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Why David Starkey is a racist
August 17, 2011 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Why David Starkey is a racist
posted by nam3d (157 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I must say that although I knew Starkey was an idiot, I didn't think he was such an idiot as out himself as a massive racist on national television.
posted by knapah at 2:28 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, come on now. He was damned good on drums, no matter how creepy that "You're Sixteen" song may be.
posted by koeselitz at 2:28 PM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Starkey raps, is played off. A historical take.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:30 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


He's really been on a tear against Huggy Bear since Hutch left.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:30 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because he's an asshole? Trick question?
posted by facetious at 2:30 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Young people have always had their own slang/groupspeech. Judging from my son and his friends, at the moment these consist of faux-Californian, faux-Italian (via Assassin’s Creed), text speak, faux-Essex and yes, faux-Jamaican. But to suggest that one text message sent by one teenager proves anything, is well, ridiculous.

This is a thing?
posted by brundlefly at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


The words he said weren't really that interesting to me. I imagine that a significant number of Americans and Britons silently believe the same things he said.

What is interesting is the fact that he said them. And so freely. My knee-jerk reaction is to think he is an idiot.

But as I step back I can't help but wonder whether what we're actually seeing is that the Brits, unlike the Americans, have not yet come up with any armistice about how to more successfully avoid discussing people's feelings about race.

One wonders whether Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have the authority to grant absolution to violators of this armistice in the UK, or whether the Brits have home-grown authorities with that responsibility.
posted by jefficator at 2:38 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to wikipedia he specializes in ' the Tudor dynasty and Tudor period'. I fail to see why he is even involved in a discussion about rioting - and he clearly has some odd racist views.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:38 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some additional context, for those who need it:

David Starkey is a British historian who specializes in Tudor history. On August 12, he went on the panel discussion show Newsnight and responded to the London riots with a bizarre rant that implied that "nihilistic gangsta culture" has infected London youth, making whites, in essence, black.

Which shows that he's not only a scholar of Tudor history, but has apparently also fallen in love with that episode of "News Radio" from 1997 when Phil Hartman has his car speakers fixed, can finally hear the lyrics to rap music, and decides to go on a crusade against it's evil influence.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:40 PM on August 17, 2011 [14 favorites]


Starkey raps

I prefer Deejay David Starkey Murder Dem Badbwoy Riddim
posted by RogerB at 2:41 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seems like somebody Eric Clapton would love. Ugh.
posted by kmz at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


nihilistic tudor culture gave us the burning down of monasteries, so i guess there's an equivalence.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Old white guy harbors obsolete and offensive views on race. Story at 11.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I enjoy it when people with appalling views are tone-deaf and un-self-conscious enough to blurt them out on television -- or at least prefer that to PR-savvy code words. It is especially astounding coming from someone who is hardly new to TV appearances.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:43 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


After a lifetime of studying the Tudors I can only assume he sees all white people as polite and completely non-violent.
posted by GuyZero at 2:43 PM on August 17, 2011 [34 favorites]


Hey, what's a few beheadings and abbey confiscations between friends?
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:46 PM on August 17, 2011


RTFA. He said it on public news is the difference since I recall there were comments about 'shit cultures' and 'culture' in the long thread of the London riots on the blue as well. What's new here?
posted by infini at 2:46 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


As though there needed to be any more evidence for the hypothesis than the man's words themselves.
posted by SomaSoda at 2:47 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This really ought to have been called, "Evidence Supporting the Hypothesis that David Starkey is a Racist."
posted by Mister_A at 2:50 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, like Henry the 8th had no experience in "extended commercialism".
posted by clavdivs at 2:51 PM on August 17, 2011


Language Log's take.
posted by Jode at 2:54 PM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


This really ought to have been called, "Evidence Supporting the Hypothesis that David Starkey is a Racist."

Yeah. We have proof he's a racist, but I am left without any good explanation. I would love to understand why he is this way. Perhaps the pernicious influence of East Midlands culture?
posted by GuyZero at 2:56 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


> and he clearly has some odd racist views

I was going to write "Racialicious!" as a joke, but then I found out it's a thing

I swear, it seems half the time I make up a new word, it turns out it's already been done.


Some days I hate the internet.
posted by mmrtnt at 2:56 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud. " from The Commitments.

I mean, yeah, the riots weren't about the Irish, but the Brits still have some horrendous class issues they need to resolve, of which the Irish have been a symptom.
posted by straw at 2:58 PM on August 17, 2011


The weird thing about Racist Old White Men today is that they were still young and capable of learning better when racism stopped being casually acceptable. We've been making fun of Racist Old White Men since before Starkey wore adult diapers... why didn't he get the message?
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:59 PM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are two kinds of racism, the kind that one is conscious of, and the kind that one is not conscious of.
posted by polymodus at 2:59 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The weird thing about Racist Old White Men today is that they were still young and capable of learning better when racism stopped being casually acceptable. We've been making fun of Racist Old White Men since before Starkey wore adult diapers... why didn't he get the message?

Further to this, I understand that David Starkey is both openly gay and atheist, and previously politically active in these areas. To combine these with crass racism is a curious eclecticism.
posted by Jehan at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I understand that David Starkey is both openly gay and atheist,

He is. I have never supposed that being part of one oppressed group sensitizes you to another, and perhaps homophobia doesn't work in England as it does in America, but I hear people say all the time that a gay influence on society is leading to its collapse. In fact, it's that very argument -- that gay marriage will undermine straight marriage -- that is so often used to try to deny equal marriage rights for gay people.

When the things you say parrot the substance of what people say to oppress you, stop to consider the possibility that you may be oppressing somebody else.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Starkey is a historian who specialises in the Tudor royalty of England. He doesn't give a shit about anyone who isn't a dead-for-500-years-monarch. But probably the lightning rod here was his contention that "Enoch Powell was right", which was what led into the "whites becoming blacks" stuff. I'm not sure what the American equivalent would be of Powell's 1968 speech (often referred to as the "rivers of blood" speech) but it was an absolutely explosive moment in British politics.

I suppose the closest I can think of is if Lee Atwater's comments about "you can't say nigger"* were delivered as part of a big, party-endorsed speech, and not as a private interview, and then subsequently ended up all over the media, igniting a debate that has rolled on for bloody decades. That Powell speech is one that is routinely endorsed as right by all manner of pseudo-fascist right wing people/organisations, and used to constantly justify the idea that "we're being swamped by immigrants" (a phrase also, infamously, used by Thatcher) is not just a mainstream, but totally uncontroversial statement of the current state of affairs. That speech also destroyed Powell's career in the Tory party; up until he gave it, he was considered potential PM material; afterwards, such as the outcry, he was so damaged to the extent that senior Tories – who were a great deal more racist in the 1960s than they are today – felt he was a write-off. That someone today could still hold that Powell's position – and all the racist crap that Starkey spouted along with it – is acceptable say some pretty horrible things about how this country is able to deal with difficult, sophisticated, nuanced questions. But it also just says, man, David Starkey is a fucking tool.






*"You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger.""
posted by Len at 3:09 PM on August 17, 2011 [14 favorites]


perhaps homophobia doesn't work in England as it does in America

Alan Turing might disagree.
posted by absalom at 3:10 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my experience, people who are homosexual are very capable of being quite racist, the same way people of all ethnicities are very capable of being quite homophobic. Does this really surprise anybody?
posted by jabberjaw at 3:11 PM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now, now, obviously, if you had actually studied Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern History, you would have noticed that White People never ever rioted ever until they adopted Black Culture. I mean, it's nowhere in the... oh, wait....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Upper Class Twit of the Year.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some additional context, for those who need it:

David Starkey is a British historian who specializes in Tudor history. On August 12, he went on the panel discussion show Newsnight and responded to the London riots with a bizarre rant that implied that "nihilistic gangsta culture" has infected London youth, making whites, in essence, black.


So... i read the article, and the comments here, and i'm still confused, why was he on the show in the first place? Isn't it sort of like if during the Rodney King riots here in the states, they got someone who was a scholar of the Confederacy on to talk? (more talking about history from the same country, but not really related, in anything other than superficial, although the race relations here could fit, just trying to draw a parallel to understand this)
posted by usagizero at 3:16 PM on August 17, 2011


Seems like somebody Eric Clapton would love. Ugh.

Whoa. Clapton is a blues-loving racist. Just like Lee Atwater!

