If David Starkey is racist then so is everybody

Driving back from my holiday in Wales, yesterday, I realised what a lucky escape I’d had. As I exited the hills and finally got my mobile phone reception back, there was an old message from Friday inviting me to appear on that evening’s Newsnight to talk about the riots. So it could have been me that fell into the BBC’s “raaaacist” trap instead of poor old David Starkey.

And make no mistake it was a trap. Starkey’s debating opponent was Owen Jones, the BBC’s new pet angry young socialist whose default position is perpetual umbrage and righteous rage on behalf of the poor, working class, oppressed and – since Friday, apparently – black people. It’s a cheap trick but one that goes down very well at the BBC, which is why they…

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12 thoughts on “If David Starkey is racist then so is everybody”

  1. Having read more about it, it is ever clearer that the shout of ‘racist’ was just waiting for a cue, or something approaching a cue. It can be largely ignored because it is used solely to close down a debate; it is the equivalent of saying ‘my Dad is bigger than your Dad’ in the Oxford Debating Society. I remember decades ago an office environment when a controversial statement was made someone would laughingly reply ‘you can’t say that!’ as a reproach. Now however, you get ‘you can’t say that’ as a definitive, I’m right and that is the end of it statement of fact. Without realising it, people have awarded themselves top marks in knowing where the moral high ground is.

    For instance, civil marriages are nothing to do with ‘sexual orientation’ they are designed to undermine traditional Western society, but were forced on us with the unspoken warning that we could not object; we would be bigots. Otherwise known as disagreeing. A disagreeable thing, surely.

  2. No EyeSee, Starkey can say it, that is the point. Say it and be challenged. What seems to be at play is a PC of a different kind where people cannot even challenge him without being shouted down as McCarthyite race card players. That is closing down debate.

    It is only racism if Starkey was engaged in “prejudice and antagonism towards people of other races, esp. those felt to be a threat to one’s cultural or racial integrity” (OED).

    Did he engage in such conduct: yes.

    Was he neglectful / duplicitous / unaware / in denial about the vast array of violent nihilistic gangster culture that comes from ‘white culture’?

    I’m thinking Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Hitman, Scarface and other viedo game series.

    That’s before we even venture in to film. Are we trying to serious suggest that Michael Corleone is not portrayed as cool? Check Scarface, Lock Stock, Snatch, Layer Cake, Gangster #1, Casino, and the vast array of other films in that regard.

    To single out rap (and a considerable yet particular aspect of it) and to tie that to the riots is questionable at best. Whilst the inferred ‘white patois’ may be used in London, it isn’t in Manchester or Birmingham and various other places involved in rioting.

    I agree that (gangsta) rap has reprehensible content. I just think we should point our fingers at all reprehensible media targeted at young people, not just one.

  3. Dear James,

    I read your blog in relation to David Starkey’s Newsnight appearance as reported in the Daily Mail on Monday August 15th. Hip Hop, garage, grime, and kids both white and asian alike rolling like black pimps and perp with waistbands sagging below the buttox. You ask if anyone is seriously going to make the case that this isn’t black culture in excelsis.

    I am, simply because it’s not. Black culture in excelsis, to me and to 35 million other ethnic Yoruba is wearing an agbada, or buba and sokoto with a fila, or a buba with an iro and gele if you are female, and hoping to make a pilgrimage to Iseyin where the Ase Oke was invented. Luckily, I have already. Black culture to us, is debating over a beer whether or not the millennium plus old great wall of Eredo will get UNESCO heritage status, and if Lai Joseph is a better political commentator that Wole Soyinka. Black culture to us, is whether the medieval architects of Ijebu studied in the same Ile-Iwe as the civil engineers who designed the stone pavements of Oyo, and which alphabet they used, Aroko or the knotted string alphabet of Ife. Black culture to me is watching my father play Ayo with his friends, and after each decent move he thinks he’ makes, ironically quoting Oranyan or Ajaka, or even ‘Firan from the Ofin Eso, the thousand year old cavalry code of horsemanship and chivalry, then hearing my uncle retort from a quip penned by Fela Kuti or Lagbaja. Black culture to us is listening to Senegambians banter about weather Baba Maal is building intellectually on the ruminations of their favourite medieval griots. Black culture to us is comparing the techniques, themes and motivations of the Ife brass and bronze guilds in Ife and their franchises in Benin City 1600 years ago. Black culture to us, is… yes.. listening to rap. Lots of it. Stark Reality, Jorge Ben, Sun Ra, Doesone, Aster Eweke… not an ‘N’ word or a B**ch to be heard, and then sharing our appreciation of their music and rhyme in the context of Chuck D’s book, ‘Rap, Race and Reality’, and then arguing whether the latest Nigerian engineers designing satellites at SSTL in Guildford are better engineers than the men who flooded the plains to create a temporary land canals as barriers between the European invaders and the great Oyo Cavalry to make their last great stand.

