Skip to main content

White Riots
By Abdul Turay
Published 23 August 2011

Some in the media are doing “The Italian job” on England's black population. For those of you who are not British, I'll explain. “The Italian Job” is a famous 60s movie starring Michael Cain. It's something of a national institution here, every Briton has seen it. Non-Brits may have heard of the more recent American remake staring Mark Wahlberg.

It's a very clever, quirky, patriotic movie about an elaborate gold bullion heist in Italy by London's criminal underworld.

There are couple of scenes in the movie that have always bugged me and I suspect every other Black Briton.

At the end of the movie, after a celebrated car chase through Rome's Byzantine streets, the gang load the gold onto a bus, ditch the cars, get on the bus themselves, and drive off.

The driver has the easiest job in the whole gang, in fact the easiest job in the World. He has to drive a bus along a perfectly maintained mountain pass, with no other traffic on it........without driving it off the edge of a cliff.

But he is black. He can't manage it. He starts acting black, flipping the bus from side to side and laughing, and then! the film if you want to find out what happens, it is not quite what you think.

You see the point. The black man screws it up for everybody.

Outside the UK, the riots have been presented as a race riot. In Russia and many other countries many people actually believe the recent riots in England are simply the fault of “blacks and immigrants”.

Even in the UK the coverage of riots has been black tinted. All the main media outlets looked to historical precedents; the riots in Brixton, Hansworth, Tottenham and Toxteh in the 80s. These were race riots. Old stalwarts from the 80s, people like Darcus Howe were wheeled on to give important pronouncements about police harassment of the black youth. Contemporary black pundits were also roped in to give their penny's worth.

It was as if time had not moved on since 1985.

But there's a problem and everybody knows it. The trouble spots included Salford, Gloucester, Milton Keynes, Reading, Nottingham, Ealing, Enfield, West Bromwich, Greater Manchester, Bristol, these areas are mostly white.

Look at the images of the rioters or do what I did and go on to the street and see the rioters, one thing becomes crystal clear; the rioters were mostly white.

This is where the Italian Job comes in. The idea persists that the whites were just passengers, the driver is still black, or Asian.

Historian David Starkey notoriously explained this on the BBC's Newsnight.

The whites he said have adopted black mores and values.

“The whites have become black, a particular sort of violent nihilistic attitude has become the fashion and black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This Jamaican patios that has been intruded in England.”

David Starkey is wrong. Firstly he is wrong about language, nobody outside of London talks in Jamaican patios or multicultural English as it is called, certainly not in Salford or Gloucester.

More fundamentally he is wrong in his assessment of the problem. He could not be more wrong. White people haven't become black the opposite is true. Black people have become white, that is to say they have become English; and the English like to riot. Sometimes we riot for a purpose but at other times it is mindless.

In 1780 a mob took over London for two weeks. They rampaged through the street in an orgy of destruction. The nominal reason was anti-Catholicism, but historians and commentators at the time thought the real reason was a combination of lack of social mobility and an opportunity to loot. Sound familiar?

In the Middle Ages peasant revolts were fairly common. The most famous was the revolt of 1381. That has been sold to us as a righteous looting, noble peasants chaffing against evil barons.

However most of these rebellions were totally dodgy and therefore not well remembered. Jack Cade's rebellion in 1450 is a case in point. After all this time it is difficult to work out what Jack and his lads actually wanted, other than to steal and to smash things up.

Shakespeare portraits Jack as a bragging charlatan leading a rowdy mob. The Jack Cades of today would be or more accurately are on blackberry.

The 20th Century had riots in England aplenty, in France also.

There were riots in Bristol in 1919, there was the so-called Battle of Cable Street in 1936 against Oswald Moseley's Fascists. There was the Tonypandy Riots, the Brown Dog riots, the Epsom Riots, the Poll Tax riots, my flat mate took part in that.

We have had riots because we were happy, after we won the Great War in 1919 celebrations turned into riots. We have had riots because we were sad, after losing football matches and yes we have had race riots.

It is not just blacks against whites or against the white “system”, (Brixton 1981) sometimes it’s whites attacking blacks (Notting Hill 1958). Other times it’s Asians against whites (Oldham and Bradford 2001) and other times it’s black against Asians (Birmingham 2005).

But mostly people riot; because it's summer, because they are young and because they are bored.

Growing up in Chelmsford, Essex in the 80s I experienced the low-level suburban violence that seems to benighted every small to medium size town in England.

