By Marshall Defender Nyanhete
"The law exists to protect us all. If you no longer feel protected by the police, who do you depend on for protection?"
In 2019/2020 the number of knife crime offences recorded in London alone reached a staggering 15,600. That is, of course, just the number of recorded offences. The dire situation with knife crime has been steadily worsening, now it is no longer endemic to the capital but is infecting the nation as a whole. I have to confess that I find myself a lot less sympathetic when adults commit these offences (we are old enough to know better), however when we have instances of police investigations into the stabbing of teenagers - such as reports of a 13-year-old in Reading, allegedly, employing a group of 13-year-old boys armed with a samurai sword to assassinate a lone 13-year-old, I take a great deal of umbrage. That is putting it politely, by the way. Horrors like this should not be inflicted on or witnessed by children!
I do not blame the usual suspects: music or popular culture because, quite frankly, I think it foolish to mistake the symptom for the disease. The motivation behind drill and grime, behind the art, is to process one’s lived experiences and to express and communicate the unique observations gained from living those experiences. To take away the music would be to take away an emotional outlet, and that, rather than sicken and so do away with the appetite for violence, would serve only to add more fuel onto the blaze of mass emotional dysregulation. What the youth need and I include myself in their number, are positive role models taken from the ilk of Kamala Harris, Tyson Fury and Marcus Rashford. Not people telling us what to be but heroes showing us what could be. How be it, until we have more of these supermen (or until more of us decide to see them as such) I suspect that what the youth need is for us to stop doing them an injustice and firmly throw our support behind initiatives such as stop and search.
What happens if you don't stop and search people in areas where there are high levels of crime, drug distribution, and knife violence is that you see an increase in crime, you get higher levels of drug distribution, and you also allow more weapons onto the streets. This is not a myth or a presupposition: it is a fact. It is also why the initiative needs to treat everyone equally. Anyone who has ever been a child will recall that one of the most effective ways to avoid detection is to be sneaky and if they happened to have been an especially overachieving child they might also know that when it comes to hiding the best results often come when doing so within plain sight. In none too indulgent perpetuation of this analogy, any (wink) murderer enthusiasts among said, potentially genius, ex-children will also be able to tell you that criminals can be criminals even absent suspicion.
"What the youth need and I include myself in their number, are positive role models taken from the ilk of Kamala Harris, Tyson Fury and Marcus Rashford."
I think we can all agree that the internet is an unweeded garden and that the comments section of most webpages, often home to observations decidedly rank and gross in nature, are where the soul goes to die. In increments, of course. That said, however; in amongst the filth are buried very useful insights into the less publicly vocalised of society's inclinations. One of the things I have realised, whilst ambling about on the world wide web, is that for a large number of people crime has a perceived usual suspect. This is, of course, stereotyped nonsense but nonsense that is repeated with such regularity and vehemency that I am convinced too large a number of us are convinced it is a truth - certainly it is in the eyes of the vocal and often anonymous denizens of the WWW dot. All the good that comes out of that glaringly erroneous conception is that it exposes the unjust nature of gifting criminals the ability to hide within plain sight. By affording such opportunities, you allow countless innocent others to be tarred with the same undesirable and unsolicited brush. Having been born one of the so-called usual suspects, I can tell you that unearned suspicion is no fun thing to have to grapple with. It is perhaps, if I may be allowed to offer my little learned opinion, one of the reasons why some life-saving law enforcement initiatives are not receiving the support from the community that they rightly should.
Stop and search, as a concept, is a massive deterrent; that is why you don’t have to look very far to find a plethora of criminals lining up to advocate its dismissal. It's bad for business. The initiative, as currently is, however, is a hotbed of negative social ‘isms’ chief amongst which sits the dreaded racism. In 2019, it was discovered that black people were 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched in the UK, compared to in 2017, when we were only 14 times more likely to be stopped and searched. It is true and it will probably not stop being true that if you only suspect little black boys of being criminals you will regard only little black boys as criminals. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy and in such a religion all that is uttered echoes back as truth. The prophet’s words can never be wrong.
I have not been randomly stopped too many times in my life, only twice in the last twelve months, but I can certainly tell you that the experience of being mistaken for somebody on the police’s noticeboards is a hair raising affair. Can you imagine being subject to it regularly? Other than the untold damage that it would have on your mental health, picture how badly it could impact your community’s ability to trust the police. This, for me, is the worst outcome of all. The law exists to protect us all. If you no longer feel protected by the police, who do you depend on for protection? I am not sure I know the answer, though I do know that the actions of some affect all.
"I can certainly tell you that the experience of being mistaken for somebody on the police’s noticeboards is a hair raising affair. Can you imagine being subject to it regularly?"
It’s not so much that I think Britain is a racist country or that I think the majority of the heroically brave men and women of our police force are concerned with anything other than trying to protect us all, but it's more so that I know, having been one all my life, we human beings are flawed creatures. I know there are racist practises in this country, just as I know there are racist practices at work in every country. If white people were a minority here as they are, for example, in Zimbabwe, the other home of my heart, I hope that we would be having this same conversation, except in place of little black boys we would be bemoaning the racial profiling of little white boys. There is a history in all men’s lives and our collective past has left us all soiled. If the happenings of all our yesterdays are not addressed, part of me fears that our tomorrow can no longer be salvaged.
I’m a little whacky in that I don’t believe having previously exhibited racist behaviour makes you a racist, though I most certainly feel that knowingly persisting in it does. In Britain, I know its feels that the conversation on race relations sounds pretty loud but that is only because it is being had here - most other places on our beautifully complicated earth are not so fortunate. I can’t help but feel, however, that terms such as ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ have been pilloried to the point where Brits know more about recoiling from them than we know about how to take action on the issues which they provoke. If we are to be concerned with making a fairer country we must first agree on the ways in which it is not a fair country and do so with the hope that the glow from our fire will provide, as it has done on numerous other occasions in the past, a beacon of light for the rest of our world.
"If we are to be concerned with making a fairer country we must first agree on the ways in which it is not a fair country."
I have danced and flickered around my point a little. The stage upon which the conversation of police reform is being had, and not being had, is an already brittle one, it is not my wish to cause any undue upsets nor to bludgeon anyone into senselessness with excessive obviousness. And so I dance on. Having survived the crescendo and now hobbling still somewhat unsteadily towards a halt; I would like to leave you, as a closing consideration, with this thought: stop and search is not a crime but racism certainly is. Therefore, it surely follows that if racism has infiltrated law enforcement, and one race being 40 times more likely to be randomly stopped and searched than any other certainly suggests that it might have, wouldn’t it be prudent to query whether all of the law is currently being enforced; so too if it is being enforced for everyone?
To question authority and the institutions purposed to maintain our wellbeing is to choose to concern ourselves with the business of making our globe a better place - for all the players.
Marshall Defender Nyanhete is a self-taught student of psychology and a regular contributor to DemographicaUK.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.