US embassy cable - 85LONDON24287

URBAN VIOLENCE IN BRITAIN -- THE CHALLENGE OF A RACIAL UNDERCLASS WORRIES THIS CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY

Identifier: 85LONDON24287
Wikileaks: View 85LONDON24287 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy London
Created: 1985-10-31 14:21:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: SOCI PINS UK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 311421Z OCT 85
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7937
INFO CSCE COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
AMCONSUL BELFAST POUCH
AMCONSUL EDINBUGH POUCH
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 LONDON 24287 
 
E.O.12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  SOCI, PINS, UK 
SUBJECT:  URBAN VIOLENCE IN BRITAIN -- THE CHALLENGE 
          OF A RACIAL UNDERCLASS WORRIES THIS 
          CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  DEPRESSED AREAS IN SEVERAL OF THE 
U.K.'S INNER CITIES ERUPTED IN RIOTS IN THE PAST 
MONTH.  THE BRITISH SEE MANY OF THEIR DOMESTIC WOES 
THROWN INTO HIGH RELIEF BY THE RIOTS AND THE 
SUBSEQUENT NATIONAL DEBATE ABOUT CAUSE, EFFECT, AND 
WHO IS TO BLAME.  THE RIOTS HAVE HIGHLIGHTED: 
 
--- THE LONG-TERM ECONOMIC MALAISE IN BRITAIN, WITH A 
HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AND A NEAR-COLLAPSE OF THE 
SMOKE-STACK INDUSTRIES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND; 
 
--- RACIAL TENSION BETWEEN WHITE BRITAIN AND THE 
BLACK AND ASIAN POPULATIONS WHO HAVE SETTLED IN THE 
U.K. SINCE THE 1950'S; 
 
--- PERSISTENT PROBLEMS OF SOCIAL DISADVANTAGE IN 
AREAS OF THE INNER CITY, WHICH EXTEND TO HOUSING, 
EDUCATION, INCOME, AND EMPLOYMENT; 
 
--- A VIGOROUS NEW DRUG CRACKDOWN WHICH IS 
INADVERTENTLY THREATENING THE UNEASY BALANCE BETWEEN 
POLICE AND COMMUNITIES IN MANY INNER CITY AREAS; 
 
--- THE PROBLEM OF POLICING THE MULTI-ETHNIC INNER 
CITIES EFFECTIVELY AND SENSITIVELY WITH A NEARLY 
ALL-WHITE POLICE FORCE WHICH IS FACING NUMEROUS 
POLITICAL PRESSURES AT PRESENT; 
 
--- THE LACK OF AN AGREED RESPONSE TO THE PROBLEM ON 
THE PART OF BRITAIN'S NATIONAL POLITICAL LEADERS. 
 
ALL THE FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE RIOTS ARE AND 
HAVE BEEN PRESENT IN THE U.S., AND IN GREATER 
MEASURE, AND THE RIOT DESTRUCTION HERE IS ON A MUCH 
SMALLER SCALE THAN IT WAS IN THE U.S. URBAN UPHEAVALS 
OF TWO DECADES AGO. THE AMERICAN RESPONSE (EEO 
LEGISLATION, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, GIVING MINORITIES 
GREATER AVENUES FOR POLITICAL EXPRESSION) RESULTED IN 
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN SOCIETAL STRUCTURE AND 
POLITICS IN THE U.S.  IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN WHETHER 
THE BRITISH POLITICAL SYSTEM WILL PROVE FLEXIBLE 
ENOUGH TO MEET THE CHALLENGE THIS UNREST POSES.  WITH 
THE AUTUMN CHILL COMING, THE RIOTS MAY HAVE ABATED, 
BUT WHEN THE WEATHER GETS WARM AGAIN, IF NOT BEFORE, 
THERE COULD BE A REPEAT OF THESE INCIDENTS.  END 
SUMMARY 
 
ARE THEY DEPRESSED BECAUSE THEY'RE DEPRIVED? 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
3.  HEADLINES IN THE U.K. IN THE PAST MONTH HAVE 
RECORDED CLASHES BETWEEN RIOTERS AND POLICE, THE 
KNIFING TO DEATH OF ONE POLICEMAN, AND CROWDS OF 
YOUTHS PELTING BRICKS, STONES, AND MOLOTOV COCKTAILS 
AT RIOT-SHIELDED POLICE IN THE DEPRESSED AREAS OF 
LONDON, BIRMINGHAM, LIVERPOOL, AND LEICESTER. FOUR 
YEARS AGO, AFTER SIMILAR SCENES IN THE BRIXTON 
NEIGHBORHOOD OF LONDON, LORD SCARMAN, THE JUDGE WHO 
HEADED A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY, FOUND THAT THE 
PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF THE RIOTS WERE: UNEMPLOYMENT, 
POOR HOUSING, LACK OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING 
PROSPECTS FOR YOUTHS, POOR RELATIONS BETWEEN THE 
COMMUNITY AND THE POLICE, AND AN INCREASINGLY LARGE 
NUMBER OF BLACKS WHO FELT ANGRY AND ALIENATED FROM A 
SOCIETY WHICH THEY PERCEIVED AS RACIST AND HOSTILE. 
 
4.  THE RIOT AREAS ARE SHARPLY MORE ETHNIC AND 
YOUNGER THAN THE POPULATION AS A WHOLE. THE OVERALL 
PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES HEADED BY A WEST INDIAN, 
INDIAN, OR PAKISTANI IN BRITAIN IS 4.7 PERCENT, BUT 
IN THE HANDSWORTH AREA OF BIRMINGHAM, THE FIGURE IS 
53.1 PERCENT. THERE IS ALSO A CONCENTRATION OF YOUNG 
PEOPLE IN THE RIOT AREAS; THE PERCENTAGE OF THE 
POPULATION THAT IS BETWEEN 16 AND 24 IN HANDSWORTH IS 
CLOSE TO 40 PERCENT, WHEREAS IN BRITAIN AS A WHOLE IT 
IS ABOUT HALF THAT. 
 
