Sunday, 14 August 2011

Quote of the day...

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.
What is wrong with that quote isn't so much self-evident as screaming in your face whilst punching you and shitting on your carpet. It takes a special level of wilful ignorance to believe that saying "whites" are behaving like "blacks" is an "unracial" remark. Really. In fact, there's nothing less "unracial" than attributing certain behaviours to an entire ethnic group. Which is what Starkey did.

Worse, he did so on Newsnight when talking about the recent riots across Britain and suggested that they occurred because white people acted as blacks do. He qualified this by saying he was talking about culture and not about race, but this was unsatisfactory. Especially since he equated "violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture" with being black and claimed that if you listened to an "archetypal, successful black man" - such as the MP David Lammy - without any image of him, "you'd think he was white." Which, of course, is equating violence and destruction with being black and success with being white. But Starkey still thinks "that is the most unracial remark anyone can make."

His defenders don't do him any favours either. Angry Mob has already ripped down James Delingpole's notion that Starkey fell into a cunning trap laid by the BBC, but it's not the paranoid notion of a liberal intelligentsia looking to trick people into racism that concerns me. Rather, it's the point where he asks "is anyone seriously going to try to make the case that this isn’t black culture in excelsis?" Being generous, we might think Delingpole has boiled down black culture to "hip hop and grime garage and their offshoots" plus "black street patois." In which case, his view of black people and the rich array of culture that has developed in predominantly black working class areas is absurdly limited. Assuming the worst, we might see him - as the man he seeks to defend - equating black culture with gang violence, vandalism, and rioting.

The latter perception is strengthened by his follow-up remarks;
Or does anyone, perhaps, want to persuade me that this is but one tiny and much-exaggerated facet of a broader black culture dominated by opera and madrigal singing and crochet and sonnet-construction and lawn bowls and Shakespeare and new translations of Ovid? If they are capable of doing so then maybe, just maybe, I might accept that there was something demeaning or reductive in Starkey’s comments on black culture.
But, of course, I would be as guilty of "perpetual umbrage and righteous rage," perhaps even of leading Delingpole into a trap constructed of his own words, were I to note that he had just juxtaposed positive points of white, middle class culture with an entirely negative view of black culture. I'd be "weaselly" and "disingenuous" to call him racist. Doubly so if I pointed out that against accusations of racism his only defence is a wall of ad hominems to fling at accusers.

Toby Young's defence of Starkey is equally flimsy, and 5CC dissects it with ease. He also notes that, in much less eloquent form, BNP leader Nick Griffin made much the same point as Starkey by arguing that "blacks & wiggers then ran riot." He also wondered "whether to make David Starkey an honoury [sic] Gold Member [of the BNP] for his Newsnight appearance."

Starkey and Griffin are far from the only person to hold such views. In the wave of reaction that has followed the recent unrest, there is certainly a war of ideas to be fought. In doing so, one thing we cannot concede to Starkey is the absurd notion that his remarks were "unracial."