Prospect contributor Shiv Malik responds to David Goodhart’s web exclusive article, “The riots, the rappers and the Anglo-Jamaican tragedy”
Searching for the root causes of the riots David Goodhart wrote last week: “The ‘hoodie’ culture of disaffection has told young people that their inchoate anger at the ‘power,’ the system, the government, the rich (or their nearest surrogate the shopkeepers), the police—whatever!—is righteous.” He goes on to say that there is “a complex interaction of class and ethnicity here.” A potent mixture indeed.
This “blame black/rap culture” argument is essentially the same argument that the Tudor historian David Starkey made on Newsnight. It is also a close relative of the “crisis of morality” claim made by another David, our prime minister.
Aware I’m sure that, like his fellow Davids, he is white and in the top one per cent of this country’s earners, Goodhart protects his flank by blaming the rappers themselves for somehow cutting off the debate: “Lethal Bizzle, Giggs and other inner city opinion formers have contributed to the crisis of inner city youth and then decreed that no one else can talk about it apart from them, ‘because you have to experience it,’” he writes.
That last point is the easiest to dismiss. Goodhart should realise that no one is actually denying him a voice. He has of course been the editor of the brilliant Prospect for 15 years—enough time I’m sure to get a word in edgeways. But it is not the airing of opinions themselves that are the problem; it is uninformed ones. What Lethal Bizzle actually says at the start of his song, “You’ll Get Wrapped” is that, “You don’t come ’round here. You don’t know.”
Geography matters, and if anything, I’d read Lethal Bizzle’s statement as an invitation to come and witness his reality. This gets to the root problem of Goodhart’s article. What is missing from his piece are the interviews with those involved in the riots, the voice of those who work day-in-day-out with gangs, a document of the moment of the rioting itself. The event was more than just a set of TV pictures and YouTube videos.
Perhaps if Goodhart had done…