5.  MUCH OF THE SITUATION IN THE INNER CITIES WHICH 
SCARMAN POINTED TO AS CONTRIBUTING TO THE RIOTS OF 
1981 HAS NOT CHANGED. IN FACT, THE PAST FEW YEARS 
HAVE SEEN THIS PICTURE GROW BLEAKER.  UNEMPLOYMENT 
FIGURES IN HANDSWORTH STAND AT OVER 30 PERCENT, AND 
IN TOXTETH IN LIVERPOOL, ANOTHER RIOT SITE, AT 47 
PERCENT. 
 
6.  THE INNER CITIES HAVE THE HIGHEST NATIONAL RATES 
OF MENTAL HOSPITAL ADMISSION IN BRITAIN, THE HIGHEST 
PERCENTAGE OF SINGLE-PARENT HOMES (TWICE THE NATIONAL 
AVERAGE) AND THE MOST HOUSES DECLARED UNFIT FOR HUMAN 
HABITATION.  FOR MANY THE PROSPECTS FOR ESCAPING 
UNEMPLOYMENT SEEM INCREASINGLY NON-EXISTENT; THE 
RATIO OF VACANCIES LISTED TO PEOPLE UNEMPLOYED WAS 1 
TO 8 IN THE INNER CITIES IN THE DAYS OF THE FIRST 
BRIXTON DISTURBANCES, BUT THE FIGURE IS NOW 1 TO 491, 
ACCORDING TO A SEPTEMBER ARTICLE IN THE LONDON TIMES. 
JUNE FIGURES IN TOXTETH WERE 10,000 INQUIRIES FOR 126 
VACANCIES. 
 
IS THERE AN UNDERCLASS? 
------------------------ 
 
7.  A CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE, HARD-CORE 
UNEMPLOYMENT, AND DISINTEGRATION OF THE SOCIAL FABRIC 
IN THE INNER CITIES IS NOT A NEW PROBLEM IN BRITAIN: 
DICKENS DESCRIBED THE SQUALOR, OVER-CROWDING, AND 
POVERTY IN BRITAIN'S CITIES OVER A CENTURY AGO. WHAT 
HAS CHANGED IS THAT THE PEOPLE AFFECTED ARE 
INCREASINGLY LIKELY TO BE MEMBERS OF MINORITY GROUPS. 
PARTICIPANTS IN THE RECENT RIOTS WERE BOTH BLACK AND 
WHITE, AND STILL MANY OF THE POOREST PEOPLE IN 
BRITAIN ARE WHITE, BUT THE NUMBER OF MINORITIES WHO 
ARE "AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HEAP" IS VASTLY OUT OF 
PROPORTION TO THEIR TOTAL NUMBERS IN THE POPULATION. 
 
8.  NATIONWIDE, THERE ARE STRIKING DIFFERENCES IN THE 
EXPERIENCES OF WHITES AND MINORITIES IN HOUSING, 
EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND INCOME.  A STUDY RELEASED 
LAST MONTH BY THE POLICY STUDY INSTITUTE, A 
WELL-RESPECTED GROUP, REVEALED THAT BLACKS AND ASIANS 
IN BRITAIN ARE ON AVERAGE FOUR TIMES AS LIKELY AS 
WHITES TO BE PASSED OVER FOR JOBS FOR WHICH THEY 
APPLY, A STATISTIC WHICH CANNOT BE ACCOUNTED FOR BY 
DIFFERENCES IN EDUCATION OR TRAINING.  WITH 
COMPARABLE EDUCATION, THE SAME DIFFERENCE PERTAINS. 
AMONG PEOPLE WITH ONE OR MORE "O" LEVELS (ABOUT THE 
EQUIVALENT OF A U.S. HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA) THE 
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS 9 PERCENT FOR WHITES, 18 PERCENT 
FOR ASIANS, AND 25 PERCENT FOR BLACKS. THE PROSPECTS 
FOR THOSE WITHOUT THESE QUALIFICATIONS, AND IN AREAS 
THAT HAVE BEEN HIT HARDEST ECONOMICALLY, ARE EVEN 
BLEAKER. 
 
9.  BIRMINGHAM, THE SECOND LARGEST CITY IN BRITAIN 
AND UNTIL 15 YEARS AGO THE SECOND WEALTHIEST WHEN 
MEASURED BY AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME, IS NOW THE 
POOREST CITY IN THE U.K. IT LOST 1/3 OF ITS 
MANUFACTURING JOBS BETWEEN 1978 AND 1984, ACCORDING 
TO THE FINANCIAL TIMES REGIONAL SURVEY. IN THAT SORT 
OF ECONOMIC CLIMATE, BREAKING INTO THE JOB MARKET IS 
NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE, AND OF THOSE WHO LEFT SCHOOL AT 16 
LAST SUMMER, ONLY 18 PERCENT OF WHITES, 16 PERCENT OF 
ASIANS, AND 5 PERCENT OF BLACKS HAD FOUND WORK AT THE 
END OF 6 MONTHS, ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF 
EMPLOYMENT. 
 
10.  LIVERPOOL SIMILARLY HAS DECLINED DRASTICALLY IN 
RECENT YEARS. ACCORDING TO A SERIAL CASE STUDY OF THE 
AREA PUBLISHED IN THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER, THERE WERE 
11,000 DOCKWORKERS EMPLOYED IN THE PORT OF LIVERPOOL 
IN 1972, BUT TODAY THERE ARE FEWER THAN 2,000. 
INDUSTRIAL PLANTS IN TOXTETH EMPLOYED 22,000 THAT 
YEAR, BUT NOW EMPLOY 2,000. UNEMPLOYMENT FOR 
LIVERPOOL AS A WHOLE IS 21 PERCENT, BUT IN CERTAIN 
POCKETS SUCH AS TOXTETH, THE RATE IS AT 70 PERCENT 
FOR ADULTS AND 96 PERCENT FOR YOUTHS.  FOUR-FIFTHS OF 
TOXTETH'S CITIZENS RECEIVE SOME WELFARE BENEFITS. 
CLEARLY IT IS NOT ONLY NON-WHITES WHO FACE MAJOR 
OBSTACLES, BUT IT IS THE NON-WHITES WHO ARE MOST APT 
TO FIND THEMSELVES STYMIED AS MEMBERS OF AN ECONOMIC 
AND RACIAL UNDERCLASS. 
 
