss made of new Oscar-winning actress Lupita N’Yongo,   who for the last few months has not only  set the movie world alight, but the fashion world too. It as though the fashion and movie  industries have just discovered that African women exist.

gabourey-sidibe
Dark skinned AND overweight? No chance!

But for those hoping that Lupita will change the perception and desirableness of dark-skinned women, I fear that Lupita will have as much impact for dark-skinned women as previously Oscar nominated Gabourey Sidibe did for the image of obese women.

So Black women can now flaunt their curves with pride, but it will be a while before they are invited to the mainstream’s fashion and media party.

Lee Pinkerton

Mark-Duggan-Inquest-

On Wednesday January 8th 2014, the jury at the High Court in London found the Police officer who shot Mark Duggan dead in the streets of Tottenham in 2011, not guilty of unlawful killing. How, some asked, could the Police shoot an unarmed man and it be considered ‘lawful’?  Some commentators described the verdict as ‘strange’ or ‘surprising’, but I for one was not surprised.  This is business as usual for the Criminal Justice system in Britain.  The Police are NEVER convicted of unlawful killing, unless there is video evidence which can prove it – and even then, it’s an uphill struggle.

The presumption of the ‘Great-British-Public’ and the ‘Main-Stream-Media’ is that if the Police use force, then that force must be warranted.  If the Police use deadly force, then they must have considered themselves or the public to be in mortal danger.  In this case the deadly force was justified because the Police THOUGHT that Duggan had a gun and was aiming to shoot.  The fact that he didn’t is just a tragic mistake.

mark duggan

Mark Duggan was shot dead in the street in broad daylight – lawfully?

The officers had been surveilling Duggan for some time, and knew that he had obtained a gun earlier that day.  So naturally, the Police argued, when they performed a ‘hard stop’ on the minicab he was travelling in, Duggan was preparing himself for an armed shoot-out with the officers who had surrounded him, and so they reacted accordingly. The jury believed that version of events. A version by officers so confident of their story, that they refused to be interviewed by the IPCC and instead gave written statements after colluding.

Despite the fact that other eye-witness say that when Duggan left the cab, his hands were up and he was in fact holding a phone.  Despite the fact that the gun in question was found some 20 feet away from the body, on a grass verge, on the other side of  6 foot fence. Despite the facts that Duggan’s fingerprints were not even on it.

Sadly the jury were unwilling to believe that the Police could have shot an unarmed man, and then planted the gun there themselves to cover their tracks. Because the Police are all honest law-abiding citizens and Duggan was a convicted criminal. A notorious international gangster no less. Perception is everything.

But this Duggan shooting is no isolated incident. To put this case in perspective, let’s have a quick review of the Police’s treatment of Black Britons over the last 30 years.

In 1985 Cherry Groce was hit by a police bullet when the police conducted an armed search of her home seeking her son (an injury which left her paralysed from the waist down). The police officer who shot Mrs. Groce, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, was prosecuted but eventually acquitted of malicious wounding.

Joy Garner's five year old son watched her die.

Joy Gardner’s five year old son watched her die.

In 1993 Joy Gardner fell into a coma after struggling with Police when they and an immigration officer arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. She later died in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995.

A similar fate befell Roger Sylvester when he was taken into Police custody in 1999.  He sustained numerous injuries in his struggle with the officers and remained in a coma at the Whittington hospital for seven days until his life support machine was switched off.

Or there’s Frank Ogburo who was arrested in 2006.  Eye-witnesses saw a struggle between the officers and Frank which resulted in him being sprayed with CS Gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. CCTV footage captured several more officers joining in the restraint and striking Frank to subdue him. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”.

More recently in 2011 we are meant to believe that David Emmanuel, aka reggae artist Smiley Culture stabbed himself in the chest whilst Police conducted a search of his house. An investigation into the Police operation conducted by the IPCC found no evidence that a crime had been committed, and no misconduct by Police officers.

-SmileyCultureRip1sml

I bring up these historical cases to illustrate that the Police have form when it comes to killing Black people and getting away with it. So no, I was not surprised at the Duggan verdict. I gave up being surprised after the four police officers involved in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King were found not guilty, despite being caught on camera.

But that was the past.  As we all know, since Obama became President, things are so much better.  We now live in a post-racial society where racism is illegal.  But even if that were true, guess what?  Sometimes the Police fit up white people too!  Look at the behaviour of Police in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. The Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 found that police had deliberately altered more than 160 witness statements in an attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the fatal crush, and deflect blame from their own inadequate crowd control.

It has long been known by those in the Black community that the Police sometimes lie in court and fabricate evidence in order to get a conviction.  This is a fact that the majority of the UK’s citizens (outside of Liverpool) were unwilling to believe.  That was until in the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012.  If the Police can lie to discredit a respected member of the Government,  how much more likely that they will do so to cover their own crimes and discredit a convicted criminal? And most importantly,  how much more likely that a jury will believe them?

The police are not above 'fitting up' even a government minister

The police are not above ‘fitting up’ even a government minister

I don’t know exactly what happened on that day in Tottenham 2011.  I wasn’t there.  I don’t know what was in that Police officer’s mind as he pulled the trigger – twice. But I know my history.  I know that when Black people die in Police custody nobody is ever held accountable.  I also know that sometimes the Police kill people unlawfully and lie and collude and fabricate evidence to cover it up. I know that sometimes innocent people go jail because of a forced Police confession (Cardiff Three); and sometimes guilty people get away scot-free because the Police aren’t motivated to pursue them thoroughly. (Stephen Lawrence)

And what I also know, is that it’s as hard for a Black man to get justice in this country today, as it’s always been.

footnotes

1.  Background to the police shooting of Mark Duggan can be found here

2.  There have been 10 unlawful killing verdicts at inquests or inquiries involving deaths in police custody or following police contact since 1990.  There have been eight attempts to prosecute police following a death in police custody or following contact in the same period, none of which have been successful.