A river runs through the town in the Northern suburbs. At night kids would stand on both sides of the river and throw stones at each other. Then the council was dumb enough to build a bridge. There were pitched battles between dozens of kids on that bridge.

This low-level suburban rioting never received much attention from the media. It was happening all over the country most summers, but it was localised and sporadic.

If it's happening everywhere at the same time, then the press are going to notice.

What would have happened if you have satellite TV, CCTV, blackberries, and Twitter in the 60s?
Youth cults, the Mods and the Rockers, would be fighting each other all over the country, not just in Brighton.

Why did these riots happen?

Here is your answer.

This riots happened because the English like to riot and now the English have the technology to riot in many different places at the same time.

There is another very English type of violence which is very instructive as to what went on this August. Why has no-one noticed that these riots have more in common with football hooliganism that persists to this day than anything that went on in Brixton in the 1980s?

It was football hooligan gangs, known as firms, who invented organised fighting and looting specialised clothes and sport goods shops. This is the culture of the casuals and this was a casual riot. Casual culture spread to the streets and it was only a matter of time before casual organisational skills did as well.

This also explains something else that has not been discussed much. Why there was no rioting in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland in the 70s and 80s had enormous problems with football hooliganism. The Scottish Football Association and the Scottish government in the 90s dealt with the problem by appealing to people's sense of patriotism.

“Let's not be like the English, let's be civilised, let's not tarnish own nation's reputation,” they told people. The strategy worked. Hooliganism has died out as a Scottish problem.

I think Scots will agree the reason why the Scots didn't riot isn't because they don't want to be black. The reason why the Scots, and the Welsh and Northern Irish for that matter, didn't riot is because they don't want to be like the English.

Football hooliganism is the English disease after all. Now all types of mindless urban and suburban violence have become the English disease.

Why the English like to riot is a subject too big for this essay. It's been going on for decades, it's been going on for centuries really.

I suspect the answer lies in the mutual contempt the classes have held for each other since the Norman Conquest. After a period of détente from the 1945-1990s, this hatred has come back with a vengeance.

Modern England has vilified its underclass “the chavs”. Now “the chavs” are fighting back. But there's the thing, chavs are usually presented as white. This riot proves chavs can be any race.

Popular posts from this blog

Tallinn's unlikely twin By Abdul Turay First published November 2008 The idea behind twinning is that two vaguely similar cities exchange cultural links for their mutual benefit. Warsaw is twinned with Coventry – both cities were flattened by the Luftwaffe, after all. Tartu, the famous Estonian university town, is twined with Uppsala which is the home to the oldest university in Scandinavia. And Tallinn… Tallinn is twinned with Dartford. Come again, Dartford! For those of you who don’t know Britain well, Dartford is a dull dormitory suburb on the back end of London. Dartford is in the county of Kent, the so-called “garden of England”. Technically it is both a town and a borough , but it is not a city since it doesn’t have a Royal charter to call itself that. Say the word “Dartford” to most Britons, and they will answer back “tunnel”. The Dartford crossing is both a tunnel and a bridge. It links up Kent with London both above and below the river Thames. When City Paper called up the
Black men, Estonian women: the truth By Abdul Turay Published Postimees 11 November 2009 Well that got your attention; the headline I mean. Any story on this subject, the technical term is miscegenation, is bound to get punters. The yellow media, women's magazines and reality TV shows are obsessed with the subject. Not a month goes by without some publication writing about it. Anne and Style, for example, recently ran a long feature about mixed couples. Most of these stories are muddle-headed and wrong. There's paranoia in this country that there is an army of dark-skinned men form Turkey, the tropics, some place south, who are going to make off with the nation's women. It's never going to happen. I'll explain why in a minute. Seriously, I think there are more important things to think about and worry about. I worry about feeding my family. I worry about other people being able to feed their families, so I write about politics and economics. But the p
A black president for a white nation By Abdul Turay First published Postimees 11 November 2008 A few months ago I was having dinner with an American journalist friend visiting from New York. I joked to her that it seemed like there are only five black people in Estonia.... and two of them are drug dealers. Now the most powerful man on the planet is a black man. What does this mean for Estonia, one of the whitest nation's on Earth? Though this US election was fought on the issues, not on race, it was pretty clear once Obama was elected the huge historical significant of event would be celebrated. Some people may think President-elect Obama’s race doesn’t matter. Some even believe he isn’t really black. After all the president-elect’s mother was white and he was raised by his white grandparents. Those people are wrong. Obama is really black and it really does matter. Most black people everywhere see Obama's election as a personal victory for them. Ninety five per cent of Afri