11.  DIFFERENCES IN HOUSING BETWEEN BLACKS AND WHITES 
ARE STRIKING. ACCORDING TO THE POLICY STUDIES 
INSTITUTE'S COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY "BLACK AND WHITE 
BRITAIN", BLACK HOUSEHOLDS ARE TWICE AS LIKELY AS 
WHITES TO SHARE A DWELLING. FOUR TIMES AS MANY ASIANS 
AND THREE TIMES AS MANY WEST INDIANS AS WHITES LIVE 
IN OVERCROWDED CONDITIONS, DEFINED AS TWO OR MORE 
PEOPLE TO A BEDROOM. OVER HALF THE PAKISTANI-HEADED 
FAMILIES IN BRITAIN LIVE IN HOUSES WITHOUT HOT WATER, 
INDOOR TOILETS, AND BATHS, WHEREAS THE FIGURE FOR 
WHITES IS 17 PERCENT. 
 
12.  THERE ARE DEEP DIFFERENCES IN THE MEASURED 
EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT LEVELS OF WHITES AND 
MINORITIES.  CHILDREN OF WEST INDIAN PARENTS ARE FOUR 
TIMES AS LIKELY AS WHITE CHILDREN TO BE CLASSIFIED AS 
EDUCATIONALLY SUBNORMAL. AND FEW BLACK YOUNGSTERS GO 
BEYOND SECONDARY EDUCATION.  THE PROBLEM, ACCORDING 
TO ONE ANALYST, IS NOT SO MUCH OUTRIGHT 
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE BLACK CHILDREN AS 
"WELL-MEANING LOW EXPECTATION" ON THE PART OF 
TEACHERS. TEACHERS DECIDE SUBCONSCIOUSLY THAT THE 
CHILDREN ARE LIKELY TO BE FAILURES AND GIVE UP ON 
THEM, LEAVING THEM TO MARK TIME IN REMEDIAL EDUCATION 
UNTIL THEY CAN LEAVE SCHOOL AT 16. 
 
13.  THE AVERAGE WAGE FOR BLACKS IN BRITAIN REMAINS 
20 POUNDS LESS PER WEEK THAN FOR WHITES. ASIANS EARN 
18 POUNDS LESS, ACCORDING TO THE COMMISSION FOR 
RACIAL EQUALITY, AND THIS STARTS FROM THE LOW 
NATIONAL AVERAGE FOR WHITES OF ONLY 139 POUNDS PER 
WEEK. 
 
14.  FROM BEHIND THESE STATISTICS EMERGES A PICTURE 
OF AN ALIENATED THIRD-WORLD NATION WITHIN BRITAIN, AN 
UNDER-CLASS OF THE DEPRIVED, THE HOPELESS, AND THE 
DISPOSSESSED, IN LARGE PART BUT BY NO MEANS ENTIRELY 
MADE UP OF MINORITES. 
 
WHO ARE THE RACIAL MINORITIES? 
------------------------------- 
 
15.  UNTIL RECENTLY, MOST IN THE U.K. BELIEVED THEY 
LIVED IN A RACIALLY HOMOGENEOUS SOCIETY. BRITONS 
LOOKED ON RELATIVELY COMPLACENTLY WHILE AMERICA 
STRUGGLED WITH RACIAL ISSUES IN THE 1960'S: "WE DON'T 
HAVE SUCH TROUBLES HERE". THE ONE ACERBIC EXCEPTION 
CAME IN 1968, WHEN ENOCH POWELL, A CONSERVATIVE M.P., 
MADE A NOTORIOUS SPEECH IN WHICH HE PREDICTED "RIVERS 
OF BLOOD" IN THE STREETS IF THE TIDE OF ASIAN AND 
AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS WAS NOT STEMMED. HOWEVER CRUDELY 
AND UNACCEPTABLY TO MOST OF HIS AUDIENCE, HE HAD PUT 
HIS FINGER ON A PROBLEM; BRITAIN APPEARS UNPREPARED 
TO DEAL WITH THE PROFOUND CHANGE IN THE COMPLEXION OF 
ITS SOCIETY WHICH HAS BEEN BROUGHT ABOUT BY AN INFLUX 
OF IMMIGRANTS. THEY CAME FROM THE COMMONWEALTH AT 
FIRST, AND WERE FOLLOWED BY IMMIGRANTS RECRUITED FROM 
THE CARIBBEAN TO FILL WORLD WAR II LABOR SHORTAGES. 
IMMIGRATION GREW AS TROUBLES AFFLICTED ONE 
POST-COLONIAL TERRITORY AFTER ANOTHER IN THE 50'S AND 
60'S. THOSE WHO WANTED TO MOVE COULD USE THEIR 
COMMONWEALTH PASSPORTS, A POSSIBILITY WHICH WAS 
REDUCED BY CHANGES IN THE LAW IN THE LAST DECADE. 
 
16.  STILL, THERE ARE ONLY ONE MILLION BLACKS AND 
BROWNS IN BRITAIN, OUT OF A POPULATION OF 54 MILLION, 
AND BY NOW HALF OF THESE ARE BRITISH-BORN. BUT THEIR 
OUTSIDER STATUS PERSISTS. THEY ARE STILL 
DISPROPORTIONATELY STUCK AT THE THE LOWER END OF THE 
PAY SCALE, IN SHIFTWORK AND PART-TIME WORK. OF THOSE 
IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR CHILDREN IN THE U.K. WHO HAVE 
FOUND WORK, 50 PERCENT ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 
OVERQUALIFIED EDUCATIONALLY FOR THE WORK THEY DO, 
ACCORDING TO THE BOOK "STAYING POWER: A HISTORY OF 
BLACK PEOPLE IN BRITAIN", BY PETER FRYER. 
 
