Two-Tone Britain: White and Black Youth and the Politics of Anti-Racism

  • Paul Gilroy
  • Errol Lawrence
Part of the Youth Questions book series (YQ)


After the lid was finally blown off Brixton in April 1981, the late Sir Ronald Bell appeared on BBC’s ‘Nationwide’ to explain that Afro-Caribbean youth’s ‘rootlessness’ was the principal cause of the riots. The essence of his argument was that this ‘rootlessness’ was a consequence of attempting to transplant ‘alien’ people with ‘alien’ cultures on to English soil. Growing up in a country that was not theirs, Afro-Caribbean youth failed to develop a sense of belonging; their essential identity, their roots, lay elsewhere. A few days later, Gordon Brook-Shepherd, political editor of the Sunday Telegraph, made explicit some of the ideas which underpin this view. In an article entitled ‘Where the blame for Brixton lies’ (19 April 1981), he contrasted the Afro-Caribbean’s failure to be ‘digested’ by ‘Mother England’ with the Asian’s apparent success. The Asians had integrated better ‘for the paradoxical reason that they (had) stayed different’:

Their religion and language have stayed different (whatever proficiency they require in English) and this, alongside their whole culture, has bound them tightly together both as communities and as families — this family bond being something, incidentally, which many white as well as black parents would envy. [Our emphasis.]


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Copyright information

© Paul Gilroy and Errol Lawrence 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Gilroy
  • Errol Lawrence

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