    I suspect you are from the stable that says the Martians built the great walled cities, the Men from Atlantis cast the Bronze, and the black culture didn’t exist until Gagsta Rap because black culture, in excelsis, can only be gangsta rap. I don’t balme you or David Starkey for your ignorance. It’s a lack of education. In that light, I will furnish you with one of the hundreds of ethics and values from the Ofin Eso:

    ‘A horseguard knows that never having anything is NEVER an alternative to always having nothing’ (Adedigba, of the 22nd generation)

    Gansta rap is not black culture in excelsis. It is not even black culture. It is A BLACK SUBCULTURE, like break dancing, or DJing, or body popping. A less benign form, granted, and one that untold millions of black people actually despise with every fibre of their being incidentally, but just A BLACK SUBCULTURE nonetheless. If I reduced ‘White Culture’ to Alperon – Abarjil, or Black Metal, that is to say if I reduced all ‘White Culture’ to the Israeli hood or German Neo Nazism, or Polish knife wielding suicidals in Jersey for that matter, I can just imaging what you would call me behind closed doors. There are black subcultures, and then there are black cultures.

    Every American community has an origin gangster myth. Cowboys, Cosa Nostra, Gagsta. I bet you’ve called a friend ‘dude’, or spoken about someone as a ‘wise guy’. You have to see Gagsta partially in that context, namely the soundtrack to what the lawless do outside the system in a Grey Economy where the taxman and the policeman play deaf, blind and dumb. Also know that it, alone, does not make people rob and steal. Nor does grime. This debate is too big for the few minutes I have to type, so let it suffice to say that you must be aware of the following you have on the Daily Telegraph website. I had a just look speaks volumes about you. I judge you not just by what you write, but also by your fan club. I suggest that you and your new found friends go to the University of Tibuktoo and do some swotting up. It’s the worlds first University, and not a waistband sagging below the buttox in sight. You’ll love it.

    One last thing. When I speak, I do speak ‘black’. It’s called Yoruba, the language of Oduduwa, or in the ancient Ife- Yoruba, Odu-ti-o-da-Iwa. Litterally, ‘one whom none can surpass’, or in Latin ‘homo in excelsis’.

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum

    Regards, Adekunle Adigun-Osatayi-ti-Kosso-ati-Iseyin

  4. Dear Ade, thanks for your wonderful, interesting post. I’m afraid it’s a bit of a straw man, though. I agree with all you say: I have travelled a lot in Africa (though not Nigeria, yet) and am perfectly aware of the cultural differences. Even more I’m aware how absurd it is to define people by their skin colour when not even Ghanaians and Nigerians are alike, or indeed Yoruba and Hausa. But – like most of those who objected to my post – you’ve misunderstood my point. I don’t blame you for this. We inhabit a culture in which people are encouraged to feel grievance or cry “racist” at every opportunity. This is why Starkey was so courageous in saying what he did. He’s no more a racist than I am or indeed you are. Racism is a slur which, far too often, is used by the left to silence people whose views they disagree with. When I talk about “black culture” I do so fully aware that round the world black people have any number of cultural interests beyond hip hop. That is really not the point though. I’m talking about “black culture” as it is currently recognised by almost any young person in Britain (and the US) today. Rappers and sportswear designers have made millions pushing this particular version of “black culture”; well-meaning (but idiotic) school teachers celebrate this culture with their black schoolchildren in the misguided belief that this will help them feel proud of their cultural identity. It’s a nonsense. I believe it is a form of cultural Marxism, born of leftist identity politics, and fostered mainly by white liberals. It is, in fact the new slavery: well meaning white people keeping black people trapped in a ghetto by treating them as “the other” – rather than as people just as capable of reading, writing, striving, learning, succeeding in society as any white or Asian person. Our schools are full of black kids under tremendous peer pressure not to “play the white man’s game”, act like “Uncle Toms” or Oreos, by working hard and knuckling under. Why do they think this way? Because they have been encouraged to think of themselves as properly aggrieved and righteously different.
    I’m sorry that you didn’t get these subtleties. I hope you understand now. All the best James

  5. Dear James,

    I am cheered to hear you have travelled in Africa. Kenya, Morocco and Senegal are my favourites, I hope you find the time to visit them at some point if you haven’t already.