And apparently Bowie went through a Nazi phase. Humanity, you are great at not making sense!
posted by ignignokt at 3:17 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Emily Maitlis asked David Starkey for his opinion on the causes of the riots - he responded by pointing out that as a historian, in one sense he couldn’t say what had caused events, as it was too soon to say.

"I'm just a historian. I can't give you any new information."

I kind of love the photo accompanying this article. It looks like something The Onion could have put in the England section of Our Dumb World, accompanied by a caption along the lines of "An Englishman, pictured here in his native habitat."
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:22 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And apparently Bowie went through a Nazi phase. Humanity, you are great at not making sense!

Cocaine and irony are a tricky combination.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on August 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


In my experience, people who are homosexual are very capable of being quite racist, the same way people of all ethnicities are very capable of being quite homophobic. Does this really surprise anybody?

I don't mean to presume that gay or atheist people can't racist, but rather that to have been politically active in both areas while still holding such crass racist views is an odd combination. My own experience in LGBT circles (and a lesser extent among atheists) is that homophobia and racism are both to be equally resisted. Even coded racism would be challenged pretty vigorously, yet Starkey's opinions were pretty crude as though he's either never been challenged, or has refused to ever reconsider them.
posted by Jehan at 3:23 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


upfront disclaimer: navigating delicately through sensitive issues but may slip etc unknowingly

This thread has made me wonder about "racism" and the UK - I was reflecting on my own "knowledge" as in "but hey, we've always known the UK was very racist and a difficult place to live" when I realized that this kind of 'conventional wisdom' would not be common among 'whites' (how do I talk about skin colours or east or west without 'othering'?)

From my PoV what is excellent about these things is that the topic is coming into the mainstream and being noticed and discussed, noticeably so - it seems like a big step forward.

I also wonder how much history plays a part - unlike in the US, where the melting pot has different sources (immigration, forced or otherwise) - the majority of the UK's multiple ethnicities are from their former colonies. The 'natives' and the 'bearers' and how much has to do with a long history of class consciousness which will not evaporate overnight.

The difference is that in today's world all those embedded and often unnoticed attitudes (polymodus is right on the button with comment) just aren't "done" anymore and so coming up *cough* as starkly as this?

for example, reading old Ngaio Marsh novels where so and so is referred to as "he's too white to have murdered X" is the kind of thinking that isn't so casually sprinkled in writing anymore

With global communications available to the institution and the individual with more or less equal measure, what happens when a PC society meets a non PC society?
posted by infini at 3:24 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... i read the article, and the comments here, and i'm still confused, why was he on the show in the first place?

He's also a recognizable television personality (his programmes on the Tudors are actually quite good, fwiw), which is the man reason, I think. He may well have just been in the hallway at the BBC at a time when Newsnight needed someone to fill a chair on short notice.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:28 PM on August 17, 2011


*the main reason
posted by Sys Rq at 3:29 PM on August 17, 2011


Another question might be what is the difference between prejudice and racism - imho, feels like two different things yet may be interconnected. the UK has always had a horror of foreigners, witness M. Poirot's travails...
posted by infini at 3:34 PM on August 17, 2011


He is commonly asked onto Question Time and can be relied upon to express an unreconstructed right wing viewpoint. They invited him on to espouse a harsh law and order perspective, I suspect they didn't expect he'd go all rivers of blood on them.
posted by knapah at 3:34 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jehan: I don't mean to presume that gay or atheist people can't racist, but rather that to have been politically active in both areas while still holding such crass racist views is an odd combination. My own experience in LGBT circles (and a lesser extent among atheists) is that homophobia and racism are both to be equally resisted.

Some people respond to oppression by finding someone to oppress. It's like kids who deal with bullying by finding some other kid to bully, thereby diverting hostile attention from themselves. You see this often among kids. Two kids are at the bottom of the totem pole but one is marginally lower down. To gain acceptance, the kid whose status is a smidgen higher will join in the bullying of the other, even if they have been friends. Likewise a few individual members of societally oppressed groups will join enthusiastically in the oppression of others.
posted by Kattullus at 3:47 PM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


I saw mention of Starkey saying something bad the morning after the programme, and I thought "Hmm... he's a bit of a tool, but come on, people are blowing this up like he said that he agreed with Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech!" and then I saw that that's exactly what he did. And more. So, fuck him. I am enjoying the remixes though.
posted by ob at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


He's being stupid and equating the huge diversity that is black culture with the tiny subset that is yardie street gang culture. It's as absurd as describing all Italians as mafia thugs, and saying all criminals in the world are like that because they've "turned Italian" in some way.

His message will be very popular with Daily Mail readers because those yardie street thugs, black and white, are justifiably feared and hated, and nobody likes that whole fake Jamaican accent thing, particularly on a pasty slacker who just caught looting.
posted by w0mbat at 3:59 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


because they've "turned Italian" in some way.

Might as well get this over with.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:02 PM on August 17, 2011


Starkey: "What's happened is, that the substantial section of the chavs that you read about have become black. The whites have become black."

We black folk are such convenient boogeymen. We are a warning example. We hide under the beds of little light-skinned children, waiting to make them black and bad like us. So when white people riot it's our fault for influencing them with our thuggish ways. Of course, there are good blacks like Mr. Lammy, but come on, he sounds white! He might as well be white then.

In most places I've read about this the comment threads are full of people who agree with Starkey and think he's just speaking the "hard truth". I did like the comment thread on Ta-Nehisi's blog.
posted by Danila at 4:02 PM on August 17, 2011 [14 favorites]


He didn't entirely agree with Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech. What he said was this. "His prophesy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham.

“But it wasn’t inter-community violence. This is where he was absolutely wrong. What has happened is that a substantial section of the chavs that you wrote about have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion.

“And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together, this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that’s been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”

He was criticising the influence of a culture - "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture" - which has been adopted by certain strains of British youth, black and white alike. He wasn't saying the riots were perpetrated by blacks alone, in fact he was saying that white youths and black youths alike had adopted this attitude and found it pernicious.

Are we saying that a "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture" doesn't exist? Are we saying that culture didn't fuel these terrible riots and nights of violence and looting? He is explicitly not saying that all black people are bad, or that all white people are good. He is criticising a narrow brand of youth culture, rather than everyone with black skin.
posted by joannemullen at 4:07 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did like the comment thread on Ta-Nehisi's blog.

There's some quality yuks over there: "I also suspect that he only blamed 'gangster culture' because even he couldn't figure out how to blame Cromwell."
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:11 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joanne, what does it mean to "become black"?
posted by Danila at 4:14 PM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Joanne, he says it was not inter-communal, but then goes on to say it was 'blacks'.

He could have said 'gangster culture' (which could include the ostentatious displays by old style white gangsters) but he didn't, he said 'black culture'. Who is to say that these kids weren't more influenced by the consumerist culture of the 'white' West?

Reducing this to cultural determinism is too simplistic.
posted by knapah at 4:18 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is explicitly not saying that all black people are bad, or that all white people are good. He is criticising a narrow brand of youth culture, rather than everyone with black skin.

And also explicitly saying that this brand of youth culture is a black culture, and that white participants in it have therefore 'become' black people.
posted by jack_mo at 4:21 PM on August 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


joannemullen: He was criticising the influence of a culture - "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture" - which has been adopted by certain strains of British youth, black and white alike. He wasn't saying the riots were perpetrated by blacks alone, in fact he was saying that white youths and black youths alike had adopted this attitude and found it pernicious.

Are we saying that a "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture" doesn't exist? Are we saying that culture didn't fuel these terrible riots and nights of violence and looting? He is explicitly not saying that all black people are bad, or that all white people are good. He is criticising a narrow brand of youth culture, rather than everyone with black skin.


I'm sorry, but this is a very disingenuous reading of what he said. He explicitly said that "whites are becoming blacks" and that that was a bad thing; if you want to argue – all debates about culture aside – that this isn't openly racist then be my guest but you're going to have to show your working. There's a great takedown of Starkey's remarks, and their defence by Toby Young here

He also points out: when white people riot or cause disturbance, they "become" black. When a black man speaks eloquently on the radio he "becomes" white. So the defining quality of being black, even if you're white, is being a violent gangster; the defining quality of being white, even if you're black, is being articulate and well spoken. You and Lee Atwater would have enjoyed a drink together.
posted by Len at 4:23 PM on August 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


Are we saying that a "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture" doesn't exist? Are we saying that culture didn't fuel these terrible riots and nights of violence and looting? He is explicitly not saying that all black people are bad, or that all white people are good. He is criticising a narrow brand of youth culture, rather than everyone with black skin.