17.  BRITAIN HAS ALWAYS BEEN A STRATIFIED SOCIETY, 
WITH EACH NEW GENERATION INHERITING THE 
CHARACTERISTICS AND ATTITUDES THAT PRESERVED THE 
CLASS STRUCTURE AND ITS OWN PLACE WITHIN IT. AS SUCH 
IT WAS ILL-PREPARED TO IMPORT AND ASSIMILATE MILLIONS 
WHO WERE OUTSIDE OF THIS FAMILIAR WORLD ORDER, AND 
WHO IN MANY CASES HAD THEIR OWN CULTURAL TRADITIONS 
AND DID NOT ASPIRE TO SLIDE HORIZONTALLY INTO THE 
BRITISH SYSTEM. MANY BRITONS FEAR THE CONFUSING 
CHANGES THAT THE IMMIGRANTS HAVE HELPED BRING INTO 
THEIR FORMERLY BOUNDED AND ORDERLY WORLD. THEY VIEW 
THE NEW-COMERS WITH SUSPICION AND WORSE. 
 
18.  POPULAR PRESS REPORTING OF THE RECENT RIOTS HAS 
REFLECTED THE RABBLE-ROUSING RACISM WHICH IS STILL 
EASY DISCOURSE IN MODERN BRITAIN.  TABLOIDS DESCRIBE 
THE "ZULU-STYLE WAR CRIES" OF THE RIOTERS AND 
RE-CYCLE THE COMMENTS OF WHITES CALLING THEM 
"BARBARIANS" AND "ANIMALS". BUT LIFE IS NOT SO 
SIMPLE; AT LEAST A QUARTER OF THE YOUTHS IN THE MOB 
AT TOTTENHAM, AND ONE HALF OF THOSE WHO APPEARED 
BEFORE THE MAGISTRATE SUBSEQUENTLY, WERE ESTIMATED TO 
BE WHITE. BOTH BLACK AND WHITE YOUTHS ARE NOW CHARGED 
WITH THE MURDER OF THE POLICE CONSTABLE AT TOTTENHAM. 
THE PUBLIC HOUSING NEAR MOST OF THE RIOT LOCALES IS 
MORE INTEGRATED THAN WAS THE CASE IN THE U.S. IN THE 
60'S; BROADWATER FARMS, THE PUBLIC HOUSING 
DEVELOPMENT AT THE CENTER OF THE RIOTS IN LONDON'S 
TOTTENHAM AREA, HOLDS APPROXIMATELY A 50/50 RACIAL 
MIX. 
 
19.  IN ADDITION TO THE DIFFICULTY THE LARGER WHITE 
POPULATION IS HAVING IN ABSORBING IMMIGRANT 
POPULATIONS (THERE IS NO 'MELTING POT' TRADITION IN 
BRITAIN), THERE ARE TENSIONS BETWEEN RACIAL GROUPS 
AMONG THE IMMIGRANTS.  THE TWO GROUPS WHICH HAVE 
IMMIGRATED IN THE LARGEST NUMBERS ARE ASIANS 
(PRIMARILY INDIANS AND PAKISTANIS) AND AFRO- 
CARRIBEANS. THE BLACK IMMIGRANTS ARE SAID TO RESENT 
THE RELATIVELY MORE PROSPEROUS ASIANS. THE ASIANS, 
WHO TEND TO BE THE ONLY SHOPKEEPERS LEFT IN THE INNER 
CITIES, HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY HARD HIT BY THE LOOTING 
AND BURNING THAT HAS TAKEN PLACE DURING THE RIOTS. 
THE ONLY TWO CIVILIAN FATALITIES AS THE RESULT OF THE 
RIOTING HAVE BEEN TWO ASIAN BROTHERS, KILLED WHEN 
THEIR STORE IN HANDSWORTH WAS BURNED TO THE GROUND 
AFTER THEY WERE LOCKED IN.  PRESS ACCOUNTS NOTED THAT 
THEIR STORE WAS THE PLACE THAT MOST OF THE LOCAL 
RESIDENTS CASHED THEIR WELFARE CHECKS, AND THUS TO 
SOME OF THE RIOTERS THE STORE MAY HAVE SYMBOLIZED THE 
SYSTEM AGAINST WHICH THEY WERE LASHING OUT. 
 
20.  IT IS PERHAPS POSSIBLE TO OVERSTATE THE RIVALRY 
BETWEEN ETHNIC GROUPS IN BRITAIN. THIS RIVALRY DOES 
HAVE PARALLELS IN U.S. CITIES, SUCH AS THE RESENTMENT 
CERTAIN BLACKS EXPRESSED AGAINST CUBANS IN THE MIAMI 
RIOTS, AND IT HAS SIMILAR CAUSES. 
 
21.  BLACKS COMPLAIN THAT THEY ARE LESS LIKELY TO BE 
GIVEN WHAT FEW FUNDS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SMALL BUSINESS 
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CITIES. (SINCE 1981 CENTRAL 
GOVERNMENT HAS ALLOCATED ONLY 200,000 POUNDS FOR THIS 
PURPOSE TO THE RIOT AREA OF HANDSWORTH, IN SPITE OF 
THE SCARMAN REPORT, WHICH EMPHASIZED HOW EFFECTIVE 
SUCH GRANTS WOULD BE IN REHABILITATING THE RIOT 
AREAS.) THESE COMPLAINTS ARE SUPPORTED BY STATISTICS; 
OVER 50 PERCENT OF APPLICATIONS FOR GRANTS FOR SMALL 
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (INNER CITY PARTNERSHIPS) WERE 
SUBMITTED BY BLACKS, BUT THEY ULTIMATELY RECEIVED 
ONLY 13 PERCENT OF THE GRANTS. ASIAN BUSINESSES 
FOUNDED WITH THESE GRANTS ARE ALMOST INVARIABLY 
FAMILY OPERATED AND RARELY EMPLOY BLACKS. 
 