Lee Pinkerton

Ends

I don’t watch X-Factor, or Britain’s Got Talent, or The Voice, or any of these TV talent shows.  But such a controversy was caused when X-Factor contestant Hannah Barrett complained of the racist/shadist abuse that she suffered on social media, that it reached even my radar.   According to Barrett, Black people were tweeting saying that she was ‘too dark’ to be a pop star.

Hannah Barret - too dark for showbiz?

Hannah Barret – too dark for showbiz?

For those outside of the Black community, this story may seem strange. If there are two areas that Black people have been allowed to thrive in this country, it is in sports and music. Infact many of the biggest pop stars of the last few decades have been Black. But the sad truth is that when it comes to women in entertainment, you can be Black, just not TOO Black.

All of the many successful Black female performers in the music industry, such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes, Nicki Minaj etc, have something in common besides their Platinum discs – they are all light-skinned.  The fact is that women in entertainment – be that music, movies, fashion or TV – are judged first and foremost on their appearance.  Regardless of their talent, any woman who wants to succeed in this business must be considered as attractive – an attractiveness defined with very narrow tightly defined parameters.  They must be slim, light-skinned, with European features, and long straight hair. If you are a dark-skinned Black woman, or even a fuller figured white woman you can work in these industries, but you will have to play the background. You can be a backing singer, but you can never be the star upfront.  You can be a supporting actress, but you can never be a screen goddess.

Alicia Keys - just right?

Alicia Keys – just right?

The many Black actresses who’s success we celebrate  – Halle Berry, Thandie Newton, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton, Naomi Harris etc – all fit within these narrow parameters, and all come in a lighter shade of Black.

I’m not wanting to detract from the undoubted talent of all of these stars, but the sad truth is that they wouldn’t have reached where they are today, were they a few shades darker, or in possession of  more African features. And what’s so worrying about this fact, is that little Black girls growing up today, may NEVER see themselves positively represented on screen. This has been the case for as long as we’ve had cinema.

From Josephine Baker in the 1930s, to Lena Horne in the 40s, and Dorothy Dandridge in the 50s, to Pam Grier in the 70s, to Vanessa Williams and Lisa Bonet in the 80s, to Tyra Banks and Halle Berry in the 90s, to Beyonce today, when it comes to our Black beauties, it seems the lighter the better. In this Eurocentric world in which we live in, mixed race is the acceptable face of Blackness. Those sisters who are dark, try in vain to aspire to these European standards by modifying their appearance with hair weaves, colour contacts, and even toxic skin bleaching creams.

Pam Grier

Pam Grier

josephine baker

Josephine Baker

dorothy dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge

 

Interestingly the same standards don’t seem to apply to men.  Black men can be dark and still considered attractive. Consider old favourite Tyson Beckford, or new favourite Idris Elba – their dark complexion seems to enhance their desirability. Whilst the essence of feminine beauty is slim and pale, the essence of virile masculinity is tall and dark.

But it is an oversimplification to simply blame this phenomenon on the racism of white people imposing their narrow Euro-centric perspectives on the rest of us.  Remember that Hannah Barrett was complaining of racist comments from fellow Black people.

In music videos dark skinned women are conspicuous by their absence.  It has been de-rigueur for some time now that the eye candy in rap promos will be mixed or Latino, and it seems in UK music videos, even lighter sisters can’t get a look-in these days.  Notice recent videos from grime artists Wiley and Dizzie Rascal, that depict their idea of a perfect pool party, as them and a few male friends surrounded by a harem of skinny white girls.

By way of defence Wiley and Dizzie have both stated that they are not responsible for the selection of the models in their videos, but for such outspoken and independently-minded artists, I would expect them to take more of a role in how they are being visually represented. (If the video stylists asked them to wear a dress for the shoot, I’m sure they would have had something to say!)

Wiley - and friends!

Wiley – and friends!

But to me, even worse than the rap videos (who could ever look to Lil Wayne for guidance?) is the fact that the hosts on BET and so many African cable TV channels replicate this trend, having exclusively dark brothers accompanied by mixed or light-skinned sisters in front of the camera. So why are we as a race perpetuating the dissing of our darker skinned sisters? How and why have we inculcated such self-hatred?

It all goes back to the doctrine of white supremacy that was so successfully spread throughout the African diaspora through slavery and colonialism. For centuries white Europeans have drummed into their darker skinned subjects, that Europe was the pinnacle of civilisation, and that the rest of the world were primitive heathens without a culture of any worth. That God was white, Jesus was white, that white women were the epitome of beauty, that Black is ugly, and the closer to white you were, the higher you could rise. A racial hierarchy neatly encapsulated in the catchy phrase ‘If you’re white you’re alright, if you’re brown stick around, but if you’re Black get back.’

White Jesus

White Jesus

Malcolm Gladwell explains the Jamaican plantation experience in his book ‘Outliers’

“whites saw mulattoes – the children of those (mixed) relationships – as potential allies, a buffer between them and the enormous numbers of slaves on the island.  Mulatto women were prized as mistresses, and their children, one shade lighter in turn, moved still further up the social and economic ladder. ”

Gladwell further outlines how the victims of this hierarchy of shade absorbed the racist doctrine that still operates to this day.

 “Mulattoes rarely worked in the fields.  They lived a much easier life of working in the ‘house’.  They were the ones most likely to be freed. It’s not surprising then, that the brown-skinned classes of Jamaica came to fetishize their lightness.  It was their great advantage.  They scrutinized the shade of one another’s skin and played the colour game as ruthlessly in the end as the whites did.”