I disagree, he is specifically associating all the negative behaviours with black people; where white people exhibit criminal behaviours he suggests they have become black, but where a black man displays behaviours he approves of, he suggests that man has effectively become white. This is what is so deeply unpleasant about Starkey's comments, his world view effectively denies any conception of positive cultural associations with being part of any non-white community. To be black is to be wrong. The only acceptable behaviour is to 'become' white by mimicking the supposedly wholly positive behaviours of white people.
posted by biffa at 4:26 PM on August 17, 2011 [16 favorites]


Mark Steel sums it up: ‎"The riots were caused, apparently, by black culture, and we can get round the fact some rioters were white by saying they'd turned black, and get round the fact most black people don't riot by saying they've turned white."
posted by hankmajor at 4:34 PM on August 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


fi fie fo fum... etc
posted by infini at 4:44 PM on August 17, 2011


Don't you all remember the Stonewall Riots? Hell, we wouldn't have a gay culture without them. And yes, I know most of the rioters in Tottenham were not gay, but look at the music they listen to and the people dictating their fashions and everything else surrounding the youth of today, and I think it's fair to say that the rioters had become gay. And yes, a lot of GBLT people didn't riot, but that just seems straight to me.

(as we can see, this argument can be made a lot of different ways, and all of them are insidious and wrong. You admitted you didn't have anything t say on the nature of the riots up top, David. Quit while you're fucking ahead.)
posted by Navelgazer at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


He didn't entirely agree with Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech.

That speech is such a political incendiary device, that any mention of it that doesn't condemn it in its entirety is stoking the fires of racism. He knew that when he brought it up.
posted by ob at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


ob: That speech is such a political incendiary device, that any mention of it that doesn't condemn it in its entirety is stoking the fires of racism. He knew that when he brought it up.

That was entirely my point up above. He knew that bringing it up would ignite a storm. To say "oh, I was only talking about immigration" whilst referencing that speech is basically trolling.
posted by Len at 4:53 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not trolling, I don't think. It's ever-so-slowly shifting the bounds of what's acceptable. Daily Mail readers can look at this and say, yes, yes, he's right. This is a product of black culture, meanwhile ignoring all of the couching arguments he put in just for his own plausible deniability.

And then, later on, when someone else references the Rivers of Blood speech people can think, well, yeah, Powell was right, remember those riots?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:04 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some days I hate the internet.

That is, without a doubt, the most hateful statement I have heard all day.

I say, GOOD DAY!
posted by hal_c_on at 5:05 PM on August 17, 2011


From my PoV what is excellent about these things is that the topic is coming into the mainstream and being noticed and discussed, noticeably so - it seems like a big step forward.

This event does not stand alone as some social aberration as you suggest, a big step forward towards what, did past riots not create change...

For example, the battle of Cable Street led to the Public Order Act 1936. The 01' Oldham riots led to the Ritchie report. "It warned: "Segregation, albeit self-segregation, is an unacceptable basis for a harmonious community and it will lead to more serious problems if it is not tackled"

I have a low opinion of riots, I was born months before the 67' detroit riot and my dad shuttled in stuff for the people until his car was shot at, pop left that bullet hole as a reminder.
posted by clavdivs at 5:10 PM on August 17, 2011


The way you can tell this is not an American broadcast is that the other guests around the table were able to keep their cool and be rational in their arguments while not only ably making their (much better) points, but also letting Starkey speak long enough to hang himself.

Both of them were almost saintlike in their discretion there. I couldn't have done it.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2011


That was entirely my point up above.

I just saw that -obviously I agree!

To say "oh, I was only talking about immigration" whilst referencing that speech is basically trolling.

Yup.
posted by ob at 5:37 PM on August 17, 2011


David Starkey, I'd like to introduce you to the "Big Ron Atkinson" phase of your career. This is the phase where you no longer get to have one in public. Enjoy.
posted by Errant at 5:47 PM on August 17, 2011


infini, I think you've got the wrong cultural reference above. Maybe this is the one you wanted? Or the one true original?
posted by sneebler at 5:50 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


interesting critique. I hadn't heard about this till now.
tried to watch the video. couldn't get all the way thru.
my god, what an asshole.
posted by es_de_bah at 5:52 PM on August 17, 2011


Again, trolling is something people do to instigate fights for their own amusement. This started off as dog-whistling, and ended with an Old White Man simply being flat-out racist and assuming that he was correct because he's a (now formerly) respected historian, and is Older than Owen Jones, Whiter than Dreda Say Mitchell, and more male than Emily Maintis.

There's a reason that trolling generally happens anonymously, or among a circle of friends at a bar. It's a game. This wasn't trolling. This was an attempt to give racism legitimacy.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:02 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


sneebler, I do believe it was your second link that I was thinking of...
posted by infini at 6:03 PM on August 17, 2011


Okay, so let's not call Starkey a troll. Let's just call him a flat-out racist.

Though I do think that he was saying what he was saying in order to get the rise out of his fellow panellists, which is the definition of a troll.
posted by Len at 6:07 PM on August 17, 2011


Oh, here's what I'm reminded of.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:25 PM on August 17, 2011


I don't see how any of that blog post proves that he is racist or that his views are judging anything besides culture, which is indeed associated with ethnicity. This whole "dog whistle" argument is tiresome.

Maybe some people don't care if culture changes, but refusing to believe that culture exists is beyond my comprehension...
posted by shii at 6:51 PM on August 17, 2011


shii: what? I don't mean that confrontationally. I literally don't understand what you are getting at there.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:55 PM on August 17, 2011


There's always a bit of "that's not racist, not really because . . .", even on Metafilter.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jehan: "I don't mean to presume that gay or atheist people can't racist, but rather that to have been politically active in both areas while still holding such crass racist views is an odd combination."

Another interesting, albeit reversed, example of this would be Fred Phelps, who was a civil rights activist in the 1960s.
posted by brundlefly at 6:58 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


He's judging a specific, and vaguely alluded to, "culture" as being intrinsically black, and a negative influence. That's not a critique of culture, it's a critique of race.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:58 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The entire blog post is, "he's racist", i.e. he thinks that race determines behavior, that race is a permanent category, and that he is judging people by their race. It's not true. I watched the video and saw no evidence that it was true. The blog just argues that he's a secret racist for some metapolitical reason that has nothing to do with what he said.

His statements included:
1. Black people can and do assimilate into British culture.
2. White people (i.e. ethnic Britons) can and do assimilate into immigrant black culture.
3. The latter is something that can be noticed in the behavior and language of the rioters.
4. Therefore, this black culture is at odds with British culture.

These propositions can be argued with but are not intrinsically racist.
posted by shii at 7:02 PM on August 17, 2011


The "black culture" makes people riot bit comes across as pretty racist.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:09 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay. Glad you cleared that up. You're wrong. What he was saying was absolutely, intrinsically racist.

1. Black people can and do assimilate into British culture.
Yes, or as he describes it, they sound white.

2. White people (i.e. ethnic Britons) can and do assimilate into immigrant black culture.
Aye, yes, immigrant black culture. With it's rap music and Jamaican patois.

3. The latter is something that can be noticed in the behavior and language of the rioters.
Well, the language, at least, or that seems to be the crux of his argument. That dreadful Patois, causing violence and looting.

4. Therefore, this black culture is at odds with British culture.
Yes, again, because of the Patois. It is all clear now.

Now, let's look at what he actually was saying:

1. There are black and white people in Britain.
2. There were black and white people rioting.
3. The rioters, due to their violence, were exhibiting Black culture, regardless of their race.
4. Respectable black citizens are exhibiting white culture, regardless of race.
5. Because, you know, the patois. Also rap music.

He was literally stating that violence is black and respectability is white. This is intrinsically racist.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:12 PM on August 17, 2011 [29 favorites]


He did not say that "violence is black", he said that this particular incidence of violence is associated with black culture, which not all people with black skin exhibit, and which can also come from people with white skin. That is not racist.

