Starkey defends riot race remarks
Published 19/08/2011 | 22:22
Historian David Starkey has defended his controversial take on the recent riots - that "the whites have become black" - and protested that the subject of race has become unmentionable.
The writer and broadcaster was condemned for comments he made on Newsnight last week in which he appeared to blame the disorder on black "gangsta" culture.
Hitting back at his detractors, he said the reaction to his remarks had been hysterical. "We will not continue, I think, to tolerate being lied to and cheated in the matter of race," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph. "Instead of 'not in front of the children', we want honesty."
The historian's original comments prompted hundreds of complaints, with the BBC saying viewers felt his contribution to the programme was "inappropriate and racially offensive".
But Starkey told the newspaper: "I thought my appearance on Newsnight was supposed to be part of a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the nation. Central to any such discussion, it seems to me, are the successes and failures of integration in Britain in the past 50 years. And it was these that I was trying to address."
Admitting that his friends agreed his greatest error was mentioning former politician Enoch Powell, whose 1968 Rivers of Blood speech attacked immigration, he added that a legacy of the reaction to Powell had been "an enforced silence on the matter of race".
He wrote: "The subject has become unmentionable, by whites at any rate. And any breach has been punished by ostracism and worse. As the hysterical reaction to my remarks shows, the witch-finders already have their sights on me."
He also insisted he had been trying to point out "the very different patterns of integration at the top and bottom of the social scale".
He wrote: "At the top, successful blacks, like (MPs) David Lammy and Diane Abbott have merged effortlessly into what continues to be a largely white elite... At the bottom of the heap, the story of integration is the opposite: it is the white lumpen proletariat, cruelly known as the 'chavs', who have integrated into the pervasive black 'gangsta' culture."
And he defended his right to point out problems in the black community. "If all the people of this country, black and white alike, are to enter fully into our national story, as I desperately hope they will, they must do so on terms of reciprocity," he wrote. "In other words, I must be as free to comment on problems in the black community as blacks are to point the finger at whites, which they do frequently, often with justice, and with impunity."