KILLER: Khalid Masood killed four people and injured 50 in Westminster
YOU KNOW how with some crimes you can hazard a pretty good guess as to the racial identity of the perpetrator without seeing a mugshot of them?
Well that was the case with the Westminster attack last week.
Long before photographs of the assailant, Khalid Masood (Adrian Ajao), were released I had an inkling that it was a black guy that had committed the atrocity. Well, when I say 'inkling', it was more like fear. I was afraid that from the details that were emerging of the attack that it had the hallmarks of a black bloke.
What is it about us that we leave our race-specific trademarks over a crime scene? One of the 'trademarks' in this case was the emboldened way in which this attack was carried out.
I couldn't help thinking about the brutal murder of the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south London nearly four years ago. It was the shocking way in which that attack was carried out in broad daylight that set it apart. Perhaps also it's the sheer randomness of it. It doesn't seem planned. At least not in the intricate way that the 7/7 bombers planned their attack on the London transport system in 2005 - a place, a time, a moment, a particular tube line etc; in order to achieve their evil goal of the maximum amount of deaths. In comparison, the attack on Westminster appears to be more pot luck with a lot left to chance.
JUSTICE: Court artist sketch of Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale, right, flanked by policeman during their Old Bailey hearing in 2013)
Who could forget the truly heinous images of Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo with their hands literally dripping with the blood of Lee Rigby, unclear as to what to do next as they waited for the inevitable arrival of the police. There was something so ad-hoc about it. It seemed like a spur of the moment crime. Albeit the most despicable crime. Such was the randomness that the two murderers, in that case, looked to all intents and purposes mentally ill.
That, of course, in itself, is not a black thing.
Then there is the sheer low-tech nature of the attack. Driving a car over a bridge to mow down innocent passers-by is as low-tech as it gets.
And, we could argue, that a black man didn't come up with that form of terrorism. The attack last week is not dissimilar to the attack on the Christmas market in Dusseldorf, Germany four months ago and is also reminiscent of the way a truck mowed down holidaymakers in Nice in the south of France last summer.
You will remember how on 21/7 2005 four bombers, all of African background, attempted to replicate the 7/7 atrocity two weeks earlier on the London transport network but failed. Their bombs didn't go off. In the 'black' humour that ensued over the following days, the most persistent was:
"Typical. When Asians plan a terror attack they're successful and their bombs go off. When it's left to black guys to plot and execute they are a laughing stock.”
FATAL: The scene of the German terror attack on a Christmas market last year
Look, let's face it, black villains are not known for being masterminds. They are not associated with jewel heists or even safe cracking. You will not find black crooks behind the planning of The Great Train Robbery, The Brinks Mat Robbery or the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery. There are black white collar crimes, but it's going to take a while for Hollywood to take note.
Why does this matter? Well, let's be honest now. When the police say that they acted on 'intelligence' sometimes that is as simple as going to the pictures. If the face fits the crime in the movie...
Some of you might remember Sir Paul Condon who was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 1995 when he sent out this statement to black Britain through 40 mainly black community leaders at the beginning of July that year:
"It is a fact that very many of the perpetrators of mugging are very young black people."
Well, that really put the cat amongst the pigeons and many people, including me. I admit, I felt that it was an extremely unhelpful and incendiary statement by the highest ranking police officer in the country. However, he claimed the facts spoke for themselves to conclude that between 70 and 80 per cent of muggings were perpetrated by black people. For some unknown reason the Met have still not released the stats that according to them backs that up. But we cannot escape the fact that in the minds of the public (many black people amongst them) there is a perception that young black men own that particular crime of mugging.
COCKNEY TRANSLATOR: The late Smiley Culture at the height of his career in 1989
As regretful as this is and as deplorable as these crimes are, you cannot help wondering whether there might be a racial or perhaps more pertinently a cultural significance, particularly when we say that race and culture are in part determined and affected by social and historic circumstances, for us as it is for the cockneys who have a long tradition of firing shooters in bank robberies.
Crime is conditioned by the access you have and the tools available to you. Add to that a certain 'audacity' in the swagger of the crimes associated with black perpetrators and you begin to get the way my mind was working when the news started filtering through about last week's Westminster attack.
Like the murder of Lee Rigby, the audaciousness of the crime was staggering. I genuinely do not know whether that is a black 'trait'. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with 'audacity' when it comes to the tools that every black child needs to maintain and achieve in school and the work place. It is that audacity of hope that we demand of our children in light of the circumstances they find themselves in in the world that they find themselves in.
Like Smiley Culture says in Cockney Translation:
"Cockneys say, 'Be first, my son'. We just say 'Gwan!' "
There is a certain audacity about 'Gwan'. We cannot escape the fact. And whereas I do not wish to say there is anything wrong with it, maybe - just maybe - that is a cultural trait that can get our children into trouble too. No, not the kind of trouble at Westminster. That is as unlikely to come from our community as any other community. But audacity in the wrong hands can be terrorising.
Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!
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