We Must Resist


David Starkey, a British national and an historian by trade, created a racial storm recently on BBC2.  Appearing on the show “Newsnight,” Starkey claimed that the recent riots in London and other social ills can be traced directly to the idea that White “chavs” (a British colloquialism for “aggressive, thuggish teenagers”) have “now become Black,” and have embraced Black culture.  His exact words:

A substantial section of the chavs have become Black.  The Whites have become Black.  A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion.

See an article about Starkey and his comments here.

Starkey didn’t stop there.  When confronted about his comments by other guests on the show and in the face of scathing rebuttals from the public, Starkey had this to say:

I said until I was blue in the face on the programme that I was not talking about skin colour but gang culture. A large group of whites have started to behave like blacks. I think that is the most unracial remark anyone can make.

When I read about Starkey, several points came to mind.  The first was that no matter how much legislation is passed, and no matter who is elected President of the U.S.A., people like David Starkey still have a world view based on racist beliefs and assumptions.  His second quote demonstrates that logic and legislature can have minimal impact on perspective.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – you can’t legislate people’s beliefs.

The second point that occurred to me was that it seems as if the election of President Obama has brought these ideas and world views out for public viewing and discussion.  Before 2008, there were those of us who were of the mind that racism had become a thing of the past.  To them, the election of President Obama proved it.  They believed that because police no longer sicked dogs on throngs of people, or that Black people no longer hung in Southern trees, that we had somehow turned a corner on race relations.

Have we made progress since the days of W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X and Dr. King?  Certainly.  But like a virus, racism has mutated into the thing it has lately become.  Resistant to old cures and strategies, racism didn’t disappear so much as it found out where to thrive.  In dark corners.  At private homes and old family dinner tables.  It learned that it could survive better by changing from loud and violent to quiet and deadly.  Until now….

It also occurred to me that David Starkey serves as a reminder that racism is NOT an American issue alone.  It is a human condition.  This condition strikes us irrespective of nationality, culture or language.  It thrives in private homes and dinner tables around the world.  And it’s getting loud again.  And if we’re not careful, it will get violent…again.

That brings me to the final point that occurred to me.  No matter how comfortable we may have become, no matter how tired we may be of “playing the race card,” WE MUST RESIST racism whenever and wherever it is found.  And by “we” I mean all of us.  Irrespective of race, nationality, culture or language, we must stay true to our heritage as a human family, and PROTECT one another from the virus that’s plagued us since before recorded history.

Southern trees still sway in the wind.  But WE must determine what fruit they bear.

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