Johann Hari's been to a meeting of the Nation Of Islam and he's a worried man. The anger and sense of exclusion he encounters has left him fearful. Let me tell you all about it ...
It's not so bad as long as the target is those evil white men.
"Why is this area called Broadwater Farm?" he (Brother Hilary Muhammed) asks. "They don't call it the Hamptons. They don't call it a boulevard. What were the architects and the council thinking, when they called an estate for black people a farm?"
So far this all feels comfortable - stirring, even. There's nothing here a white liberal can't nod aggressively to.
I think that's par for the course.
The Hamptons are the holiday retreat of the American East Coast rich, whereas a Hampton is Cockney rhyming slang for a penis. What would the Brother have made of it if the estate had been called the Hamptons ? Broadwater Farm was named because it was built on the site of - guess what ? (And the farmer's daughter was an anti-slavery campaigner). The estate wasn't built "for black people" - we had to wait until 2004 for apartheid housing. It's not the Man's fault if the remaining Native Brits got out after the events of 1981.
But enough of this. The point is that someone comes out with a patently idiotic and culturally ignorant statement. And because of the skin colour of the speaker our self-described white liberal can 'nod aggressively'. Tell it like it isn't, bro !
Then leader Louis Farrakhan starts to depart from comforting liberal certainties.
"No Jewish person who reads their history will come away saying their hands are clean of the stain of slavery," he says, waving a book that has been widely discredited as an anti-Semitic screed. Children are crying in the hall now, and the air is ugly. People are cheering bizarre Jew-hating theories. Farrakhan reads sneeringly from the Torah. For the first time, these people I recognised - people I grew up with - look frightening.
An educated guess is that the book is either "The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews", an NOI publication, or The Jewish Onslaught, by Wellesley professor Tony Martin (no relation), both of which expand on the theme that Jewish merchants and Jewish capital played a major role in the transatlantic slave trade, a role which has up to now been concealed. The BBC website consider Martin acceptable enough - he has a piece in the Religion section on Marcus Garvey. Others link him with the sort of anti-semitic demagoguery that lead to the Freddy's and Crown Heights killings in New York.
And it hits me: if mainstream politicians don't deliver justice for ethnic minorities fast, this is our future. Smart, fascistic Farrakhans will develop messages of rage and hate nuanced for British ears. The ghettos of tomorrow will not be passive and defeated, nor should they be. They will be angry and fighting, and they may even have the distant scent of Nuremberg.
There are a lot of assumptions in these few sentences.
"And it hits me: if mainstream politicians don't deliver justice for ethnic minorities fast, this is our future."
The implication being that
a) ethnic minorities don't get 'justice'
b) that justice is something that can be delivered by mainstream politicians
Johann's being a bit disingenuous here, methinks, when he talks about 'ethnic minorities'. Does he mean the Jews ? The Indians or Chinese, who so outshine the Native Brits academically and economically ? The Irish ? Which of these minorities aren't getting justice ? And will Pakistanis join the Nation of Islam ?
He means of course one particular minority - Afro-Caribbean people with dark skin, whose ancestors were shipped forcibly across the Atlantic by Brits and others until the trade was stopped around 170 years ago, and who make up the overwhelming majority of the Nation of Islam's adherents. 'Back To Africa' isn't a slogan likely to inspire a recently arrived Ghanaian, though the BNP might be interested in adopting it.
To go into the question of justice will take more space and time than I have here. Suffice it to say that there are a number of commentators (like Tony Sewell in the UK and John McWhorter in America) who consider that the problems black people face are more caused by a self-destructive culture than by white racism, that white liberal guilt reinforces this destructive culture, and that change must come from within 'the black community' rather than being 'delivered' from outside.
The NOI may have an idiotic ideology, but one thing they've grasped that Johann Hari hasn't - the need to do it for themselves. NOI members reject the street, drug and criminal cultures, believe in education, monogamy, fidelity. Which community in Britain has the highest rate of single parenthood ? The lowest educational attainment ? The highest (by a terrifyingly large factor) rates of criminality and incarceration ? There is, of course, a black Britain outside of the crime reports. People like the spotlessly attired families heading for church on a Sunday. But they don't exist as far as popular black street culture or white liberals are concerned. The only times you hear in the media about a black kid with good grades and school attendance is when his poor mother's asked to come and identify the body. Stephen, Damilola, Kieran.
Smart, fascistic Farrakhans will develop messages of rage and hate nuanced for British ears.
Looking at this there's a hint of it already. My college professors rarely lectured flanked by guys in paramilitary kit.
Professor Martin speaking in London last year.
The ghettos of tomorrow will not be passive and defeated, nor should they be.
We're back in Patricia Hewitt country here - this recalls her celebrated and idiotic remark that the tragedy of the 1981 London riots was that the rioters were burning their own (poor) areas. When asked if she'd prefer her own (well-heeled) suburb to be burning she fell silent. After all, the degree of violence will be directly related to the degree of oppression - won't it ?
They will be angry and fighting, and they may even have the distant scent of Nuremberg.
Well, anything's better than being passive and defeated - apparently.
The fact that so many black Britons want to hear him should tell us something.
I'm still waiting to hear someone say that the existence of an audience for Nick Griffin or Jean-Marie Le Pen 'should tell us something' .
His foul radicalism must be met not by silencing him but with an authentic and progressive radicalism of our own. It would mean abolishing the racist practice of stop-and-search, investing heavily in schools in black areas, and introducing positive discrimination across the public services. We need to deal with black Britons' real grievances now - or they will mutate into ideologies we cannot appease.
Journeys end in lovers' meeting. We reach our preordained destination. Spend more. Discriminate against whites (who, of course, have caused this situation to arise). Abandon the streets - black and people will suffer from more crime and violence - but our hands will be clean. The word used for this is absolutely the correct one - appeasement.
Didn't you listen to the man ? "Would you like us to whimper and plead for your white liberal pity?" he snaps. From Lord Scarman's report after the 1981 riots through to the Lawrence enquiry, we've seen a hundred well-meant enquiries, confessions of racism, millions pumped into the inner cities, into schools, youth groups, social workers. Even as I write the BMA are the latest establishment body to confess their sins. White liberal pity has done all it can for twenty years now - with conspicuous lack of success.
You want more of the same ? All to stop the Nation of Islam ? You really think that the new school IT suite, given by the stroke of a pen in some council office, will raise academic achievement ? That taking the police away will stop street robberies ?
Dream on. How can a culture be changed from without ? It has to come from within. I would much rather see a black cultural revival that wasn't driven by hatred of whites and Jews. But that a revival is needed there's no doubt. And it isn't in your gift to give it, Johann - nor mine neither, nor Blunkett's nor Gordon Brown's. And for once, that is because of the colour of our skin.