Is Britain Becoming a Country of Johannesburg-Style Ghettos?

Lindsay Johns, Daily Mail (London), October 18, 2011

Having just returned from a week with my Peckham mentor kids at a leadership conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I am always alarmed by the shocking level of segregation that sadly still exists across the pond. What is more, the South is not an isolated case.

Ostensibly cultured and cosmopolitan East-coast American cities like New York, Boston and DC are still far more of a fruit salad than a genuine melting pot, with separate races often living in separate, geographically-distinct neighbourhoods.

On previous occasions, I have always felt thankful, and perhaps a little self-satisfied, that such stark racial segregation doesn’t exist here in the UK.

And yet now, each time I return to these shores, I am beginning to look at London and other major cities with an increasing sense of dismay, in terms of the way many of us, especially young people, seem to be progressively living and interacting split along racial lines. I sincerely hope that we are not going the way of the States.

A few weeks ago David Levin, the headmaster of City of London School, articulated this same concern at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, where he warned of the dangers of inner-city segregation in schools. What is more, he felt that ‘London is sleepwalking towards Johannesburg.’

Despite the doom-filled voices of the habitual naysayers and professional grievance merchants, I genuinely believe that people of colour have much to celebrate in Britain.

Thankfully, we do not have the pernicious legacy of slavery as in America or the barbaric inhumanity of the South African apartheid regime. Britain’s high level of mixed-race relationships is, on one level at least, a testament to a much more liberal and open-minded state of affairs.

I’m not saying that life here is a proverbial bed of roses and that the UK is devoid of racism–far from–but, in all honesty, compared to other notoriously racist countries in Europe, like France or Germany, and the level of nefarious racial inequality which still exists in countries like the USA and South Africa, we undeniably have a lot to be proud of.

That’s why we must now be mindful of the desire to self-ghettoize, a phenomenon which I see increasingly reflected around me, be it on the streets of the capital and in many of the inner-city schools I visit.

The idea of an unconscious, unwritten, apartheid-style segregation seeping into the fabric of this country horrifies me. My father’s family are from Cape Town, and, as Coloured people under apartheid, were physically not allowed to go certain places (be it the best beaches, theatres or restaurants), because of the colour of their skin, and were duly made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country.

Now, for whatever reason, it seems that many young people in London and elsewhere in the UK are almost consciously choosing to limit themselves in terms of their social interaction, both in and outside of school. This strikes me as a tremendous shame.

Living and socializing around one’s own is a human instinct which clearly transcends race and time. To be fair, there is surely much to be said for the feeling of security engendered by being surrounded by ‘people like us.’

Plus, let us not forget, the initial, overwhelming impetus for immigrants to congregate together in the 60s and 70s was directly due to the prevalence of virulent white racism. Think, for example, of the disgusting attacks on West Indians in Notting Hill in the 50s and 60s and the abhorent ‘paki-bashing’ perpetrated by the National Front in the 70s and 80s.

But now, thank God, such callous, retarded bigotry is mercifully on the wane. Call me foolishly optimistic or painfully naive, but I would like to believe that enlightened white attitudes are increasingly common as Britain has become more at ease with cultural diversity, and, despite pockets of continued ignorance, most white people are far more likely to be open to difference than forty years ago. As a result, we should capitalize on this and benefit from it, not actively spurn it.

As a regular theatre-goer, I am always saddened by the conspicuous lack of other brown and black faces at non-black or brown productions in London. I urge all the young people I mentor in Peckham to explore and actively embrace the joys of the South Bank, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House–places that have a reputation for being (in ex-BBC head Greg Dyke’s infamous phrase) ‘hideously white.’

These milieux, I tell my kids, are as much for them as for anyone else. Expanding their cultural horizons beyond the essentially stultifying confines of SW9, SE15 or NW10 are key to their intellectual and social development as well-rounded, well-balanced and well-adjusted individuals.

Personally, I have no desire to live in a silo-like Britain–a bizarre, self-inflicted replica of the USA or South Africa, where separate races live and socialize apart through choice in distinct ethnic enclaves. I could think of nothing more tedious, nothing more mentally enfeebling and nothing more saddening than only mixing with people of my skin colour or background.