Sadly today such shadism is not confined to the descendants of slaves.  Skin lightening creams are as popular in Asia as they are in Africa and the Caribbean. But in the 21st century isn’t it time we stopped perpetuating it?  Please be aware, I am not promoting one shade over another.  I am saying we should celebrate Blackness in ALL of its shades, not just the ones that fit in with Eurocentric values. Realise that it’s not possible to be a conscious Black person whilst perpetuating shadism/colourism.  We need to re-programme ourselves, to counteract the centuries of white supremacist brain-washing.  Let’s not pass on these negative messages to another generation. Let’s stop using racially loaded concepts like ‘good hair/bad hair’.  Let’s stop this ‘Team Light-skin vs Team Dark-skin’ foolishness. If you’re buying a doll/action figure or books for Black/Brown children make sure that the heroes/heroines look like they do. Let’s see more music artists including some dark-skinned sisters in their videos. And let’s see a dark skinned sister win X-Factor!

De-programming material

If you’re down for the cause and want to stop the rot, here are some resources you may find useful to share with the children in your life, or less enlightened peers.

Video/film –Beauty Is

Chris Rock’s Good Hair good hair

Dark Girls

Yellow Fever: TRAILER from Ng’endo Mukii on Vimeo.

black beauty bookBooks  Black Beauty by ben arogundade

Greetings cardshttp://personalise.colorblindcards.com/

On-line –  visit www.endcolourism.org

Twitter–  follow @EndColourism

Dolls Rooti Dolls – http://rootidolls.com/new/rooti dolls

Back in the 1990’s when I was working for The Voice newspaper, also working there an older Jamaican man named Milton. I’m not sure what his official job title was but, depending on the time of day, he would fill the role of receptionist, handyman or head of security. But in my view his real role was as the heart and soul of the paper. With his no-nonsense plain-speaking Jamaican manner he would keep us British-born university-graduate journos in touch with the original spirit of The Voice.

TheVoiceLogo(1)

The Voice was the first newspaper aimed at the Black British market.

By day Milton could be  as polite and professional as the best of them, but at night, when most of the staff had gone home, and the rum had come out, his inner ‘Yard Man’ would reveal itself. He would educate and entertain me with his stories of growing up in Jamaica and his youth in England.  One of his stories involved him and his pals going for a night out in London.  He and his crew would roll up to a nightclub in their sharp suits and winkle-picker shoes, only to be turned away by the bouncers, while the scruffily dressed white men would just saunter in. It was these bitter experiences that led to the formation of the Blues parties and Black-owned nightclubs that were such a feature of the Black-British cultural life in the 70s and 80s. With the advent of hip-hop, house music, and dance-culture that arrived in the late 80s, the race-bar of London nightclubs fell away, as did the need for the Black owned clubs and Blues parties.

when white-owned night-clubs turned us away, we created out own.

when white-owned night-clubs turned us away, we created our own.

Thankfully such blatantly racist door policies are no longer a regular feature of London nightlife, but more a subtle colour-bar still exist in certain professions.

I had a taste of it when trying to move from The Voice into the ‘mainstream media’.  So much so, that I abandoned my career in journalism for nearly a decade.  My recent return to the field was prompted by the advance of social media which removed the need to negotiate with such gate-keepers. In the last year or so, working with on-line groups like Media Diversity and the TV Collective, this appeal for access to the closed doors of the media are a regular topic. The media, like those nightclubs of old, are exclusive places with a strictly enforced door policy that allows admission only to those who face fits.  There is a long-running standing joke in comedy circles, that no Black comedian will be able to get their own show on the BBC until Lenny Henry dies.

No room at the BBC for Black comedians until Lenny Henry dies?

No room at the BBC for Black comedians until Lenny Henry dies?

They and the other broadcasters seem to operate a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. The chosen Black faces in favour will vary over time – be it Trevor McDonald, or Darcus Howe, or Richard Blackwood, or Kwame Kwei Armah, or Reggie Yates, or Idris Elba, but only one at a time can gain entry. Like the nightclub bouncers of old, even if the gate-keepers of the media are not actually racist, they seem afraid to let too many of ‘us’ in at once, for fear of scaring away their regular punters.

In just the last month we have seen supermodel Naomi Campbell highlighting racism in the fashion industry; Labour MP Chukka Ummuna discussing ‘lazy racial stereotyping’ on British television; grime artist Dizzee Rascal complaining that Radio 1 don’t playlist his songs; and the general outcry from the Black British population about the stereotypical depiction of Jamaican culture in the Channel 4 documentary My Crazy New  Jamaican Life.  It’s all very well complaining, but what are we doing about it?

Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of those frustrated ravers of the 1960s.  They didn’t stand outside those nightclubs and picket, or start petitions demanding equity.  They simply moved on and started their own thing.  So by the time I started raving in the late 80’s, we had a pick of nightclubs in east London full of people that looked like us, and played the music we liked, all night long. And guess what else happened?  When our scene became acknowledged as being more attractive, Black DJs and ravers alike were welcomed into those previously off-limits establishments with open arms.

There was a time that Black DJs like Trevor Nelson were not welcome in West End nightclubs.

There was a time that Black DJs like Trevor Nelson were not welcome in West End nightclubs.

So perhaps we should follow the example of the pioneers who came before us.  Rather than singing the same old song, demanding equality of access and greater diversity, perhaps we should set up our own thing?  But one major obstacle stopping us is money.  Most of us don’t have rich parents who can financially support us, and we need to get paid. Not many in our community have the money to start up their own TV stations or finance big-budget movies. And none of us can afford to set up a business that runs at a loss for the first year, whilst we wait for blue chip companies to include our outlet in their yearly advertising budgets.

But in the last decade such financial barriers have been removed by one thing – the internet.  Thanks to this wonderful invention, journalists like me don’t have to wait for a Fleet Street editor to give me a job, or even a commission.  We can start our own blogs and write what we like, immediately we are inspired.  And by linking up with writers collectives like Media Diversity can have our copy read around the world.  Thanks to Facebook and Twitter we can distribute our work, interact with appreciative readers and increase our profiles.  Thanks to YouTube comedians and writers no longer have to convince execs from the BBC or ITV.  They can simply film it, upload it, promote it through social media, and watch those views and subscribers multiply.

And perhaps we’d be less fearful of doing it ourselves if we stopped thinking of ourselves as BMEs or Ethnic Minorities, and instead recognised the power of a worldwide diaspora, an international target audience who needs are currently being under-served. Plug into the power of Black twitter!

