Memory of the early-eighties: a school assembly. One of my classmates, who has joined the ultra-fashionable Rastafarian religion/movement, is ordered by the headmaster to remove his hat. The head has already spoken to the boy’s parents, who have agreed that their son shouldn’t wear his hat in school. My classmate refuses, claiming a religious right to cover his head. He is ordered to leave the school premises until he removes the hat. He marches up the stairs to leave the hall; at the top, he turns, raises his fist, and shouts “Jah Rastafari!”, before marching out. Cheers of support ring from the hall, but everyone else stays seated. For his Rasta salute, he is expelled. He never returns to school, and leaves without qualifications.
While he may have been unfairly treated regarding his religious choices, he was not a victim of racism. Rather, he was a victim of a black nationalist ideology that was a hangover from the earlier anti-colonial and civil rights struggles. He had been taught that “the system” (or “Babylon” as Rastas called it), was a white system, rigged against black people. He didn’t need the “white man’s knowledge” (you know – maths, science, that sort of thing) because it was designed to “keep the black man down”. In leaving school without any tools to thrive in the British economy, he was typical of many young black men of his generation. They rejected education because racist extremists had told them it was false knowledge, and that they could never succeed in white society.
This was untrue. In fact, literate, middle-class black kids, and especially those from African homes, found plenty of opportunity in the UK, regardless of the racism many encountered. Black nationalist ideology is a recipe for failure: many teenage boys would love an excuse to skip their classes and fail their exams, and afrocentric teaching gives them just that. But while this racist nonsense is rejected by most black parents, it is embraced by many confused white “liberals”, who amplify the message and patronisingly accept that when young black men fail, it’s not their fault: instead, it’s the white man, keeping the black man down via an intricate and invisible system of “structural racism”. As I’ve blogged previously, there is actually little evidence for structural racism affecting people’s economic outcomes, at least in the UK.
This imaginary “oppression” is increasingly used as an excuse for a huge upsurge in black racism. Those of us who have spent much of their lives as minorities along black communities (for 40 years, in my case) will know that black racism is not a new thing; but we are few, and the arrival of postmodern nonsense from Race Studies faculties that denies black people are even capable of racism has added fuel to the fire. While black racism has been largely ignored or excused by the black community and white “liberals”, the arrival of social media has made it increasingly hard to ignore. I have several hundred black Facebook friends – mostly in the UK but also in Africa and the US – and it’s rare that a day passes without seeing overt racism from black people that would be shouted down if it came from anyone else. Here are a couple of examples that have appeared on my timeline in recent days:
A bunch of white people died on the Titanic! Hilarious. Like most such memes, it’s based on a lie: black people were never barred from the Titanic, and in fact at least one black person was on board. Outside of the segregated southern US, colour bars were actually pretty rare; but history is now rewritten to be racialised, and a generation of black people raised on self-pitying “black history” rather than actual history is more than ready to believe this myth.
There’s a nice, feel-good black business success story, coupled with a thinly-veiled celebration of an Asian business being burned to the ground. The message appears to be: black people can succeed, just like Asians! All you need to do is chase them out of black neighbourhoods! As in America, black provisions are often sold by Asians in the UK: human hair, hair and skin products and cosmetics stores in black areas are, more often than not, run by Asians, which causes resentment rather than self-examination among many. Anti-Asian racism is strong in the black community: in part, because Asian success gives the lie to the idea that non-whites can’t succeed in Britain.
Similarly, and for similar reasons, anti-African sentiment is strong among sections of the black community. At my school, this gave rise to “Ja-fake-ans”: Africans trying to pass as Jamaican to avoid bullying.
Every story that can be twisted into a black oppression narrative will be. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted an equally virulent outbreak of racist conspiracy theories. First, it was a lie designed to allow neo-colonialists to invade Africa. Then, a genetically modified virus designed by the white man to wipe out Africans. Then, when an experimental vaccine was rushed into use, this was obviously a trick to poison black people. And then, as the outbreak came under control, new theories that the whole thing had simply never happened. All of this ignored the reality: that hundreds of white medical volunteers were putting their lives at risk to treat people, that European and American money funded the relief effort and the roll-out of drugs and vaccines, just as they had to tackle AIDS and malaria on the continent.