For a counterexample, let's assume he supported the Iraq War. That was white people perpetrating violence. He would not claim that that violence came from black culture. I hope this helps clarify where violence comes from in the view of David Starkey.
posted by shii at 7:15 PM on August 17, 2011


Well, even if I were to accept your reading, which i don't, his only "support" for his claims of "this is black culture and when I see a powerful black Briton I respect he sounds white to me" were:

1. Rap culture, though when challenged he could not cite any specifics.
2. A tangential call in support of racial profiling.
3. Name-checking an historical speech which decried the British government for not allowing people to discriminate against blacks based on race.
4. The young people are using Patois as slang.

None of which I find to be compelling or, in fact, anything short of race-baiting, fearmongering, and buck-passing.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:25 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and to be clearer, yes, there is a difference between race and culture. Of course there is. But trading one for the other doesn't magically make sweeping generalizations suddenly okay, particularly when those "cultural" arguments are described in explicitly racial terms.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously he was lacking in statistical, verified anthropological evidence for riots that were ongoing at the time he participated in the discussion. But language is a key aspect of culture; people speak the language expected by their friends and those they want to be close to. I think it's obvious that you do not expect a "powerful black Briton" to talk in patois, and it's just as obvious that many rioters would.
posted by shii at 7:33 PM on August 17, 2011


The rioters didn't speak in patois. Don't take my word for it, take linguist Geoff Pullum's, which Jode linked above. Jamaican Patois is a language, with its own grammar and structure. You're confusing slang with language. The language spoken by the vast majority of people in England is English, and that includes those who broke windows and stole stereos or protested Mark Duggan's death or protected their shops or cleaned the streets with brooms. Just because some words are different and the accent is a little odd to you doesn't make it any less English than what we're typing here.
posted by Kattullus at 8:25 PM on August 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


He did not say that "violence is black", he said that this particular incidence of violence is associated with black culture, which not all people with black skin exhibit, and which can also come from people with white skin. That is not racist.

Yes it is. I am not clear on how you are mussing the connection. There is no such thing as "black culture" in this case. It is an invented construct. The whites in the street were not running around speaking patois and singing gangsta rap.

It's a series of dog whistles meaning "blacks are infecting our culture." There is no historical precedent for claiming one culture must assimilate, because their culture is violent and corrupts the dominant culture, that is not racist.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:04 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


it's just as obvious that many rioters would.

Why is that?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:05 PM on August 17, 2011


Don't harp about "constructs", all language is a construct. "A marginalized underclass who needs our help" is just as much a construct.

There is no historical precedent for claiming one culture must assimilate, because their culture is violent and corrupts the dominant culture, that is not racist.

That's because culture is linked to ethnicity. It doesn't make it a necessarily racist line of argument. We live in a multiethnic society now, right?

Why is that?

Come off it, there were no Rhodes scholars among the rioters.
posted by shii at 10:28 PM on August 17, 2011


This is what they get for not having Andy Wood (author of a book on riots) or John Walter (author of Understanding popular violence) on the show -- if you want a Tudor-Stuart historian to comment on the riots, you should at least get one of the many experts on early modern riots and popular violence.
posted by jb at 10:32 PM on August 17, 2011


Come off it, there were no Rhodes scholars among the rioters.

I am not sure what point you are trying to make here, but there have been Rhodes scholars who almost certainly spoke Jamaican patois.

That's because culture is linked to ethnicity. It doesn't make it a necessarily racist line of argument. We live in a multiethnic society now, right?

So what you are saying, if I read you correctly, is that it would be fair to make the case that there is a criminal culture connected to black immigrants to Great Britain, and that it has unduly influence the whites of London, whose rioting in the streets is a result of this influence.

Let me parse the problem here: There may be artists of African descent who sing songs that celebrate criminality. There are also white English artists who do this. There may be slang in the Jamaican patois that is explicitly criminal. The same is true in British English. And yet, in the argument put forward by Starkey, culture that is produced by blacks that celebrate criminality indicts blacks as a whole -- it is part of "black culture," whatever that is. Whites adopt it, and "become black." When you reject it, you "become white."

But the same cultural expressions produced by white artists are not seen as being part of white culture, are not treated as having the same power to infect people with criminality, and are not, in fact, discussed at all. No, instead, what we get are references to an explicitly nationalist and anti-immigrant speech, and an argument that, it's true, the rising tide of immigration has brought a criminal culture to English shores that would not have existed otherwise, and, by adopting the behavior of these racially different outsiders, normal white English people, who would, presumably, otherwise have remained law abiding, instead took to the streets and rioted.

When you condemn a race for cultural expressions that are not unique to them, when you suggest that this culture is somehow powerful enough to unduly influence people, and when you ignore the same cultural expressions from your own race, and hold it to be superior as a result, you are not having a reasoned discussion about race. You are holding a different race up to standards that you don't hold your own up to. And that is, by definition, racism.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:11 PM on August 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Come off it, there were no Rhodes scholars among the rioters.

Right. Because high-status individuals are never greedy and opportunistic.

OH WAIT
posted by Sys Rq at 11:21 PM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am not sure what point you are trying to make here, but there have been Rhodes scholars who almost certainly spoke Jamaican patois.

Not during their thesis defense, I hope. But anyway, as Kattullus pointed out the language being quoted is not actually Jamaican colloquial speech but a sort of chav cant based on imitating some Jamaican forms.

I don't know what you mean by "ignor[ing] the same cultural expressions from your own race"; I don't think Starkey is doing that and I don't think he believes white people to be automatically superior to black people, which is why I don't think he is racist.

Because high-status individuals are never greedy and opportunistic.

High-status individuals did not attain their high status by breaking into and robbing electronics stores.
posted by shii at 11:23 PM on August 17, 2011


I don't think Starkey is doing that and I don't think he believes white people to be automatically superior to black people, which is why I don't think he is racist.

He did not mention them. Criminality was defined as acting black. You seem to be turning a bling eye to this, perhaps because you believe he did not intend to be racist. But I cannot know his intention. I can only know what he actually said. And what he actually said defines criminality, in this instance, as being a unique product of black culture. As I pointed out above, this is a racist statement.

High-status individuals did not attain their high status by breaking into and robbing electronics stores.

This is not an accurate summary of the riots. There was this, yes, and there were legitimate protests, and there was direct action against genuine targets of outrage.

But plenty of high-status individuals got where they got as a result of crimes. Some of them white.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:31 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, a bling eye. Produced by rap culture, with its baby mamas and it's get mine and it's blinggety bling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:32 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


High-status individuals did not attain their high status by breaking into and robbing electronics stores.

They wouldn't lose it, either.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:32 PM on August 17, 2011


And what he actually said defines criminality, in this instance, as being a unique product of black culture. As I pointed out above, this is a racist statement.

That seems utterly wrong to met. Let me quote:
Londoner and Grime godfather Wiley tweeted about the riots, “I think urban people just hate the police and they wanna test them”, and, “the bottom line is young urban Britain don’t give a fuck about nothing”. But who are these “urban people”? “Urban is like any colour who likes black life or music or style.” Oh. Hey, wait a sec… Guards! GUARDS!

Only an idiot would accuse Wiley of being racist toward himself. Evidently, then, there are plenty of idiots with Twitter accounts, because accuse Wiley of racism is exactly what they did.
They wouldn't lose it, either.

I disagree.
posted by shii at 11:39 PM on August 17, 2011


"As one young girl who lives in outer London said of her eight-year-old cousin who lives in inner London, 'People say he speaks like a black boy, but he just speaks like a London boy.' The message is that people are beginning to sound the same regardless of their colour or ethnic background. So we prefer to use the term Multicultural London English (MLE). It's perhaps not as catchy," she says, "but it comes closer to what we're trying to describe."
From here, which draws on a bit of research from here, I believe. It's worse than Starkey thinks, those crafty little buggers are simultaneously becoming Jamaican, Bangladeshi and South American!
posted by Abiezer at 11:54 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


That passage you quoted is enormously disingenuous, shii. There is a world of difference between liking arts created by black artists and arguing that that culture encourages and causes criminality.

Here is what Starkey said:

A particular sort of violent, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together—this language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England.

Your first quote could well mean "Young Londoners like Beyonce."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:02 AM on August 18, 2011


No, it means that young Londoners like Beyonce and "don't give a fuck about nothing". En masse.
posted by shii at 12:09 AM on August 18, 2011


We have been here before: previous moral panics.

Daily Mash: Starkey sick of hearing Jamaican patois at the Ivy
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:13 AM on August 18, 2011


Come off it, there were no Rhodes scholars among the rioters.

