Black lives matter

Black Britons betrayed

In this frustrating book, Tomiwa Owolade sets out to establish that American attempts to identify and deal with issues of race are irrelevant to those of Britain. His basic case is that even if it might exist in America, structural racism based on colour is not found in Britain, and he criticises a significant number of people of colour, on both sides of the Atlantic, who’ve argued that it is. He believes that looking at the lived experience of people should be the starting point; and that the lived experience of black Britons is determined by nationality (and class) more than it is by race. That’s fair. The sons and

Isolating with the ex: Lucy by the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout, reviewed

Elizabeth Strout’s fourth book about Lucy Barton comes on the heels of Oh William!, shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. That book tracked Lucy’s growing friendship with her first husband, William, after the death of her second. In Lucy by the Sea, she accompanies William to Maine to ride out the pandemic. Closing the door of her New York apartment, she does not know that she will never see it again; that she will lose a friend and a family member to Covid; and that her relationship with William and her two grown daughters will change. Lucy is at sea at first: she hates the cold, the locals’ distrust of

When did we give up on the truth?

During that rather strange summer of 2020 I used the phrase ‘the gentle armed robber George Floyd’ in several articles for various publications, but the phrase was often taken out. I had thought it a mild corrective to the seeming beatification of a man who, while having been wrongly killed, was not, to my mind, quite worthy of the retrospective adoration being poured upon him. Nope, there would be no corrective – not about George. Indeed in that summer of lockdowns, hand sanitiser and existential angst it was pretty much impossible to challenge the programme of Black Lives Matter, full stop. Hence it was swallowed whole by the establishment and

The mind virus killing academia

We lost a giant last month with E.O. Wilson’s passing. A man who stood on Darwin’s shoulders, Wilson had that rare distinction of inspiring a whole discipline in the form of evolutionary psychology. The great sense of loss did not seem to be shared by Scientific American, however, which soon afterwards put out a piece reflecting on the ‘complicated legacies of scientists whose works are built on racist ideas’. Among the ‘problematic’ aspects of Wilson’s work, the author argued, was the ‘descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies’. This was ‘a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued’ because ‘context matters’. Scientific American is not Teen

The inconvenience of the Waukesha attack

At least five people were killed and more than 40 injured on Sunday night when a driver drove his SUV into attendees of the annual Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The driver has been identified in news reports as Darrell Edward Brooks Jr. The horrific attack immediately made national news in America because of the death toll and brutal nature of the crime. Videos surfaced online showing the driver veering towards members of the parade and narrowly missing many others. Sunday’s incident appeared eerily similar to the 2016 Berlin terror attack, where an Isis member killed 12 people by ramming his truck through a Christmas market. However, it seems probable

What’s the truth about Kyle Rittenhouse?

On the night of 25 August 2020, Richie McGinniss, a somewhat gonzo video journalist, interviewed Kyle Rittenhouse for the right-wing Daily Caller website. Rittenhouse wore his cap backwards, had rubbery purple medical gloves on and an assault rifle dangling between his legs. He had decided for some reason that he, a 17-year-old boy, had to help the forces of law and order during the Black Lives Matter riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. ‘People are getting injured,’ he said. ‘If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself, obviously. I also have my med kit.’ Around two hours later, the reporter McGinniss

The problem with the Met’s morality policing

Ah, the last days of summer. Long evenings, sunny weekends, and crusty Extinction Rebellion hippies blocking arterial traffic lanes to the audible grinding of teeth from the police officers tasked with standing by and politely watching their sub-art-school amdram productions, rather than getting on with the business of giving them a much-needed hosing down with Boris’s water cannons. As Charlie Peters has pointed out for the Mail, the impression of police impotence has nothing to do with the willingness of the bobby on the beat to break out a truncheon and apply it liberally to the thorax of middle-class graduates enjoying their day off by making everyone else late for

In defence of footballers taking the knee

Before the television presenter Guto Harri took the knee live on air — which cost him his job at GB News last week — he explained that his understanding of the gesture had changed. Having initially thought of it as political with a capital ‘p’, he now realised that in the eyes of most people, including England’s young football players, it is simply a way of expressing your opposition to racism, as well as solidarity with its victims. It is not an expression of support for the Black Lives Matter organisation or its more controversial aims. In retrospect, that seems pretty obvious. Professional footballers, who tend to be multi-millionaires, drive

Rod Liddle

Will England pull out of the World Cup?

I wonder if the moral guardians of our country — the England football team — intend to participate in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? Most of the players are currently kicking their heels (and presumably missing) in such places as the Turks and Caicos Islands, so they have plenty of time for rumination. Having become, in the words of their manager, a ‘beacon of light’ within a country of savages and bigots, it will be interesting to see if their moral stance extends to boycotting a tournament which is to be held in a totalitarian slave state that outlaws homosexuality and isn’t entirely up to speed on the issue

PMQs: Johnson strains over ‘gesture politics’

Boris Johnson’s uncomfortable session at Prime Minister’s Questions was largely of his own making rather than the work of Keir Starmer. As I wrote earlier, the Tories have tied themselves in knots over the question of taking the knee to the extent that they are now open to accusations that they don’t really care about racism. The Labour leader did a reasonable job of prosecuting the various statements made by Johnson and others, including Priti Patel’s comment that it was ‘gesture politics’.  Prime Ministers don’t tend to make a habit of carrying out of date by-election literature in their handbags That Johnson was nervous about the theme of the session became

