my journey to be my best self

black ≠ black: what a riot

In travel, Uncategorized on August 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

Watching the news I was astonished as I saw Tottenham, home to one of the largest and most significant populations of African-Caribbean people, in flames. The riot left the neighborhood in rubble.
After 11 weeks of “black” people telling me that the British are not as sensitive about race as Americans I want to ask: Is that your final answer?  It can’t be.  I came across these words in the newspaper: “Too many black men have been killed by the police.  Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they’re not.”   I knew this wasn’t specific to America.  Despite the history, the racial environment here is more like the landscape at home than anyone is willing to admit but they are not fooling me.  Why?  If they were more honest with themselves, and me, we would better understand the unrest.
First I thought it was because Mark Duggan was shot.  For years I thought the police department was only outfitted with handcuffs and batons. So how was he shot?  Because some cops carry guns — like the ones that were involved in the pre-planned operation to carry out Duggan’s arrest. 
The question was did Duggan shoot first.  Hard to say.  He was a “known gangster” but I was not surprised when the news reported that Duggan, though carrying a loaded gun, did not fire at the police before being shot 2 times and killed.
The real question I have been desperately seeking the answer to is why, in London, where no one admits that race matters, was there a riot after Duggan was killed?  Three nights later London is under lockdown.  The headlines in the newspaper and the commentary on television are dedicated to the riots (that have been compared to the riots in 1985) and we have been advised to stay home after dark because the riots are not limited to Tottenham.  They are now taking place in neighborhoods all over the city and as I look at an infographic in the paper I cannot map where the rioters are headed next so I am resigned to my flat hoping the rioters do not come to South Kensington.  Last night as I complained that I was a prisoner in my own home Whitney’s mom said, “Oh no – out of wine! Obviously you and Lola did not take that Brownie/Girl Scout oath to heart (a Girl Scout is always prepared). Daylight will soon be here.” Damn.
How many more nights will this last?  With cops powerless against the teenagers that have taken over the city leaving us in a police state unable to leave our homes after dark?  Today, the newspaper says the use of plastic bullets has been approved. Plastic bullets?  How do the police plan to fight teenagers throwing car bombs, firecrackers and missiles?  The cops at home know better.  They will fight violence with violence.  The police used tear gas and water hoses and dogs and nightsticks (and any other weapons at their disposal) on peaceful protesters during the Civil Rights Movement.  I am glad these riots aren’t taking place at home because the police certainly wouldn’t be asking for approval to use plastic bullets if the streets were taken over by rioters 4 nights in a row.
At this point I think I know all I need to know about “black” people in London.  And I am ready to go home to America, where everyone knows race matters.  At least were prepared.


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