Nirpal Dhaliwal, Evening Standard, March 29, 2012
This week’s report into last summer’s riots found that the shooting of Mark Duggan was apparently the last straw for a black community under siege from the Met and its stop-and-search tactics. But this week has also seen the conviction of three young black men for shooting a five-year-old girl, Thusha Kamaleswaran, through the spine in an attempted gangland hit.
The killing of a known criminal and gang member in Tottenham triggered an orgy of looting; many community leaders leapt to Duggan’s defence. Yet the paralysing of an innocent child hasn’t elicited a peep of condolence from such leaders, let alone outrage at those responsible. And not one pair of Nikes has been stolen in protest.
The two cases highlight the hypocrisy that frames our discussion of race and crime. About a thousand people attended Duggan’s funeral, as though his death were akin to the assassination of Martin Luther King. How many of them will contribute to Thusha’s appeal fund as she contemplates life in a wheelchair?
While there should be concern about and full accounting for any killing by the police, the black community should be more concerned about the chronic degree of gun crime committed by its own members — a primary reason for the police being armed in the first place.
Stabbings and shootings by black youths in London are regular occurrences. Yet the main effective means the police have of tackling them — stopping and searching suspects — is derided as racist and oppressive.
Were stop-and-search to end, the black community would suffer most as the number of black victims would sky-rocket. This fact is lost amid the sanctimonious complaints from the likes of former City Hall race adviser Lee Jasper and Stafford Scott, a Tottenham-based race consultant. Both have made hay since the riots in their attempts to portray the police and society at large as racist.
At times their double standards have been so blatant, it’s staggering. Interviewed on Radio 4 last year, Scott decried black MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbott thus: “I see them as white people.” When historian David Starkey made a similar kind of accusation on Newsnight discussing the riots (“the whites have become black”), he was vilified. Scott, who’s black, wasn’t censured in the least. Funny, that.
One amusing sight during the riots was of a young man wearing the uniform of the urban gangster — a hoodie, gold teeth and jeans slung low, snarling war-dog in tow — castigating the police in his patois for treating him with suspicion. It was a protest akin to donning a white coat and stethoscope and then complaining that you’ve been mistaken for a doctor.
Rather than blaming society, such characters should criticise the gangster culture and its celebration of semi-literate, criminal machismo that undermines inner-city life.
And they should march in the streets of Thusha’s Stockwell neighbourhood to shame the gang members, the people who value black lives cheapest. For black gun crime is a far more lethal menace to black people in London than the Metropolitan Police will ever be.