Stop politicising football

Before the England football team plays in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday we need to get one thing straight: who is allowed to support it? Not, apparently, a woman of Ugandan Asian heritage who posted on social media her encouragement to the players before yesterday’s semi-final and then her congratulations afterwards. That was, of course, Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose pre- and post-match tweets saw a torrent of fury and bile directed at her by thousands of left-wingers on Twitter. One of several elite ‘blue tick’ accounts to participate in the abuse, replying ‘Not now Satan’ to Ms Patel’s tweet picturing herself in an England shirt celebrating under the message

The economic illiteracy of anti-capitalists

Back in October, World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart recommended that countries borrow heavily during the pandemic. ‘First, you worry about fighting the war,’ she said, ‘then you figure out how to pay for it’. As thousands of mask-free demonstrators took to the streets of London this weekend to campaign on issues ranging from Palestine to climate change, you have to wonder: are we still at war? And does anyone care about the economy anymore? It has been apparent for some time — though it may continue to confound psephologists — that issues such as identity, patriotism and culture are more important to the electorate than economic concerns. That the

Are England fans allowed to be proud of the St George’s Cross?

It’s starting to feel like the only flag you can’t fly in England is the England flag. Wave the Pride flag out of your living room window and your neighbours will gush. In fact, flying the Pride flag is practically mandatory in June, Pride month. Every town hall, school, bank and social-media site is draped in the rainbow colours. Such is the omnipresence of the Pride flag that it is actual headline news when someone refuses to wave it. For the second year running, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire has decided not to fly the Pride colours. The BBC was on this bizarre case pronto. ‘Anger as Pride

Why did Scotland reverse their decision to ‘take the knee’?

Game One Turkey 0 Italy 3 The start of the tournament and the first game was overshadowed by the exciting news that Scotland’s players intend to kneel, when they play England next week. They had originally not intended to ‘take a knee’ – thinking it rightly (to judge from their press statements) a pointless and embarrassing bit of showing off. But they changed their mind, presumably after fevered phone calls from south of the border. They should have stuck to their guns: the kneeling has become a ludicrous vanity project for Gareth Southgate and the Football Association. It gets sillier by the day. Needless to say, neither the young Turks

My advice to Gareth Southgate

This is a difficult issue to raise on the eve of a major football tournament, but as a progressive individual I am deeply disturbed by the England manager Gareth Southgate’s reverence for Sir Winston Churchill. Twice in the past this man who holds English football’s most important position has cited his apparent hero. Once, commenting on his predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson’s performance at halftime in the 2002 World Cup quarter final against Brazil, he said: ‘We needed Churchill. We got Iain Duncan Smith.’ And then a few years later when asked if the England team should have a foreign manager, he said: ‘With England I want an Englishman who’s going to

What the England team doesn’t get about ‘taking the knee’

England’s players being booed by their own fans is not a new phenomenon. But for the booing to be about politics rather than obnoxious personalities and tournament underperformance is. The furore over players taking the knee represents a new and exciting stage in the testy relationship between team and fans, in which each can take actions calculated to annoy and upset the other side, while believing themselves to be entirely in the right. The England team – in the words of manager Gareth Southgate – believe they’re just ‘trying to move towards equality and support our own teammates.’ For the FA, taking the knee is nothing more than ‘a show

The crisis at the heart of the National Trust

When Tim Parker announced his resignation as chairman of the National Trust last week, it was a first. Since it was founded in 1895, the Trust has endured many controversies, but until now the shared acceptance of its founding purposes has seen it through. The very first meeting proposed a body ‘for the holding of lands of natural beauty and sites and houses of historic interest to be preserved intact for the nation’s use and enjoyment’. The National Trust continued thus ever since, enforced by Acts of Parliament. This unity of purpose as a conservation organisation enabled it to become the owner of more than 600,000 acres of land and

When exactly did harpsichords become racist?

It’s a dangerous thing when you import the worst aspects of another culture. And an even worse thing when you import the worst interpretation of that worst aspect of another culture. This week marked a year since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in Minnesota. Since that time, Derek Chauvin, the policeman who killed Mr Floyd, has been tried, convicted of causing his death and is currently awaiting sentence. Around the world, the actions of this one awful policeman have been extrapolated out beyond endurance. It has been claimed that they revealed the truth about race relations in America. They have been used to claim

How China is stoking racial tensions in the West

Footage of a brutal late March attack on a 65-year-old Asian American woman in Manhattan drew widespread outrage on social media. It also made for a productive afternoon for Zhao Lijian. From his Beijing office, the Chinese government spokesman retweeted 20 posts and shared the video 12 times on his official Twitter account. ‘We can’t help but wonder, who will be the next victim? When will it all end?’ he asked his almost 900,000 followers. Zhao isn’t the only one who’s been busy. In the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16, Chinese state media used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stoke a narrative of American racism and

America, Britain and two very different realities on race

‘If people in Wales had access to as much media coverage of decisions that affected Wales as they do of US domestic news we’d have a better election campaign.’ This statement, tweeted by Welsh government minister Lee Waters shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday evening, just as the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial was about to be announced, sparked outrage. ‘Rancid,’ ‘horrific’ and ‘ignorant’ were just some of the comments directed at Welsh Labour’s deputy minister for transport. Fellow Senedd members rushed to join in the condemnation. A Plaid Cymru spokesperson declared, ‘Lee Waters’ tweet was highly inappropriate, ill-judged and thoughtless.’ The Welsh Liberal Democrats, not wanting to