Just after midnight, I was riding on the top deck of a 176 bus on my way to Charing Cross where I would spend the small hours of this Sunday morning working on my website and surfing the Net at the 24 hour Internet cafe. Looking out the window as we passed through Camberwell I saw a large police notice, the type they put up when they are appealing for witnesses to a murder or some other serious crime. This one though made me shake my head in disbelief. It was an appeal for witnesses not to a murder, or a robbery, or a serious sexual assault, but for an incident of verbal racial abuse. I kid you not. Two men had apparently walked into a local store and racially abused several members of the staff. There was no suggestion of violence or even of threats of violence, simply racial abuse, which could mean anything, even an harangue over being shortchanged.
Some time after 8am I emerged from the Internet cafe and stood waiting around for a bus home in the Strand. As I did so my attention was caught by a group of down and outs. Some of them were obviously drinkers, in particular a quite rough looking woman, who was just as obviously much younger than she appeared to be. I always find it especially pitiful that women are reduced to such a state. But they were not all drinkers, in particular I noticed an oldish, short fat man whom Iíve seen walking the streets for at least the past seven years if not longer. I remember seeing him often in the Charing Cross Road of a night time when I was on my way home from the British Library. *
Iím not sure where this guy is from ethnically, Iíve never spoken to him but Iím fairly certain he is of Mediterranean origin; whatever, he is definitely white. There are not that many blacks on the streets, and no Asians at all. Asians, like Chinese, look after their own kind. In Britain if not in their own countries. This poor old guy may be fat, but that doesnít mean he isnít hungry, and I canít recall ever having seen him wearing different clothes. He must get a raw deal from the elements too. But I digress.
The previous day there were reports in the national media that the increasingly boring Doreen Lawrence and her wimpish husband had finally settled their frivolous and vexatious lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police. The final settlement was said to be for three hundred and twenty thousand pounds including a hundred thousand for dotty Doreenís lost earnings and disruption to her studies. These reports may be premature but if the police do settle it will certainly be for something around that figure; the Lawrences had previously turned down an out-of-court settlement of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Why they should be entitled to any compensation at all remains a mystery.
For a poor, oppressed black woman - the lowest of the low, she would have us honkies believe - Doreen Lawrence hasnít done at all badly for herself after overcoming her grief at the murder of her son. It is people like her and her white collaborators who have led to the current climate of hysteria over the mythical disease of racism. It is her and people like her who are responsible for the ludicrous response of the police in Camberwell, who like the police everywhere it now seems, respond to allegations of racial abuse as though they were investigating murders. It wouldnít surprise me if theyíve set up an incident room.
But not everyone is happy with the way the Lawrence circus has hoodwinked the British establishment. One report at the weekend suggested that the money handed out to the Lawrences could be used to fund ten police officers for a year. The same amount could probably take twenty, fifty or even a hundred down and outs off the streets of London permanently, including that poor old guy in the weather beaten brown suit. But the taxpayersí and ratepayersí money has it seems been earmarked for more pressing priorities, and who but a wicked racist would suggest it shouldnít have been?
Sunday, October 15, 2000
* Before it moved to St Pancras, the British Library (Humanities & Social Sciences) was at Bloomsbury. It closed at 9pm three nights a week, and I often worked late.
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