Not a Rhodes scholar amongst them (yet!) but no word if the law student, the ballerina, the millionaire's daughter, or the other law student speak patois inflected MLE or rather like a powerful, black Briton*, in which case it must've been a horrible horrible misunderstanding. Quick, get them to a linguist. Inquiring minds need to know. The future of a nation hangs in the balance.

*Can I just say it is literally impossible for me to read or type that without picturing Johnson.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 12:43 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


infini: Despite it's problems, (and there are many), the UK isn't such a racist country. I'd rather be a person of Colour in the UK than in the US. Seriously.

I quite like David Starkey, and my own cognitive dissonance has been trying to add some "David Starkey is not a racist" spin to this interview, but it's failed. He seems to have committed the most glaringly awful logical fallacy ever, (Patois = Black, therefore Black=Patois) and his comments about Lammy speaking white were just shudderingly awful.

There is however a point to be made about the glorification of gang culture and how it dispossesses the poor, and although I don't really agree with that point in the context of the riots, I'd rather that any mention of it wasn't immediately derided as racist by certain sections of the left. I do get the feeling that sometimes the race card is used politically in this instance.

And it pisses me off that we're so up in arms about Starkey when nobody (and I mean nobody) is looking at the disgusting rhetoric coming out of the BNP at the time of the riots. That was racist, and it was damaging and it did (I think) help contribute to the violence.
posted by seanyboy at 12:44 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is however a point to be made about the glorification of gang culture and how it dispossesses the poor,

David Starkey has recognized part of the problem, but is confused about the cause.

The issue is actually much larger and harder to address: it's not just gang culture that focuses on rewarding short-term self interest. The other classes do it in less visible ways.

While talking to a neighbor in London, I asked if the rewards were higher, with the same risk, would it be our peers looting? If you could own a victorian building in Hampstead just by going in the front window, and streams of people were running down the street getting a free house, how many of us would give it a chance?

It's the glorification of a selfish consumer culture, period. Gang culture just throws violence or the threat of it into the mix, enabling those who don't use physical force to claim superiority and tut-tut at the nasty gangs with their loud music.
posted by dubold at 1:41 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


And it pisses me off that we're so up in arms about Starkey when nobody (and I mean nobody) is looking at the disgusting rhetoric coming out of the BNP at the time of the riots.

That's because very very few people are surprised when the BNP says something obviously racist.
posted by dubold at 1:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


btw, as a clarifying addendum I don't think Starkey was trolling either
posted by infini at 3:21 AM on August 18, 2011


dubold: I'm not that interested in linking the looting to gang culture. As you say, the other classes do it in less visible ways.

My concern primarily is with a disenfranchised portion of the population entrenching and glorifying that disenfranchisement in such a way as to make it even harder for people to pull themselves out of a particular way of life. As well as benefiting the rich there's also a systemic benefit to the gangs in keeping a certain class of person stupid and helpless. People suffer as a consequence.

When you cut out the racist bullcrap, I think this is what David Starkey was trying to say.

I'm not suprised that the BNP are racist, but I think people need to look at how their rhetoric helped the riots along on the third day. In fact, it wouldn't suprise me if there were orders from on high for BNP members to go out looting.
posted by seanyboy at 3:49 AM on August 18, 2011


"Not entirely agreeing" with the "rivers of blood" speech is like "not entirely agreeing" with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. There's nothing to salvage there.
posted by acb at 4:52 AM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


As well as benefiting the rich there's also a systemic benefit to the gangs in keeping a certain class of person stupid and helpless. People suffer as a consequence.

When you cut out the racist bullcrap, I think this is what David Starkey was trying to say.


How come he never said anything like that then? He spent quite a lot of his time talking about patterns of speech which, as far as I know, are not a tactic used by gangs to keep people stupid and helpless. They can be something that helps groups of people identify with each other and cohere, but that's a different thing.

Personally, I think Starkey was badly burned by his involvement with Jamie's Dream School, and since then thinks he's some kind of authority on feckless youth.

His comments show he knows pretty much nothing about the culture in which the rioters have grown up (not that there is only one) and he's only really capable of making shallow judgements.

He's heard this strange, modern accent (which may have elements of Jamaican but is far from being 'patois'), an accent born of a huge variety of immigrants all mixing together in one, huge city, and made a shallow link between what he thinks of as 'black culture', and the behaviour of the few people he encountered on Jamie's Dream School.

It's the old chestnut - correlation not causation, coupled with the arrogance of someone who thinks he's been there and knows.
posted by Summer at 4:55 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


acb, it's funny you should use that as a reference as I was thinking the exact same thing.
posted by ob at 6:19 AM on August 18, 2011


Despite it's problems, (and there are many), the UK isn't such a racist country. I'd rather be a person of Colour in the UK than in the US. Seriously.

I always find things like this amusing. The UK isn't such a racist country? A country where plenty of people think it's perfectly okay to parade around singing "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk" and get their takeaway at the "chinky" isn't such a racist country? You're going to go with that? Really?

What the UK is, is a country that is around 90% white and perhaps 3.5% Indian/Pakistani (the largest minority group) plus around 2% black, with not very many places that have a high concentration of nonwhites. So, sure it seems like there isn't much racial tension in the UK. There aren't many "people of color" in the UK to be racist towards! Not to discount the history of racial tension in the United States, but we're talking about a country that's only around 65% white (nonhispanic white is how the census puts it) and around 13% black. There are plenty of states that are north of 20% black, and plenty of cities that are north of 35% (NYC where I make my home is less than 50% white). In fact, it's not that easy to find even a midsized city in the US that is less than around 10% black. I had to search through presumably unlikely places like Appleton, WI and Topeka, KS (both around 10%) before finally finding Fargo, ND at 2.5%. Meanwhile there are comparatively few cities in the UK with a significant minority population, and wouldn't you know it, there's racial tension in most of those places. One conclusion might be that people aren't often as enlightened as we would hope they might be, and that significant co-presence of different ethnic groups combined with socioeconomic and cultural differences between those groups often leads to tension manifested in racism (and/or classism, of which there is plenty to go around in the UK) and prejudice. So, yanno, apples to apples please.
posted by slkinsey at 6:56 AM on August 18, 2011


shii: But anyway, as Kattullus pointed out the language being quoted is not actually Jamaican colloquial speech but a sort of chav cant based on imitating some Jamaican forms.

If you're gonna put words in my mouth could you at least avoid making one of them an ugly term of disparagement? I don't care how common a term it is, "chav" is a word only used to denigrate poor people and it disgusts me.
posted by Kattullus at 6:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


High-status individuals did not attain their high status by breaking into and robbing electronics stores.

No. A great many of them attained it by accident of birth into economically-advantaged families. And some of them have kept their high status despite committing widespread financial and economic offenses against the rest of society.
posted by aught at 7:05 AM on August 18, 2011


an accent born of a huge variety of immigrants all mixing together in one, huge city


This seems like a strangely biased chart for representing the ethnic makeup of England. Only the "white British" population is represented in orange, while significant slices of "white Irish" and "white other" populations are considered other ethnic groups. In some technical sense this may be true, but I'm betting if I moved to London from New York City I'd feel and be treated less like a "minority" than someone of Pakistani descent who was actually born in London. Not to put too fine a point to it, but London is about 70% white. From my perspective a 30% nonwhite population seems pretty ethnically diverse, but hardly mind-blowingly so.
posted by slkinsey at 7:10 AM on August 18, 2011


and that significant co-presence of different ethnic groups combined with socioeconomic and cultural differences between those groups often leads to tension manifested in racism
It's also lead to a lot of inter-ethnic relationships:
The mixed race group is the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the UK and is expected to become the largest by 2020.

Britain has one of the highest rates of interracial relationships in the western world.

If government watchdog figures are right, mixed race Britons will overtake Indian people to become the UK's largest ethnic minority group within 25 years, reaching 1.24 million.
I don't think that means there isn't racism aplenty in the UK or, as it says here that it's grounds for complacency, but there has also been significantly more integration than elsewhere, which does imply a bit more progress than some other Western nations.
posted by Abiezer at 7:18 AM on August 18, 2011


Seconding Katullus - one of the funny things about the Starkey lollapalooza was that he was talking to a guy who wrote a book about how the white middle class demonize the white lower class by calling them "chavs" as if he had, in fact, written a spotter's guide.

RTFA. He said it on public news is the difference since I recall there were comments about 'shit cultures' and 'culture' in the long thread of the London riots on the blue as well. What's new here?