That doesn’t for one minute mean that I am not fiercely proud of my racial heritage, or don’t encourage the young people I mentor to be. I just don’t want to limit myself to one set of ideas, one set of stimuli, one world-view or even one type of food. There’s a bigger world out there, with a multiplicity of valuable truths–one that exists in glorious techni-colour, not just black and white.

As such, I urge my young people to be unashamed advocates of intellectual and social (as opposed to sexual) promiscuity. That is how they will come into contact with new ideas and fresh thoughts about this marvellous thing called life–not cloistered, blinkered and ultimately fettered by one sole tradition, one hegemonic canon or by seeing everything through one racial prism. Engaging with difference is how they can liberate their minds and hopefully make tangible human progress.

Our parents’ generation ardently strove to fight the evils of racism, with the aim of ensuring equality for all, irrespective of colour, creed or class. As such, we have inherited an immensely precious birthright, which must not be squandered at any costs. Integration, not voluntary segregation, is the way forward for harmonious social cohesion, let alone a better, more interesting Britain.

As a committed humanist, I am always reminded of the words of the Latin playwright Terence, himself an African slave from Carthage and a seminal influence on Shakespeare and Montaigne: ‘I am a human being and I consider nothing human alien to me.’

If more of us–brown, black and white alike–were mindful of Terence’s powerful words, perhaps we would be less inclined to confine ourselves to such debilitating and ultimately imprisoning mental and physical ghettos–ghettoes of the postcode and of the mind which tragically stymie human flourishing and negate the fulfilment of our true potential as human beings, not merely representative of races.

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  • (AWG) Average White Guy

    Keep in mind that the diversification of the Europshere, including the USA, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, is not reversible.

    What the multiculturalists refuse to acknowledge is that diversity begets racism. There is no racism, for example, in Iceland; none in Cameroon.

  • Robert Binion

    Well, how would Shakespeare describe it, the longing for kinship of one who hears Destruction amble past his door two hour before cockcrow?

  • Anonymous

    “Embrace the joys of The South Bank, The National Theatre etc.” Get back to me on what the business owners there think of that idea when it comes to fruition. In my own city, we once had a magnficent museum, housed in an Oil heiresses mansion. It`s purpose, as requested by the original owner was for a place of solitude and artistic reflection. Then a new board of directors changed that mission to bringing the great unwashed in to appreciate art. Sooo, after the “Learning Center” was built, the wooded area was paved over to accomadate a Berlin Airlift of inner city and urban busses. Then to complete the devastation, a dozen guards were hired(From underserved communities) to replace the one or two you used to have to look for. And they`re worse than the new customers, belligerently shouting their commands to not touch, back away etc.. Sometime I go on a rainy day if I don`t see kids misbehaving in the parking lot but the illusion and memory of my reflective days vanishes as soon as the sun comes out and the busses start lining up.

  • Doug

    It’s not surprising that a South African Coloured wouldn’t want to live around blacks, in South Africa, they consider themselves (with justification) more civilised than the full blooded blacks. However, what Lindsay Johns doesn’t do is explain why whites should have to or would want to associate with blacks or Coloureds.

  • neanderthalDNA

    Why does the writer not go back to South Africa and fix all of it’s problems?

    What a self blind, race baiting, lefty duckspeaking, ignoramus.

    Are not some things just painfully obvious?

  • Anonymous

    Lindsay Johns is a black man, writing to sound white while self describing himself as a “hip hop intellectual”.

    The author writes like he wants to live his life in an intellectual dream world, experiencing live vicariously through works of art, and in denial of primal blood, sweat and biological urges to conquest.

  • Cliff Yablonski

    I’m speechless.

    How could anybody be like this? What bizarre brainwashing has taken place to make the author this blind?

  • Jeddermann.

    Is it becoming? Is it? It already is and has been for some time. And the racism is like it is in the U.S. Bantu attacking, killing, raping, stabbing and shooting whitey [is that what they are called in England?]. And doing so in almost a casual manner, no regard at all for human life. NOT is becoming, IS NOW!

