West Indian writer, broadcaster and resident of the London suburbs currently experiencing riots speaks to a BBC broadcaster about the nature of what’s going on, calling it an “insurrection” and calling her behavior (and by extension the ruling elite) “idiotic.”
A BBC talking head Fiona Armstrong asked 68 year old West Indian writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe if he was shocked by what he’s seen in the London suburbs experiencing riots.
Howe’s response is full of anger and disbelief—not so much at the rioters but at Armstrong and the establishment. He quite rightly says that something very serious was going to take place in the United Kingdom. And he Mr. Howe should know: he lives in the neighborhood and is a social commentator.
Howe then launched into the following statement, “Our political leaders had no idea. The police had no idea. But if you looked at the young blacks and the young whites with a discerning eye and careful hearing, they had been telling us and we would not listen, that what is happening in this country to them.”
Armstrong interrupts Howe and asks if he condones the rioting, a comment to which Howe took umbrage, saying, “Of course I do not. What am I going to condone it for?”
He redirects the conversation to the man killed by police, Mark Duggan. “What I’m concerned about more than anything else, there is a man named Mark Duggan—he has parents, he has brothers, he has sisters, and a few yards away from where he lives, a police officer blew his head off. Blew his face off!”
The BBC’s Armstrong interrupts and says, “Mr. Howe, we have to wait for the official inquiry before we can say things like that.” But there’s already been some confusion over the police actions in Duggan’s death.
Armstrong redirects the issue to Howe’s grandson, and in response, Howe mentions that his grandson has been searched so many times he can’t count. Armstrong condescends, suggesting that she’ll have to essentially take his word on this comment.
Howe then asks,”Where were you in 1981 in Brixton?” He was referencing the riots in Brixton in 1981—riots that were analyzed by Lord Scarman in “The Scarman Report,” who suggested that the poor and ethnic minorities often feel powerless, that they can’t advance in society, and that this led to the Brixton riots. (For more on this idea, read my article “London Riots: UK Government Ignores Poverty & Inequality, Focuses on Violence.”)
Howe continues, “I don’t call it rioting—I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it’s happening in Liverpool, it’s happening in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment.”
And thus Howe put the rioting into some perspective, while not condoning the looting and arson.
Armstrong then suggests that Howe had been a rioter, to which Howe responded, “I have never taken part in a single riot… I’ve been part of demonstrations that have ended up in a conflict. Have some respect for old West Indian Negro, and stop accusing me of being a rioter.”
She attempts to sign off and he retorts with “You sound like an idiot.”
One final thought: Armstrong and the establishment are only concerned with these areas of London now because they feel their grip on control loosening—that the danger might spread to their doorstep.
Watch the exchange below.