What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common

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.

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22 Responses to “What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common”

  1. Phillip Brightmore

    What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common: http://t.co/IOIKV5z : writes @danielelton #Starkey

  2. John Lever

    What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common http://t.co/Yl2yrKS

  3. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common: http://t.co/pwCzGGj : writes @danielelton #Starkey #NewsClub

  4. Anon E Mouse

    When did David Starkey say he despised these individuals?

    I watched the interview and reviewed it on Sky Plus and at no time did he ever say he despised anyone.

    More childish bias from Left Foot Forward that has once again completely failed to understand his points.

    Still with the frankly crazy way in which Harriet Harman made herself look totally irrelevant and stupid by stating that people stealing plasma TV’s and training shoes were worried about tuition fees when the majority of them can’t even read or write. Nuts…

  5. Ed's Talking Balls

    I don’t think the BBC owes anyone an apology for inviting a controversial figure onto one of their programmes who subsequently, surprise surprise, said something controversial. Had he blatently crossed a line then yes, we could expect an interruption or apology after the programme for the content (e.g. had Nick Griffin been invited to foam, or had Anjem Choudary done the same).

    As it happens, I think that Starkey did as he usually does: sailed close to the wind, making some uncomfortable, perceptive points amid some waffle. Much of what he said has been mischaracterised, both by Owen Jones in the heat of the moment and, less excusably, by those who have viewed and reviewed the comments in the cold light of day.

    I don’t agree with Starkey’s notion that ‘Lammy speaks like a white man’. I think that was an objectionable thing to say, given what he was implying. But I think that his view that there is a ‘nihilistic’ section of black culture, glorified in gangster rap, is damaging to society and, regrettably, has been enthusiastically adopted by many young people of all races in this country.

    The panellists on Newsnight challenged Starkey to point to examples of rapstars spewing violent sentiment or glorifying crime, knowing full well that he couldn’t. However, I could point to such examples, and I could point to people who don’t simply enjoy the music but live by the lyrics. That is unhealthy, as is the ubiquitous incomprehensible patois.

    Like Anon E Mouse, I’m much more concerned by Harriet Harman’s offensive, laughable misunderstanding of the situation (or, more cynically, naked, hypocritical point-scoring) than I am by what Starkey said. She actually had power and may well still wield some. That’s a frightening thought.

  6. Anon E Mouse

    Ed’s Talking Balls – Yes the bigger story is the Harriet Harman drivel about cuts which haven’t even started yet.

    I’d have thought that after Ken Livingston effectively ruled himself out of being taken seriously as a mayoral candidate with his rubbish earlier in the week that the Labour Party would have got a grip of these imbeciles and considered how it would look to normal people.

    I suppose with Harman’s past regarding denigrating the role of fathers in the family we shouldn’t be surprised and I have to say that Lammy has performed admirably.

    I think that Harman’s main problem with her toff background is she just doesn’t get it…

  7. Anon E Mouse

    For anyone interested in how seriously Harriet Harman’s “theory” on the cuts and riots is taken, just listen to Peter Hitchen’s demolition of her position on R4’s Any Questions most recent episode at 31.56:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qgvj/episodes/player

    Where he comprehensively rubbishes her stupid opinion

  8. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: What Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common http://t.co/rgNy1JW

  9. BurntAsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: What #Starkey and those he claims to despise have in common http://t.co/D8Ds3t0

  10. BurntAsh

    David Starkey is just voicing the secret views of a lot of people in the UK. As an educated black woman of Kenyan descent, living in, working in and positively contributing to the UK and my local community in Manchester, I’m just bemused by the past week’s events and all the ‘social analysts’ that keep coming out of the woodwork with their preconceived notions.

    As far as I’m concerned, and speaking from my own and the experience of my friends and family, I can plainly say that the Critical Race Theory, holds as much truth in the UK as it does in the US, where it originated: racism IS engrained in the fabric and system of our society, so the individual racist (e.g. Starkey) need not exist for us to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.

    And just in case you wondered how much truth there is to this claim, this morning, during a phone conversation, one of my contacts based in Chelsea asked me if I came over from Kenya as a refugee. Hmm… at £10,000 a year for international fees (excluding living costs might I add!), all I can say is hardly!

    http://thescorchedashphilosopher.blogspot.com/
    @BurntAshTweets

  11. Richard Gadsden

    Barack Obama was never a congressman. In 2004, he was an Illinois State Senator and then was elected to the US Senate that November, taking office the following January.

  12. Bootsy

    Hands up who has watched Ali G and didn’t find it offensive (in terms of what Ali G actually is and not his actions).

    Ali G represents the comical side of what Starkey is saying, but that’s ok I suppose…

  13. Mister Jabberwock

    Why as soon as someone says “black” or “white” do you turn your brains off and shout “racist”.

    What Starkey said (taking out, I grant you, provocative language and references) was that there is a “gangster culture” that originated in certain black youth populations and which has been adopted by certain white youth populations as a form of imitation and that this culture was at the heart of many of the riots.

    Now is there anything in that statement that is not self evidently accurate?

    And is there anything in that statement that is racist?