    Some English might care to respond.

  • Anonymous

    “Having just returned from a week with my Peckham mentor kids at a leadership conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I am always alarmed by the shocking level of segregation that sadly still exists across the pond”

    Do any Whites still live in Atlanta?

  • Anonymous

    I had to stop reading after the first few paragraphs. Had I continued, I would have thrown my computer out the window.

    He and his students are lucky they weren’t robbed and beaten in Atlanta. Of course they might have stayed in one of the safely guarded hotels near the airport.

  • Anonymous

    What a blow hard. A perfect example of the foolish combination of idealism and willfull blindness that characterized early Political Correctness. Early? Yes, he still has pride in Western Civilization and doesn’t hate his race. He probably doesn’t even notice that most of his co-workers do. He’s in a time warp, probably wears tweed and walks around with a pipe in his mouth.

  • Californian

    Big difference between London these days and Joburg under apartheid: in those days, the SA police could keep order in the city. How are the British police doing these days?

  • AmericaFirst

    “Thankfully, we do not have the pernicious legacy of slavery as in America or the barbaric inhumanity of the South African apartheid regime. Britain’s high level of mixed-race relationships is, on one level at least, a testament to a much more liberal and open-minded state of affairs.” Here we go again. The legacy of slavery is so profound in the U.S. that virtually no blacks have left the country to go to Africa (or anywhere else) in the 146 years since slavery has ended, although they are free to do so. They have chosen to stay here, and have thrived, not that any of them would ever admit to that. Their presence speaks volumes. As to the “barbaric inhumanity” of apartheid, MILLIONS of blacks fled from other parts of Africa into South Africa during apartheid, to the only place on the continent where where blacks were educated, housed, given medical treatment, and weren’t starving. Of course, that is now changing with a black majority gangster regime in charge.

  • madison grant

    self segregation = human nature

  • Anonymous

    Funny about these blacks, they never tried to either better their own countries (Africa/Haiti) or inner cities. Countless centuries from now, they will still sang the same old song, “we shall overcome” as long as whites exist. This really translates into just keep the white handouts coming.

  • fred

    Ostensibly cultured and cosmopolitan East-coast American cities like New York, Boston and DC are still far more of a fruit salad than a genuine melting pot, with separate races often living in separate, geographically-distinct neighbourhoods.

    That’s because multiculturalism doesn’t work. When a population is homogeneous, the people don’t realize what a blessing they have. And they don’t realize what a curse it is to not be homogeneous. And so those who arrogantly consider themselves “enlightened” push for “diversity”. As soon as they get it, they run from it. The tragedy is that there is no way to make one understand until they are facing it. And even then many won’t admit it. But they still run from it.

  • Stephen

    The person who wrote that is an absolute head case.

  • Brian Fletcher

    As South African expatriate, though born and raised in England, I was most interested in the article by Lindsay Johns. The gentleman seems to have a Cape Coloured background and as such I know his race very well, having grown up amongst them. Since 1994 South Africa has been a racially diverse nation. It has one of the highest crime rates in the world and as a result over a million whites have relocated to safer countries such as the UK.I wonder if Mr. Johns or his family also relocated to a safe country rather than stay and enjoy the new diversity which he espouses.

    He is concerned that Britain is drifting towards Johnnesburg style ghettos.In fact so am I, though not for the same reasons.

    Johannesburg is not a nice place to be. It is a place of robbery,muggings and murder. Whites live in separate areas for reasons of safety. They need guns, dogs, burglar bars,electronic surveilance, electric fences and rapid response security units.

    In other words they want to survive the worst that diversity can through at them.

  • Buridan

    Sometimes it is almost as if the Daily Mail writers had a brain and as if that newspaper were the only one in the world to tell rather true things about races – it is not so in that case…

  • Bardon

    Black (or “colored”) intellectuals are inevitably despised or rejected by their racial “brothers”. What can an average Black in London have in common with colored person who reads Henry James or Garcia Marquez, visits museums to see paintings of Delacroix and Rembrandt & listens to the music of Mozart and Stravinsky ?

    Nothing.