The Caitlyn Jenner episode, for some reason, prompted an upsurge of spiteful transphobia and racism from black people. One particularly odd meme originated from Snoop Dogg, who said:
Where to begin? How about the laughable idea that an R&B singer is single-handedly bringing power to the entire African continent? The actual story was that he was funding a school for solar engineers in Bamako, Mali. This claim is particularly odd given the afrocentric obsession with pointing out how damn enormous Africa is. One moment, a huge continent, the next a plaything for an American celebrity. This was far from the only anti-Jenner hate I saw from black people. White “liberals”, normally outraged by the faintest hint of transphobia, appeared to be universally silent about this sort of thing. The racism of the new left excuses black people pretty much anything because – well – the poor, oppressed dears don’t know any better, do they? The new left has accepted the core ideology of the old, white supremacist right: that black people can’t be held responsible for their actions, nor held to be equals in any true sense.
All of this comes on top of the vile #BlackLivesMatter campaign, which successfully turned the burning issue of police shootings into a racial one. While racial statistics on police shootings were initially hard to find (because, amazingly, no official count is taken), the Guardian stepped up to the plate by maintaining its own database. Via this, we discover that so far this year, 901 Americans have been killed by police, of whom 416 are white and 217 (24%) are black. Black Lives Matter is a slap in the face to the families of the rest: those whites, Hispanics, Asians and others who have lost a loved one to US police violence. Indeed, those who tried to propose an #AllLivesMatter hashtag were screamed down as racists on social media. #76PercentOfLivesDontMatter, apparently. Stupidly, this campaign has dismantled attempts to build a cross-societal backlash against police violence, and instead taken the opportunity to create another self-pity party for those who feel most hard done by. Martin Luther King is, no doubt, face-palming in heaven.
It’s true that black deaths are disproportionately high; it’s also true that black people are more likely to open fire at police officers (70% of shootings at police in New York State were by black people, according to an Economist audio report some months back). If you shoot at US cops, you’re going to get shot! There is a racism element in all this, no doubt, but it is undoubtedly smaller than Black Lives Matter claims.
Similarly, the death of Sandra Bland was breathlessly reported as the eighth black woman to die at police hands that year; the reporting failed to mention that 17 white women had died in the same period. Can you name any of the 684 non-blacks killed by American police this year? The supreme irony is that, while denouncing the media for ignoring black deaths, in fact the reverse is happening: only black deaths can be publicly mourned. The rest must go unmentioned, because to even mention their existence risks being tiresomely labelled “racist”.
Note that Black Lives Matter has nothing to say about the shooting of black people by police… in Africa, which is a daily occurrence. #BlackLivesMatterButOnlyWhenAWhitePersonCanBeBlamed, apparently.
The list goes on indefinitely… a UK government warning against washing chicken for hygiene reasons became a Facebook excuse to label whites as unhygienic. To explain context: washing chicken and meat is common in black cultures; so is a belief that white people are dirty.
Personally, I rarely give a damn about much of the casual racism directed against whites, Asians, mixed-race people and others by black people. I’ve experienced this more times than I can count, especially when in the company of my black partner: the sight of a white man with an attractive black woman is guaranteed to bring out the worst in some people; even more so now that we have a child together. This has been a background fact of my life for decades, but I know from experience that for every black person who dislikes me for my colour, there are many more who will stand up for me. But while we get hysterical every time some silly old white man says something vaguely racist, we are utterly silent in the face of more prevalent black racism.
Thankfully, there are signs that many black people are waking up to the problem, and challenging it. Several black friends of mine have begun to stand up to black racists on Facebook: bravely so, because to do so means dealing with accusations of being a race traitor, and other silly forms of abuse. Many within the black community are beyond sick of people playing the race card to excuse their failures, rather than take responsibility for themselves. Perhaps the tide began to turn with Chris Rock’s legendary “blacks vs niggaz” act, now almost 20 years old. In a recent discussion on a friend’s page, a black American woman contributed the following: “I’m tired of the race card being pulled some blacks are just misguided and stupid and create their own problems”. But the white-dominated anti-racism movement has proven itself too cowardly or simply unaware of this problem, and stays away. What’s the point of an anti-racism movement that ignores racism? This is gold dust for the far-right, which can harvest white, working class supporters rejected as “racists” by the left for merely complaining when they themselves experience racism.
Just as white supremacy was fatally holed by the election of a black President, and is sinking rapidly, so it’s time for racist black nationalism to go the same way. I have never tolerated racism in any form, and frequently stood up against it. I don’t intend to stop doing that now.