Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety: Let’s talk about race

As I write this, my face and hands are covered in scabs.

As I write this, my face and hands are covered in scabs. I’d love to say I sustained these injuries while trying to save the Oxfam shop on Ealing Green from looters. (It was looted, by the way.) But the truth is I fell off my bike on the way to lunch with another journalist. The brake cable got tangled up in the front wheel and the bike came to an abrupt halt. No stitches, but I look terrible, as though someone has tried to carve a map of the world into my face.

This was a blessing in disguise because it meant I turned down an opportunity to appear alongside David Starkey on Newsnight last Friday. Had I done so, I’m not confident I would have challenged his remarks that the whole world and his dog have condemned as ‘racist’. Failing to confront him would have been a crime of omission almost as serious as making the remarks in the first place. I would have instantly been branded a ‘racist’ as well.

How do I know this? Because I wrote a blogpost for the Telegraph immediately afterwards that has got me into almost as much trouble. I didn’t defend Starkey in this piece. Nor did I say I agreed with him, which I don’t. I merely pointed out that he wasn’t guilty of racism. And for saying that — and that alone — I’ve been tarred with the same brush. Attentive viewers will have noted that Starkey wasn’t condemning black culture in general last Friday, but merely a ‘particular form’ of black culture, ‘the violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture’ associated with Jamaican gangs and American rap music. Had he talked about these qualities as if they were synonymous with African-Caribbean culture per se, or condemned that culture in its entirety, then he would have been guilty of racism.

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