I’ve Always Supported Tottenham

If you’re tempted to listen to BBC5 this morning for some cov­erage of the London riots, don’t. I made that mis­take and was bar­raged by ra­cist callers spouting off false facts and being mod­er­ated by a pat­ron­ising school ma’am an­nouncer who con­sist­ently re­ferred to those in­volved in the riots as ‘the hooligans’.

When I was reading the Guardian’s ini­tial re­ports on the tot­tenham riots late friday night, what struck me was that they re­ferred to Mark Duggan, the man who po­lice shot dead the night be­fore, simply as ‘a father of four’. Had Mark been on the other side of a lethal gun shot there is no doubt the media would have been re­porting that a black man had shot someone dead on the high street, but in this case I had to in­de­pend­ently re­search to con­firm my strong sus­pi­cion that he wasn’t white.

Mark Duggan was in­deed a man of colour. It is still un­clear why he was being ar­rested, let alone why po­lice shot him twice in the head. Initial bal­listic tests sug­gest that the ‘he shot at us first’ story sug­gested by po­lice is about as re­li­able as the ‘we found Ian Tomlinson on the ground and tried to help him but pro­testers were stop­ping us’ story that the met re­leased in the wake of the 2009 G20. Ian Tomlinson was a working class white man — his family is still fighting for some kind of justice from the state. Having re­ceived an un­lawful killing ver­dict from a coro­nial jury this May and a promise of a man­slaughter charge against the po­lice of­ficer who shoved Tomlinson to the ground, they are really not doing too badly. By com­par­ison the family of Sean Rigg, a black man who died in po­lice cus­tody in Brixton in 2008 while being ‘re­strained’ for mental health is­sues, are still waiting for the ini­tial coro­nial in­quiry to take place.

According to Inquest there have been 174 black and ethnic minority deaths in po­lice cus­tody or im­me­di­ately fol­lowing po­lice con­tact in England and Wales since 1993. These deaths are oc­cur­ring in the pre-​arrest and ar­rest phase, so long be­fore the sus­pects have ac­tu­ally been tried for the al­leged of­fence. (Not that there is any reason to put much faith in the trial pro­cess. Britain’s prisons, like those of its ex-​colonies, are still dis­pro­por­tion­ately filled with people of colour.)

Predictably, there is in the media a strong norm­ative di­vide being en­cour­aged between the family of Mark Duggan, who are al­lowed to ask for justice, and the feral hoo­ligan youth, who have no genuine politics and simply want to loot stores for new sneakers. So the anger of the family is le­git­imate and the anger of ‘the youths’ is not. What this nar­rative of course misses is that un­like the ConDem’s bull­shit ‘big bri­tain’, most of the black res­id­ents of Haringey are in fact in it to­gether, not in the sense that they form some ro­man­ti­cised ver­sion of ‘com­munity’ but in the sense that they are sys­tem­at­ic­ally im­pov­er­ished, killed, har­rassed and then ig­nored by the state. They are not stealing tins of beans from aldi and nikes from JD sports to take home and add to their stock­piles of waitrose caviar and de­signer brogues.

The riots spread to other poor areas of London over night. Let’s see what the next few days bring. As my friend Roz said on Friday, I’ve al­ways sup­ported Tottenham.


  1 comment for “I’ve Always Supported Tottenham

  1. 8 October 2011 at 10:47 am

    love your work Sarah. Have read your stuff on un­der­grad es­says I’ve done for ‘post­co­lo­ni­alist’ legal struc­tures for Legal Theory etc in Aus.

    How people manage not to scratch the sur­face or widen the lens is beyond me. I guess it just con­tinues that ra­cism, if people can sin­cerely char­ac­terise eco­nom­ic­ally and so­cially dis­ad­vant­aged people of colour in England as just ‘hoo­ligans’. Get a grip people! Again, thanks for your com­mentary, Sarah.

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