To be fair, the person who talked about shit cultures also suggested that black people across the world existed in a pre-Enlightenment state, and did so by choice. I'm not sure that's the mainstream view, although the wording, although not the message, has echoes of Melanie Philips. It's not a generally accepted proposition.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:20 AM on August 18, 2011


I had no idea about Eric Clapton's racism.
posted by oneironaut at 7:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad, slkinsey, that this is turning away from the topic at hand and towards a pissing competition about who lives in the most racist country.

So no, we're not as ethnically diverse here as in the US. And yes, that could explain why things aren't as heated as the US.

But picking out a couple of racist incidents and using them as proof that you somehow live in a more enlightened country is just ridiculous. "Oh hey hey, - Japan is less racist than US because the US had Jim Crow laws."

See.

My main point was that the UK, despite its flaws, is relatively welcoming towards diversity and I personally (and subjectively) would rather live as a PoC in the UK. This last point hasn't been pulled out of my closeted ass BTW. It's threads like this, and your scary politicians, that have helped me form this opinion.
posted by seanyboy at 7:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


That Eric Clapton thing is awful.
posted by seanyboy at 7:50 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This seems like a strangely biased chart for representing the ethnic makeup of England.

It's not the ethnic make up of England, it's the ethnic make up of London which is, whether you like it or not, one of the most racially diverse cities in the world. I'm not sure why you're on a mission to prove that London doesn't have very many racial minorities. The big cities certainly do.

London is about 70% white

Inner city London is characterised by large concentrations of ethnic groups. There are (generally prosperous) areas of London that are essentially white, eg Chelsea, Dulwich, Hampstead. My own area - Tower Hamlets - is about 50% non British white, and about 30% Bangladeshi.

But anyway, what does it matter when the point I was trying to make was that the modern London accent derives from a lot of different sources? What point ARE you trying to make?
posted by Summer at 7:55 AM on August 18, 2011


I had no idea about Eric Clapton's racism.

Me neither. I'm pretty stunned by all that.
posted by ob at 8:01 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As often happens, this discussion has influenced the writing of my column today.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:11 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


My main point was that the UK, despite its flaws, is relatively welcoming towards diversity and I personally (and subjectively) would rather live as a PoC in the UK.

seanyboy, my main point was that you don't seem to have a well-founded basis for making that comparison in a meaningful way. I'm not suggesting that the US is more enlightened than the UK or any other country. I'm simply pointing out that its size and much larger ethnic diversity can make it seem less enlightened than smaller and less ethnically diverse countries when these things are not taken into consideration. I'm not saying that the US isn't racist on several levels, by the way. But I will say that, having spent long stretches of time in the UK, France, Italy and Germany, it's not like there isn't plenty of racism there, and I've seen more everyday casual examples of racist behavior in those countries than I have in the US (granted, in the places where there weren't enough non-white people to be racist against, it was typically manifested in prejudice against some other kind of white person).

NYC is extremely welcoming of diversity, and one of the most diverse cities in the Western world. Nevertheless, we have had things here like the Crown Heights riots that might make one think NYC is less welcoming of diversity than, say, Liverpool. But Liverpool is much smaller than NYC and only 9% non-white, so it's not a meaningful comparison if Liverpool hasn't had an equivalent incident. Meanwhile, the only UK city possibly comparable to NYC doesn't seem to be faring too terribly well as to racial tension these days, and would seem to put the lie to your personal and subjective comparison. My experiences might incline me to say: "NYC, despite its flaws, is relatively welcoming towards diversity and I personally (and subjectively) would rather live as a PoC in NYC than London or Birmingham." See? So what?

I'll stop my minor derail now. But, you know... if you didn't want to bring comparisons to the US into the discussion then maybe you shouldn't have made one.
posted by slkinsey at 8:26 AM on August 18, 2011


"It's a series of dog whistles meaning "blacks are infecting our culture.""
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:04 AM on August 18 [3 favorites +] [!]

Damn Right! *burns entire collection of lee scratch perry albums*
posted by marienbad at 8:34 AM on August 18, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: Awesome article BTW.

Though i take exception to the fact that you consider all listeners to late-era Johnny Cash to be hipsters.

slkinsey: pshaw.
posted by seanyboy at 8:53 AM on August 18, 2011


The criticism of Starkey seems to be that he associates rioting - or at latest recent British rioting - with "black culture", and suggests that "white culture" has now adopted this aspect of "black culture".

So here is a thought: When The Clash wrote "White riot, I wanna riot, white riot a riot of my own", were they not suggesting broadly the same thing, except that in 1977 the "white riots" hadn't actually happened yet, and Strummer was saying he believed that they should?

Let's remind ourselves of some of the lyrics:

"Black people gotta lot a problems
But they don't mind throwing a brick
White people go to school
Where they teach you how to be thick"

Is this racist too?
posted by Decani at 9:11 AM on August 18, 2011


Why would it be? Strummer was not saying there was an essental lawlessness connected to black culture that infected whites. He was saying black people had rioted in protest of their disadvantaged circumstances, and whites who are likewise disadvantaged might do the same.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:17 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


So I was listening to NPR in the car this morning and they were doing a panel discussion/call-in show.

After listening to that I've changed my opinion of Starkey. Starkey is great. He's fabulous.

He doesn't um and ah, he gets right to the point and although his views are abhorrent he makes them clearly. His logic is as tortured as a Abu Ghraib detainee but at least he keeps my attention.

I guess that's why they keep having this horrible man on the beeb.
posted by GuyZero at 9:53 AM on August 18, 2011


Why would it be? Strummer was not saying there was an essental lawlessness connected to black culture that infected whites. He was saying black people had rioted in protest of their disadvantaged circumstances, and whites who are likewise disadvantaged might do the same.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:17 PM on August 18


"But they don't mind throwing a brick"

Does not suggest that there was an essential willingness to be lawless in "them"? Not even a little bit?

Let me say where I stand on this. I think what Starkey said was clumsy, more than a little out of touch with social realities in modern Britain and wilfully - knowing him - provocative. But I also think that there is a large group of Mefites who are just a little too ready to jerk the knee and yell "racism" (and, indeed, "sexism") in situations like this. I think they are also rather more wiiling to yell it when the target is a rather out of touch older white male than they are in, oh, pretty much any other instance. I find this annoying.

I would hesitate to call Starkey actually racist on this evidence. In fact, I would hesitate to call anyone racist, because racism is a very nasty and very serious thing, and there is a big difference between racism and insensitivity or ignorance.

On the existence or otherwise of a "black culture": If there is no such thing, or if it is racist to act as though there is, shouldn't we inform these people too?
posted by Decani at 10:02 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't start you comments by referencing Powell's speech unless you intend to play games with race, let alone the nonsense about Lammy 'sounding white' and the rest. I should think there's a fair chance that Starkey is primarily a massive old curmudgeon who thought he was going to burst a few liberal bubbles (as per the wanky BBC producer's remit for the man), but that he did that by resorting to a specious racist argument means that's what he was being here, whether or not it's the be-all and end-all of the man.
posted by Abiezer at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2011


Who said there is no such thing as black culture?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2011


Man, I thought for once the racism was so obvious we wouldn't get the usual apologists, but I guess I was wrong.

Starkey basically said that the rioters (whatever their race) were acting black and that successful black people act white. If that isn't some grade-A stinking to high heaven racist bullshit, I don't know what is. And that's not even getting into how xenophobic his comments on Jamaican patois are.

I'm not going to say whether the man himself is racist, but there's no doubt that what he said was racist. If I'd read what he said without knowing who said them, I would have guessed Nick Griffin or the ghost of Oswald Mosley.
posted by kmz at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I also think that there is a large group of Mefites who are just a little too ready to jerk the knee and yell "racism" (and, indeed, "sexism") in situations like this. I think they are also rather more wiiling to yell it when the target is a rather out of touch older white male than they are in, oh, pretty much any other instance. I find this annoying.



And I find your tone of fluttery forbearance here annoying, Decani.

What's with all your prissily calibrated objections!
You say some here are "just a little too ready" to yell racism.
And are "rather more willing" to attack a target who is "a rather out of touch older white male"...
And you would "hesitate to call Starkey actually racist...."

Why are you adopting this weirdly cautious voice?
It's not your usual persona, is it?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2011


I would hesitate to call Starkey actually racist on this evidence.

