I see a world without war or terrorism, where art, poetry, drama and dance are valued and appreciated.
We lived in a predominantly white area. I wanted to widen the experience of the students I taught. I figured that getting to know black and brown people as real people and not mere stereotypes, would alter attitudes. My first attempt was to organise a cultural exchange with Asian kids from Bradford. I went on a few multicultural courses to see if I could get it arranged.
One course had these two Headteachers talking about racism and the effect it had on students in their schools. This was in the early 80s with the National Front, British Movement Nazi Skinhead running on the streets.
One Asian girl had moved into the area with her family. She was twelve and extremely intelligent. In the tests, she was flying high. She seemed happy and socially well adapted.
In her second term, things started to tail off. She wasn’t completing homeworks. She was absent a lot and often late to class. Her test results were tumbling.
The school followed the normal procedures and wrote home but received no response. They talked to the girl but she was quiet and sullen and wouldn’t open up. Then she went absent for over a month. They visited her address but it was empty and the address appeared burnt out.
When she returned to school they questioned her again. “Had she moved?”
No. They were still living there but she told her teachers that nobody would answer if anybody called. They were scared. If they wanted she could take them home with her to meet with her parents.
They took her home. The downstairs was completely burnt out. The family lived in two rooms upstairs. The council refused to house them because they accused the family of deliberately burning the house out in order to be rehoused.
The family had a different tale.
Shortly after they’d moved in, they claimed to have been subjected to racial taunting, threats and abuse. Gangs of youths would appear outside and throw stones at their windows. They had reported it to the police but nothing had happened. In the end, they’d had to board up all the windows.
Then one night, while they were all asleep, petrol had been poured through the front and back door and the house set alight. They’d been lucky to get out but all the downstairs was gutted.
Yes, of course, it was affecting their daughter’s education. She had nowhere to work. She was frightened all the time. She kept expecting another firebombing and thought they were all going to be killed. She was often late because she had to be taken to school otherwise she was attacked and beaten up on the way to school. She’d just been off school for a long period because her mother had been attacked while taking her to school, and had been kicked and stamped on. She’d been in hospital and couldn’t so take her daughter to school. The father had also been attacked and hospitalised. He had suffered a fractured skull when he had opened the door to be smashed around the head with a cricket bat.
It all sounded too terrible.
The school sent someone round to stay the night and verify the attacks.
Sure enough, at two a.m. a gang of youths appeared outside and began shouting up at them and throwing bricks at the boarded-up windows. The police were phoned and half an hour later a police car came and parked up the road. The police watched the youths throwing stones for half an hour and then drove off.
The result of the school’s greater understanding of what was going on with their student was that they banned the police from coming on site. In their view, the people who were meant to the there to protect people were part of the problem.
This is England in the 1980s. This is a bastion of civilisation. This is freedom.
I see a world where architecture and human culture respects the environment and is in harmony with it. Where there is no habitat destruction or pollution and other life is sanctified and protected.
So what o the British Movement and National Front hope to achieve? To make it horrible enough for anyone with a different coloured skin that they decide to pack up and go home?
Not according to my friends with the adopted black children. The black community was not moved to move away. The attacks merely created anger and frustration. It created hatred. It also created revenge and vigilante action. Gangs of Asian youths organised and set about attacking whites, lying in wait for the white gangs, but attacking anyone who fitted the description. Areas rapidly became no-go areas.
My friends moved to Leeds and set up home in Whitechapel. They were accepted by the black community. When we visited we were told to park elsewhere and they’d meet us and escort us in, otherwise, we might get attacked.
Is this the type of country we want to build?