Obvious disclaimer: I am white. I suppose I am very white British and so speaking to the experiences of black people in the context of police violence and racism in the US is possibly problematic. Yes, I am privileged, and I don’t give a damn if that triggers some of you out there who take offence at the notion that a) there is such a thing as white privilege and b) white lefties like to bang on about it. Get over it.
I often talk to a friend of mine, two white people sitting in a pub full of white people in an almost exclusively white area on the south coast of Britain, about recognising white privilege. I think it’s important to note these things. I am a white, heterosexual, middle-classed male, born into an Armed Forces family that meant I went to private school, had a whole range of really lucky experiences, went to university and so on. The point I make to my friend is that whenever I walk down the street here or almost anywhere in the UK, whenever I apply for a job, I don’t feel like people are looking at me, that I may be at a disadvantage due to the colour of my skin.
I have not had to fight for any kind of equality. I have never once been disadvantaged and have certainly, a huge number of times, been advantaged due to the colour of my skin and the privileged background that I have. And this was all due to the accident of my birth; nothing that I had any sort of meritorious influence over.
At the same time, in the States, a white person with a criminal record is far more likely than a black person without one, with the same CV, to get the job. Just one example of the asymmetry in equality of opportunities.
Why should my experience matter in this debate? Well, in some senses, I am deeply irrelevant. But in another sense, it is important for people like me to speak out. Crucial, even. “How can the black community dismantle a problem they didn’t create?”
This is a powerful and insightful maxim from an unlikely source. Expecting the black community to rise up and snatch equality of opportunity from a society that has taken it away from them, that holds all the power plays and institutions of law and order, is impossible – a totally unrealistic thing to hope for.
Real change happens when there is a societal shift. I need to be a part of that shift, to help drive it. We all do. As one protest placard read, “White silence endorses violence”.
The world is a very strange place when a British, white comic actor, James Corden, can absolutely whoop Trump’s ass in deciding what to say to the American nation. How the American President can be so absent from this state of affairs, can get the mood so woefully wrong, is startling in its inadequacy. How he can preside over a situation where over 125 press violations have taken place, from the improper arrest of reporters to violence on camera crews, just shows how far short he is falling of the mark at which he needs to be.
James Corden nails it in his YouTube Late Late Show announcement that makes you wonder whether Trump’s speechwriters are still in the bunker. And Reggie Watts in such a vulnerable light was hard to watch…
As for Dave’s performance, it was quite simply amazing.
I want to post it separately here. I spent yesterday obsessed with this performance, ruminating over every bar, every rhyme, every implication. It is stunning. The lyrical genius and poignancy need to be savoured. I probably watched it a dozen times in different forms yesterday.
For those non-UK watchers, there is an added final verse for this live version that is a little incendiary that refers to some topical events. Grenfell is the apartment block that burnt down that housed mainly low-income immigrant families. The Windrush Generation refers to the (scandal of) migrant workers brought over from the Caribbean who have subsequently been:
“wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Many of those affected had been born British subjects and had arrived in the UK before 1973, particularly from Caribbean countries as members of the “Windrush generation“ (so named after the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948).
And finally, Jack Merritt (and his Saskia Jones) were victims, darkly ironically, of the 2019 London Bridge terrorist stabbings who were fighting for rehabilitation and criminal justice reform (Merritt worked with Dave’s imprisoned brother).
Watch that performance. Then watch it again.
Trump holding a Bible upside down after clearing peaceful protestors for his church photo op after being only a few steps away from declaring marshall law was a terribly insufficient response.
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