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"It is a fact that very many of the perpetrators of muggings are very young black people' wrote Sir Paul Condon, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in his letter to 'community leaders' earlier this month. What is a black man to make of that? "It is eve n possible that part of a coloured England-qualified player feels satisfaction (perhaps subconscious) at seeing England humiliated, because of post-imperial myths of oppression and exploitation, " wrote Robert Henderson in this month's issue of Wisden C ricket Monthly. What can a black man to make of that?" You know, a lot of black people, they're not made to feel that they're part of this country," exploded Linford Christie on television last month. What does an ordinary black man make of that? Interv iews by Peter Victor

Andrew David, aged 25 Bank clerk and athlete

Born in Balham, south London, brought up in Tooting. His parents are originally from Guyana. He attended Highburn school in Balham until a row with a teacher, when he changed school just before doing his exams. Currently working at Barclays Bank in Putney on the counter and in the personal banking department. He runs the 110 metre hurdles with the Cambridge Harriers ,based in Kidbrooke, southeast London. Earlier this month he competed at the AAAs championships in Birmingham.

I ran in the national champs in Birmingham. I've seen Linford Christie about the place and I know he's no actor. He's arrogant, he's confident, and he knows what he wants. I met him at the indoor championships last year, and from that I understand that f rom what he said on TV something has seriously upset him. He gets upset because people talk about his "lunch box" - now I understand that because after that article came out I wouldn't wear those shorts, I don't like them, I only wear those shorts with a baggy top. What is that [Linford's lunch box] to do with anything? They don't want to talk about how he's a winner. Even after that TV programme they get behind the white man but they won't get behind the black man. Look at the kind of pedestal they put Paul Gascoi gne on. I mean, I think he's a great player, but I don't think he's the world's greatest player. The thing with Condon upsets me like most people, but I try to laugh these things off, I put it down to the white man's ignorance because at the end of the day the colour of your skin doesn't really matter. There's no way I believe that 80 per cent of th e crime is done by black people. I know there are black people doing these crimes, but I don't believe it's that percentage. And black people never get away with anything, anyway. And I've always thought that the biggest criminals out there are not black people. The stupidest criminals out there are black. Respect to me means someone treats me the way I want to be treated. I don't want to be put on a pedestal. I am who I am. I work in a bank, and when I started there I thought I might have to change myself to fit in, but luckily for me I didn't have to. I believe in "Do unto others what you want them to do to yourself". If someone does that to me they're showing me respect, because I would never look down on anybody else just because I'm fit and healthy. They could have a bigger brain than me, theycoul d be sensible with their life, financially sorted at 25, for example. I'm not a standard athlete; I like to think I'm a bit better than that. I started off with the 400 metres. But all my friends were doing the 100 and 200 metres, and I'm doing the 400 training on my own because it's hard, so I went down to the 100 metres.

Then, at 18 or 19, I decided to do the 400 hurdles. I was OK but I found out that the last part of the race was difficult for me - it was difficult for me to translate what I was doing in training, so I went down to the 110 hurdles and now it's my main e vent. Up to the age of 22 I was still was doing it just to keep fit. Since then, I thought, well, Linford Christie's coming out of the shadows earning money, Colin Jackson's doing it, all these people have now achieved something. Then I thought wait a minute, I'm still young, if I take this up seriously now, maybe in a few years I could make some money and make a living from it - it's easier to do a job that you love to do rather than you're forced to do because you've got to pay the bills. About three years ago I started to train at Battersea Park and noticed a guy training hurdles with a coach, so I joined in with him. As from last winter I've been training with this coach and he's helped me a lot. He was watching over me the way I needed someone to watch over me. There's so many places where you can go wrong. My ambition is to win a major championship before the year 2000. I want to reach the final of the AAA Olympic trials next year. Then I can be in the top eight of the country. Iwan t to be where Colin Jackson is right now, but that's too far ahead, really. I'm 25, I've got ten years - it must be able to happen.

