Which Lives Matter?

by Ike Ijeh

On a muggy night in August 2016, three laughing Dallas police officers pinned 32-year-old Tony Timpa to the ground, pushed his face into the grass, placed a knee on his back and held him there for fourteen minutes until he was dead. The parallels with the appalling murder of George Floyd are disturbing and uncanny. Like Floyd, Timpa pleaded for his life. Like Floyd, Timpa repeatedly called for help and begged for the policemen to stop. Like Floyd, Timpa was unarmed. And like Floyd, the death was filmed. But both cases do differ in one significant way; Tony Timpa – unlike me – was white.

The cases and the wildly differing public and political reactions to them expose some disturbing and inconvenient truths for the ascendant Black Lives Matter movement and for society as whole. Unlike Floyd, Timpa’s only crime was calling the police officers (one of whom was black) for help as a result of taking illegal drugs after coming off his medication for depression and schizophrenia. Unlike Floyd he was previously unknown to the police to such an extent that his favourite childhood book had been Peter Pat and the Policeman where the eponymous hero lives by the maxim, “if you’re ever lost, ask a policeman for help”.

Floyd on the other hand had been a “career” criminal who, despite being killed during an extended stretch of apparent relative probity, had served several long stints in prison for violent crimes which were justified by the Califonia attorneys for a burglary charge that also includes including breaking into a pregnant woman’s home in the middle of the night and pressing a loaded gun into her belly. Yet Floyd has effectively been deified by politicians and media outlets across the world and his death has sparked a global wave of protests and riots, live coverage of his funeral on Sky and the BBC akin to a royal event and even a stomach-churning knee-bending commemorative silence at Westminster. While vulnerable and mentally ill Timpa, for whose death no police officer has ever borne the justice that rightly awaits Floyd’s murderers, is an unknown entity. Why? If people try avoiding probation violation cases, they have to go through an attorney.

There are obvious and less obvious reasons. Sadly, both men are victims of an institutionally brutal American police system that all too frequently deploys deadly force. Additionally, it would be both foolish and offensive not to acknowledge the horrendous catalogue of suffering and injustice endured by black Americans at the hands of the police, a horrific heritage to which Floyd’s death obviously contributes. The manner in which Floyd died was obscene and inexcusable and nobody, saint or criminal, deserves to have their life ended in that sickening way. Clearly, the full weight of the law must rain down on his killers.

But the death of Timpa, and the thousands of other Americans of all colours who have died as a result of U.S. police brutality exposes the inflammatory Black Lives Matter narrative of a racist police force purposefully killing black people as a myth. According to data collected by the Washington Post, between 2015 and 2019 black people accounted for 26.4% of all those killed by U.S. police while almost double that figure, 50.3%, were white.

Damn statistics

Of course, when proportionally adjusted to account for the fact that black people comprise just 12% of the U.S. population, the figures would appear to suggest that black people die at police hands at almost twice the rate of the general population. But people aren’t generally compelled to commit crimes on the basis of demographic weightings and when one considers that black people are responsible for 52.5% of all U.S. murders despite numbering less than one eighth of the population, a higher rate of judicial fraternisation is inevitable.

The incidence of the police killing black people is even rarer in the UK. Of the 163 people killed in British police custody in the past 10 years, just 13 were black. Every death inflicted by the police is a tragedy and, yes, sometimes a criminal act. And yes, according to the last inevitably outdated 2011 census, black people account for only 3% of the UK population. But does the fact that white people are still 25% more likely to die in British police custody than black people really represent the “pandemic” of black people being killed “every day” that BLM and the likes of the BBC have been parroting relentlessly since Floyd’s death?

If then for all their faults the police are not the principal executioners of black lives then who is? Sadly, it would appear that the biggest threat to black lives is posed by other black people. In the U.S. in 2018 88% of black murder victims were killed by other black Americans and between 1976 and 2005, the figure was 94%. This is more than 10% higher than the rate for white-on-white U.S. killings but of course those murders were perpetrated across a significantly higher proportion of the population and have not as yet attracted a campaigning White Lives Matter equivalent that seeks to apportion blame elsewhere.

While records pertaining to the ethnic breakdown of homicide victims and perpetrators are not as comprehensive in the UK, a similar trend appears to have established itself in London at least. Despite comprising only 13% of London’s population, almost half of murder suspects in the capital in 2018 were black (double the rate for white suspects) as were 44% of the victims.

Black lives really do matter

Frederick Douglas

Why then, if black lives really do matter, is BLM perpetuating a false and dangerous narrative that black people exist at the mercy of homicidal white persecution and why are they not exposing the reality that the biggest killer of black people is our own community? Where are their placards and protests when scores of young black adults are stabbed or shot by other young black adults across London? Where were their speeches last month when it was mainly black victims that featured in Chicago’s worst daily homicide death toll in 60 years?

Where is the outrage from BLM and the mainstream media over the wave of xenophobic attacks that have seen scores of Nigerians killed or maimed in South Africa over the past two years? And why are BLM also being abetted in their campaign of misinformation and incitement by an irresponsible mainstream media and supine political class so stripped of moral agency that the leader of HM Opposition was compelled to descend on one knee for a man who had used extreme violence against women?

The answer is clear. It is because BLM feeds into the same wretched culture of victimhood and oppression that has been cynically championed by elements of the left in the U.S. and UK for decades and impoverishes far more black lives than the Minneapolis police department could ever hope to subdue. By continually caricaturing black people as perpetual victims of systemic white racism it infantilises the black populace by depicting us as stupid, helpless, and impotent cultural punch bags forever crushed under the yoke of externalised discriminatory forces we cannot possibly control.

It is a grotesque form of reanimated cultural imperialism that envisages a world where every black action can only ever be a reaction to white provocation, as if we were little more than flaccid puppet minstrels forever tied to the string of white mastermind omnipotence. In so doing, black people are utterly absolved of our internalised need to take responsibility for our own actions and futures and must instead await salvation by accepting that our own freedom and empowerment are not ours to claim but a white establishment’s to give.

Unfortunately, this corrosive cult of victimhood is now woven deep into the socio-political fabric of both Britain and the U.S. and it is a volatile tectonic fault-line that has been cracked wide open by the death of George Floyd. And what’s worse is that the people doing the prising apart are invariably and ironically successful black personalities themselves.

Entitled to be victims

So, a weeping John Boyega – whose oppression has earned him a net worth of almost £5m – instructs a crowd of black Londoners that they are apparently reminded every day that their race means nothing. The relentlessly divisive Afua Hirsch – whose victimisation earned her a private education and a place at Oxford – writes absurdly that the “racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain”; while presumably forgetting that the abolitionism that challenged that racism (she means slavery) must also have been built here too.

And according to controversial grime raconteur Stormzy – whose disadvantage has seen him feature prominently in the Sunday Times Rich List for the past two years – black ambition is genetically pointless anyway as the “racist system [is] stacked against us and designed for us to fail from even before we were born.” Nobody doubts that these individuals earned their success through hard work. But why on earth would they wish to deny that success to other black people by insisting that the society in which they attained it is now suddenly determined to withhold it?

And of course, the evil of slavery that Hirsch gratuitously refers to has now become the centrepiece of the cult of liberal guilt that eagerly facilitates the BLM movement. Martin Luther King talked of freedom far more than he talked of slavery. But now the civil rights lexicon has been reversed and not only has slavery been elevated to the sacred crucible of black victimhood but it now forms the ubiquitous historical deadweight from which the so-called hard left and its BLM apparatchiks refuse to let black people escape.

So: George Floyd was a criminal? Ultimately, it’s slavery’s fault. 52.5% of U.S. murderers are black? Ultimately, it’s slavery’s fault. And so on. No one denies that the Atlantic slave trade was a hideous evil perpetuated on a monstrous scale. Equally the noxious stain of U.S. segregation ensures that slavery will always cut deeper into the black American consciousness than the British one. But to claim that a 400-year-old event that adapted barbarous Arab and African practices that had already been in place for thousands of years is responsible for unilaterally framing the life choices and experiences of black people today is as preposterous as speculating whether cruise ship bookings are still hampered by the Titanic. 

This supposedly heroic fixation with slavery might attain more integrity if, rather than the puerile dismantling of historic statues to expunge white liberal post-imperialist guilt and self-loathing, efforts were made to liberate the estimated 40 million mainly Africans and Asians still estimated to be trapped in indentured servitude today. One is forced to conclude that since their captors are mainly other Africans and Asians and not the venomous whites, these particular black lives are not the ones BLM is all that interested in. Equally, seeing as none of us can change the past, repeatedly indicting slavery as the West’s original sin merely plunges us all into an endless nihilistic hamster wheel of resentment and recrimination from which there can never be any logical reprieve.

BLM’s twisted narratives have been fluently underscored by a liberal establishment and mainstream media that constantly seeks to objectify and homogenise black people with the toxic scourge of identity politics. Last month Joe Biden claimed that “you ain’t black if you vote for Trump!” and Inciter-in-Chief Sadiq Khan once memorably labelled (while minister for community cohesion no less!) all “moderate” Muslims as “Uncle Toms”. Both deplorable comments reveal the extent to which the Democratic and Labour parties have for decades cynically exploited and variously perpetuated under-privilege in ethnic minority communities as a means to sow the establishment grievances that traditionally increase the left-wing or supposed “social justice” vote.

Offensive cultural tick-boxes

The reality is that my identity as a 43-year-old black English heterosexual Catholic male has about as much influence on my character and politics as my flight number has on the quality of my holiday. To claim otherwise, as the identitarians do, is to offensively lump all black people into a vast cultural tick-box in which, by magical virtue of our pigmentation, we have all been gifted with the telepathic ability to think the same, eat the same, act the same and talk the same. It also eradicates differences in the performance of various ethnic groups. For instance, in the U.S. 44% of African immigrants achieve university degrees (the highest of any immigrant grouping) while only 16% of African Americans do, another statistic that ruptures the myth of systemic black oppression.

Yet by ignorantly conflating the richness and diversity of the black experience into a single diminished entity, patronising, reductionist terms like the black and dreaded BAME “community” invariably flow and perpetuate an embattled sense of “otherness” that merely succeeds in further separating and marginalising black people from mainstream society. And, like all good liberal pogroms, this homogenisation is specifically designed to disenfranchise individuality, sever the links between black people and our brothers and sisters in other racial groups and, most importantly, to achieve the hallowed liberal goal of glorifying difference. 

And glorifying difference is exactly what BLM and its “leftist” allies is all about. True integration – where one’s character matters more than one’s colour and George Floyd could just as easily have become a cardiologist as a criminal – was the utopian vision on which Martin Luther King based his dream. And it should be the goal of all mature Western democracies. But such harmonisation of difference is intolerable to a guilt-ridden liberal elite groggy on the opiate of multiculturalism and so instead it invented the tyranny of diversity to obscure integration and emphasise what divides us rather than what unites us.

Therefore, it is a diversity-obsessed society such as ours that enabled Sky’s Sophy Ridge to virtuously play to the BLM gallery earlier this month and grill the health secretary, with asinine obduracy, over why they weren’t any black people in the cabinet. Setting aside the wilfully monocultural ethnic composition of the Sky news desk, clearly her implied accusation was that despite this being the most racially diverse cabinet ever assembled, the lack of black representation in particular means the government is racist.

Ridge may be surprised to learn that the way to get black ministers into the cabinet is to have more black MPs. And the only way to have more black MPs is to have more black people run for Parliament. This is exactly what I tried to do in the last general election, and I failed. Woefully. Presumably, the Ridges of the world would either have me sidestep the winning candidate and demand my place in Parliament on the grounds of positive discrimination or activate my victimhood metronome and attribute my failure to racism. Personally, I’m more inclined to believe I failed to capture the interest and imagination of the electorate. Regardless, Ridge’s sanctimonious pontification is indicative of a disturbing new elitist and totalitarian cultural and intellectual purge that a perfect storm of Floyd’s death and the disingenuous pursuit of diversity over integration have now unleashed on our society.

The New McCarthyism

In the last few weeks alone, this virulent new McCarthyism has made its presence felt with devastating accuracy. Gone with the Wind, that peerless Hollywood masterpiece that counts as one of my and my mother’s favourite films, has been banished from its U.S. streaming service as a result of its alleged “racial prejudices”, clearly because all us black folks are just too stupid to spot the difference between drama and documentary. Similar censorious treatment has been handed out to comedy Little Britain and beloved cartoon Tom and Jerry is now to be accompanied with cultural health warnings. And comedians Leigh Francis and presenters Ant and Dec have issued grovelling apologies for having had the temerity to impersonate black characters.

Not only do these ridiculous sermonising gestures ghettoise black culture and representation by forcing them out of a mainstream cultural landscape which is then rendered whiter, they are alarmingly indicative of a new propagandist and deeply intolerant form of cultural authoritarianism that unilaterally imposes its revisionist values on society as a whole and does so with a visceral suppression of debate or deviation. Clearly diversity of thought is the only form of diversity the liberal elite is unwilling to tolerate.

As all culture wars do, this new one also comes with its hypocrisies. Where are the calls for cultural health warnings on the Siemens dishwashers – beloved of the middle-class households (and from which a large contingent of BLM activists springs) – to condemn Siemens’ role in using slave labour to help manufacture the gas chambers of the Holocaust? Where are the clamours for cultural health warnings on the Hugo Boss suits so patronised by black artists like Michael Jackson and Jay Z that advise that that company’s extraordinary success was founded upon its use of slave labour in its role as uniform manufacturer for the Nazi party? Or is it only slave labour that isn’t within living memory that counts?

And, with grim predictability, the slavery debate rears its incendiary head again with the most controversial aspect of the current liberal historic revisionism mania: statue toppling. Might George Floyd still be alive today if Bristol’s statue of Edward Colston had been dismantled years ago? It’s unlikely but for a generation who believes that racism can be defeated by placing a black square on Instagram gestures are always more important than actions. Also, if the statue was such an “affront” to the incumbent Labour mayor of Bristol one wonders why he didn’t arrange a referendum or some other lawful, democratic means to remove it in the four years since he was elected instead of waiting for mob rule to circumvent his role as municipal custodian.

Despite the clear intellectual lunacy of measuring history by our own standards let’s have a democratic debate about which statues populate our public spaces by all means. But make no mistake, the anarchistic, revisionist, historical naiveté and contextual intolerance that felled Colston and now has its sights firmly trained on his contemporaries from as far afield as London and Oxford is – poetically – an obtuse form of cultural white-washing scripted from the same Puritanical identitarian playbook that not only has the potential to incite the odious far right (as a violent minority have now proven) but is more than capable of exacerbating the levels of resentment and division that will set race relations back in this country by years.

Racism is real

Racism is real and racism exists. It exists in multiple forms, overt, covert, insidious, malicious. It is responsible for inflicting untold and unnecessary misery and grievance on black people and on other ethnic communities and we as a society must be committed to rooting it out mercilessly wherever it is found. But racism exists because people exist and as such it is found in every corner of the globe and not just, as the Anglophobic liberal narrative would have us believe, in the twin capitalist tyrannies of Britain and America.

In fact Britain and England especially has been a place of relative sanctuary, stability and prosperity for generations of immigrants and though in previous years some of them suffered appalling racial prejudices far greater than anything that is levied now, they rarely resorted to the violence and desecration that has marred the recent spate of protests Floyd’s death has prompted. Instead, by the diligence and hard work of people like my parents, they actively contributed to transforming Britain, for all its problems, into the more inclusive and welcoming society to people of all colours and creeds it generally is today.

So while Britain is clearly not a racist country racism persists here as it does everywhere. But until the happy day when racism is eradicated, the solution is not the divisive rhetoric and crass militancy of a cynical BLM movement that seeks to commoditise black suffering as a means to perpetuate the divisive myth of white privilege. The answer is for black people not to define ourselves by how others may define us but to realise that we and we alone are the key to empowering our lives and claiming the freedom that is everyone’s right.

White privilege can only ever exist if black people cede sovereignty over our identity to those who wrongly claim supremacy over it. Once we reject that false constriction of supremacy and refuse to accept the genetic handicap that some – in a cynical ploy to nurture grievance and sustain impoverishment – perniciously insist is the unavoidable cultural inheritance our colour bestows, then more black people can overcome the barriers life hurls in everyone’s way and attain the more positive futures that will enable us to say, proudly and confidently as I do, that we are not victims and we are not oppressed.

Yes, of course the lives of George Floyd and every other black person matter, only a fool or a fascist would deny that. But so too did the life of Tony Timpa. And the life of the innocent unborn black baby George Floyd threatened to kill in its mother’s womb. And until black people take responsibility for their role in ending and oppressing the lives of other black people and until the regressive liberal elite understands that true structural inequality lies in the division and resentment their pious cultural reparations sow, then black lives will only continue to matter on the rare occasions when white people take them.



Author: austinwilliams

Austin Williams is the director of the Future Cities Project and author of a number of books on the environment and on China. The latest are "China's Urban Revolution" (Bloomsbury) and "New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future" (Thames and Hudson).

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