The Real McCoy is 20 years old.  Let it lie!

The Real McCoy is 20 years old. Let it lie!

How backwards do we as a people look when we start campaigns demanding that white-owned radio stations should play more Reggae and Soca? Or when we beg the BBC to bring back an old show like The Real McCoy?  Are we really saying that there has been no new Black comedy talent to emerge in the last 20 years? If you really think that, then you’re not paying attention. Would you walk into a white-owned restaurant and demand that they start serving Jerk Chicken? Wouldn’t it be smarter to open-up your own restaurant? Way back in the 1980s Val McCalla didn’t campaign and protest at the lack of Black journalists on Fleet Street – he set up The Voice, and got rich in the process. In the 90s, when Kanya King, like the rest of us, observed that Black artists were getting ignored by the Brit Awards, she didn’t start up a petition, she started the MOBO Awards.

As the film director Spike Lee put it “If you don’t own stuff, you have no power.  When Black people start thinking more like entrepreneurs instead of ‘please Mr White man, can you do so and so for me?’ we will call the shots.”

Or to quote Miguel de Cervantes “Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.”

'If you don't own stuff you have no power'. Spike Lee

‘If you don’t own stuff you have no power’. Spike Lee

And for those who argue that we pay taxes, and we pay licence fee and so we deserve to be represented – well we’ve been arguing that for 40 years now, and where has it got us?

So instead of begging those old media houses to acknowledge our presence, let’s side-step the gate-keepers and build our own thing, or support those that already exist. Begging is SO unattractive, and so last century. If you don’t know where to start here’s a list.

RADIO. If you want to listen to Black music that’s not obsessed with the Rhianna/Chris Brown/Jay-Z/Beyonce carousel of electronic dance music that dominates 1Xtra and Capital Extra try Radio stations Colourful and Solar.

TV. If you want news, discussion and entertainment that doesn’t only feature Black people when we’re selling drugs, try TVstations Oh! TV, VoxAfrica, and The Africa Channel.

Web Coms. Fancy seeing some middle-class Black people in normal monogamous relationships? Try the Web-coms BWNG, Venus vs Mars and Meet the McKenzies.

Brothers With No Game - available on YouTube right now!

Brothers With No Game – available on YouTube right now!

On-Line Media Outlets. For on-line news, discussion, and debate try the blogs by – The TV Collective, Media Diversity UK, Ms Mad News and The British Black List

Suggestions for other Black-owned media ventures that we should be supporting are most welcome.

So what are you waiting for?  Be the change that you want to see.

I’m a big fan of Channel 4 news. Each evening at 7pm I sit down to watch it accompanied by my lap-top, ready to tweet about any story that catches my attention.  The show’s main anchor Jon Snow, has a privileged position in my house.  Like Sir David Attenborough, he has the persona of one of those wise old men, in whom you believe everything they say.

Another reason I’m a fan of the show is that they have so many Black and Asian journalists, like co-anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, their Economics Editor Faisal Islam, and sports correspondent  Keme Nzerem amongst others.  But on the evening of 10th October I feel that they let themselves down badly (as did many others, judging by the comments on my Twitter time-line).

The incident in question was around a feature they ran on the new Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips.  The film portrays the true life story of a ship captured by Somali pirates, but as is Hollywood’s way, tells the story from the view point of the heroic white ship’s captain of the film’s title.  (As we are all know by now, even if a story is set in Africa, it must be seen through a white hero’s eyes.)

Captain-Phillips-Movie-2013

Before commencing an interview with the director and star, Channel 4’s Somali-born correspondent Jamal Osman gave a critique of the film, arguing that it misrepresents both how Somali pirates are recruited and how they operate. After this short piece Jon Snow sat down with Osman and the film’s director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, and I settled down for a good debate about how complex African politics are often mis-represented on film. But that’s not what we got.  Instead, Osman’s criticism were quickly dismissed by Greengrass, and Snow spent the rest of the interview fawning over the director and star, whilst Osman sat there ignored like a pork pie at a Jewish wedding. It was embarrassing.

http://www.channel4.com/news/tom-hanks-captain-phillips-somalia-jamal-osman

Of the four men sat around that table, Jamal Osman is the most knowledgeable about the situation in Somalia.  Not only was he born there, but as a journalist he has reported often on the pirates, and interviewed them in person. But despite this, his voice was the one we heard the least. For those not familiar with the players involved, the situation may seem strange, but if we look at the power-dynamic of those around that table, it all becomes very clear.

Despite his expertise on the matter, Osman is lowest on the totem pole.  Jon Snow is a well-established, well respected journalist, Paul Greengrass is an A-List Hollywood director, and Tom Hanks is an Oscar winning movie star. Osman is just a struggling Black journalist trying to get his feet under the table at Channel 4, thus his opinion (even when it is an expert one) holds less weight.

Jamal Osman

Ironically, at the same time that these events were unfolding on Channel 4, over on African cable channel Oh TV, Trish Adudu on her topical chat show Real Talk, was discussing the recent re-branding of Black music radio station Choice FM, into ‘urban’ music station Capital Xtra.  Former DJ’s Daddy Ernie (who was live in the studio), and Geoff Schumann and George Kay (who phoned in) complained that the white executives who were making all the decisions at the station, had no knowledge of the Black music and culture that they were supposed to be championing.  And according to Daddy Ernie not only didn’t they know, but neither did they care. As veteran DJ’s were sacked, and the long established, well-loved station was re-named and re-positioned, the views of the specialist DJs at the station were not asked for, because they were not valued.

daddy ernie

Ex- Choice FM DJ Daddy Ernie says ‘the management don’t understand Black culture, and don’t care’.

Back over at Channel 4 news I can fully understand if the staff  there were excited to have Hollywood royalty in the studio.  But if they wanted to focus all their attention on Hanks and Greengrass, why invite Osman to the table to sit there like a lemon?

