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Killing Each Other

Good1 | 31.10.2005 14:12 | Anti-racism | Birmingham

I was reminded this week at a film showing of ‘Handsworth Songs’ by a colleague, ‘Oppressed people internalize their oppressor’s contempt for them, acting on it first by killing each other,’ quoting Franz Fanon. Immigrant communities have always felt segregations amongst each other since their arrival into the ghettos of major European cities. Whether it is the streets of Birmingham or Paris, the children of immigrants feel unrepresented, isolated and generally ignored by mainstream society. They are often dealing with poverty, unemployment and racism.

This Molotov cocktail of issues is now being juggled around with great glee by some of their own corrupt self appointed leaders and spokesmen within Birmingham. These leaders do not represent adequately the feelings of their youth. And if they do, it is from a standpoint of enforcing a petty superiority or to appease within a small circle of individuals. What we are witnessing in the streets of Lozells are racist bigots and people who can benefit from stirring up racial hatred, as well as the misguided few who are blind to the bigger problems of the area. Many people from the area have said that there has been an underlying feeling of resentment between Asian and African communities for some time. These feelings and tension have arisen to the fore from an allegation, as yet unproven, and from the fact that some representatives of the African community are interested in fanning the flames of hatred.

The opposite end of the argument is that of the Asians who, over time, feel that they are not going to be harassed any longer by their neighbours. After many years of being passive and peaceful, the Asians now rule the roost in terms of drugs and their own gangs. But some of them, especially Muslims, also feel marginalised. The backdrop to this situation is also the current ‘War on Terror’ in which the Muslims, who are from all ethnic denominations, are being victimised and vilified by mainstream society and their own neighbours. The youth exist in a vacuum torn between the harsh reality on the street peddling what they can, or entering into a community system which has an enclosed hierarchy. This has lead to a massive feeling of resentment and loss of identity which is now having repercussions through all communities.

There are criminal elements that exist within all communities, many of which have been under suspicion before the recent riots. The shooting of a known drug-dealer on Lozells Road, the killing of two innocent young women at a party by a gang in Aston are just a few of the incidents that have scarred the community’s soul. These crimes have fragmented a community bit by bit to the stage that they are at each others throats, none more recently than the senseless murder of Isaiah Young-Sam.

There are real attempts being made for resolve and a concerted effort to begin to influence both communities for calm. Youth workers and community activists are trying to convene a unity committee and make links with like minded individuals on the ground. Unfortunately, there are also many efforts being made to make sure that the argument and furore carries on. In my opinion this is to encourage maximising reputation, funding and superiority over one another, racism.



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  1. How widely may Franz Fanon be applied? — DavidN