Name: Dr Basil Byroo, aged 31 Derivatives markets analyst, HSBC Markets, in the City. Born in St Mary, Jamaica. Lives in Kensal Rise, west London. His father, a lorry driver, is Asian and currently lives in Jamaica. His mother, a who works in catering, is black and lives in the US. Graduated with a first in mechanical engineering from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. In 1987 he came to the UK on a scholarship to do an MSc and PhD at UMIST in Manchester. Went to work in the financial sector. He is a mentor to black stu dents at the University of East London, a tutor with the Open University and involved with the African and Caribbean Finance Federation.

If you respect yourself, then that it is reflected in how you deal with people. I make it quite clear that I'm a Jamaican, by birth and culture. To an extent, I consider myself to be almost an ambassador. The way I'm brought up, there is just this confid ence that you can do anything you want to do. When I came here, I was disappointed. I saw this place as having lots of opportunities. I didn't see enough black people using those opportunities, so I searched to find out why. First, I was very critical. T hen I thought about some of the stereotypes. It has a lot to do with how people are conditioned in the schools and the system and so on. I have observed that a lot of black British people, when confronted by anything, their reaction is always aggression. It's like a defence mechanism. I'm not an aggressive person, but I don't equate aggression with violence. I will aggressively pursue wha t I want. You get the feeling that black parents who came here (in the Fifties and Sixties) didn't accept that this was going to be their home. They came and said, "I'm going to get what I can and then go back." There isn't the sense of trying to establish themsel ves strongly. A lot of that has rubbed off - young people think, "Well, my parents came here, they struggled hard. What did they get, nothing. So why should I go that route?" That way of thinking is just too materialistic. It doesn't place any valuein b eing a good person. For example, you see parents that are unemployed or on very low wages and their children are wearing the flashiest of clothes. You just wonder what these parents are trying to do to the children. This guy Condon is intelligent. He must have calculated the effect of what he said about blacks and mugging. The question then is, what is the hidden agenda he has? Britain has probably the most right-wing government in Europe. Are we looking at people m oving further to the right? I was very offended by the Wisden thing because what it's saying is that loyalty is not a question of who a person is, it's a question of your colour, and that's absolute rubbish. I know Defreitas, he's a competitive man and if he's playing in a team he' s going to give it his heart. I would fail Mr Tebbit's test: I would support the West Indies in the cricket. But I support England in the football because I live here; I feel some kind of alliance with some of the things in this country. Friends of mine who are parents, they want their children to succeed, spending time with them, sending them for extra schooling. They recognise that this is the way forward. That's why I got involved; I thought I could give something. Education is the si ngle most important thing in our development. You could accuse me of saying that from my high stool because I've gone through the system, but my parents were very poor and I come from a big family. I was the first person my village to go to high school Silver and gold vanishes away, a good education is here to stay. I knew when I decided to pursue postgraduate study that I was foregoing financial rewards. I did it because that once I've got these pieces of paper and been through the process of educatio n, no one could ever take it away from me.

Floyd Herbert (known as Anthony), aged 30 Post Office worker and DJ Born in London and currently living in Poplar, in London's East End. Left school at 15 to do a course in engineering. Went through a series of jobs before starting work with the Post Office. Has also been a reggae and soul DJ for 16 years, most recently with Heartbeat sound.

