Sunday, March 25, 2007

To Whitechapel

To a friend's friend's party with a Nigerian journalist friend. Just outside the house as I was arriving, not far from East London mosque, two Bangla boys chased a white boy, and started beating him with a stick as he tripped and curled on the floor. A gang of about eight Bangla guys looked on. The atmosphere was a little tense. Intervention seemed fraught with risks. All of a sudden, another white guy started screaming from a car. He parked at speed and ran straight for the asian lads. Something in his movements intimated powerful physical intent. He caught one and bent his arm far back up his back and led him off. Undercover dude. I wonder how many security personnel are now wondering around London looking for these kinds of things. I wonder also if there's a special unit attached to overseeing muslim areas..

At the party, I quickly became nestled into a conversation in one corner about black British men and families and father figures. A couple were in open disagreement: the woman (a Canadian caribbean comprehensive school teacher) arguing that the reason why black British men seldom stay around to be fathers has part of its origins in slavery - divided families, men used as breeders etc. The man (a Nigerian banker) vehemently disagreed, arguing that it is a simple case of economics. Any suggestion that overwhelming statistics plus anecdotal evidence indicates that it is something otherwise was not absorbed kindly, to say the least. The argument tossed and turned like a caffeinated insomniac. It is not easy for a white man to talk to an African man about the plight of black British man, so I kept my guard.

Later, I talked to the chap solo. He is interested in bringing sizeable sums of private equity investment into Nigeria, having worked in India recently on various national-scale transactions. As he was saying, its only a matter of time before the old guard die off, and the children of the corrupt elite (such as he) take over. It can only be good for Nigeria that guys like him are turning their attention to Sub-Saharan Africa, abi?

Again, my friend and I talked to the woman solo. She is passionate about her work, but also utterly frustrated. For her, part of what goes badly wrong in inner-city schools is that certain black boys are not excluded. Apparently, it is almost impossible to exclude someone from school due to bureaucratic procedure, which means that they stay and slowly poison the rest. Given that they are almost certain to go to prison whether they stay and disrupt, or whether they are finally exluded and sent on special programmes, it makes sense to exclude them. For her, black boys in London have too many pressures on them already - from rap videos and their peers to behave a certain way (the swagger, the mouthyness, the dress), as well as dysfunctional life at home. Drop a disruptive child into the mix and everything quickly plummets. As usual, the liberal attitude gets in the way of a more effective solution, it would seem. Not everything in the world can be solved by a listening ear and a sensitive approach..

Later, we wandered around Hoxton looking for a lounge bar that no one knew about. Despite being ridiculously trendy, Hoxton still manages to be a little edgy, but mostly edgy in the provincial-town-late-Friday-night sense: people falling over, vomiting, mauling at the world in the hope of a fight. A plump woman looked like a cartoon as she stilletoed down Great Eastern Road, a young black gay guy with a horizontal band of silver make up around his eyes, leaning casually against a door. Sometimes London reminds me of Huddersfield on a wet Wednesday, mildly provincial, Protestant. New York it is not.

The evening ended with a cab ride home with another friend of my friends. A hedge fund manager, he began to outline the information ecology within which he operates. Something in his tone and multi-layered analysis suggested a keen intelligence. Earlier, I had found out that he is a fourth dan black belt in a rare martial art. At least London has this: an attractor for extraordinarily talented people.


Bitchy 3:10 pm  

I missed out :(

Fred 1:34 am  

Jeremy: The one (and only one!) thing I like about you is your willingness to point out the truth central to certain issues, and one of those is education. You called it re liberal attitudes and education. Well done.

Now back to our regularly scheduled hostilities. Cheers.

Chxta 6:59 am  

When the first guy was caught what did the other do?

Anonymous,  12:50 am  

would any Black men like to comment on why there are disproportionately so many single Black mothers? Where are the fathers?

Kiibaati 7:50 pm  

Any attempt to proffer sociological reasons for irresponsible behavior doesn’t wash with me. Am too sure (that)parental delinquency syndrome is no respecter of race.

Anonymous,  1:16 am  

strongly disagree kibaati. Unfortunately many Black men do not feel the need to support their baby mothers, or even bother to try and make the relationship work.

It is definitely more prevalent amongst Black people.

Kiibaati 2:20 pm  

I vehemently disagree. Even in the US, rednecks need to be hunted down to pay child support. Is that 'cause they are white?

Ascribing a particular negative behavior to a racial grouping is classic subtle racism.

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