In-flight magazines have a deservedly poor reputation—their content as light and fluffy as the cumulonimbus among which their captive audiences soar, crammed with clichés, factoids, puns, and ads for their issuing airline, or hotels, designer duds, and repellent colognes. Their shrink-wrapped sentiments are the perfect accompaniment to the freeze-dried food—as insubstantial and forgettable, leaving a vague feeling of unquenched thirst. Air China passengers were therefore surprised to find something fibrous in the latest issue of Wings of China, jammed in among the froth—and for one traveller at least, it was not a pleasant surprise. Travellers from Beijing to London were advised, in Mandarin and English—
“London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.”
The paragraph seemed incompatible with one of the airline’s slogans—“We treasure every encounter”. But few seemed to find humour in the situation, and events followed the usual trajectory. Politically or socially ambitious cloth-ears opened fire—“outrageous”, “offensive”, “not reflective”, “wonderfully diverse”, “outdated”, “is this 2016?”, “embrace”, and so forth. Twitter flared into a heat-rash—although much less extreme than it would have been had the airline been a Western one. The company went to ground for 24 hours, then emerged begging for forgiveness, desperate to regain lost face (and avoid lost revenues). The guardians of the public conscience grunted and slid back into their lairs, antennae already twitching to detect the next moral meal.
But what about that public whose sensibilities had been protected so sedulously? And regardless of the political acuity of including the offending paragraph, is there any truth in what the Wings of China writer averred?
It has probably always been the case, in every country and period, that areas inhabited by recent immigrants (of whatever background) have more crime than other areas. Immigrants are marginal in every sense, economically insecure, perhaps with imported bad habits, distrusting their new government, lacking understanding of the culture in which they now live, facing locals’ resentment which makes them in turn spikily defensive. How could there not be more crime in such areas?
I am of Irish immigrant stock, and can vouch for it that my compatriots often distrusted the police—and it is likely that this distrust will be more pronounced among less easily-assimilable communities. In other countries and times local police would have dealt with such lawlessness forcefully, but of course now police forces are called police services—the terminological change reflecting a shrinking-away from unattractive realities. So it seems almost axiomatic that travellers to any city will be safer if they avoid areas of high immigrant concentration.
More specifically, anti-black prejudice is widespread across China, as was encapsulated in a recent advertisement for laundry detergent. It was therefore unsurprising that when asked what they thought of Air China’s advice, Chinese opinion was generally relaxed. London opinion, outside Labour political circles, was apparently not canvassed. Yet very many people (including black people) who live or have lived in London tell stories of muggings or violent crimes that have happened to them or people they know—and just about all of these involve black malefactors.
Perhaps the oddest thing about Air China’s advice is that it lumps in Indians and Pakistanis with black people—because it is usually only the latter who are popularly associated with street crime. As I read the article, I thought of my drunken Sikh landlord in Goodmayes who had waxed wroth about what he called the “uncivilized” black youth of Ilford. As he went on (and on and on), I had felt sorry for the many respectable and pleasant black people I had come across, who live under such a penumbra of suspicion.
I lived in London for eleven years, in economically impoverished but "culturally enriched" areas—Kensal Green, Kilburn, Deptford, Spitalfields, the Essex fringes, grottier parts of Greenwich. I was interested in London history and also had a busy social life, so frequently walked around the city late at night, including notoriously dubious suburbs like Dalston and Hackney. I was only targeted once, circa 1993, and that was indeed by a black male, who pulled a knife on me in a freezing Deptford park one December night, and demanded my wallet. I (probably rather rashly) refused, whereupon my less than determined interlocutor spat a curse and ran off. I was lucky; it is perhaps relevant to mention that I am 6’ 3”, and probably look unappealing when I am provoked/unnerved.
I was lucky on other occasions too, such as the time I was walking down a Peckham alley at about 3am, and suddenly ran into a huddled gang of furtive-looking Afro-Saxons—but they just parted sullenly as I passed through, fully expecting to be jumped on from behind. Maybe they thought I was a plain-clothes policeman. After all, what other white person would be stupid enough to go wandering through such streets at such a time?
When I rang Deptford Police Station to report the attempted mugging for form’s sake, the first question I was asked by the weary-sounding desk-sergeant was “Was he black, sir?” I doubt any desk-sergeant would dare ask that question now. Even in the early 1990s, white police officers were often accused of the ugliest kinds of prejudice. The cultural metamorphosis of policeman from 1960s local hero (Dixon of Dock Green, The Blue Lamp) to 2000s running-dogs of the racist-capitalist ruling class was already under way.