  • Anon

    I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of pathos and absolute disgust after reading this article. Knowing the English as I do, I can only imagine the kind of person the writer of this article is: self-righteous, snobby, arrogant, eager to grasp on to anything or anybody who compliments his multicultural bona fides; yet at the same time dismissive of anything to do with his own culture, his own statements notwithstanding. As for the writer he cites, Greg Dyke, who called the National Theatre, etc. “hideously white” elicits nothing but the utmost contempt. He’s another twit in the fine English tradition: contemptible, vain, arrogant, obdurate, cold, indifferent, and in all probability homosexual, who bathes in the light of multicultural righteousness, but wouldn’t be caught dead in any venue or cultural event that was more than half minority. Hypocrites like that could only write for the Daily Mail, and are the reason England is fast going down the tubes. No doubt writers like Johns and Dyke can hold their heads up high while their country sinks into the multicultural hell hole they’ve helped create. Rats like that are usually the first to flee the sinking ship, and they’ll no doubt depart for friendlier climes once that has happened.

  • Former Ex Pat

    I lived very close Peckham in the early ’90s with my UK wife. On one of the very first days there two black guys blatantly walked off with my shopping cart (empty) that you had to make a small deposit on. Being in a new country and with my new wife pregnant I didn’t want to cause a fuss. Peckham is one of the scariest places in the Western World and not just because I lost a shopping cart.

  • BerekHalfhand

    #10

    “He and his students are lucky they weren’t robbed and beaten in Atlanta.”

    If the student group was from Peckham (the single worst district in London in my experience) as the author says, they would have been an entirely black group and would not have stood out as prey in Atlanta.

  • ghw

    10 — Anonymous wrote at 8:10 PM on October 18:

    He and his students are lucky they weren’t robbed and beaten in Atlanta. Of course they might have stayed in one of the safely guarded hotels near the airport.

    11 — Anonymous wrote at 8:34 PM on October 18: What a blow hard. A perfect example of the foolish combination of idealism and willfull blindness that characterized early Political Correctness. Yes, he still has pride in Western Civilization and doesn’t hate his race. He probably doesn’t even notice that most of his co-workers do. He’s in a time warp, probably wears tweed and walks around with a pipe in his mouth.

    =======================

    It is obvious that neither of you comprehend that the writer is not white. He is Cape Coloured. Like all mulattoes, he has an ax to grind. I suspected something like that from the start. And I assume that his student “mentor kids” which he brought to Atlanta are colored too. They would have fit in nicely in downtown Atlanta. No need for an airport hotel.

    Evidently you didn’t bother to fishing reading the article where he finally makes his racial identification clear. But I can hardly blame you for that; I could barely finish it either.

    Here’s a little interesting background about Peckham [from Wiki].

    …………………………………

    Peckham became popular as a wealthy residential area by the 16th century .. At the beginning of the 19th century Peckham was a “small, quiet, retired village surrounded by fields”. Peckham developed a strong sense of identity in the 19th century when Rye Lane was one of the most important shopping streets in South London.

    Today, Peckham is a high-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation, despite a £290 million regeneration programme in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the constituency that contains Peckham, is one of the most deprived in the country.

    North Peckham was heavily redeveloped in the 1960s, consisting mainly of high-rise flats to re-house people from dilapidated old houses. It was popular on its completion for offering a high quality and modern standing of living, but it soon entered a decline that turned it into one of the worst residential areas in Western Europe. [I wonder why?] Urban decay, vandalism, graffiti, arson attacks, robberies and muggings were commonplace, and the area became an archetypal London sink estate. As a result, the area was subjected to a £290 million regeneration programme in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Peckham covers a large area of South London and takes in many diverse communities. A traditional London working class community now coexists with diverse communities that have their origins in Bangladesh, the Caribbean, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Eastern Europe and Vietnam. Peckham is prinarily black, more African than Caribbean. Peckham is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the UK.

    The European Union has invested heavily in the regeneration of the area; partly funding the futuristic, award-winning Peckham Library, a new town square, and swathes of new housing. Throughout the area, state funding is being provided to improve the housing stock and renovate the streets. This includes funding for public arts projects.