Some people who watched the show  may have seen things differently, or they may not have even noticed. But judging from comments on twitter and facebook, the whole situation resonated loudly with Black viewers. Many of us have been in the same situation in meetings at work.  We may be the sole Black voice in the room, and though we are invited to the table, our opinions are often ignored and side-lined.  And then we face the same dilemma that Osman did.  We can either accept the ‘diss’, and sit quietly there like the unwelcomed visitor at a  family meal, or we can push our viewpoint more forcefully, and risk being accused of being a trouble maker, or an angry Black man/woman ‘with a chip on our shoulder’.

I don’t blame Osman for choosing the first option.  I felt sorry for him.  Like so many of us, he’s just trying to keep his job. He’s just getting established on Channel 4 News and probably doesn’t want to rock the boat and harm his own advancement. I personally find it more difficult to hold my tongue, which is probably why I’ve made so little progress in the white corporate world.  But when even the right-on, racially inclusive Channel 4 News can be guilty of such side-lining, then we know what we’re up against.

The Channel 4 News showed how Black voices are marginalised and ignored

This particular Channel 4 News item nicely showed how Black voices are often marginalised and ignored

So to Channel 4, Capital Xtra, and those predominately white board-rooms up and down the country – its not enough to just give us a seat at the table, you also have to listen to what we have to say.  Try it, you might learn something!!

Channel 4's Top Boy - more negative images of Black men

Channel 4’s Top Boy – more negative images of Black men?

The recent Channel 4 series Top Boy came in for much criticism from some quarters. There are those that argued that this gritty urban drama set in east London which depicted a young Black drug gang was yet another negative depiction of Black males on our TV screens. No wonder, they argued, that Black men are disproportionately targeted by the Police, and face harsher sentencing by the courts, when we are so often depicted in the media as sociopathic criminals. Not only this, but how can young Black boys aspire to become positive members of society when they are forever seeing themselves portrayed in this negative light?
Similar criticism was directed at the E4 series Youngers. This programme also had two Black male inhabitants of an inner-city council estate as the lead characters, but in this case the two main protagonists were not aspiring drug dealers, but instead were wanna-be Grime artists. Criminals, rappers, or athletes. How can our Black boys aspire to be anything greater some argue, when these are the only role models they see? And to make matters worse all the music that young people listen to seems to be promoting a ‘bling and bitches’ lifestyle and espousing the ‘get rich or die trying’ philosophy made famous by 50 Cent.

E4's Youngers - if not drug dealers than how about rappers?

E4’s Youngers – if not drug dealers than how about rappers?

I see things differently. I sat and watched both of these series with my teenaged sons, and took the time to discuss with them the issues raised. I wanted my sons to see from the comfort of their living room sofa, that this is how too many of the less well-off tenants of the nation’s council estates live. I wanted them to understand that, right here displayed in glorious HD, was the reason that I and their mother chose to move out of Hackney when they were still in infant and primary school. Back then we could see that if we stayed there, their life chances would be greatly diminished. Sadly many other parents realise this fact too late to save their sons.
In one scene from Top Boy the solicitor of the main character Dushane (played by Ashley Walters) describes the estate on which he lives, and proudly claims to be the boss of, in less than flattering terms. “Somerhouse is a shit-hole”, she spits dismissively. “Well done, you’re the king of shit-hole.” For the fictional character of Dushane displayed the same poverty of aspiration as so many of our young men. For him, the fact that he was the ‘top boy’ of his housing estate, meant that he was a success; that he had reached the top of the totem pole. He struggled to see any life for himself outside of the confines of this small deprived patch of east London.
But this all too widespread lack of aspiration cannot be blamed on Channel 4’s script writers, or any other television channel. If you as a parent, are expecting the television to imbue your children with ambition, then you both need help.
There is an argument that Black children are underachieving in schools because they don’t have enough role models there either. Not enough Black male teachers, and not enough Black people on the curriculum. Black educational underachievement they argue, is partly due to the fact, that Black children feel that the curriculum doesn’t relate to them.

Black Male Teachers - an all too rare sight in the UK's Secondary Schools

Black Male Teachers – an all too rare sight in the UK’s Secondary Schools

But I would ask, ‘how come Indian and Chinese children do not have the same problems, when they are equally ignored by the curriculum?’
Chinese children infact have the best educational outcomes from the UK school system, despite there being very few Chinese teachers, or Chinese historical figures on the curriculum. Could it be that Chinese and Indian children are not relying on the UK school system for their sense of self? We can see many examples of more recent immigrants to both the UK and US, who after only one or two generations leave the indigenous Blacks far behind, strangely unencumbered by the racism and discrimination that indigenous Blacks complain prevent them from progressing.
The real reason why we as a community are doing less well than our Asian brethren is because they are not relying on the host community to define them, or to give them a job/success.
Yes, we all need role models, but it’s much better if they are closer to home. Real people that we can observe in real-life, speak to and ask for advice. If the only older males that you can look up to in your hood are the local drug dealer, the best rapper on the block, or the guy that got a contract with the local football team, then that’s all we can aspire to be – rappers, footballers and drug dealers. That’s part of the reason that Chinese kids and Indian kids are out-performing Afro-Caribbean children in school. Because they have real life role models in their own community, who they can actually observe and learn from.

