All entries for Monday 24 October 2005

October 24, 2005

Trouble In Birmingham

Follow-up to Did Anyone Notice The Noise? from Hollyzone

So it is true. The news outlets have started to release the details of the Birmingham riots and what my brother said seems to have been true. A rumour lead to chaos.

I had asked him if he was going to be ok and he answered yes for two reasons. Number one, he's a student. Apart from the occasional mugging they don't tend to get picked on if they keep out of the gangland culture. And secondly he was quite unlikely to get mistaken for a gangster because he is white.

It's another manifestation of one of the issues which perplexes a lot of white people – that they don't have the monopoly on racism. And yet it's looking at non-white racism that puts it in perspective. Whilst it's easy when you are white (as the media majority is in this country) to get angsty about white racists, disowning them, ridiculing them, it doesn't allow you to cut to the heart of the problem. Racism is a fear of the newcomer.

It doesn't matter how long a particular group has lived in an area, as long as they are perceived as the newcomer then there will be issues. In this particular Birmingham case the Pakistani community has moved in to an African-Caribbean area and there are tensions. It exists inside 'races' as well. The Welsh and Scottish don't like it when English people move into remote communities. Hell, rural English people don't like it when townies move in. In a way racism is only racism because it allows a handy external sign (skin colour) to be used to identify the 'newcomer'. We are now much more tolerant of the Irish who have been entering this country for a long time and are henceforth both less newcomer-like themselves, and there are new newcomers.

Now I'd love to offer solutions, but do you really think I'd be sat in a cold and damp student house if I could answer that question?


Did Anyone Notice The Noise?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/4370288.stm

Riots in Birmingham and has anyone here heard anything about them? No.

Sigh.

This is a sad side effect of being at this uni I guess. People just don't pay attention even to the localest of local news.

Anyway, I'm in two minds as to whether to write the entry on this that I really want to write. I spoke to my brother earlier and he's a student at UCE which pretty much means he can't have the same student ignorance of so many at Warwick because these riots are taking place literally down the road from where he is. Three whole bus stops away. He rang me earlier for a chat and told me what was going on.

And the reason I hesitate. I do read the news, the BBC News website in fact. And nothing on the BBC's website was contradicted by my brother's view from the ground. The thing was that he gave lots of extra details that the BBC had left out, no doubt because their inclusion would have had to be very very firmly backed with evidence for a respectable news outlet to issue them. Now I don't think my brother was lying. I'm pretty sure he was telling the truth as far as he knew it. But it put such a different slant on the situation that I was almost moved to write about it. Then I wondered if I should. Call it some weird sense of journalistic integrity (not that I'm anything more than a hack cartoonist on a student paper) but if the BBC ain't saying then maybe there's a reason. So I'll leave it for now and monitor what the BBC says over the next few days. Hell, I might even look at other news outlets to see if they are being less reticent.

Anyway, the truth as my brother told it is quite (though not massively) explosive. Not that anyone here would ever notice…


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