Friday, 26 September 2008

Racialising Crime: An Anecdote

Not a weighty treatise on the nature of crime in a capitalist society, but an anecdote from when E and I were out leafleting, building for last weekend's anti-fascist events.

We handed over a leaflet to one woman who was standing in her garden. She took one look at it and said she didn't want it, because "we need something like the BNP to sort out this area". We asked her what she meant. She went into minute detail of her run-ins with the local drugs gang, who happen to be young Asians. She showed us the stab mark in her head from where they'd last attacked her and told us of the number of times she'd been beaten up after dark. Her friend came out, who was interested in the leaflet, but told us similar stories about other local white people she knew had been attacked by this gang. There were times her kids had been on the local fields when one of their dogs had dug up a drugs and knives stash. And her house had been attacked by the gang as well.

Assuming they weren't pulling our legs, and judging by the time they spent talking to us and their general demeanour there's no reason to believe they were, you can see why the BNP might have an appeal. In this case the anti-social elements are a thuggish group of drug dealing Asian men. They harass and assault a number of vulnerable white residents. And the police couldn't care less. From the standpoint of these white women it appears to be a race issue. But in essence, it isn't. Socialists should not fight shy of this and issues like it because it is "inconvenient" and upsets some dogmatic view of how the axis of racial dynamics are supposed to be. To brush them under the carpet is to invite the BNP's unwelcome attentions. In situations like this socialists need to adopt sensitive local strategies that seek to empower communities at the expense of anti-social elements and overcome the racial divisions their activities foster. And one way of doing that, as much as it may stick in the gullet of ultra left pedantry, is raising the demand for greater democratic control and accountability of the police, linked with a complete overhaul of the government's counter-productive and damaging stance on drugs. Doing nothing or making hay with "anti-white racism", like the BNP do, will exacerbate racial divisions and won't stop peoples' lives from being a misery.


thinkingdifference said...

i've heard similar anecdotes about Roma in Eastern Europe; about Aboriginals in North America; about Asians in North America; about Romanians in Italy; about Turks in Germany and so on, and so forth. It is really hard to convince people not to racialize crime; and to explain how minority-majority power relations shape our circumstances. In the end, if you've been a victim yourself, racialization is a way of making sense of what happened and of reclaiming control over the situation. The problem - in my view - is seeing others first and foremost in terms of race or ethnicity (or gender for that matter). I also think media plays a huge role in providing ready-made racist discourses (whether overtly or not) for us to make sense of our surroundings.

Highlander said...

Daft question maybe Phil but how did the conversation go with regards to you presenting the alternate view?

Phil said...

It was quite difficult to get a word in edgeways! Usually when you meet someone like this it's best to let them vent what's on their mind, and then respond after they're done. Me and E were there for 20 minutes. What I was able to do was explain to them it is a policing issue, rather than a race issue, and explained to them our own position on community accountability and control of the police. I also explained the BNP are more concerned with making political capital out of Keith Brown's death and moaning about a new mosque than the concerns of working class people.

It's also worth noting both women emphasised they weren't racist, despite seeing their predicament in racial terms. I'm pretty sure if the gang were distinctive white Britons, like Scousers, Geordies or Glaswegians, they would have been similarly ill-disposed to these groups too.

This isn't the first time I've encountered this issue. When I was out door knocking during the local election, another woman complained about the drug dealers that congregate at the end of her road. This gang was primarily black. But she didn't read race onto her problems, her anger was directed at the couldn't care less attitude of the cops.

Anonymous said...

Have to interrupt you here guys.
The police are understandably reluctant to police Asian thugs because the Left have made them untouchable.
The BBC won't report it and your good selves are there to ensure any other angle but race is used to explain Asians targetting whites...because they are white.
Perhaps the BNP are a symptom rather than a cause, and isn't the new rage in the country better having a political voice than a pair of Doc Martins?

Helena C