The Asian children have many more positive role models in their community's

Asian children have many more positive role models in their communities

The first role model for a boy should be his father. But what if you are growing up without a father, as too many Black boys are? Then you have to find someone else to fulfil that role. It is this vacuum that leads so many of our young to turn to gangs – looking for a father figure – a phenomenon called ‘father hunger’.
Part of the reason that so many of our youths are so disengaged from the educational process, is not just down to the ‘stale and pale’ curriculum, but because they don’t see the benefit of an education. They are doubtful if there will be any jobs available at the end of the process, and even if there are, if they actually want them. They’ve seen how hard their parents have worked, and how little they have to show for it. No wonder the promise of the fast money to be earned ‘on road’, or the fame and fortune of a career in music or football seem so much more appealing.
The school system is set up to allow you to obtain qualifications that you can display on your CV when applying for jobs to work for someone else. What they don’t teach you in school is how to be self-reliant: how to set up your own business and create your own job.
And if no-one in your family is running a business, how then can you know how to set one up and be a successful entrepreneur? If no-one you know has a good job, how do you find out how you go about getting one? That is where role models and mentors come in, and there are numerous organisations in Britain that exist to fill that gap.
So if you are really concerned about the values that our kids are aspiring to, don’t waste your time and energy writing angry letters to Channel 4 or campaigning against the likes of Rick Ross and 50 Cent. Get involved in your community. As Gandi put it, ‘be the change that you want to see’.

We know that rappers like 50 Cent are not suitable role models, but if we don't mentor our kids, THEY WILL!

We know that rappers like 50 Cent are not suitable role models, but if we don’t mentor our kids, THEY WILL!

Listed below are three organisations involved in mentoring, and they are awaiting your input.

The National Black Boys Can Association seeks to break the vicious cycle of underachievement, unemployment, crime and imprisonment. The Association supports community groups to set up and run locally based Black Boys Can Projects to meet the needs of Black boys in their locality. To find out more go to http://http://www.blackboyscan.co.uk/
100 Black Men of London (100 BMOL) is a community based charity led by Black men delivering programmes on Mentoring, Education, Economic empowerment, Health and wellness and leadership. Their mission is to play a leading role in the upliftment and development of the lives of Londoners, especially children of African Caribbean decent, through education in life skills.
The video below shot in 2011, interviews a few members and volunteers about what made them join and what is it that caused them to remain a part of the long term vision of the 100BMOL..
You Tube: http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp5EZOvOTJk&feature=youtube_gdata_player
The parent organisation founded in 1963 during the height of the civil rights movement, and which to date is 116 chapters strong, worldwide. You can check them out at www.100blackmen.org
If you wish to find out about the London chapter, who they are, what they do and how they do it, send an e-mail to membership@100bmol.org.uk.
The Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) has started a nationwide Community Role Model Programme called Routes2Success (R2S) who’s aim is to connect 1200 young males aged between 11 and 25 with a volunteer force of successful black male role models to raise aspirations and encourage participants to follow the best routes to learning and career success. The objective is simple: to help improve education and employment outcomes and keep our young males away from the criminal justice system. To discover more about them go to http://http://www.bteg.co.uk/index.php/policy-and-projects/young-people.html

If you’d like to read more about the issues raised in this blog post, click on the link  below to check out my new book ‘The Problem With Black Men’, available now on Amazon.

The_Problem_With_Bla_Cover_for_Kindle

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Problem-With-Black-Men/dp/1483990133/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368908485&sr=8-1&keywords=the+problem+with+black+men#_

Unlike most in the Black community I did not view the peerage of Doreen Lawrence as a cause for celebration. Many of us see the acceptance of Black individuals into the exclusive clubs of the ruling white elite as a sign that we as a race are progressing. I don’t see it like that. Let’s not forget that three of the five killers of Stephen Lawrence still have their liberty. To make matters worse last month it was revealed that instead of pursuing the suspects in the immediate aftermath of the crime, the Metropolitan Police spent their time operating a covert surveillance operation on the Lawrence family and their supporters. In their all-to-familiar style, instead of pursuing the criminals the authorities expended their energies trying to smear the Black victims. Will Doreen’s presence in the House of Lords bring the remaining killers to justice? Will it reveal which members of the establishment knew what of the surveillance operation and when? Somehow I doubt it.

Will Doreen Lawrence's presence in the House Of Lords advance the cause for racial justice?

Will Doreen Lawrence’s presence in the House Of Lords advance the cause for racial justice?

At the same time we are told that the Police officers who shot Mark Duggan dead in the street, and those present when Smiley Culture ended up with a knife in his chest, have no case to answer.  Rather than advancing the cause of racial justice, I see Lawrence’s peerage as hush money – like giving a crying toddler a lollipop in the hope that it will shut them up.  To liken the process to the days of slavery, it’s like the slave masters taking one of their most troublesome field negroes and giving them an easier job in the house, thus both pacifying the gripes of said slave, and at the same time removing a rallying point from those disgruntled comrades still left in the field.

Or as Professor Gus John so eloquently put it in a recent article for the Voice without wanting to diminish in any way Doreen Lawrence’s passion for justice for her son, we must not fight shy of pointing out the cynicism of the British state and particularly of the Labour Party in seeking to hijack and fashion Doreen Lawrence into its own grotesque creation.”

I am not trying to detract from the tireless efforts of the Lawrence family over the last 20 years, but in truth she is not a wiley and seasoned political operator versed in the dark arts of the party politics.  She is merely an ordinary wife and mother who was thrust into the spotlight by the outcry from the community when her son was brutally murdered, and the Justice system seemed not to care. How much impact can she really have?

Barack Obama - has the plight of Black people in America improved under his leadership?

Barack Obama – has the plight of Black people in America improved under his leadership?

But my sense of disquiet is not confined solely to the amateur politics of Doreen Lawrence.  Remember back in 2008 when we were all filled with a similar sense of optimism when Barack Obama became the President Of  The United States, and supposedly the most powerful man on earth? Now in the cold light of day, five years later, we can see that Obama has not had the effect that we hoped he would. He has not been able to reduce Black unemployment, or stop the tide of Black men dying on the streets or joining the conveyor belt of the Prison Industrial Complex.  Despite the softening of the Marijuana laws in many states, he has not ended the War on Drugs that results in the criminalisation of so many Black men, and he was not even able to get his signature policy of Obama-care through Congress without a host of compromises. The most powerful man on earth seemed powerless to change the racist ‘Stop and Frisk’ policy adopted by the New York Police Department, or the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. In truth, having a Black Commander in Chief does more harm than good to the prospects of the average African-American.  Because of him, whites can claim that we now live in a post-racial society where discrimination no longer exists, and affirmative action is no longer necessary. And the Black activists are muted in their criticism because they do not want to undermine the first Black POTUS and give more ammunition to his opponents. And Obama himself is being less proactive in his own appointments because, unlike all of his white predecessors he does not have to pander to the Black vote, and doesn’t want to be accused by the opposition of favouring African-Americans. (Remember that even the much maligned George W. Bush had a Black Joint Chief of Staff (Colin Powell) and a Black Secretary of State (Condoleeza Rice).  So tell me again how much progress Blacks in America have made by having a Black President. It makes all the more puzzling to me why Black people over here are asking when we will have a British Obama?