    I design and teach educational workshops for the Tate galleries and for BBC 21cc inter alia. I am also a school governor, so I am aware of the issue of peer pressure in some black working class communities, often self inflicted by the ”House” or “Field” dynamic. I must confess however to not knowing any teachers who celebrate rap culture, although I concede that there can be a tendency to look at “black culture” as if it only existed after Jack Hawkins, the Middle Passage and that some perhaps over emphasise the use of platforms used by contemporary black celebrities such as hip hop. It is worth saying, though, that Chuck D wrote

    “I like Nike, but… wait a minute! The neighbourhood represents, so put some money in it!”.

    Public Enemy’s broader point was that blue collar and black skinned kids who study hard to get out of the “projects” should be able to get blue and white collar jobs in the industries they support as consumers, and that this could be facilitated by mentoring and outreach, apprenticeships and so forth to help them shatter the glass ceilings many before them found. This is just one, hopefully not too churlish, example of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater seeing as you broached the subject of rap and sportswear.

    My issue is that whatever your beliefs and convictions, your blog, at least as it reads in the Daily Mail, reinforces the conventional wisdom, that street patois and dress is “black culture” per se, because you call it “black culture”. Ironically, this is the same conventional wisdom of the ‘cultural Marxists, born of leftist identity politics and fostered mainly by white liberals’ you argue against for causing a ‘new slavery’.

    Indeed you go further than this as the inference of “in excelsis” posits the notion that the cultural and social ubiquity of it (and its attendant negative social impact) is the zenith of “black culture”. To call a subculture, (in actual fact, a sub genre within a subculture) “black culture in excelsis” implies that “black street patois”, rolling like pimps and perps etc. is the apogee of “black culture”, which it is not, and to state this as you did leaves no nuance or subtlety or room for interpretive negotiation. Perhaps this is the fault of the Daily Mail in not quoting you fully. Perhaps what you posted at 17.06hrs yesterday is in the original blog you posted. It is not clear, as it reads at least in the Daily Mail, that you are talking about the perception of “black culture”. That is to say, peoples perception of “black culture”. A perception can be, ipso facto, more apparent than real.

    Furthermore, regarding “black culture” as it is currently recognised by almost any young person in Britain (and the US) today, almost any young young person, I concede perhaps not in the UK, but certainly in the US today, after reading your waistband comment would have retorted or at the very least least remembered Obama’s “pull your pants up” speech. It is still one of those political catchphrases that passes easily into common parlance, like our “not fit for purpose” or “broken Britain”, and American’s still say to each other… three years after Obama’s rant. This is possibly because lampooning the same people you want votes from, was so counter-intuitive, it could only be genuine. I confess I don’t know much about you James other that what I have seen briefly on your website since Monday, and assume, perhaps wrongly by judging a book by its cover, that you don’t see eye to eye with US president, but maybe you have more in common with Obama than you think. I trust that the irony of this is not lost on you.

    I shall now deal specifically regarding David Starkey’s Newsnight interview, his thesis, and the point I now assume that your blog actually intended to re emphasise and perhaps substantiate.

    That many young people from many different ethnic backgrounds have adopted “street style” from inner city children of predominantly Caribbean extraction, be it vernacular, sartorial, musical or in attitude, is true to a some extent. We have all heard and seen it on the bus. However, to extrapolate a direct, deterministic causal link between that and the violence, looting and mayhem we saw is not valid unless proven scientifically with feasible survey and questionnaire design, quantitative data analysis and replicated longitudinal case studies across the regions in order to generate the empirical evidence we need to draw valid conclusions and then make policy to suit. No doubt, this research will come in the weeks to follow. Let’s hope so. Anecdotally, I, you and Professor Starkey can say all kinds of things are causal factors. Weed, booze, rap, X Factor, consumer culture, “black culture”, but for any theory to, as it were, hermetically hold water as an empirical determinant to the riots, we must prove evidentially that, for example, the white lady in Manchester with 12 children to look after, one of whom went robbing and stealing and got a referral order, is a multiple mum because “black culture” influenced her to have 12 children, and that the boy was influenced to go looting with his mates because of the same “black culture”, even if they both speak broad Mancunian, and swear in it. If this were NOT proven by the research, we MUST see from the research results that they are both the exception to the rule, the rule or hypothesis of course being:

    ‘The profound cultural change of the substantial section of the chavs… the whites… becoming black, make a violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture and language where black and white, boy and girl operate together and thus go looting’.

