Britain is experiencing a rash of teenage knife crimes, nay, murders in the 2008: 27 to date. While I hope that I am well out of the stabbin’ demographic, I’ve been continually disturbed by the U.K. media’s malignant neglect of the race and gender issues implicit in teen violence. Specifically, the utter failure to grapple with the problems of black masculinity that are inherent in male violence. What are young black men angry about? That they, much like their fathers, are denied the fruits of patriarchy. Orchards of nice cars, big houses, fine women, and real diamonds to replace the glass studs they wear in one drooping earlobe.
This race/gender blindspot in both media, non-profit, and governmental practice was laid bare on a recent BBC Radio 4 program discussing the media’s coverage of knife crime. Truth be told, I’m getting a bit fed up with the media’s navel-gazing, but in this instance it was one of the few time race was even acknowledged as a factor the deaths of, predominately, young black men stabbed over what was, undoubtedly, some bullshit. When you add the ways in which young white men have been disenfranchised since Thatcher got done privatizing Britain’s undoing and so-called New Labour furthered the project, one can only guess at the anger that sharpens the knives of young white men, descendants of colonialists and inheritors of a declined empire.
Anne McElvoy reporter from conservo-rage The Evening Standard, in her assessment, hypothesized that knife crime was “finally” entering the press’ consciousness because of the “random” nature of the stabbing of [age] in a South London bakery. The Guardian’s Joseph Harker quote rightly and quickly calls her on the blatant racism in labeling the stabbing of a white boy random, while implying that the young black men somehow courted this violence (sort of like “ ‘innocent’ AIDS victims”). Her snippish reply was along the lines of “Well, you choose your words and I’ll choose mine.”
No shit, Sherlocka, one would assume that you, as a journalist, would pick yours more carefully and not be a defensive cow when called on your shit. In this instance, ascribing randomness to white crime and “the natural state of things” applied to black crime is indicative of how the media covers knife crime and how law enforcement responds.
Additionally, gender analysis gets shortshrift with the “my daddy wasn’t in the house, so I get to be an asshole” routine. Yes, true, there is an economic and even a social impact to fatherlessness, as well as motherlessness. Nonetheless, since gender continues to be a relational category, when will U.K. social services begin to discuss how to teach these young black boys how to be men? Not patriarchal, sexist men, but self-respecting, women-respecting, life-respecting men.
This is a failure of black men, black women, and black culture to raise our expectations of how we want black masculinity to look if we are to ever emerge from the morass of fucked up gender relations in which we find ourselves. Demands to “man up” aren’t gonna cut it. Once again, it’s Nation Time and interrogating masculinity and its patriarchal assumptions should be on the agenda. Black boys are stabbing one another because they’ve been pissed off that they’re being denied everything they’ve been taught to believe is their rightful inheritance.
Perhaps it’s time to change what’s on offer. This is not to the exclusion of work training initiatives (Olympics 2012 labor force training, Mr Prime Minister?), the end to the racist revival of stop-and-search laws, and investing real time and attention to education reform. Community action (and I don’t mean impotent marches) is but one solution that needs to be implemented if we’re ever to stop the roll call of violence.