    I think the more questionable thing he said was regarding David Lammy – where he equated an RP-ish accent with “white”

    The one thing that is clear is that left has at least one unavoidable knee jerk reaction.

  14. Mister Jabberwock

    Daniel – Slight apologies as my comment was really about the general reaction to Starkey, rather than your post as I think you are criticizing the David Lammy part of his remarks more than the ganster culture part a criticism I broadly share.

    Crispin

  15. Mr. Sensible

    Yes, Mr Mouse, I think I heard enough of Mr Hitchen’s right wing reactionary nonsense when I listened to the program on Saturday to last me a lifetime, thank you.

    When Starkey admitted to reading, and subsequently endorsed parts of the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech I think that said it all.

    Another example of reactionary nonsense that has built up following these events.

  16. Mister Jabberwock

    Mr Sensible

    You seem to be saying that for a historian to read the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech is a bad thing. Is that what you believe?

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – We know which part of Harriet Harman’s comments aren’t true – all of them.

    To suggest that rioters were stealing training shoes and plasma TV’s because of future changes in tuition fees is beyond belief.

    Surely even you can understand that the majority of those rioters can’t even read despite over a decade of education so future fee changes mean nothing to them.

    Or do you believe Harman is right or just spouting her usual nonsense because it can’t be both. Well?

  18. peezedtee

    Mr Sensible

    Listen to what Starkey actually said about Enoch Powell. He said that while Powell had been correct to prophecy social unrest, his reasons for doing so were completely wrong, i.e. the civil war between different racial communities that Powell predicted has by and large not happened. That seems a pretty reasonable summary of the situation to me. Starkey plainly does not belong to the “Enoch was right” faction, as you seem to be assuming.

  19. Ian Townson

    Moral panics about ‘yoof’ aren’t new. We could go back as far as the middle ages or the apprentice boy’s riots in Elizabethan England to the Gordon Riots, Mods and Rockers, skinheads, punks, race riots etc. Rioting and gang culture are as British as the Monarchy. David Starkey’s take on the current horror story is superficial and doesn’t get to the real problem of how to build social solidarity and community. Sure gangs do exist. Witness the sad and terrible black teenagers killing each other and the organised white gangs of drug dealers, extortionists, bank robbers etc. Blaming ‘Gangsta rap’ and black culture for the present looting and rioting is about as meaningful as asserting that the moon is made of cheese. Look at some problems:

    1. Capitalism is amoral and the highest ‘value’ you are expected to aspire to is the consumerist ethic. That might be a problem.

    2. Unemployment, low wages, low expectations, low-self esteem, poor education, destruction of working class communities and neighbourhood friendship networks – with all this going on why wouldn’t criminality rear its ugly head?

    3. David Lammy didn’t get to where he was by trying to be as ‘white’ as possible. He got there because he was lucky enough to have a good education which enabled him to pursue his politicla career.

    4. Heavy prison sentences and evicting people from their homes will not deal with the route causes. Will we see the riots again in 5 years time?

    5. Yes, David Starkey should apologise for suggesting blacks should aspire to become as white as possible.

  20. Jo

    Ian, the riots grew considerably in frequency over the past several decades, and they are attaining an increasingly cultural aspect – which it would be untrue to say that ethnic minorities constitute the core of Britain’s poor.

    Besides, you are too general in your explanations. Unemployment, low wages and so forth did not lead to similar riots among the Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities, or among white British. It is particularly the black community that played a prominent role. Here is summary of statistics on black participation in the riots: http://humstats.blogspot.com/2011/08/uk-riots-ethnicity-statistics.html

    It is true that the black community feels disenfranchised, but it is also by far the most aggressive against the establishment in comparison to other communities.

  21. Jo

    Ian, the riots grew considerably in frequency over the past several decades, and they are attaining an increasingly cultural aspect. It would be untrue to say that ethnic minorities constitute the core of Britain’s poor.

    Besides, you are too general in your explanations. Unemployment, low wages and so forth did not lead to similar riots among the Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities, or among white British. It is particularly the black community that played a prominent role. Here is summary of statistics on black participation in the riots: http://humstats.blogspot.com/2011/08/uk-riots-ethnicity-statistics.html

    1. Over 50% rioters are black, below 30% are white;
    2. Black people are over 10 times more likely to participate in riots than whites;
    3. High unemployment in London -> riots?
    4. Black areas -> riots?
    5. Low social class != riots, low training !=riots;
    6. Black areas = high unemployment;
    7. High unemployment + black areas = riots;
    8. High unemployment + non-black areas = no riots;
    9. Average or low unemployment + black areas (rare) = riots, but fewer

    It is true that the black community feels disenfranchised, but it is also by far the most aggressive against the establishment in comparison to other communities. Riots certainly are not the way to combat discrimination – in fact, they are likely to give it a twisted moral ground of a sort.

  22. Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics | Left Foot Forward

    […] as “like Enoch Powell meets Alan Partridge”; as Left Foot Forward’s Daniel Elton wrote of Starkey: “Such an outlook is historically and cultural ignorant. It may be not too far to […]

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