Black Youth, terrorism and the moral blindness

The following is an short extract from an article by Lee Jasper taken from http://www.obv.org.uk/news-blogs/black-youth-terrorism-and-moral-blindness (submitted 24 May 2013). I thought it important at this fairly critical time to be passed on and more widely read.

The brutal killing of the young British solider Lee Rigby on a British High Street in Woolwich South London by religious fanatics was deeply shocking. The fact that such a savage and grisly attack can take place on a busy British street in broad daylight has left the nation numb with shock and bewilderment.

This was a 21st century murder, broadcast almost live in real time and instantly transmitted across the world. The images we’ve seen on the front page of our newspapers, and on our television screens were horrific and bloody.

The question haunting everyone now is how can seemingly ordinary couple of black British guys from South East London end up committing such an act?

The personal tragedy for the murdered young man and his family seems almost to have been overshadowed by the complete dominance in the print media of the murderers whose pictures were plastered on every front page. I refuse to name them here in a small act of personal solidarity with the family.

One can only imagine the pain and grief his immediately family must be going through. They are now condemned to be forever reminded of the graphic nature of his death suffering a living hell with a memory that will be forever etched into their minds.

Watching the news over the last couple of days, I was struck by a number of issues that I think are important. The overwhelming majority of the news has focused on analysing the story from the perspective of terrorism and utilising the usual array of largely white and Asian Muslim experts and representatives.

Given the men themselves are black and of Nigerian origin this struck me as slightly odd. The dominant news narrative seems to almost wish they had been Asian and in that desire has simply labeled them ‘Muslim’ fitting them in to a convenient and stereotypical category that reflects and allows for simplistic and naive commentary.

Of course what is missing from the debate and in some sense, is the huge elephant in the room, is the fact that these young men are African, they are black British men and largely unknown to many they are part of the largest single ethnic minority group in London according to the 2011 census. That is an important aspect of this story, and I will tell why I think so.

The fact is that the real lived experience of British black communities suffering the damaging effects of societal racism is a narrative that is largely missing from the mainstream British news agenda and completely absent from the Government’s agenda. I am not for one moment seeking to suggest, in any way, shape or form, that these grotesque murderous act are justified. I am, however, suggesting that a minority of young black British people, be they of African or Caribbean descent, many of whom suffer deep economic exclusion, deep political marginalisation and acute social demonisation from wider society, can be particularly susceptible to both violent criminality and sometimes, radical conversion by religious fanatics.

Our communities endure a youth murder rate that is unacceptable. Intuitively, instinctively British black communities know and understand that if the victims of killings were white middle class youth, there would be a national outcry.

Society remains largely silent in the face of such carnage but erupts in outrage when a white solider gets killed. Horrific, and symbolic as the killing of this young soldier was, there were similarities in its barbarity of the recent murder of Daniel Graham, who was chased by a gang and stabbed multiple times on a London bus or that of Andrew Jaipual of Islington stabbed between 20-40 times? Both in broad daylight.

The reality is that the number of black young people in the UK who have been brutally murdered over the period of the last 13 years exceeds the number of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. What many in Black communities feel is that we are often facing an internal war generated by long term poverty, alienation and unemployment.

As the nation begins to reflect on the causes of the terrible events this week, the racism and rabid Islamaphobia of the English Defence League will feature large. And whilst the EDL and the BNP openly espouse their bigoted views without true leadership from mainstream political parties and beyond, many Britons will be silently sign up to at least a watered-down version. Such effects could take us back to the 1970s.

If as a society we are to tackle some of the root causes of violent extremism, and criminality, we will need to tackle both our moral duplicity home and abroad, but also begin offer real opportunity and hope to many more of our young men and women, Black and white.

Lee Jasper

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