22.  THERE IS LITTLE IN THE WAY OF A BLACK MIDDLE 
CLASS IN BRITAIN. THE ONLY ROLE MODELS THAT BLACK 
PEOPLE HAVE IN THE ESTABLISHMENT ARE MUSICIANS, 
SPORTS FIGURES, AND A HANDFUL OF T.V. JOURNALISTS, AS 
THERE ARE NO NATIONAL LEADERS, NO MEMBERS OF 
PARLIAMENT, AND ONLY ONE LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEADER WHO 
IS BLACK (AND EVEN HE WAS NOT ELECTED DIRECTLY IN THE 
STYLE OF U.S. MAYORS). ASIANS, BY CONTRAST, DO HAVE 
ROLE MODELS IN BUSINESS AND COMMERCE, AND THEY HAVE 
THEIR OWN RELIGIOUS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS. THUS, 
ALTHOUGH THEY ARE NOT FULLY ACCEPTED INTO BRITISH 
SOCIETY, ON THE WHOLE ASIANS ARE "PART OF THE 
SYSTEM", AS ONE OBSERVER PUT IT. 
 
THE POLICE: ARE THEY THE PROBLEM OR THE ANSWER? 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
23.  THE ROLE OF THE POLICE, AND THE RISING PRESSURES 
ON THEM TO RESPOND TO SUCCESSIVE SOCIETAL CHALLENGES 
IS WORRISOME TO MANY HERE.  FIRST IRA TERRORISM, THEN 
POLICING THE MINERS' STRIKE, AND NOW THE INNER CITY 
STRIFE HAVE STRETCHED THEM DANGEROUSLY THIN. 
MEANWHILE, THE POLICE FORCES WHICH ARE NOW BEING 
ASKED TO CONTAIN THE URBAN UPHEAVALS ARE OFTEN LESS 
THAN ONE PER CENT BLACK OR ASIAN (OVERALL, 700 
MINORITY POLICE OUT OF A FORCE OF 120,000, ACCORDING 
TO NEWSPAPER SOURCES. LAST YEAR, HOWEVER, OF 1208 
TRAINEES IN THE LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE, 36 
BELONGED TO MINORITY GROUPS, A HIGHER PERCENTAGE THAN 
IN PREVIOUS YEARS AND ABOUT IN PROPORTION TO 
POPULATION. A WELL-PUBLICIZED STUDY PREPARED BY THE 
INSTITUTE FOR RACE RELATIONS FOR THE ROYAL COMMISSION 
ON CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND PUBLISHED IN 1979, 
CHARACTERIZED MANY OF THE POLICE IN BRITAIN AS 
RACIALLY INSENSITIVE, AND ALLEGED THAT MANY OF THEM 
USE DEROGATORY LANGUAGE WHEN REFERRING TO MINORITIES, 
THAT THEY STEREOTYPE BLACKS AS PIMPS AND LAYABOUTS, 
AND THAT THEY CONSISTENTLY APPLY MORE PRESSURE AND 
AGGRESSION IN ENCOUNTERS WITH BLACK CI|IZENS THAN 
THEY WOULD WITH WHITES. THE NEGATIVE IMAGE OF THE 
POLICE THAT THIS STUDY HELPED CREATE IS ONE FACTOR 
THAT MAKES THE PRESENT RECRUITMENT OF MINORITIES INTO 
THE POLICE SO DIFFICULT. 
 
24.  A RECENT BBC TELEVISION PROGRAM COMPARED THIS 
SITUATION TO THAT IN THE NEW YORK POLICE FORCE, IN 
WHICH 40 PERCENT OF LAST YEAR'S TRAINEES WERE BLACK, 
AS A RESULT OF INTENSIVE RECRUITMENT EFFORTS AND, 
MORE PROFOUNDLY, A RETHINKING OF THE ROLE AND 
RELEVANCE OF THE POLICE IN THE CITIES. NOTHING ON 
THIS SCALE IS CONTEMPLATED HERE, ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE 
BEEN SOME HALF-HEARTED ATTEMPTS TO BOOST RECRUITMENT 
OF MINORITIES, AND THE HOME SECRETARY HAS NOW URGED 
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE TO HIRE MORE BLACKS. 
 
25.  ONE MUST ALSO NOTE, HOWEVER, THAT THE POLICE 
FORCE HAS BEEN THE ONLY INSTITUTION TO TAKE THE 1981 
SCARMAN REPORT TO HEART, AND REAL CHANGES HAVE 
OCCURRED SINCE THEN. POLICE NOW TAKE TRAINING IN 
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND RACE RELATIONS, AND THE 
CONCEPT OF COMMUNITY POLICING (GETTING THE POLICEMAN 
COMFORTABLE AND FAMILIAR WITH THE PEOPLE ON HIS BEAT, 
AND THE PEOPLE USED TO THE PRESENCE OF THE POLICE) 
HAVE MADE PROGRESS IN IMPROVING THE CLIMATE ON THE 
STREETS. PERHAPS IT IS IRONIC THEN, THAT IT WAS 
POLICE ACTIONS IN TWO INSTANCES WHICH APPEAR TO HAVE 
SPARKED THE RIOTS. THE FIRST WAS THE ACCIDENTAL 
SHOOTING IN SEPTEMBER OF A MIDDLE-AGED BLACK WOMAN, 
OCCASIONED WHEN POLICE BROKE DOWN THE DOOR OF HER 
HOUSE AND BURST IN, LOOKING FOR HER SON ON A WEAPONS 
CHARGE. THE SHOOTING HAS LEFT HER A PARAPLEGIC, AND 
HAS FOCUSSED RESENTMENT AGAINST WHAT IS SEEN AS 
POLICE HEAVY-HANDEDNESS. THIS INCIDENT WAS FOLLOWED 
CLOSELY BY THE DEATH OF A BLACK WOMAN DURING A SEARCH 
OF HER HOME. ALTHOUGH SHE DIED OF HEART FAILURE, HER 
FAMILY HAS CHARGED THAT THE POLICE WHO WERE 
CONDUCTING THE SEARCH DELIBERATELY IGNORED HER PLEAS 
FOR MEDICAL ATTENTION AND ALLOWED HER TO DIE 
UNNECESSARILY FOR WANT OF AN AMBULANCE. 
 
