London’s Struggle…and Similarities in the U.S.

It’s difficult to comment while sitting in another country and watching the city of my birth undergoing a police crackdown and clean-up which is the aftermath of recent events…but what is more difficult is trying to understand why things haven’t changed much.  At ALL.  When I was growing up I used to hear the adults around me say that people are people no matter where they are, their colour, nationality, etc.; they said that if people are placed in the same types of circumstances, and kept there without much hope for a change into better circumstances, they tend to react the same way. Case in point: London.

My understanding is that the protest after a 29 year old father of four, Mark Duggan, who was shot in the head by police was peaceful.  Many are also aware that it is very common that Black men are repeatedly stopped by the police in London neighbourhoods.  Whatever the story, the most recent reports by the Independent Police Complaints Commission reveal that the only shots fired were those of the police.

London has many ethnic minorities but stories rarely arise about Indians, Turks, Pakistanis, Arabs, etc., being ‘randomly’ stopped by police.  Make no mistake about it: where Black folks are concerned, London can feel very much like a police state.  The English police may not be as bold as American cops (Hurricane Katrina bridge shooting, anyone?1?) but they are just as foul even if they are more ‘polite’ about the way they routinely stop Black men, whether those men are professional-looking or the young men who hang out on their own front stoop.

The original protest about Mark Duggan’s shooting was peaceful but, unfortunately, it was followed by a large copy-cat social commentary bruhaha.  Now we’re looking at news coverage; I find it disgraceful that the media keeps showing Black people looting (which isn’t acceptable) while they are keeping the faces, for the most part, of people from other ethnic minorities and those of the majority covered.  It’s especially disrespectful when the reporters assume that anyone on the streets must be a participant who condones destruction of property (BBC, that video clip with the ‘interview’ of the West Indian writer went viral…and your accusatory reporter should be ashamed of herself!)

Over there, just like here, people are focusing on the looting as that is the immediate problem — but they don’t want to look at root causes; taking time to examine root causes could mean that someone actually gets motivated enough to do something about it.  People feel disenfranchised and completely segregated from the part of society where the jobs, money and better housing are. They don’t see hope for young folks over there and the gap between rich and poor is widening, just as it is here.  It’s shameful on so many levels.

The former mayor of London, Ken Livingston, recently stated that “A generation are growing up completely uncertain about their future” and “They’re not certain they can get a home.  They’re not certain they can get a job.  They see politicians that don’t engage with them.  They don’t care; they don’t have a stake in society”.

Other than this statement it appears that their politicians are just as out of touch as ours; the Prime Minister and other officials had to return from lavish vacations to address the situation — just as the officials here are on a break after having left a financial disaster that will not be cleaned up for a long time to come.

The push to emerge from weak economies continues but we already see the price that already-struggling people are paying.  And it’s a disgustingly high price.