I don't know whether the man is racist or not. His comments, however, were racist, and if that was not what he intended, he should explain himself further and better.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:34 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there's some overthinking here. Starkey is a ultra-conservative right-winger who has been dubbed Britain's Rudest Man. He was put on the angry shouting show Newsnight in order that he could say some offensive things to the guests representing black communities.

You don't need to contort the logic of the statements to look for inoffensive things that the he might have meant to say. He's an offensive man who was hired to say offensive things.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, I would hesitate to call anyone racist, because racism is a very nasty and very serious thing, and there is a big difference between racism and insensitivity or ignorance.

Conversely, I would like people to be far more vocal about identifying things they perceive to be racist, and I would like people to stop thinking of racism as being the worst kind of thoughtcrime imaginable such that it must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. This attitude that says that manifested racism or prejudice become indelible stains on the soul makes talking about racism really difficult, because no one wants to be permanently stigmatized or to accidentally say something that "incriminates" them.

Of course racism is a big deal, nasty and serious as you say. But modern racism tends to take aversive forms, such that while we as a society have broadly used the tools of stigmatization to clamp down on overt, explicit racism, those same tools are somewhat hampering when used on institutional and unconscious or acculturated actions. We need new tools and better understanding to address the most common current racist manifestations, which are far more common than usually understood and are aided in their commonality by fear of exposure.

It's not ok to say racist stuff, that's obvious. It's also not the end of the world, and people can apologize and change and work to amend the harm they cause and all that. I said above something to the effect that Starkey's public career is probably over, and while that may well not be true thanks to a generally xenophobic undercurrent in UK politics, or it might well be true because public faces will want to be seen to take some kind of action, I regret implying that I thought that was a good thing or that that's what should happen. I'd rather see this event become a catalyst for exposing strains of racial assumption in the public consciousness. I know that probably won't happen, because the racial assumptions go very, very deep. But it'd be nice, and it'd be preferable to running this guy out on a rail because he said some racist shit.
posted by Errant at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think there's some overthinking here. Starkey is a ultra-conservative right-winger who has been dubbed Britain's Rudest Man. He was put on the angry shouting show Newsnight in order that he could say some offensive things to the guests representing black communities.

Oh, is that what is happening here. They were just like, "hey dude, say some offensive shit. Rawk."

I highly doubt that. There isn't any overthinking going on. What Starkey said was racist. Whether he's conservative, hired to be offensive or Britain's rudest man isn't really relevant. It doesn't provide cover for his racist bullshit. It doesn't excuse it. It is still racist and finding excuses for his behavior won't change that at all.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2011


IvoShandor: I meant that the people trying to find a non-racist interpretation of his words were overthinking it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh dear. Sorry about that. Where is the delete button?
posted by IvoShandor at 12:13 PM on August 18, 2011


Decani: “I would hesitate to call Starkey actually racist on this evidence. In fact, I would hesitate to call anyone racist, because racism is a very nasty and very serious thing, and there is a big difference between racism and insensitivity or ignorance.”

I think you're wrong here. I mean, for one thing, I wouldn't necessarily say Starkey himself is racist – that's sort of beside the point – but what he said is certainly racist. Even if we ignore "the whites became black," his whole bit about "if you close your eyes, he totally sounds like a white guy!" thing is... well, highly problematic.

"Racism" isn't a "very nasty and very serious thing." It's serious, yes, but I think you're fetishizing it and thereby pushing a dichotomy between David Starkey's comments and what racism is. But there isn't some grand scale with "racist" at one end and "insensitive" and "ignorant" somewhere in the middle. Racism is simply racial prejudice. It is no more and no less. It is therefore insensitive and ignorant; and all ignorance or insensitivity concerning racial matters constitutes racism.

People who don't consciously harbor racial prejudice can say racist things. When one says a racist thing, it doesn't matter what your intentions were; it's still racism.

And, for what it's worth, yes, I've always felt as though The Clash's "White Riot" constitutes racism. It's a naive sort of racism, but it's racism nonetheless. I like to think Joe Strummer would not have written such a song later on, and I can forgive him pretty readily for the awkwardness of the song, but it still makes me cringe when I hear it. The same goes for Patti Smith's "Rock and Roll Nigger." Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who said there is no such thing as black culture?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:22 PM on August 18


I was referring to this statement in the linked article.

"This statement assumes 2 things: firstly that there are such things as ‘white’ and ‘black’ culture. "

Starkey basically said that the rioters (whatever their race) were acting black and that successful black people act white.
posted by kmz at 6:29 PM on August 18


See, I'm not convinced he actually did say that. I know that's the way many people have taken it but I really am not convinced that was what he said. I think Starkey may have been, in his admittedly clumsy way, have been trying to say more or less what Joe Strummer said in "White Riot" - that black folk, being long-standing victims of racist, economic and other abuse, have typically been more willing to riot and fight the power. And that now maybe some of the white folk feel that way inclined too.

Incidentally, I do hope you're not including me as an "apologist". Because as a man who physically fought *real* racists on the streets of Leeds in the late seventies I would take rather violent exception to that.

And I find your tone of fluttery forbearance here annoying, Decani

Sorry about that.
posted by Decani at 1:44 PM on August 18, 2011


I think Starkey may have been, in his admittedly clumsy way, have been trying to say more or less what Joe Strummer said in "White Riot" - that black folk, being long-standing victims of racist, economic and other abuse, have typically been more willing to riot and fight the power. And that now maybe some of the white folk feel that way inclined too.

Decani I disagree with you.

"The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion and black and white boys and girls operate in this language together.

"This language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England and that is why so many of us have this sense of literally of a foreign country."

He says that "this [black cultural] language" of violence and nihilism has taken over whites, made them black, and that this new shared language is "wholly false". Previously it was just the blacks, now it is blacks and some whites, but either way it is "false". He has a negative view of what these white kids are doing, he thinks it is wrong, and he thinks they learned it from black people. There, that's it.

I also do think you are engaging in apologetics when you claim he was being "clumsy". A lot of people have been using the "clumsy" or "awkward" or "didn't mean it" excuse for Starkey's statements. But you have to do contortions to come away with any meaning other than the obvious, racist one. Really, you think David Starkey has the same sentiments as The Clash? He's a right-wing flamethrower and always has been. Why would he reference Enoch Powell?

Enoch Powell argued for immigration reform because without it the immigrant blacks would rise up and violently overtake the beleaguered whites. David Starkey argues that Powell was absolutely correct except for one thing: the blacks did not overtake the whites with physical violence, rather, they took over some of the whites with the influence of their "violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture", as evidenced by the widespread usage of Jamaican patois. Not all blacks are subject to this culture because some of them, i.e. David Lammy, act like/sound like whites.

1. Saying that black people who are successful have done so by being more like white people is racist. It is white supremacist.

2. Attributing only violence and negativity to "black culture" and success and education to "white culture" is racist. Again, white supremacist.

3. Saying "whites have become black" when some white people do something bad is racist, what the heck is that?

4. Acting like white people don't have a long history of doing violence so that when they do, it must be because of the influence of blacks, this too is racist.

5. Finally, the claim that he is only talking about a part of black culture doesn't take away the racism. Violence and nihilism and gangsters are not unique to black people. None of that was invented by us and we are not like the main champions or something. You will find these things in every nation on earth and throughout history. Same goes for rioting and youth rebellion. This is not so unique as to be a part of black culture. And the vast majority of black people, who do not act this way or promote it, are NOT LIKE WHITE PEOPLE just because they aren't bad.
posted by Danila at 3:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, I do hope you're not including me as an "apologist". Because as a man who physically fought *real* racists on the streets of Leeds in the late seventies I would take rather violent exception to that.

Decani,
Then maybe avoid using "clumsy" to describe Starkey's comments?
You've now used it twice, and it does give the impression you are making excuses for him, even if you're not at all.
(Acc. to a UK Times profile in 2008, Starkey is one of the UK's highest paid tv presenters/talking heads. You don't get that sort of gig by being a clumsy speaker!)

You wrote:"I think Starkey may have been, in his admittedly clumsy way, have been trying to say more or less what Joe Strummer said in "White Riot" - that black folk, being long-standing victims of racist, economic and other abuse, have typically been more willing to riot and fight the power. And that now maybe some of the white folk feel that way inclined too."

I thought White Riot was Strummer's overheated - very specific -response to having been present at the Notting Hill Festival/Riot of 1976? It was probably very exciting for him!