26.  POLICE HEAVY-HANDEDNESS IS CITED REPEATEDLY AS A 
CONTRIBUTING FACTOR TO THE RIOTS. TWO SOCIOLOGISTS 
WHO EXPLORED THE ROLE OF THE POLICE IN THE INNER 
CITIES IN A MONOGRAPH PUBLISHED THIS SUMMER CONCLUDED 
THAT THE POLICE WERE IN FACT CONSTANTLY MAKING THEIR 
PRESENCE FELT TO YOUTHS IN THE HANDSWORTH AREA, BY 
FREQUENTLY STOPPING THEM AND QUESTIONING THEM. THE 
AVERAGE RATE AT WHICH YOUTHS WERE STOPPED FOR 
QUESTIONING WAS FIVE TIMES PER YEAR, FOR BOTH BLACKS 
AND WHITES. WHAT WAS PARTICULARLY STRIKING WAS THAT 
ALTHOUGH THEY WERE STOPPED AT THE SAME RATE, BLACK 
YOUNGSTERS DISTRUSTED THE POLICE MUCH MORE, AND THEIR 
ATTITUDES WERE FAR MORE OFTEN HOSTILE. IT IS 
INEVITABLE THAT POLICE WILL HAVE TO BE ACTIVE IN 
NEIGHBORHOODS WITH HIGH CRIME RATES AND A HIGH 
PERCENTAGE OF YOUTH (THOSE STATISTICALLY MOST LIKELY 
TO COMMIT CRIMES). IT IS JUST AS INEVITABLE THAT 
ENCOUNTERS UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES WILL CREATE 
STRAINS. BUT IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT MANY BLACKS ARE 
LASHING OUT AT THE POLICE, WHO SYMBOLIZE A SYSTEM 
WHICH THEY FEEL IS HOSTILE TO THEIR INTEREST. 
 
27.  THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE RIOTS HAS BEEN TO 
CALL FOR MORE SWEEPING POLICE POWER, AND 
AUTHORIZATION OF THE USE OF TEAR GAS AND PLASTIC 
BULLETS IN RIOT CONTROL (THE SAME PLASTIC BULLETS 
WHOSE USE IS BEING SO HOTLY CONTESTED IN NORTHERN 
IRELAND, WHERE THEY HAVE ON SOME RARE OCCASIONS 
CAUSED DEATH).  THE CONSERVATIVES, AS THE "LAW AND 
ORDER" PARTY, HAVE MADE THEIR PRINCIPAL RALLYING CRY 
FOR DEALING WITH THE RIOTS A PLEDGE FOR INCREASED 
SUPPORT FOR THE POLICE, UNDER PRESSURE FROM THEIR 
RIGHT AND MUCH OF THE MIDDLE CLASS IN BRITAIN, THE 
"DECENT WORKING PEOPLE." 
 
28.  NONETHELESS, THE POLICE HAVE REACTED IN 
FRUSTRATION TO THE CHARGES THAT HAVE BEEN LEVELED 
AGAINST THEM. IN AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED GATHERING 
LAST WEEK, THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE METROPOLITAN 
BRANCH OF THE POLICE FEDERATION, THE RANK AND FILE 
ACCUSED THEIR LEADERS OF COWARDICE, SAYING THAT THEY 
WERE AFRAID OF MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS FOR FEAR OF 
POLITICAL OR PROMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES. THE POLICE ON 
THE BEAT COMPLAIN THAT THE BRAKES ARE PUT ON THEM BY 
THEIR SENIOR OFFICERS AND BY LOCAL POLITICIANS. IN 
TOTTENHAM, THE FIRST RIOT IN THE U.K. MAINLAND IN 
WHICH GUNS WERE USED AGAINST THE POLICE, AND WHERE 
ONE POLICEMAN WAS KILLED AND 163 INJURED, THE POLICE 
WERE RESTRAINED FROM GOING INTO THE AREA EARLY ON TO 
MAKE ARRESTS. THIS, POLICE CLAIM, WAS BUT A 
CONTINUATION OF AN OFFICIAL "HANDS-OFF" POLICY WHICH 
HAS FRUSTRATED THEM SINCE ITS INCEPTION AFTER 
SCARMAN, AND WHICH THEY BELIEVE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR 
THE HIGH CASUALTY RATE THAT FOLLOWED. 
 
29.  AT THE MEETING LAST WEEK, JOHN NEWMAN, A 
CONSTABLE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE METROPOLITAN BRANCH OF 
THE POLICE FEDERATION, DEMANDED AND WAS GRANTED A 
"THOROUGH REVIEW OF POLICY AND TACTICS" BY 
METROPOLITAN COMMISSIONER SIR KENNETH NEWMAN. 
 
30.  MINORITY AND OPPOSITION LEADERS HAVE COMPLAINED 
THAT THE POLICE ONLY WANT STUDIES OF THE ISSUES THAT 
SUIT THEM, AND NOTE THAT THE GOVERNMENT AND THE 
POLICE HAVE REFUSED TO CONDUCT AN INDEPENDENT INQUIRY 
INTO THE TRIGGERING INCIDENTS OF TWO OF THE RIOTS. 
 
THE POLITICS OF RACE 
--------------------- 
 
31.  THE THEME OF HOME SECRETARY HURD'S SPEECH AT THE 
ANNUAL CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE IN EARLY OCTOBER, 
DIRECTED AT MINORITIES, WAS PARAPHRASABLE AS "YOU 
HAVE THE RIGHTS, NOW EXERCISE SOME RESPONSIBILITY". 
THE REALITY SEEMS TO BE THAT THESE RIGHTS APPEAR ALL 
TOO THEORETICAL, AT BEST, TO MOST OF BRITAIN'S 
MINORITIES. 
 