    The second point I want to deal with is David Starkey’s opinion that adoption of “black culture”, “Jamaican patois” or what have you makes him, and other white English and British people feel that they are in a foreign country, I bear him no grudge for saying this, or you or any other person who also feel this and feel that Prof. Starkey is courageous in vocalising this on their behalf. Feeling like an alien one’s own country, however much I respect his honestly held opinion, was a separate point to the issue at hand. The identity crisis of “many of us” should not have been conflated by David Starkey with the riots and looting, unless of course he was alluding to the EDL apparently being involved in disturbances in Eltham, in which case he should have made the case for Enoch Powell’s speech more forcefully, arguing that the “white man” throwing beer bottles at the police in Eltham were effectively slaves rebelling from the “black man’s” whiphand, or conversely, that the greater mass of rioters were a “black man’s” fifth column launching a whip-handed putsch to usurp “white man”. Incidentally, I suspect that there are many people of all ethnic backgrounds, colours and with accents, indigenous and otherwise who probably feel exactly the same about , namely, that hearing what David Starkey calls “’Jamaican patois’”, intruded in England”. This may complicate Professor Starkey’s argument, especially as “Jamaican patois” just sounds like cockney to Jamaica-Jamaicans, and that is not anecdotal, it’s a fact.

    One last thing James. You say that like most of those who objected to your post I have misunderstood your point, and that you don’t blame you for this. The inference here is that I cannot think for myself and as such I have somehow been brainwashed insidiously by a society that is encouraged to feel grievance or cry “racist” at every opportunity, and, ergo, I am a slaver in the new slavery, and also a slave because I am doing what I am told (even though I don’t actually know it). No doubt you had your tongue in your cheek and were not being patronising. However, that argument is intellectually synonymous with the belief that certain types of working class inner city black kids cannot escape their predicament because they have subconsciously imbibed the inherited culture of the fatherless families needed on plantations to prevent familial attachment, emotional linkage and therefore rebellion, (not to mention being antithetical to the free market of trading and moving slaves when needs must), and that there is no social or intellectual redemption for them because this malaise is indelibly imprinted on their psychologies. This, again, ironically, appears to reinforce the ‘cultural Marxism’ you claim to rebuff, partly I conjecture as it assuages people at every level of responsibility by fostering the victim mentality.

    I won’t bore you with my history but it was common at my school for teachers to make racist quips to roars of laughter, which of course legitimised some of my peers to do the same, which lead to the odd good old fashioned fist fight. As one of a few blacks in a 1000 strong boys’ school in the very early ’80’s, I’m afraid I have to tell you that the soma of ‘cultural Marxism and leftist identity politics’ wasn’t being popped into my mouth by the school nurse in my Hertfordshire school days. I know what racism is. My experience of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture and language is what I call racism because I experienced it, with skinheads and the police, and thankfully, although I never shy away from calling it when I see it walking and talking overtly or covertly, it is far less prevalent than it was.

    While “racist” should never be thrown about like a pie in a parliamentary enquiry, (which would be an insult and disservice to people who really do suffer as a result of it, like some white English in Scotland, or in Tower Hamlets recently), we should be wary of crying “s/he’s playing the race card… again!” . That is also, yes, ironically again, playing the race card ad nauseam.

    Warm regards, Adekunle


  6. We do not need scientific and quasi-scientific (social) studies to identify a dysfunctional culture. We are forced to see and to hear that culture every day. A jury could conclude without experts that a large black sub-culture in the U.S. and the U.K. (as I am seeing on TV) is rotten and is being aided, abetted, and excused by its allies: white liberals, union thugs, big-business, and the majority (hopefully) black culture.

    As an attorney at law, just today I attended a seminar about the use of experts at trial. Judges often will not allow experts (particularly social studies experts) to testify during employment discrimination disputes (a real boon for attorneys here in the U.S.). A jury can judge a man by his behavior without a social expert surveying persons.

    There was only one person in the room of 15 attorneys that thought the prosecution failed to prove Casey Anthony killed her child: the black presenter. The other two black attorneys either agreed she was guilty or perhaps were shy about expressing themselves. This is just a glimpse of the questionable value of social surveys of employees. I withheld my observation out of politeness since he was very polite about the whole thing.

    Also, I take issue with the idea expressed above that blacks are just as smart as Asians and Whites. Where do I go from here? If I were to cite eminent experts, someone would cite other experts or attempt (even though they are not experts) to point out flaws with my expert studies. But what they cannot explain away is what those with eyes are willing to see: how awful blacks perform and behave in school no matter how much money is spent per student in the U.S.

    State schools in the U.S. spend far more per student than parochial schools do and black culture is worse than it was before integration, or perhaps more accurately, seems worse to me because before, it was not allowed outside of black neighborhoods. No one with a career to protect (like me) dares to observe publicly how almost non-existent blacks are at the highest academic levels despite affirmative action.

