Monday, August 22, 2011

Language is powerful

'Condemned as a racist for his comments on 'Newsnight' following the riots, the historian David Starkey speaks out against those who tried to silence him for confronting the gangster culture that has ruptured our society.'

UK riots: It’s not about criminality and cuts, it’s about culture... and this is only the beginning - David Starkey
"How, then, to explain the black educationalists Tony Sewell and Katharine Birbalsingh defending the substance of my comments on “gangsta” culture, as well as Tony Parsons, who wrote in the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror that, “without the gang culture of black London, none of the riots would have happened – including the riots in other cities like Manchester and Birmingham where most of rioters were white”. 
Even stranger is Miliband’s apparent notion that, far from militating against educational achievement as I suggested, “the gang culture of black London” must therefore be a seedbed for scholarship and sound learning. Odd, isn’t it, that Waterstone’s bookshop was the only business unlooted in the Ealing riots? And odder still that Lindsay Johns, the Oxford-educated mixed-race writer who mentors young people in Peckham, argues passionately against “this insulting and demeaning acceptance” of a fake Jamaican – or “Jafaican” – patois. “Language is power”, Johns writes, and to use “ghetto grammar” renders the young powerless. 
One of the most striking things about the England riots is where they did not happen: Yorkshire, the North East, Wales and Scotland. These areas contain some of the worst pockets of unemployment in the country. But they are also characterised by a powerful sense of regional or national identity and difference that cuts across all classes and binds them together. And it is this, I am sure, which has inoculated them against the disease of “gangsta” culture and its attendant, indiscriminate violence. 
We must focus on the righting of the wrong rather than the original wrong itself. The former heals; the latter divides. And we have had enough of division. There is a final point. If all the people of this country, black and white alike, are to enter fully into our national story. 
We will not continue, I think, to tolerate being lied to and cheated in the matter of race. Instead of “not in front of the children”, we want honesty. But this is only the beginning. The riots are the symptom of a profound rupture in our body politic and sense of national identity. If the rupture is not healed and a sense of common purpose recovered, they will recur – bigger, nastier and more frequently. Can we stop bickering and address this task of recovery and reconstruction – all together?" 

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