Black people get no respect at all. The police are the worst. I went out with some white guys for lunch in Paternoster Square in the City and I was sitting down drinking a can of beer while the white guys smoked some weed. The police came and said they c ould either search me there or take me to Snow Hill police station. I said, "I ain't going to let you search me - I'll search myself." When the policeman found nothing, he made me take my shoes and socks off in Paternoster Square. All the office people i n their suits and ties were walking past. They never even gave me an apology. Where I work, there's about five black guys. The majority of people are white but you can just feel it: you go past and they're talking, but as soon as you come and sit down, they're quiet. Now you think, are they talking about me? They must be, because they've just gone quiet. I'm not a racist guy, there's good and bad in everybody, but the way that black people being treated in this country - it ain't right at all. And it's our kids that's gonna suffer more than us. If I hear my son make some comment like "Daddy, that white b oy there", I say "Don't say 'that white boy, say that boy'." I try to show him, because I don't want him to be like some of these white people who bring up their kids and say "don't play with the blacks". A lot of black people's parties, white girls will come, but not white guys. A white man's night out is going down to the pub, drinking and getting out of his head and then starting a fight - "Come on, come on!" Black people don't do that. They'll see a g irl they like, go and dance up with her. They'll drink their skin full then go home. It's a culture clash. But with this jungle music, it's bringing black people and white people together. Our parents get no respect. They had to work hard. My mum and dad went out and worked every day of their lives to set up home and bring up their kids the right way. Now they're getting a bit more respect, but at the time when they come they weren't getti ng any respect - it was "no blacks, no Irish, no pets", and the family living in one room. But they built it up for us. People will respect someone because they think that person's hard, he can fight or he knows everybody "on the manor". But that ain't something to respect someone for. Because there is always someone badder than you. I don't go to full black raves where it's only black people. You've got to mix it up a bit, cross the bridge. I went to Bristol for the carnival and that was excellent: black people, white people - jumping up. The other day there was a black festival in Hackney, in the park. It was pure black people, white people wouldn't go there because they were afraid. We've got to make the mix - cross the bridge, man.

Chris Andre-Watson, aged 30 Baptist minister

Born in Leyton, northeast London. Currently living in Brixton, near the Brixton Baptist church where he ministers. His parents, from Jamaica, still live in Leytonstone. Became a born-again Christian at about 16. Worked at Sainsbury's in Walthamstow while doing A levels. While working there he Felt called to Christian ministry while working on a local newspaper, the Waltham Forest Guardian.

Respect is to be able to look another person in the face and not to be ashamed of myself - it must be dreadful to be Hugh Grant. I'm certainly not ashamed of my colour. I grew up in a white area. Most of my friends from school were white. I probablygot more respect from white people my own age at the time. I worked hard at school and you did end up with the "swot" tag. Black guys never play the violin, and I had a violin. When I was called for the interview at the Waltham Forest Guardian, it was said to me at the time, "We don't normally employ black people, we've had trouble with them in the past." That was very difficult because I wanted the job and I was being told "We don't normally have your sort," and I thought, "Do I do the high moral thing and say 'stuff your job', or do I crawl on my hands and knees and say 'I can be anything you want me to be, if you give me the job'." I did the low thing. You kind of feel you sold yourself, somehow. I suppose you set out to prove them wrong, but initially I didn't - I was crap, I didn't impress them, I think I was scared. Then I went for it and became horrible and nasty and hard-nosed and did the job. There is a lot of looking for respect within the black community, there's a kind of corral mentality. Young black men take the negative images of themselves and using them to create power. I've seen them in the shop, teasing the shopkeeper. They just wal k in and people think "raid!" It's not, but they play on it. They tease the people just with their presence. , I think because there's the white community that's hostile surrounding you. That is the attraction of Farrakhan's [the American black separatist] Nation of Islam church. He said: "Islam accepts you. They want your manhood, they want your masculinity." The Christian church has no forum for which black men can be angry about the w ay in which they've been treated. It's trying to make them respectable, like silencing them. Moving to Brixton Baptist Church - about 150-strong congregation, 99 per cent black, nearly all women over 60 who hate their husbands - has been an incredible experience. It makes sense being here in a black community from the kind of things my parents b rought me up with, like cheese and crackers and not gambling on Good Friday. Recently I've found that the young black men are more interested in coming to church. It's an uncertain future for black people here, especially after Condon's comment. I sometimes get the feeling that the black community are like a flea living on the back of a dog and you're never sure when the dog will turn on it to try and shake it off . When I came here [to Brixton] I thought, "They're not going to like me." I was terrified the first time I wore my collar down the road. But really, there are so many young men out there who are searching. They've got gifts, talents, they're sharp. Not in the sense that they've got letters after their name, but there's wisdom, experience and raw talent. They've found from me that they can find a place in the Church. They can relate to me and I understand where they're coming from. I think the suffering t hat black people have experienced may also be the source of our redemption. The white community is a sick community. It hasn't suffered. It's got it too easy, it's too comfortable. They're a paranoid community. Our experiences of suffering as a black com munity have brought us together.

