“Bad moral attitudes” in black British community to blame for black riots in 1980’s, states MP Oliver Letwin



Happy new year and good old fashion racism.


In an attempt at reflection (which I need more practice at anyway) I pose an open question to you:

What are your  initial observations of white supremacist discourse, systemic racism and the  illogical thought that the aforementioned condone in contemporary British society?

Well, depending upon one’s level of engagement with white supremacist discourse, it’s aims and the way in which it conducts itself within British society, opinions of white supremacist thought can range from the complexity of a complete historical breakdown of the whole saga, all the way down to summarising one’s feelings  with the use of simple statements such as, “I do not trust white people”  or explaining the way in which black Brits are perceived by the majority population being solely down to the  fact that “we are black”.

However deep (or shallow) one’s understanding of  systemic racism and the thought that is derived from it is, I feel safe to assume that we can all agree upon one thing: white supremacist thought possesses an unfaltering audacity that engulfs every aspect of it.

One instance of the audacity of white supremacist thought and how it shows it’s face every so often is the case of Oliver Letwin.  Letwin is  a west Dorset MP, and for a man who has written books on British poverty, the ‘underclass’ and the isolation that economic deprivation can bring, he surprisingly, (or unsurprisingly, seeing as he is  white, middle class and conservative) knows (and cares) very little of how the complexities of economic deprivation and poverty and  reduction of social capital increase tenfold when racial discrimination and ethnic otherness are placed into the mix. These issues were just some that black citizens in the 1980’s were faced with and are still faced with on a daily basis, (post-racialism who?) 

In memos written over thirty years ago after the riots in Tottenham, Brixton, Liverpool and Birmingham, Letwin stated that economic deprivation in urban areas was not a viable reason for rioting by black people in poor areas, as white people in Britain had withstood similar hardships and had not resorted to such measures. Letwin also stated that black British communities possessed “bad moral attitudes” and that this played a large role  in Black Britain’s inability to cope with poverty.


The offensive comments made by MP Oliver Letwin resurfaced recently.


Letwin stated in the memo:

“Riots, criminality and social disintegration are caused solely by individual characters and attitudes. So long as bad moral attitudes remain, all efforts to improve the inner cities will flounder.”

He then went on to say,

Lower-class unemployed white people had lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale; in the midst of depression, people in Brixton went out, leaving their grocery money in a bag at the front door, and expecting to see groceries when they got back.

It has been implied that black “bad moral attitudes” are the reason behind the British government’s reluctance to help the black youth  after the riots with ongoing issues such as unemployment and educational attainment. Ever since Letwin’s comments resurfaced and subsequent criticism followed (including the dreaded ‘R’ word), Letwin has apologised for any offence that these comments may have caused, note– not for the actual comments themselves, just for any resulting offence.

Brixton riots in full swing

These comments were made over thirty years ago, however considering the fact that Letwin works closely with David Cameron, who showed the audacity of his own white supremacist thought in the whole “Jamaica needs to move on from slavery” foolishness, last year, I suspect that Letwin’s past comments are still very much a part of not just his own, but are the dominating thought process within conservative politics in the present day.

Laying the reasons for the  riots solely at the door of various problems within the black  British community, and then to go on to compare black British reactions to adversity to what white people  may or may not be doing in similar situations is laughable. Letwin fails to acknowledge the ongoing racial unrest in various areas in the UK in the 1980’s prior to the riots, alongside the unstable relationship between the police and black Brits and other pent up frustrations that came with just being black in Britain. These comments  cast aside the plight of black British people and show little interest in remedying the causes, however focus on chastising the symptoms and the individuals that exhibit them.

Telegraph article written by Charles Moore, stated that the outrage towards Letwin’s comments is unwarranted as he is “no racist”. May I respond by highlighting that to make comments that isolate race and race alone as the independent variable that brings forth a negative or anti-social response to societal pressures of an ethnic group,  and then to compare this behaviour to that of another ethnic group  who are not subject to these same pressures , without incorporating  into your analysis the system that encapsulates all of these individuals;  a system that is not built, nor modified to facilitate racial equality or equal opportunities amongst all ethnicities, is inherently racist.

It is in instances such as these that the audacity of white supremacist thought pokes it’s head out from it’s lair of entitlement  and reminds us all that nothing much is new about being black in Britain, except for the year, that is.





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