Violent crime in London would have been tackled better – and sooner – if the victims were white

If a 17-year-old middle class white girl was gunned down on a tree-lined road in the suburbs, the national outcry would be guaranteed and the calls for change would be deafening

Biba Kang
Saturday 07 April 2018 18:19 BST
Cressida Dick on London knife crime spike: 'We clearly, as a city, have a big problem'

This week, in Tottenham, north London, a 17-year-old girl called Tanesha Melbourne-Blake was killed in a drive-by shooting. Within 24 hours of the incident, a second teenager, aged only 16, was shot dead in Walthamstow. There have now been more than 50 killings in London during 2018 alone.

Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy has lost four of his constituents to this violence epidemic, and he has been vocally appalled by the political response to what some have described as a national crisis. Shunning party politics, in the aftermath of yet another tragedy in Tottenham, Lammy asked: “Where is the prime minister? Where is the home secretary? Where is Sadiq Khan?”

His palpable frustration should have been part of a political chorus, with swathes of legislators getting together to demand and implement much needed change.

When discussing the shooting of a 19-year-old man outside a cinema in Wood Green, Lammy made a suggestion as to why the case had been given so little national attention: “Because he was black.”

This uncomfortable truth is one that we need to discuss and address. In this country, we have to finally acknowledge the gross disparity between the ways in which we treat murders where non-white people are the perpetrators, and how we treat violence where non-white people are the victims.

If a 17-year-old middle class white girl was gunned down on a tree-lined road in the suburbs, the national outcry would be guaranteed and the calls for change would be deafening. But currently, politicians calling for increased police surveillance and better youth services are few and far between.

The astoundingly poor political response to the surge in inner-city violence is a damning reflection on the make-up of our parliament.

When a terrorist attack happens, in places like London Bridge, Westminster, and Manchester Arena, the whole country undergoes the same chilling sensation, thinking, “it could have been me”. The randomness of these killings means that they get under everyone’s skin, as we all achieve the leap of empathy that’s needed by putting ourselves in the position of those affected.

But when it comes to inner-city domestic violence, only people of a certain demographic have that wave of empathy and wrench of fear.

We have to ask ourselves why, when children are being shot on the streets of London, we have silence and inaction from so many of those supposedly leading our country. While the media has started to take heed, and the surge of violence has been given due attention across the press in the past week, we’ve seen little indication of an actual, comprehensive, government response to these numerous killings.

The primary suggestion from the Home Office, backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, has been the implementation of a “targeted” stop and search programme in the capital. But this is a short-term solution, with the potential to create further ethnic divides, given that this system can often go hand-in-hand with racial profiling.

Stop and search alone obviously fails to get to the root of the issue, which has its foundations in the fact that the government has a tendency to neglect and malign communities that aren’t made up of people who look like them (and vote for them).

In essence, because this recent violence has disproportionately affected black people from poor communities, we treat the issue as a marginal one.

Lammy was right to ask whether, if four people had died in Richmond, the PM’s response would have been different. I believe it would be. We’ve watched the Black Lives Matter movement gain momentum across the Atlantic, and for years, black British people have been trying to highlight the dire inequality in our own country.

Now we have indisputable evidence that, here in Britain, we’re failing black communities; and the results have been fatal.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in