Starkey believes that young black people must choose between doing the right thing and their own identity and culture. That is wicked.
“Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.” – Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention
“That a substantial section of the chavs…have become black, the whites have become black, a particular sort of violent destructive nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion… this language which is wholly false which is a Jamacian patois which has been intruded in England… it’s not skin colour its cultural… listen to David Lammy, an achetypical successful black man, if you turned the screen off so you were listening to him on radio you’d think he was white.” – David Starkey, 12 August 2011 Newsnight
At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama alluded to a destructive phenonemon among America’s black communities: A small minority among those communities excusing lack of educational dedication and aspiration by terming such behavior as ‘acting white’.
I am no expert on American black culture, and Obama may have been attacking a straw man. But a brief glimpse of black culture on both sides of the Atlantic shows how the idea that the then congressman from Illinios was tackling, is pure rubbish.
In every generation, the black community in this country have produced figures, from across the political and cultural spectrum, whose words and deeds declare a clear message of bettering yourself through education and living up to your responsibilities, from Learie Constantine and C.L.R. James, to David Lammy, Diane Abbott and Shaun Bailey today.
What Starkey and those that Obama looked to take on do have in common, is that, according to their worldview, young black people must choose between doing the right thing and their own identity and culture. That doing something they may have pride in is ‘acting white’.
Such an outlook is historically and cultural ignorant. It may be not too far to suggest that it is wicked and has the capacity to be incredibly destructive. And anyone who espouses it should be ashamed of themselves. Starkey would do well to listen to the petitioners and apologise.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.