It’s very laudable, even easy to moan about the “Institutional Racism” in our Police Force. You don’t need to be a ranting left-wing loony to know just how differently the ethnic minorities are treated by the police compared to their white fellow citizens. The hilarious “Constable Savage” sketch of Not the Nine O’Clock News in the 1980s doesn’t seem dated, even though it’s more than 30 years later. Racism in the Met didn’t end with the disbandment of the SPG. Far from it. Savage holding someone for “possession of thick lips and curly black hair” would raise a giggle from many were it shown again tonight. (though the BBC wouldn’t now show it – far too un-pc for the sensitive audiences of today.)
Not that Atkinson or Rhys-Jones wrote it as a racist sketch, but as an attack on the (then) horribly racist Old Bill. Everybody laughed though (well we all did anyway), whether at the Police or the racist charges which the characters discuss within the show. But for many in the black community the skit was merely a reminder of the sort of shite they were putting up with every day on the streets of our cities. But the rest of ‘polite society’ laughed. Well it was farhking funny, wonnit ? Like Alf Garnet or Archie Bunker, their humour was often enjoyed by the very racists it was attacking. But that was years ago. Last century. A long forgotten time.
Really ? What about the poor Indian student Anuj Bidve shot in the head in Salford last week by someone with the self-anointed monicker “Psycho”. How about the overwhelming attitude and apathy of the white middle-classes to the news of anyone of colour shot by Her Majesty’s finest. Or John Terry‘s alleged racist abuse of a fellow professional sportsman. “SAVE OUR JOHN ! ” “But he’s England Captain !!!”” You can’t have a go at him !!”
At the other end of society I stood in a boozer a couple of months ago next to two men, ADULTS (and up to then assumed by me to be vaguely educated men) who used on three occasions the word coon in reference to a football player. And it’s not the only time I’ve heard the term recently. I know a bloke (I used to play rugby with him) who still uses the word, or derivatives of it. He finds it funny and has the cheek to presume I do too. He seems oblivious to the fact he is being offensive of the highest order. When you approach these people, protesting that you are offended by such language, they invariably roll their eyes, laugh at you and accuse you of taking it too seriously. (I can hear them doing it now, reading this). I understand that the Chelsea skipper isn’t denying he used the language against Anton Ferdinand, but that we are in the wrong by taking it the wrong way. Oh I see: He called Anton a Black Cunt out of context. Silly me.
So who are we, the general public, to pin the badge of Institutional Racism on the Police? Granted, it is clear the original investigation was either bungled or was hindered by monumental racist-driven neglect. So the coppers were either criminals or morons. Probably both. But until we refuse to stand by and allow our mates, fellow commuters, drinkers and colleagues to systematically use foul and racist language; until we refuse to accept as a joke or irrelevant trivia the continual stereotyping and abuse of black people who the hell are we to point the finger at the Old Bill ?
The Met Police have a lot to apologise for (wouldn’t it have been nice for Acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick to have taken the opportunity to say sorry to the Lawrence family outside the Old Bailey tonight ?) but they hardly stand alone as a predominately racist institution. They do, after all, take their new recruits from members of the public. It’d be nice to think if it happened again society wouldn’t protect, consciously or subconsciously, the killers as many have done (and are still doing) in this case. It’d be nice to think, but by no means certain.