Trevor Martin, aged 22 Unemployed Born in London. Currently living with his parents in the East End of London. He left Langdon Park comprehensive school at 16 after GCSEs. Started as a bricklaying apprentice for Tower Hamlets Council. Since he was laid off in 1992 by Faggons Brown, who make model airplanes, he has had temporary jobs or been unemployed.

Respect - when you see a black person in gold and in a BMW, you think "drug dealer". It's such an image. A black man can't have money unless he's a drug dealer. You get certain black people who like to portray themselves that way, who'll have a mobile p hone and make out it's working. They might like to be classed a drug dealer because it's power. People might respect you more if you're dressed better than the next man. You can get more respect for the clothes you're wearing. People look at you andmigh t give you a second chance just because you're wearing a designer label shirt. Even I judge people from what clothes they're wearing. We've always been portrayed in a bad way, as being the baddies, having a gun, something like that. Condon, maybe he was trying to score points - he must have thought it might have got him a boost from somewhere, but it backfired on him, I think - totally ridiculous. The other night I'm walking down the road; it's quite late, and a woman's passed me, and she's walked so far away from me I thought, she must think I'm going to mug her. It's hard enough as it is for young black people, and that just knocks a coupleof p oints off. I'm going for this job now... it depends on how I present myself, but at the same time if they're that way of mind listening to what people say, then I could go and he would think "He's black and he's going to start taking things from my shop" , and it could spoil things straight away. Personally I think there's more white criminals than anything. There's black criminals as well, I'm not trying to say there's just white criminals - there's all kinds. My mum has been in the same place in Mile End hospital, working in the nurses' dining room, for 25 years, and from one year to the next she's not certain whether she'll keep her job. She hasn't got any safeguards if they kick her out, and if she waskick ed out they wouldn't give her any mega amounts of money. Other ladies who've been there two years have more privileges than her. They were going to give them rises and promotions, but mum has stayed where she is. Dad was with Ford for nearly 15 years but for the past four or five years he's been out of work. He was laid off so he got a bit of money from Ford, and he's done odd jobs here and there, but even then they went and cut his unemployment benefit because t hey said he's been out of work for too long. He's just being kicked in the teeth all the time. And Dad is someone who just can't sit down; he's always out trying to get some work, and he can't get any. A little job here and there only lasts for so long, and as he's getting older it's getting harder. He feels sorry for me because I'm this young, and it's hard at the moment to get work, but he says when I'm his age there's going to be nothing, it's going to be chaos out there. Growing up in the East End of London, I don't usually take things said as being racial. I know some west Londoners who take a lot of things to heart as being racist. There's not a great future for us, but the individual person will just have to workvery hard in life to better himself and not be put down. I'd like to be driving a BMW and live in a big nice house, have a wife and kids, but just live a normal life work from nine to five - nothing amazing. But there's no bright future for black people.

I don't socialise much because the funds aren't there. I go out for the odd drink, to the odd club. I try to keep moving around, checking things out. You have to duck and dive a bit because if you just sit at home you can wake up, put the telly on, stay there all day and then go to bed. But the police round here stop me and my friends pretty much when they want to. There's these plain clothes guys hanging around like I said, kind of undercover. They stop us, search us, and then say, "All right, just a routine check." It happens allthe time.