Some might claim that “foot-in-mouth” disease – now renamed Don Imus Syndrome – is the new avian flu, so contagious that it leaps continents: yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair outraged black leaders in the UK when he blamed “a section of the black community” for rising violence in London. His comments are either tremendously brave – or tremendously bone-headed and borderline bigoted. After speaking to a pastor in a community particularly afflicted by crime, Blair said, “When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?” That pastor has since denouced Blair’s statement. Here are some of Blair’s other comments:
“Economic inequality is a factor and we should deal with that, but I don’t think it’s the thing that is producing the most violent expression of this social alienation.
“I think that is to do with the fact that particular youngsters are being brought up in a setting that has no rules, no discipline, no proper framework around them.
“We need to stop thinking of this as a society that has gone wrong – it has not – but of specific groups that for specific reasons have gone outside of the proper lines of respect and good conduct towards others and need by specific measures to be brought back into the fold.”
Oy. Where to even begin? Black people aren’t living in a social vacuum. If one part of society has gone wrong, the whole society falls as well. Shouldn’t Blair be attacking the larger issues involved and not pointing fingers at impoverished people? Or is this a refreshing moment of honesty and tough love from a politician, a call to communities to take responsibility for themselves? Throwing it over to you guys. Brits are particularly welcome to chime in. Of course, be respectful.