32.  MINORITY VOTERS, ESPECIALLY CARIBBEAN BLACKS, 
HAVE VOTED FOR THE LABOR PARTY SO CONSISTENTLY THAT 
THE CONSERVATIVES AND THE ALLIANCE HAVE LARGELY 
WRITTEN THEM OFF, AND LABOR HAS TAKEN THEM FOR 
GRANTED. 
 
33.  THERE ARE SOME STIRRINGS OF CHANGE. LABOR IS 
GROPING WITH PLANS TO GIVE BLACKS SPECIAL RIGHTS 
WITHIN THE PARTY STRUCTURE, A NUMBER OF ETHNIC ASIANS 
ARE TENDING TOWARDS THE ALLIANCE, AND SOME SUCCESSFUL 
BLACK AND ASIAN BUSINESSMEN FLIRT WITH THE TORIES. 
MEANWHILE, LEGISLATION ON THE U.S. MODEL ALLOWING 
GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW CONTRACTS FROM FIRMS THAT DO 
NOT EMPLOY A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF MINORITIES WAS 
RECENTLY PROPOSED BY THE HOME OFFICE. THIS PROPOSAL 
IS CONTROVERSIAL AND UNLIKELY TO BECOME LAW BECAUSE 
OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS OF 
SUCH MEASURES. NEVERTHELESS, THE RIOTS MAY HAVE 
FORCED THE PROBLEMS OF RACIAL MINORITIES BACK NEAR 
THE TOP OF THE AGENDA. ONE JOURNALIST INTERVIEWING AN 
ANGRY YOUTH ON THE STREETS OF HANDSWORTH CALLED THE 
RIOTS POINTLESS, BUT THE YOUNG MAN COUNTERED "OH, 
YEAH? HOW DO YOU FIGURE THAT? SOMETHING WILL BE 
DONE." AND HE MAY BE RIGHT. 
 
PARTY POLITICS: TOO LITTLE DONE, AND THAT TOO LATE 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
34.  THE BROAD REACTION AMONG CONSERVATIVES TO THE 
RECENT RIOTS WAS SPLIT: THE HARD-LINE GOVERNMENT 
SUPPORTERS RESISTED CAUSAL EXPLANATIONS LINKING 
POVERTY AND DEPRIVATION WITH THE URBAN UPHEAVALS AND 
DESCRIBED THE RIOTS AS MERE "CRIMINAL OPPORTUNISM". 
THIS POSITION WAS PORTRAYED BY THE OPPOSITION AS A 
SELF-INTERESTED ATTEMPT BY THE TORIES TO WRIGGLE FREE 
OF THEIR PART OF THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR BRITAIN'S 
CONTINUING ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS AND THEIR RESULTS. OTHER 
MORE LIBERAL TORIES PARTIALLY CONCURRED WITH THESE 
SENTIMENTS; THEY CLAIMED THAT THE RIOTS PROVED WHAT 
THEY HAD BEEN SAYING, I.E. THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S 
PRIORITIES HAD TO BE RE-EXAMINED AND THE HARD LINE 
REVISED. PRIME MINISTER THATCHER'S ARGUMENT THAT THE 
WORKINGS OF AN UNFETTERED FREE MARKET WILL, IF LEFT 
ALONE, CREATE JOBS TO RENEW BRITAIN HAS BEEN 
RIDICULED BY THE OPPOSITION PARTIES, WHICH ASSERT 
THAT UNEMPLOYMENT FIGURES THREATEN BRITAIN'S CITIES 
WITH HOSTILITY AND ALIENATION THAT LAISSEZ-FAIRE 
ECONOMICS CANNOT RESOLVE. MRS. THATCHER'S RESPONSE TO 
THE RIOTS WAS TO PLEDGE MORE EQUIPMENT AND MANPOWER 
FOR THE POLICE, BUT HOME SECRETARY HURD HAS ALSO 
ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE RIOT CAUSES MUST BE TREATED 
TOO. THE OPPOSITION HAS OFFERED NO CONCRETE SOLUTIONS 
OTHER THAN THE PRESERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT OF THE 
WELFARE STATE, WHILE ALLIANCE AND LABOR LEADERS MUST 
WELCOME THE FACT THAT THEY ARE NOT CURRENTLY IN POWER 
AND HAVING TO DEFEND THEIR OWN RECORDS IN THE GLARE 
OF THE BURNING CITIES. 
 
35.  THE CONSERVATIVES STRESS THE SIGNS OF ECONOMIC 
UPTURN THAT OCCASIONALLY ARISE, SUCH AS NEW FIRMS 
TAKING UP RESIDENCE IN BIRMINGHAM AND LIVERPOOL. THE 
FIRMS WHICH THEY ARE REFERRING TO DO HAVE A POSITIVE 
EFFECT ON ECONOMIC STATISTICS, BUT IN GENERAL ARE 
HIGH-TECH, CAPITAL-INTENSIVE INDUSTRIES THAT EMPLOY 
RELATIVELY FEW PEOPLE AND THOSE, HIGHLY SKILLED, 
ACCORDING TO A CONGRESS OF BRITISH INDUSTRIES STUDY. 
THUS THEY HAVE LITTLE EFFECT ON THE INNER CITY 
UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS. 
 
36.  THE TORIES HAVE MADE THE REINING-IN OF LOCAL 
GOVERNMENT SPENDING ONE OF THEIR PRIME TECHNIQUES FOR 
REDUCING TOTAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING. IN PARTICULAR 
PUBLIC SECTOR CAPITAL BUDGETS HAVE BEEN SEVERELY CUT 
FROM 3.6 BILLION POUNDS IN 1979 TO 2.2 BILLION POUNDS 
IN 1986. WHEN COMBINED WITH THE SALE OF COUNCIL 
HOUSING TO ITS TENANTS, THE PUBLIC HOUSING STOCK HAS 
BEEN REDUCED BY ONE-THIRD DURING A PERIOD IN WHICH 
FUNDS FOR HOUSING RENOVATIONS HAVE NOT INCREASED IN 
REAL TERMS. SCARMAN'S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 
IMPROVEMENTS IN HOUSING HAVE BEEN ALMOST ENTIRELY 
IGNORED. 
 