Duwayne Brookes - Stephen Lawrence's friend getting involved in party politics.

Duwayne Brookes – Stephen Lawrence’s friend getting involved in party politics.

Back in Britain, in a new twist in the long legacy of the Stephen Lawrence case, Duwayne Brookes, the friend who was with Stephen on the night he was murdered, has announced that he will be standing as the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate for Lewisham. We also learnt this year that Brooks too had suffered a campaign of covert surveillance, attempted smearing and harassment from the Police.  No doubt Duwayne, like Doreen, feels that if he is part of the Political establishment, he can effect change, and stop such miscarriages of justice from occurring in the future.  It was probably such noble motives that Shaun Bailey had when he became a Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate and advisor to David Cameron.

Shaun Bailey with David Cameron - valued advisor or token Black?

Shaun Bailey with David Cameron – valued advisor or token Black?

It took him a while to realise that Cameron’s all white, Eton and Oxbridge      cabinet were ignoring his suggestions and side-lining him – for his appointment, just like that of Doreen Lawrence is merely a token gesture, designed to make us believe that they are listening; that they really care. With Doreen, just like Mandela, whites in power elevate one Black person and deify them, to show us that now everything is alright. Mandela became President and so racial inequality was eradicated in South Africa in one fell swoop? Doreen Lawrence becomes a Baroness and so racial justice has been achieved in the UK?

No doubt the recently retired Police Superintendent Leroy Logan wanted to make a difference when he joined the Metropolitan Police 30 years ago.  His own father had been on the receiving end of rough treatment by the Met, and he nobly wanted to try and influence change from the inside. But despite being a founding member of the Black Police Association and one of the highest ranking Black officers, he could still not stop Azelle Rodney and Mark Duggan from being shot dead in the street, or Roger Sylvester, Frank Ogburo and Sean Rigg from dying whilst in Police restraint. As we discover each new case of Police racism, we have to ask ourselves, despite all of their racial sensitivity training and the efforts of Logan and the BPA, how much has really changed at the MET?

All those who want to be MPs say they do it because they want to help – they want to effect change.  But how much do they really help?  Three well established Black Labour MPs David Lammy (Tottenham) Diane Abbott (Hackney) and Chuka Umunna (Brixton) all preside over boroughs with high levels of deprivation.  Knowing all three areas of London well, I don’t know how much the presence of a Black MP has helped Black residents.  What I do know is that all three areas have undergone a process of gentrification whereby poor people can no longer afford to live there.   And remember that both Lammy and Abbott preside over boroughs where the nationwide riots of 2011 first took hold.

MP David Lammy woefully failed to articulate why so many of his Tottenham constituents were angry in 2011, and simply condemned the violence.

MP David Lammy woefully failed to articulate why so many of his Tottenham constituents were angry and alienated in 2011, and simply condemned the violence, and bashed the Tories.

Lammy has been very quiet about the Mark Duggan shooting which sparked off the riots in the first place, and all he felt able to do at the time, was condemn the violence and respectfully escort deputy PM Nick Clegg  around to inspect the damage.  Abbott showed her hand in 2012 when she withdrew perfectly legitimate comments she made on twitter, about white people playing divide and conquer, after receiving instruction from her massa, (sorry leader) Ed Milliband. Are they really there fighting for our interests or simply trying to further their own careers and feather their own nests?

Real activists are down in the trenches, fighting for civil rights, embarrassing the law-makers and law-enforcers into action: not quaffing champagne with our oppressors in Westminster, and occasionally sharing their privilege with those of us still out in the field, by hosting the odd reception at the big house.

Remember that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Marcus Garvey were not members of any political party.  They were leaders of grass-roots movements, and they arguably have had more impact than any Black politician.  The Reverend Al Sharpton did more to draw attention to the Trayvon Martin case than Obama, who seemed afraid to speak about it too strongly for fear of offending. If we really want to change things for the better, the grassroots is where we should be working, not these exclusive private members clubs in Westminster.

I will leave the final word to the always excellent Gary Younge who wrote this regarding Obama.

“The presence of underrepresented people in leadership positions only has any significantly positive meaning if it challenges whatever obstacles created the conditions for that underrepresentation. To believe otherwise is to trade equal opportunities for photo opportunities, whereby a system looks different but acts the same. “

“ ‘Not Guilty?’ the filthy devils tried to kill me/  When the news gets to the hood the niggas will be/ Hotter than cayenne pepper/  Cuss, buss, kicking up dust is a must.”
Ice Cube – ‘We Had to Tear This MF Up’

The’ Not Guilty’ verdict for George Zimmerman, the killer of  Black teenager Trayvon Martin,  confirms a fact that all Black men know, but hoped had changed.  The fact that many white people view us as a threat.

Zimmerman claimed he was in fear of his life from a 17 year old boy

Zimmerman claimed he was in fear of his life from a 17 year old boy

It doesn’t matter if the Black man in question is well educated and softly spoken. It doesn’t matter if he has not even finished puberty. We are seen as a threat that must be contained. Trayvon was an unarmed teenager, and George Zimmerman was an heavily set 29 year old with an obvious weight advantage, who also happened to be packing a gun.  But still Zimmerman felt that he was the one who’s life was in danger, which could only be preserved by use of lethal force with a deadly weapon.  Even though casual observers can see nonsense of this, the Police could see Zimmerman viewpoint, as they released him without charge on the night of the murder.  A year later in the calm light of day, the six women of the jury could also see the logic of his viewpoint, as they acquitted him of all charges. They too could see how being faced with a young Black male wearing a hoody could put one in fear of their life.

