Every death, knife attack in London is making headline news and more publicity is being given to the victims families as we perceive the streets as more dangerous place, where we have a heightened sense that we are more likely to be subject physical violence that can end up being fatal. How true is this? What’s the real deal here?
Akala, our modern renaissance man, with sage like wisdom, his interview with Piers Morgan refers to the facts, regarding serious violence in the UK, citing that London is not the UK’s murder capital, nor are young black teenagers disproportionately committing these crimes. Giving a historical, sociological critique of our societal moral panic, Akala describes how the media, are giving a broad brush stroke attributing everything negative in modern day society at the door of Black communities, in particular young black men when the data speaks to different truth.
In his Beyond the Blade series, Guardian journalist, Gary Younge’s gives an analysis that also contradicts the popular press; whilst not denying there is more stabbings and more young people carrying knives for protection; one article suggest’s that the printed term’ knife crime in newspapers refer’s to black kids, much like the term mugging was used to denote street crime.
Like Akala asserts in his Good Morning Britain interview, the Beyond the Blade narrative invites us to view the term ‘Knife Crime’ as a construct, that has been fed into through media reporting, which has politicians and commentators weighing in, but not necessarily identifying nuances of how White youth being involved and reported upon, compares to Black youth. Yet again we see how powerful and subtle the mainstream media’s response to exacerbate and reinforce where they would like us to believe the problem lies.
Younge in his piece, quotes two former prime ministers, firstly Tony Blair in 2007 who said ““We won’t stop this by pretending it isn’t young black kids doing it.” and David Cameron in 2006 “I would say to Radio 1, do you realise that some of the stuff you play on Saturday nights encourages people to carry guns and knives?”
Younge provides a detailed insight to this phenomenon, which refutes any ideas around, what is a moral panic that race has anything to do with increasing numbers, highlight studies from US, which says most incidents starts with arguments, and labels the causes are around men fighting, and a Youth Justice Board study that clearly shows that where knife crime happens, it happens more frequently in poor areas, and when mapped and given the necessary analysis, the ethnicity factor has nothing to do with what’s going on. The fact that young Black men disproportionately live in poor areas, means that it’s bound to happen to them.
In relation to youths committing knife crime, the stats for all knife crimes in 2017 only 1 in 5 incidents were perpetrated by young people under 18, although this was the highest number for seven years, gives us a better understanding of the proportionality.
This highly contentious narrative is increasingly being whipped up to the public to suggest that an off the shelf solution is available. I see no end to this moral panic as it is means for those in power who seek to gain political leverage for themselves. For example the Police Federation, have been able to make their case for more Police officers, more funding, as well as tougher sentences. News shows and morning magazine shows have ready made content to fill their programming, with commentators who are far removed from those at real risk of becoming victims.
They are invested in a way that by default sensationalises and feeds the roadshow. Alex Beresford the weatherman Good Morning Britain, gained national credence for his impromptu rant at Police Federation Chairman Jon Apter juxtaposing, how those on the studio floor including himself benefits from spoils of society, where the average working class Black Male has become numb to the threat prison or more Police on the beat.
An age ago we had well resourced, and well funded statutory youth service that worked in partnership with a voluntary sector that included many small and large charities, community centres, youth clubs, faith based youth provision which with the onset of Thatcherism had to start justifying its value and then ultimately its existence. Those of us over 45 will remember having access to many extra curricular activities to get involved in, which were either free or didn’t break the bank.
The reality for today’s youth is that in comparison dedicated provision is threadbare. Between 2010-2018 £767m cuts in youth service spending outlines reduce opportunities for young people to be involved in structure activities that support their personal development. Not that there is conclusive proof that being involved or going to a youth reduces the risk of crime.
Akala’s interview a must watch, has him saying that with over 200 years experience of serious youth violence in the UK, the most successful models to reduce this behaviour is where the response have been led by faith and community groups. Akala forwards Glasgow, the murder capital of Europe as the model where violent crime was identified as a public health issue, leading to the development of a ground breaking strategic multi-agency that yielded the significants results that celebrated no youth deaths in 2017. Questioning why this is not being advocated for in London. The total opposite of stiffer sentences and police with increased powers that is the clarion call from politicians and media types. A call which Phillip Hammond has now responded to with emergency funds of £100m being made immediately available for constabulary’s up and down the country to fight ‘knife crime’.
So here we are in 2019, under the cloud of Brexit, in the shadow of Grenfell and the double standards of Windrush. Black Boys and the Black Community continue to be in the firing line. Thank goodness for the likes of Akala and Gary Younge giving us something to hang our hats on. If we were to believe everything you read or watch, you’d think we were heathens, uneducated and have no right to be here.
With all the Gang and Knife crime we have to deal with there’s going to be hardly anytime for Black communities to focus on other issues many of them face like, workplace poverty, homelessness, a housing crisis, food banks, welfare reform, and genuine racial disparity.