The festival violence that erupted year was a huge shock for London. No one expected anything of the sort and I remember a lot of us didn't know whether it meant the start of terrifying new police powers, or maybe of a no-go area for whites (as if NY's Harlem had come to London!). Maybe it was different in Leeds where you were - but the Notting Hill riot of 1976 was NOT the typical behavior of London's resident West Indian community at that time. (That was part of the problem - the police initially didn't have a clue how to react - and made things a lot worse.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:25 PM on August 18, 2011


Decani, I just cannot see your charitable reading of his comments. He's not referring to the violence demonstrated during the riots as a kind of "fight the power" uprising, he's referring to the riots as (quoting him now) "violent, destructive, nihilistic". By saying "nihilistic", he's saying there is no purpose to the violence beyond the destruction itself, which means that he cannot be attaching messages of rebellion or class warfare to the riots, because he is literally saying that the riots have no message and the rioters are incapable of delivering one coherently, never mind having one to begin with.

Look at his examples. What is it to be black in his comments? It's to rampage, steal, destroy. What is it to be white? It's to be a Labour MP who sounds respectable to David Starkey on the radio. When challenged by the black panelist, he says, "*You* don't talk like them." Incredulously, he turns to another panelist and says, "You glorify *rap*?" He says, "What are we going to do for these boys and girls?", someone else asks, "And you think the way to do that is by dropping black culture?", and he says, "No. Well... a particular form." Sure, he's not saying all black culture is bad. Just the black culture that turns people into patois-speakers instead of Received Pronunciation acolytes.

In what world is the phrase "Enoch Powell was right" ever anything other than a racist dogwhistle, unless the whole sentence is "Enoch Powell was right over there being racist, but I threw a rock at his enormous head and he's gone now"?

You're welcome to your interpretation, but I can't find any justification for it.
posted by Errant at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2011


Britain's Society Broken by Greed: The blazing infernos which took hold in the UK's biggest cities have shocked British society. It wasn't a desire to protest that drove the brutal looters onto the streets, but pure consumer greed. Bankers, politicians and media moguls have made this greed socially acceptable.
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake, I just finished listening to his nonsense again, and his last comment before another panelist takes over is, "This type of black male culture militates against education." And you're saying that he thinks the disenfranchised youth are rising up against oppression? Come off it.
posted by Errant at 3:54 PM on August 18, 2011


But I also think that there is a large group of Mefites who are just a little too ready to jerk the knee and yell "racism" (and, indeed, "sexism") in situations like this. I think they are also rather more wiiling to yell it when the target is a rather out of touch older white male than they are in, oh, pretty much any other instance. I find this annoying.


Perhaps if you tolerate what you see as their oversensitivity, they will tolerate yours?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:15 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm rather embarrassed for Britain after reading homunculous' last link.
posted by infini at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm rather embarrassed for Britain after reading homunculous' last link.

Infini,
I'm far more embarrassed for the writer - this piece is awful.

The essayist seems to be a staff sports writer - not necessarily a disadvantage, but I can't find any other credentials - and it's just a mess of shockingly simplistic opinion, sloppy grandstanding, random statistics, gross generalizations and fragments of other people's news stories!

Even if there are some accurate observations, they're buried under crap - like:

"This miserable life of drugs, loitering and weapons in neighborhoods which were devastated by the policies of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and never fixed by Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, is the fate of those dubbed "NEETs" in the UK. It stands for "not in education, employment or training", and there are about 1.2 million people who fit the description...."
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:22 PM on August 18, 2011


Late (very late) to this thread, but Mark Steel did a wonderful 'deconstruction' job on Starkey at a Radio 4 programme recording I was at on Monday night. I think it airs Friday 26th at 6.30pm in the UK, but not sure how many of his original words will be left in. Hopefully all of them.
posted by Myeral at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a piece in the latest Private Eye with Starkey as a London cab driver. Very apt.
posted by Jehan at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2011


I cracked up at this parody (linked in TN-C's Atlantic blog comment thread):

Julian Cook, professor of shut up, you're wrong at Delingpole University, said: "When did it become racist to make sweeping generalisations about ethnicity?"
posted by en forme de poire at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


oops, I mishyphenated Ta-Nehisi Coates
posted by en forme de poire at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2011


Starkey replies; he's been SILENCED all this week. He then goes on to make various other assertions that wouldn't pass muster in a GCSE essay.
posted by Abiezer at 3:03 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some interesting insight from the African perspective: The British Urban Uprising of 2011

All these external comparisons shine an important light on the 2011 British insurrection. Even more pertinent is to place the recent widespread riots in the context of British history. Eighteenth and 19th century Britain is littered with riots ignited by political, economic, and social grievances. In the 20th century, race increasingly added its incendiary dynamics to the periodic eruptions of public disaffection and disturbances. The postwar migration of large numbers of people from the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, who were collectively called "black," ruptured the bonds of Englishness and whiteness, Britishness and Europeaness, and recast the ties and tensions between race and class.

Race and class have always been intertwined in and for imperial Britain, the leading slave trading nation of the 18th century and the leading colonial power of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is merely to point out the continuous circulation of the ideologies of race and class between Britain and its empire, which coloured social relations both in the colonial peripheries and in the metropolitan heartland during the heyday of empire and in its aftermath. In short, Britain has an enduring problem of racial and class inequality and exclusion, out of which riots occasionally explode. In the post-war period, race riots have broken out with predictable frequency: the Notting Hill riots of 1958, the Brixton riots of 1981, the Handsworth and the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985, and the Brixton and Bradford riots of 1995.

The specific contexts for each of these riots of course vary, but the basic text, the structural conditions remain deeply rooted in the class and racial hierarchies and marginalizations of British society sustained by Britain's increasingly feckless political class. In the 2011 riots two contexts particularly matter: First, the decline of economic opportunities, and second, the decay of democracy. Like much of Euroamerica, Britain was devastated by the Great Recession and the economy has been limping since the recession was declared officially over. In its latest estimate, the Bank of England "lowered its UK growth estimate for 2011 to 1.5%, from a previous forecast of about 1.8%, and cut its 2012 forecast to around 2% from 2.5%."

The adoption of a severe austerity program by the Coalition government involving massive cuts to social sectors and services including education threatens turning the lingering recession for the working classes and lower middle classes into a permanent depression. This has resulted in rising levels of unemployment for these classes among who racial minority youths are overrepresented. In large measure, then, the riots represent the marginalized lashing out while their political leaders enjoy foreign holidays from which they ignominiously returned to a country on fire. Clearly, the British riots are more multiracial than were the riots of 1981 or 1985 let alone the 2005 French riots. This makes them potentially more threatening and more difficult for the state to contain with cheap shots against "black hooligans" or the empty promises of multiculturalism.

posted by infini at 6:51 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just popping in to say...wow. Fuck Eric Clapton.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:42 PM on August 22, 2011


Open letter from 103 historians:
Starkey's ignorance is hardly work of history

In David Starkey's regular appearances on BBC's Newsnight, Newsnight Review and Question Time, he is introduced as "the historian, David Starkey", just as Emily Maitlis introduced him on the Newsnight discussion of the recent English riots. As a group of professional historians, academics and graduate students, we therefore feel it is reasonable to critique his contribution as that of a historian, rather than a celebrity.

According to the BBC, the aim of the discussion was to examine "the causes of the recent riots and looting". One might therefore ask the following question: if a historian is to be involved in a discussion of rioting in modern Britain intended to explore issues of race and class, why choose one whose education, research and publications are at such a remove from these topics? In our opinion, it was a singularly poor choice: Starkey has professed himself to be a historian of elites, and his academic work has never focused on race and class - in fact, he has rejected those approaches. We are thus unsurprised by the poverty of his reductionist argument, which reflected his lack of understanding of the history of ordinary life in modern Britain. It was evidentially insupportable and factually wrong...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:55 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Amen to that.

Having Starkey on to talk about riots is like having a particle phycisist on to talk about climate change.

I wish that there were more publically known historians, because historians have a lot to contribute to public discussions of topics they are expert in, but it seems like the media types are just too lazy to use google. Instead, they get one pocket historian and whip him out whenever, whether it's appropriate or not.

Paul Gilroy - right near the top of that letter - would have been a great choice to talk about race relations and black British culture. Or any of the dozens of people who are experts in riot from the medieval period right through today.
posted by jb at 3:05 AM on August 25, 2011


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