Let’s drop the façade that these trials by jury are about legal argument or points of law.  Let’s be honest, they hinge on the prejudices of the members of the jury. That is why such a big deal is made of jury selection – because the defence know that the most significant factor that influences a jury’s decision, is not be the evidence put before them during the trial, but rather the prejudices they walked into the courtroom with.  The reason that Black celebrity OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole, was not because of the clever legal arguments of his defence team. It was because the Black women of the jury were well aware of the history of violence and lynchings visited on Black men in America, and were not going to send a Black man to jail for killing a white woman, where there was any sliver of doubt.

Is there a 'raging Hulk' inside every Black man?

Is there a ‘raging Hulk’ inside every Black man?

I am not for one minute suggesting that the members of that jury in Florida are all racists that think that all Black men should be put to death.  I’m not even arguing that George Zimmerman thinks that.  But what Zimmerman and those jury members, and so many white people share is the ‘Fear of the Black Man’.  We are viewed like Dr Bruce Banner – the mild mannered character from Marvel comics who, when put under stress will metamorphosis into an uncontrollable beast with super-human strength.

It was a similar thought process held by the Los Angeles police officers who were caught on camera viciously beating Black motorist Rodney King back in 1991.  It took four grown men with night sticks to keep him at bay, and if they were to ease up their beating for just a moment, no doubt King would have risen to his feet, and Lord only knows what kind of violent revenge he would have visited upon them.  The members of the jury at the trial in Simi Valley saw it that way too, when they found the four officers not guilty of using unreasonable force – a verdict which sparked the LA Riots.

Even though the cops who beat Rodney King were caught on camera, they were still found not guilty

Even though the cops who beat Rodney King were caught on camera, they were still found not guilty.

But this ‘Fear of the Black Man’ is not just something felt in America.  Many white people in Britain feel it too. Maybe the Metropolitan police officers who shot to death Azelle Rodney in 2005, and Mark Duggan in 2011 felt that same fear.  Maybe they thought that to alert these Black men of the presence of Police officers would be putting their own lives in danger.  Maybe they thought that attempting an arrest of the suspects would be too risky, and it would be simpler and safer to simply shoot them dead in the street, and worry about issues of due process later.

Maybe it was fear for their lives that the four Police officers who forcibly restrained the mentally unwell Sean Rigg were feeling, until he fell unconscious and died in 2008.

The Police restraint of Sean Rigg resulted in his death

The Police restraint of Sean Rigg resulted in his death.

Maybe that’s what the three G4S officers who were restraining Jimmy Mubenga on board a British Airways flight bound for Angola in 2010 were thinking.  No doubt those security guards felt that his pleas for help and cries that he couldn’t breathe were just a ruse, so that they would loosen their grip and he could break free of his shackles and attack them.  Until he stopped breathing that is.

And God only knows what was in the minds of the Police officers who visited Smiley Culture in his home in 2011, only for the visit to end with a knife in his chest!

This ‘Fear of the Black Man’ can also carry over to ‘Fear of Black Women’.  Maybe that’s what the Police who went to Joy Gardener’s house 20 years ago felt.  In 1993 an immigration officer and police officers arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice, and when Gardner refused them entry, the police entered by force and struggled and fought with her. The officers gagged and restrained Gardner using a body belt and wrapped 13 ft of tape around her head, which they later claimed was to prevent her biting them. Gardner suffocated and subsequently fell into a coma, later dying in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995. Clearly all concerned thought that 13ft of gaffer tape was a reasonable precaution to take when dealing with an ‘angry Black woman’.

Police were fearful that Joy Gardner would bite them

Police were fearful that Joy Gardner would bite them

All of these examples are of confrontations between law enforcement officers and Black people suspected of a crime.  This naturally heightens the tensions and raises the stakes for all concerned.  But this ‘Fear of the Black Man’ is also something that ordinary brothers face on a daily basis.  This was brought home to me when a friend related an experience he had in his work place.  During a meeting with his white colleagues, this professional Black man was involved in a full and frank exchange of views.  After the meeting had ended, one of his female colleagues pulled him aside and asked if he had calmed down. When he confirmed that he had, she expressed her relief, confiding that back in the meeting she feared that ‘he might stab somebody’.  This white woman who had worked with my friend for years, feared that if he lost his temper he might erupt into murderous violence against his work-mates! If she can fear this from one of her work colleagues who she knows well, then how much more does she fear from a Black man whom she has never met?  How much more from a Black youth she encounters on the street who is wearing a hoody?

The great irony is, as I hope I have shown, that it is us who has more to fear from them, than they do from us. But Black men, since this is what we are facing, how can we protect ourselves and stay safe?  Here’s some tips to remember in your interactions with white people.

1)      Best not to wear a hoody.

2)      Never ever raise your voice or gesticulate wildly.  Although this is the way people of colour naturally communicate, it makes white people nervous, and could escalate any conflict to dangerous proportions.

3)      If you are unfortunate enough to have prolonged contact with the Police or other authority figures, then surreptitious audio and video recording devices, and/or eye witness are recommended. (The come in very handy at the trial).

4)      In interactions with the Police, never argue, resist arrest or make any quick movements, or you could end up dead.

5)      If you’re an immigrant, never overstay your visa, because if they come to deport you, you could end up dead.

6)      If you’re mentally ill, make sure you always take your medication, because if you relapse, and have a psychotic episode that results in the Police being called, you could end up dead.

In summary, just tread very carefully, or you could turn up missing, and judging from past evidence, no one will be convicted of your murder.

RIP,  Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg, Jimmy Mubenga, Azelle Rodney, Stephen Lawrence,  Joy Gardener, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin.

trayvon-martin