Is Random Stop and Search Saving Black Lives?

I realise that this is a very controversial position, as one of the complaints made by the Black Lives Matter protests was about the hugely disproportionate numbers of Black people stopped and search for weapons by the rozzers. But nevertheless, I do wonder if there’s an issue here that isn’t being addressed – that of Black on Black violence.

This was an issue way back in the 1990s, as I recall. Black activists and anti-racism campaigners pointed out that Black people, and particularly Black men, were the commonest victims of violence. I don’t doubt that this information was revealed partly to calm White fears that Black violence was largely directed outwards at them. There was naturally great concern about the gang culture, not just confined to Blacks but including Whites and others, especially after the murder of Demilola Taylor. He, you may remember, was a 12 year old Black lad, who was chased home from school and stabbed. He bled to death in the stairwell of the block of flats where he lived. It was an horrific crime that truly shocked the nation. The issue of Black and Black violence was also picked up by Ali G. In one of his interviews, in which he took the mick out of serious celebs, politicos and other figures of authority, he talked to a senior police officer about it, and the weapons that ‘brothers were using against brothers’. After pretending to be seriously concerned, the character turned to a selection of the weapons the officer of the law had brought along to show just what they had taken from the criminals responsible. Ali G immediately started asking about which was the coolest. To which the officer rightly replied that none of them were. I used to watch Ali G, and found some of it hilarious. But there were times when Sasha Baron Cohen overstepped the mark with him and his other characters, and there were protests from Blacks offended at what they considered to be racism in a White performer appearing as a Black character. Even though Baron Cohen never appeared in Blackface, and the character was later presented as a White lad, who wanted to be part of urban Black culture but didn’t really understand it.

I don’t quite know what happened to the issue of Black on Black violence. It seemed to fade away into media obscurity, along with general concerns about the influence of Hip Hop and gangsta rap, which was held to be responsible for promoting the violent gang culture. I’ve noticed in recent reports on the news attacking and condemning knife crime that many of the victims are Black, but there are also Whites represented, presumably to dispel any further racial fears that it’s a peculiarly Black problem. However, extreme right-wing YouTuber, Paul Joseph Watson, in one of his rants the other day claimed that 70 + per cent of the perpetrators of violence or knife crime were Black, and 62 per cent of the victims. He did not give the source of these statistics, so you may well be justified in taking them with a pinch of salt. I can think of one reason why these figures may be incorrect. If the police are massively disproportionate in their targeting of Blacks for stop and search, then the figures could be an artifact, not of the real amount of Black violence, but simply a product of more Blacks being found with weapons simply because more Blacks than Whites were searched. But it may also be true that these figures are accurate, and that for a variety of reasons – poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and yes, the influence of certain strands in popular culture, more Blacks than Whites are involved in violent crime, with Black people the chief victims.

If that’s the case, then there is clearly an argument for retaining stop and search and targeting Blacks rather more than Whites as an anti-racist strategy. Because if Blacks also constitute the majority of victims, then those searches are saving Black lives. Even though I think the criticisms of the excessive use of stop and search on Blacks is justified. And there is also clearly an argument for cutting some of the funding to the police and using it instead for social programmes, that may have greater success in leading some young Black people away from gang culture and its violence.

As for the murder of Demilola Taylor, that was one of the issues I had with a Black rights academic organisation with whom I was briefly in touch when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. They thought I’d be interested in looking at their magazine. It honestly had the opposite effect on my, as I was angered at the magazine’s presumption of racism against Whites. I was particularly furious at a piece they’d included criticising the coverage of Taylor’s murder. They decided it was racist, and felt that the news should instead be concentrating on all the Blacks attacked and murdered by Whites. I got the impression that they thought the poor lad had been murdered by a Black gang. But there was no mention of the gang’s ethnicity on the news, and it was later revealed that it was of mixed race – it included members of all colours. The tone of the article made me furious, as regardless of the race or whatever of the murderers, a young child had been horrifically killed. It was one of the issues I raised in a reply I sent back to them about their magazine, along with several others. They replied in turn by telling me that if I wanted to talk to them again, I should send my comments to someone else.

This seems to be an example of the wider sensitivities surrounding the reporting of Black violent crime. And you can understand why, with the long history of extremely biased, racist reporting by the Tory press, Black people don’t want their community automatically associated with crime and violence.

But if there is a real issue here – if the majority of gang or knife attacks are by Blacks against other Blacks – then these sensibilities are counterproductive. There are certainly good arguments for scaling back stop and search, and being far more discriminating in targeting the real villains, rather than ordinary, decent Black peeps simply for being Black. But at the same time, these searches could also be saving Black lives. And as the news reports have shown, even for those who survive, the trauma is still very real.

If Black lives truly matter, then it’s also an issue than means cracking down on Black on Black violence, and not just the excessive tactics of the police. 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: