Quoted: Casey Rain on Understanding the Roots of Violence

Riots BBC Shot

It’s easy to dismiss the rioters as “scum with nothing better to do” but there are much deeper problems here. As a young, male, ethnic minority in the inner city myself, chances are, I probably know some of these people. I can relate to the feelings of helplessness. I’ve been fortunate enough to be successful as a musician myself and been able to create my own positive future, but these kids rioting don’t see themselves having a future at all. They have been failed by society as a whole, they’ve been failed by the government cutting arts funding and closing youth centres, unemployment is rife to the point where even the ones desperately trying to seek work simply can’t find it, and the boiling point to all this (Mark Duggan events) is a situation that is VERY REAL. I myself have been stopped and searched many times by police for no given reason. They raided my apartment at 6.30 in the morning once while my wife and I were asleep claiming they’d had reports of a disturbance. I’ve been questioned for gang activity that I had no part of, because of how I look and where I come from. It’s simple racial profiling, and whilst that is NOT an excuse for the behaviours of rioters, the sad fact is that it happens.

We live in pretty desperate times as a whole, and the inner city youth are at the bottom of the barrel. So whilst this behaviour IS disgusting, try and have some compassion and relate to fellow human beings who literally feel hopeless and don’t see a way out. When you think about, the right emotion to feel in some of the cases is just sadness and pity – kids robbing a flat screen TV when they see an opportunity to… because they know they’ll never be able to afford it. Is a kid robbing some trainers that different to a corrupt politician fiddling the expenses accounts, or corrupt policemen and journalists taking bribes (as we’ve seen in the phone-hacking scandals?). So what kind of example are those people setting?

Remember, most of these kids looting ARE just opportunists. It’s only the really violent ones smashing the windows, the rest just go in after them and take what they can. I have faith in humanity and I don’t think that most of these kids are bad people. I really don’t. They are the lost ones, neglected and marginalized, in many cases without the basic education to understand that there are better ways to go about life.

— Casey Rain, musician and blogger behind Birmingham Riots 2011 Tumblr, in a personal post titled “A Few Words

(Image Credit: BBC)

  • Donald

    Well this is Manchester rather than London but the local paper published the names and photos of eighteen people convicted of involvement. Going by appearence and names two are Afro-Carribean, two are Desi, one Irish, one non-British European and twelve White British. A pretty representative selection of residents of the poorer parts of Manchester. All these were men but some women have also been convicted.

    The intergenerational link to poverty in certain areas of the cities has been pretty well documented. The 1980s saw a catastrophic loss of industrial jobs which hit certain areas very hard. Not only were skilled men earning a decent wage dumped onto benefits but their sons couldn’t get jobs. This created a vicious circle of youngsters not bothering with education because there were no jobs and then being unable to take the jobs which became available because they didn’t have the skills. We are now starting on a third generation who have never had a legal job and are probably unemployable. Given that the majority of the rioters were White British I don’t think you can link it back to colonialism although one commentator has tried to blame it on white boys acting like black ones.

  • Puttablock

    How many of the youngest people involved in the looting come from families that have been unable to make any sort of living for themselves over the course of generations, and how many of those families are originally from former British colonies? This isn’t a rhetorical question; I’m genuinely curious. 

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-28727-Woodside-Family-Examiner RCHOUDH

      I agree that’s a good question…I always wondered about that too since Britain has such an entrenched class system with “native” Brits, how are Brits whose families immigrated there classified according to class? And also I’m interested in finding out whether the Asian Brits are stereotyped as being “model minorities” there like Asians in America are here because it seems alot of the small businesses that were burned down by working class Brits (both black and white) were owned by British Asians. 

      • Donald

        Generally the British class system regards immigrants as lower class until they have achieved middle class success.  Thus Jews are usually seen as middle class because of the jobs they hold and the length of time their communities have lived in Britain.  Many Desis have also achieved middle class status, generally second generation ones who have been educated here and have succeeded in businss or the professions. In comparison very few Afro-Carribeans have achieved middle class status so there is an assumption that all Afro-Carribeans are lower class.
         
        I suspect the “model minorities” stereotyping does not work the same way as in the US. It’s not a term I’ve heard much and I usually find US attitudes to race do not relate very well to the situation in the UK.

        The impression that British Asians suffered particularly badly is misleading. Firstly “British Asian” usually refers to Desis not Chinese. Secondly the vast majority of newsagents/convenience stores that aren’t owned by the supermarkets are owned by Desis. These shops are obvious targets for looters because they handle a lot of cash, stock cigarettes and are open late. Thirdly very few premises were burned down – in Manchester and Salford one supermarket was burnt down and one shop damaged by fire – a mid-range dress shop which is part of a chain. Lots of shops had their glass fronts broken and were looted but unless there was something particularly desirable inside grills and shutters usually kept them out.

  • Anonymous

    These rioters are f*cking with the livelihoods of other hard-working people some of whom have died defending their own neighborhoods from lawlessness.  I’m out of compassion, I cannot feel sympathy for those who perpetuate needless violence and mayhem.  Civil disobedience is great when it has a purpose and does not infringe upon others who don’t want to be involved, like the storekeepers and small business owners who need the money from those business to keep their families afloat.  When it crosses that line, it is repulsive. And now what about those people who now have to rebuild?  Nobody thinks of them, they think of the politicians and the police, the mobs and the criminals, but the hapless victims are paid no mind.  There are people who have worked hard daily to make a living, now their property is destroyed.  People’s cars are burnt up, massive repair will need to be done, innocent people who tried to stay out of this melee are caught up in it because of a bunch of angry youths.  How is this destruction constructive in ANY way? 

    I can tell that many rioters are jaded, detached from their communities and struggling.  It’s a familiar scene and one that may become more common worldwide as depressions worsen.  But these kids are driving themselves and others deeper into desparation with this mess.  If riots broke out here, I would fully support swift government crackdown and police force (extreme if necessary).  Whatever is necessary to quell the rioters, do it.

    My compassion has worn thin.  I don’t care if they’re the opportunists who steal calmly or the violent thugs who are running people over with cars.  I have compassion for those who channel anger constructively, not those who rage around the city just for the sake of doing so.

    • Keith

      Do you people realize that many of these looters are not from the same disenfranchised groups upset about the shooting but people looking for an excuse to steel shit?

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/09/london-riots-who-took-part?CMP=twt_iph

      “My compassion has worn thin.” And I am sure like me, they could care less about your compassion.

      • Insanecatholic1

        I don’t understand your post at all.  In one breadth you seem to suggest that the looters are just using the riots as excuse to steal, and then you turn around and say you don’t give a a damn about Aiych’s “compassion”.  You seem to be agreeing with him.  Are you sympathizing with the looters or not?

        • Keith

          Did you actually read my post, because I have no idea where you are getting this from. 

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    I definitely understand what the writer is saying. It’s what I’ve been thinking while seeing video of the riots. What looks like looting is sometimes just desperation. I really feel for these young people. They seem like they have no vested interest in their communities and worse like they have nothing to lose. And a society that has masses of youth with nothing to lose is in peril.