Britain has been lucky to benefit from some brilliant American imports. We were blessed to receive prestige TV, muscle cars, denim jeans, and the great American novel. Unfortunately, with the diamonds also came the rough, and we have endured indigestible fast food, the intolerable Meghan Markle, and some inexpressibly risible social-justice culture-warring wokery and the media landscape it has spawned.
Thirty years after the rise of shock-jock radio commentators in America, Britons can now tune in to the exhausted sighing of Remainer-in-chief James O’Brien on LBC before flicking over to TalkRadio to watch Mike Graham rip up a copy of the Guardian in disgust.
The hyper-partisan evolution of American current affairs has also infected our political language and causes, with the rise of the social-justice Left accelerating at a fearsome pace over the past decade. Sadly, the American movement has offloaded a baggage of nonsense onto the British political sphere.
One of the most regrettable consequences has been the fraudulent adoption of American-style racial politics.
The British clone of the Black Lives Matter movement has been active since the killing of George Floyd, with marches taking place last week and many others planned for the week ahead.
Thousands broke coronavirus regulations to gather in London’s Trafalgar Square to mimic protests held in the U.S. Huge crowds flocked to the American Embassy in south London, blocking traffic into the building. Five were arrested, three for breaching virus-related laws, two for assaulting police officers.
Some of the activists, I hope, were aware of the irony of chanting “I can’t breathe” while they were breaking the social-distancing regulations introduced to prevent the spread of a virus that floods the victim’s lungs with liquid, steadily suffocating them. That killer has taken just under 40,000 British lives since it reached our island fortress. But just two people have been killed by British police this year: One threatened officers with a knife, the other had stabbed three people in the London borough of Streatham.
Labour leader Keir Starmer and a host of his MPs and shadow ministers have been vocal on the issue, talking about how we must “build a better society.” But he seems to have forgotten that the U.S. is not his society, and its violent, nationwide riots and warring factions — the militarized police, Antifa, ghetto-based crime gangs, and the enraged, disaffected white leftists created by an oversupply of elites and an undersupply of sensible thinking — are not routinely found in England.
British people do not face the same injustices felt in America on an even remotely comparable scale, and we do not share the same history. Pretending otherwise is bizarre political live-action role-playing of the highest order, a duplicitous attempt to co-opt the experiences of others into a mythical political narrative.
On the issue of police brutality, British policing is, if anything, unusually soft. Police officers do not routinely carry firearms — owing to our disarmed populace and reliance on the principles of policing by consent — and those who do carry weapons rarely discharge them. The chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” — mimicking a popular cry heard in American protests — at the Trafalgar Square protests directed toward a group of unarmed police officers perfectly encapsulated this new attempt to borrow some of the attention and political capital enjoyed by rioters in the U.S.
What did they fear being shot by? Perhaps some rapid-fire wit or a copper politely asking them to disperse? There were no pistols or rifles to be seen, but that didn’t stop the cries of mercy.
There are, of course, some incidents of police brutality in Britain. In any institution described as a “force” that involves thousands of people tackling violent criminal offenders, there will be cases where some officers disgrace themselves by overstepping the mark. But these incidents are rare, and any attempt to completely snuff them out is hopeless.
When activists compare the experience of black Britons to events in America, they are misrepresenting history and reality. From the most charitable angle, they are being hopelessly misled after consuming bucket-loads of misinformation and activist-laden political rhetoric. From the least charitable perspective, they are engaging in an offensive, false attempt to bolster trumped-up charges of institutional racism, charges that are being pressed on the British state and its people.
Most British minority-ethnic people are not descended from slaves, and yet media commentators and activists demand reparations for Britain’s slave-owning past, relying on a murky argument about “inherited trauma.” Social-justice activists regularly make this argument in America, where — regardless of its faults — it at least has some connection to the nation’s domestic history. Some British institutions have been smart to get ahead of the coming wave of race-related criticism, with Glasgow University last year deciding to cleverly pay itself reparations for “restorative justice.”
Britain and America have much in common. Our troops have developed close bonds on the beaches and other battlefields, our philosophical texts are stacked side by side in the world’s libraries. But while slavery cursed King Charles II’s “Old Dominion” of Virginia, the rolling fields of Dorset, Surrey, and Somerset were never littered with the same plantations.
The cultural messages coming from America and spreading across the globe might promote a sense of shared values and experiences, but we must not sink into believing that our histories and contemporary societies are identical.