England's Riots: Not a Shock at All? (Video)

Darcus Howe, long-time West Indian advocate, sees trouble coming.
Aug 8, 2011
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

BBC anchor Fiona Armstrong cuts to a man-in-the-street, London riots interview with West Indian writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe, and quickly veers into awkward territory.

Howe, who has lived in Brixton, South London, for 50 years, refuses to accept Armstrong’s offer to express shock at the looting and arson. Furthermore, he insists that officials should have seen the tumult building.

“Our political leaders had no idea, our police had no idea. But if you look at young blacks and young whites with a discerning eye and a careful hearing, they have been telling us, and we would not listen, what is happening in this country to them.”

Howe attempts to fold in the English turmoil with the “historical moment” of the Arab Spring, and the exchange loses its civil tone.

It’s unclear if, before presenting him with an open microphone on national TV, Armstrong did the precautionary Google search on Howe:

  • Howe is a lifelong political activist.
  • He edited the magazine Race Today.
  • He was a member of the British Black Panthers.
  • He was tried and acquitted in 1970 for riot, affray and assault.
  • He organized a 20,000 strong Black People’s March in 1981 claiming official neglect in a fire that killed 13 black teenagers.
  • He hosted the television series Black on Black.
  • He hosted the television series White Tribe, spotlighting Anglo-Saxon Britain.
  • He writes commentary for the New Statesman.
  • He hosted the television series Devil’s Advocate.

The BBC interview was doomed before it started, but here’s a reconciliation strategy: Howe and Armstrong can accompany one another on a riot cleanup date.

Thanks to the Atlantic Wire for the tip.

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