After 1999’s Macpherson Report into the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, this crescendo would grow deafening, with the report’s claims about “institutional racism” within the police (and many other arms of the state), calling for purges of older officers, and curbs on free expression. Tough cops cracked under the political-psychological pressure, like John Grieve, Director of the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force between 1998 and 2002, who wrote a purgative piece for the Daily Telegraph (seemingly not on-line, but mentioned here), taking on himself the sins of the world, but hoping for redemption—
“I am a racist. I must be because Sir William Macpherson of Cluny said that I am. … I’ve found inside myself evidence of subtle prejudice, preconception and indirect discrimination. I’m for change inside myself and in the behaviour of others.”
Fifteen years on, the present Metropolitan Police commissioner is resolutely on masochistic message, kept there by spasmodic chastisements from both ultra-Left and, more to the point, Theresa May.
It was probably unprofessional of the Deptford desk-sergeant (now, presumably, retired to Kentish suburbia, or gone to some celestial interview-room) to ask me that question about my encounter. But my lugubrious questioner was statistically justified—and so therefore is Air China, at least when it comes to the Afro-Caribbean part of their rather sloppy ethnic equation.
Decades of resentful rumour received statistical back-up for the first time in 2010. The Metropolitan Police analysed the ethnicity of the 18,091 men and boys they took action against for a range of violent and sexual offences in London in 2009-10. Among those proceeded against for street crimes (muggings, assault with intent to rob and snatching property), 54% were black; for robbery, 59%; and for gun crimes, 67%. As only 12 per cent of London’s 7.5 million population is black, including mixed black and white parentage, these figures are striking. There were some caveats—such as that black males were twice as likely to be victims of gun or knife crime, unsolved crimes were not included, and the figures did not take into account that any one perpetrator may have committed numerous offences. But the overall image was painfully un-ignorable.
2014 official statistics examining the criminal justice system (CJS) as a whole show that the problem extends far beyond London, and goes very deep—
“In general, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups appear to be over-represented at most stages throughout the CJS. … Among BAME groups, Black and Mixed individuals were often the most over-represented. Trends over time for each ethnic group have tended to mirror overall trends, with little change in relative positions between ethnic groups.”
These statistics are even more startling than the 2010 London figures. The stop and search rates per 1,000 of the population are 65 for black people, 28 for “mixed” (which in effect also means black), and just 15 for whites. The arrest rates are 56 black, 38 for mixed, and 19 for whites. Black and mixed-race individuals were also considerably more likely to be prosecuted and sentenced—and they got the longest sentences, probably because of the types of crime they commit. Black people over 15 were almost four times more likely to be imprisoned (and mixed more than three times) than their white counterparts. The other two categories, “Asian” and “Chinese/Other”, are generally comparable to the white rate.
In contrast, whites were more likely to be convicted than black defendants—which undercuts the frequent allegations about judicial and jury racism, and in fact suggests that the majority-white police and legal profession do not allow themselves to be swayed by racial fellow-feeling.
The white, middle-class monomaniacs who tend to run far-Left groups, even expressly working-class or black ones, would not believe that judges and juries are not racist—but then they believe in unified-field racism, in which everything and everyone Western is complicit (except, naturally, themselves). They never appear to consider that their wild asseverations about omnipresent racism may be worsening relations between police and policed.
While there have always been prejudiced officers and judges, and always will be, the roots of this phenomenon are deeply tangled, lying in irresponsible political rhetoric, the weakness (rather than the excessive forcefulness) of authority, and the trash culture of bling, drugs and grime—not to forget the etiolation of the evangelical sects that were once so powerful within black communities.
More recent additions into the London mix of whole new categories of criminals, including ethnically-based gangs, from eastern Europe, the Muslim world, eastern and southern Asia, means that this sad and difficult problem is likely to remain unaddressed. All the available evidence suggests that the back-streets of London (and sometimes the front-streets too) will remain areas where caution is needed, whether by Chinese tourists, Irishmen wandering about in a romantic daze, or locals wondering where London has gone.
…........................................................................................- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times. If after reading this article, you've become nostalgic for London, you are out of luck, as his last book takes place in Dublin.
Follow him on Twitter: Follow @DerekTurner1964 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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