37.  EDUCATIONAL REFORMS SUGGESTED BY SCARMAN 
INCLUDED MORE AND BETTER NURSERY EDUCATION, MORE 
TRAINING OF TEACHERS IN THE NEEDS OF MINORITY 
CHILDREN, PROGRAMS TO TEACH ENGLISH TO IMMIGRANTS, 
AND BETTER LINKS BETWEEN PARENTS AND SCHOOLS. NONE OF 
THESE HAS BEEN FUNDED. IN FACT, ACCORDING TO THE 
FINANCIAL TIMES, DESPITE A STATIC NURSERY-AGE 
POPULATION IN BRITAIN, THE OVERALL CAPITAL SPENDING 
FOR NURSERY EDUCATION HAS FALLEN FROM 41 POUNDS PER 
CAPITA TO 24 POUNDS SINCE 1981. 
 
38.  SCARMAN RECOMMENDED THAT "POSITIVE 
DISCRIMINATION" MIGHT BE NEEDED TO REDRESS THE 
EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATIONAL GAPS BETWEEN WHITES AND 
MINORITIES. (POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION IS BETTER KNOWN 
IN THE U.S. AS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.) NO CENTRAL 
GOVERNMENT ACTION RESULTED FROM THESE SUGGESTIONS, 
ALTHOUGH PROGRAMS WERE ADOPTED AT THE LOCAL LEVEL IN 
SOME AREAS. 
 
WHAT ABOUT THE ROLE OF BRITAIN'S NEW DRUGS CRACKDOWN? 
 
39.  SEVERAL PAPERS HAVE SUGGESTED THAT EFFORTS AFTER 
THE LAST RIOTS TO FORGE LINKS BETWEEN POLICE AND THE 
COMMUNITY BY INCREASING POLICEMEN'S SENSITIVITY TO 
THE COMMUNITIES THEY PATROL HAVE RESULTED IN THE 
POLICE GOING "SOFT ON CRIME." FOR EXAMPLE, THE POLICE 
ARE IN A DELICATE POSITION WHEN THEY ATTEMPT TO 
ENFORCE ANTI-MARIJUANA LAWS IN AFRO-CARIBBEAN 
COMMUNITIES, WHERE RASTAFARIANS SEE MARIJUANA AS AN 
IMPORTANT RITUAL SUBSTANCE. INTERFERENCE WITH THIS 
TRADITION IS LIKELY TO BRING TROUBLE DOWN UPON THE 
HEAD OF THE OFFICER WHO IS SO BOLD AS TO STEP IN. AT 
THE VERY LEAST HE INVITES CHARGES OF CULTURAL 
INSENSITIVITY. MEANWHILE, IN MANY AREAS DRUG SALES 
HAVE BECOME THE ONLY RELIABLE SOURCE OF INCOME AND 
ADVANCEMENT FOR YOUNG BLACK GO-GETTERS. 
 
40.  IN THE PAST YEAR, HOWEVER, THE U.K HAS FOCUSSED 
ON THE DAMAGE WHICH DRUG USAGE AND ITS ATTENDANT 
CORRUPTION CAUSE, MINDFUL OF U.S. PROBLEMS, AND IT IS 
ADOPTING IN A WHOLESALE FASHION U.S. ANTI-DRUG 
TECHNIQUES.  AS PART OF AN OVERALL POLICY WHICH 
INCLUDES LONGER SENTENCES FOR DRUG DEALERS, AND NEW 
TECHNIQUES TO SEIZE PROFITS FROM DRUG SALES, THE 
POLICE HAVE BEEN PRESSED TO CRACK DOWN ON DRUGS, AND 
THIS NEW DRUGS OFFENSIVE MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE 
SPARKS THAT FINALLY KINDLED THE TINDERBOX CITIES. 
BIRMINGHAM'S RIOTS WERE PRECEDED BY TWO MAJOR RAIDS 
RIGHT IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS WHICH WERE SOON TO BE THE 
SCENE OF THE DISTURBANCES. THE HOME OFFICE HAS BEEN 
RELUCTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE ANY CONNECTION BETWEEN THE 
DRUGS SWEEP AND THE ERUPTION OF THE RIOTS, BUT A 
BRIGHT LABOR M.P. FROM BIRMINGHAM TOLD US, WITHOUT IN 
ANY WAY IMPLYING THAT DRUG DEALERS CAN BE ALLOWED 
FREEDOM TO OPERATE, THAT HE KNOWS THE CONNECTION IS 
EXPLICIT. THUS, IT APPEARS THAT THE POLICE ARE CAUGHT 
ON THE FRONT LINES ENFORCING A NEWLY VIGOROUS AND 
GENERALLY POPULAR ANTI-DRUGS POLICY, BUT ARE ALSO 
TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH THE IMPACT THAT IT AND OTHER 
SOCIAL PROBLEMS ARE HAVING ON BRITAIN'S CITIES. 
 
CONCLUSION 
---------- 
 
41.  THE RIOTS MAY HAVE FORCED BRITAIN'S POLITICAL 
LEADERS TO EXAMINE THEMSELVES AND DETERMINE 
SUBSEQUENT ACTION TO REDRESS SOME VERY REAL AND THUS 
FAR INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS.  BUT IN THE MEANTIME WE ARE 
LIKELY TO SEE MORE RIOTING AHEAD, WHICH WILL PUT 
EXTRA STRAINS ON THIS CAUTIOUS, SLOW-TO-CHANGE 
SOCIETY. WHILE THE ONSET OF WINTER MAY INHIBIT STREET 
VIOLENCE, SPRING CANNOT BE FAR BEHIND. 
 
SEITZ 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04