    You want eyewitness examples of bad black behavior? I can give them. I have not been an eyewitness to similar white behavior. In fact, if I lived in a 90% black neighborhood in the U.S., probably I would have been killed long ago. I am a witness to pre-integration and post-integration America. No, I am not talking about the over-publicized and relatively tiny number of white-on-black violent crimes.

    Blacks (and whites) need a dominant white Judeo-Christian culture and policemen before blacks (and quite a number of whites) can get on with improving life. Just because blacks are not as smart as whites on average does not mean whites therefore should or would begin to do something to blacks. Whites are not doing it now, nor were they doing it when the U.S. was 95% white in 1965. Protecting blacks is something police do well in white neighborhoods.

  7. Mr Adigun, put plainly, you’re trying too hard to sound smart and, in so doing, are also playing a racist card. You have convinced me you are just as estranged by “black culture” in the UK as the rest of us who sit back and wonder “who are these people?” and “why do they do this?”. As David Starkey put it, you sound “white”.

  8. Scott: “As David Starkey put it, you sound “white”.”

    Scott, you could argue for virtually anything using that logic. Assign a negative behaviour to a huge group, and counter any arguments against it by saying that members of that group NOT doing that behaviour are just acting as if they’re not in the group, and that non-members who DO that behaviour are acting as if they’re in it.

    eg Anyone abusing kids is ‘acting Catholic’, and the majority of Priests who are NOT abusing kids are simply ‘acting non-Catholic’. In fact, one could virtually replace ‘Catholic’ with ‘Christian’ and it would still be no more of a sweeping generalisation than saying Mr Adigun is ‘sounding white’.

    I doubt Mr Starkey would like people to say he’s pretending to be straight just because he doesn’t mince around on TV with a lisp.

  9. Andrew, following your logic, the rioters were doing something positive. I don’t agree.

    Also, your statement about Catholics seems silly and out of place. It misses the point about what Mr Starkey was saying. Acting Catholic doesn’t cut it as no-one would accept the generalisation as one could also say the same thing about Imams or Teachers. Though, I am impressed with your attempt to bring the taint of pedophilia to the conversation. Almost ad hominem but not quite. Text book stuff really. Well done!

    As for the term “white”, it is being used here as a cultural marker. In this context “white” doesn’t actually mean “white” as in “white skin”. I think most people understand that. One could have used the term WASPish but that doesn’t carry the right tone. It’s also a bit narrow in that religion doesn’t have anything to do with this per sae aside from the moral issues at stake. European?? No, not the same either given the same values being alluded to are also treasured in North America. Classical liberal? Maybe but most people disagree what that means, it also misses out on that moral thing. Most people understand the concept easily enough. However, these days, expressing it these days in a manner which is inoffensive seems nigh on impossible, especially in today’s world of moral relativism.

    The fact that Mr Starkey’s point has provoked such a response means he’s touched on something important. At it’s core, perhaps we can agree the concern revolves around semantics. For some, it’s a comment on culture and the values associated with it. Sadly, for others, it is and always will be about race.

  10. “Andrew, following your logic, the rioters were doing something positive.”

    Nope, I said nothing like that. Unless you also think that ‘child abuse’ is positive, I was clearly comparing two negative practices. I even said “Assign a negative behaviour…”. Perhaps you’re confusing my post with someone else’s.

    The fact that you can’t actually argue against what I said shows that my point was a strong one.

    “Acting Catholic doesn’t cut it as no-one would accept the generalisation as one could also say the same thing about Imams or Teachers.”

    The same response would be “Those Imams/teachers are just acting Catholic”, just like people are saying “Those white rioters are just acting black”.

    “In this context “white” doesn’t actually mean “white” as in “white skin””

    Right… paraphrasing Christopher Hitchens here, sometimes the best rebuttal for such a weak argument is simply to underline it. But I’ll give it a go:

    “Catholic priest here doesn’t actually mean Catholic Priest as in ‘one who practices as a Catholic Priest’, it’s more just the cultural thing of abusing children. For some, it’s a comment on culture and the values associated with it. Sadly, for others, it is and always will be about Catholicism/religion.”

    Still sounds convincing?

    Starkey could have said “British street culture” rather than “Black culture”, and his point would have been both more accurate and less inflammatory.

    You worry that ‘European’ wouldn’t work for describing the ‘white culture’, but are happy to say ‘black’ when you’re talking about a far tinier proportion of dark-skinned people. It reminds me of a movie commentary track I once listened to, where the American director worried that the bathrooms in a scene set in Baltimore looked more like they were from Los Angeles, despite the fact that he then used Croatia as a stand-in for London, the Vatican, Barcelona and Hamburg!

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