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Telling porkies
Ezra Goldstein

The Metropolitan police force will no longer use the label black-on-black. The force has used the label to describe shootings involving black victims and suspects.

Assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur acknowledges the label causes black communities to feel stigmatised. Ghaffur says: “we [the police] do not want to stigmatise communities and will avoid any language which gives rise to that impression” (1).

Such sentiments from any other public service than the Metropolitan police would be cause for rejoice. As things stand, this apparent enlightened approach to race relations must be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

The Metropolitan police force subjects blacks to vicious gratuitous acts of injustice. For example, it is responsible for most “unlawful killing” of blacks. Furthermore, the force produces each label which links a particular crime to an ethnic minority.

So for example we have “honour killing” linked to Asians. For Afro-Caribbean, there are mugging, carjacking, ritual killing. And as the Economist notes: “London's police have ownership of .... black-on-black crime”.

Given the Met’s liking for stirring racial hatred by linking such crimes to ethnic minorities, why has it chosen to stop using the label “black-on-black”? Put simply, as a propaganda soundbite, the label has served it purpose. It is now redundant.

As with claims of cannibalism (2) (Finnegan 1988:97), the Met imported black-on-black and its use from South African Apartheid. Under Apartheid, police vigilantes would murder anti-Apartheid activists. The police would then blame the ANC for the murder, calling it “black-on-black violence” (Finnegan 1988:137).

In the Britain, police have used black-on-black in conjunction with gun crime to link black communities with cocaine trafficking, the trade in crack and gang warfare.

Black-on-black was used in a propaganda campaign to win political support for the introduction of visas for Jamaican visitors to Britain. In January 2003, David Blunkett, the home secretary, made visas mandatory for Jamaican visitors.

Since then police have continued to use black-on-black to describe shootings where the victims are black and the racial profile of the gunmen is unknown. This is the case with the double homicide of Bertram Byfield and his daughter, Toni Ann, in Kensal Green, northwest London on September 14,2003.

However, a spate of well-publicised shootings involving white same race victims and gunmen has left police groping to maintain their stereotype of gun-crime as a black-on-black phenomenon.

Their effort received a major setback with the fatal shooting of a white police officer by a white gunman, David Bieber, in Leeds on Boxing Day. This tragic shooting was made the more gruesome by the grotesque efforts of the police to race the killing by describing Bieber’s complexion as “olive” (3).

With the true extent of same race shootings involving whites becoming apparent to the public, police have been forced by circumstances to abandon using black-on-black when describing homicides involving guns.

However, as sure as eggs are eggs, the Metropolitan police will continue to produce stereotypes linking crimes to ethnic minorities.

The mindset capable of dreaming up “olive” as a skin complexion will exhaust the colour spectrum before ending racial profiling. However the cops should realise olives come in two colours: black and green. And black men are from Jamaican; green men from Mars.

ezra goldstein © blaqfair 1984


Finnegan, William (1988) “Dateline Soweto” Harper & Row, Publishers, New York


(21/02/04) “London's cops look to New York” The Economist


(1) Foster, Angela (16/02/04) “Black-on-black banned” New Nation

(2) Barnett, Harris and Thompson (03/11/02) “Human flesh ‘on sale in London’” The Observer

(3) (27/12/03) “Policeman's gun murder” The YorkshirePost