Today I have been reading the news about Telford grooming gangs. The numbers in the headlines are deliberately shocking; over a thousand young girls and children being groomed and abused by gangs of ethnically Asian men. For many this story is highly political and is being used in various ways to cause fear and alarm. I am not writing this to finger wag at those who are using it in this way, I am very sympathetic to the current issues we face in the UK – and am fairly convinced that our politically correct government is appeasing radical Islam. But this is only a small part of a much larger issue, one that the Telford case highlights. I am going to speak about my personal experience as a young woman growing up in a multicultural area and my conclusions as a result of this.
I have a mixed ethnicity background; my father is English and my mother is half Jamaican and half Irish. Both are of a working class background, and both were born and bred in London. Both had childhoods that were disrupted, abusive and harsh. Both spent time in foster care and unfortunately the cycle continued with me. I was in foster care for two and a half years until my father won full custody of me when I was nine. All this made me an easy target. I was living with a depressed single father on a council estate in one of the most multi-cultural, deprived areas of South East London in the 1990s. Despite being mixed race, I have white skin. I know that some readers will be uncomfortable with what I am about to say, but this meant that I was embraced by white girls. The black girls on my estate were not very welcoming to me. Moving to a new area in a rough neighbourhood after foster care was hard enough, but adding tribalism to the situation turned it into something very dark indeed. Children are instinctively tribal, culturally and racially. I am not saying that I never made black or Asian friends; I did eventually at school, but generally in my area members of the different cultures and races stuck together in their own groups.
When I first moved to my estate there was still a sense of community; parents and kids used to sit outside, play rounders and socialise, there were always a few troublemaker families but generally people shunned or ignored them. This was multicultural as well, the area included hard working families of all different backgrounds. But as I grew older things changed. Many families moved out and the new people who moved in did not seem to embrace this sense of community. Then gangs of youths started to invade our small estate and cause trouble. My father was involved in a tenancy association and fought for security doors to our flats, which was good because one of these well-known gangs raped a girl on the stairwell in front of our door.
As I became older I learned that the white parents of my white female friends were either hostile or uncomfortable with their daughter dating a black boy. I thought this was outrageous. The father of one of my friends was a member of the BNP who spoke to me about ‘coloured’ people ‘taking over’.
It became apparent that my father was an outsider; he didn’t make a big enough effort to become part of the white parents’ community – or what was left of it – and despite having friends I remained an easy target. As I reached 14 one of the worst members of a youth gang who had bullied my friends and myself in the past took a liking to me. By this time myself and my female friends had a group of boys who we hung out with who were mixed ethnically (white, South Asian and Ghanaian) but they were not involved in gangs. The boy from the gang approached a boy who was my boyfriend at the time, told him I was going to be his girlfriend and tried to drag me away. This individual would rob houses and mug people. He begun to harass me often but I managed to keep him friendly enough not to assault me. He even stabbed my belligerent white male neighbour. I did not inform the police. I was naive at that age but was still streetwise enough to know that going to the police would have caused me serious problems. When I found out he was going to prison for something else I felt a sense of relief, because I knew for a fact he would soon be trying to force me into sexual activity.
This brings me back to Telford. When people read grooming gang stories they must be thinking; how can parents – especially fathers – let this kind of thing happen? My answer is; where are the fathers – or, in my case the mothers? I think it is safe to make the assumption that a large number of the young girls involved in these abuse scandals came from singe parent households, broken families and had absent fathers. Lets be honest about the fact that most single parent households are single mother households. The financial incentive for a working class father to not be married to the mother of his children was very strong in the 1990s, New Labour poured money into helping vulnerable people and this meant that it became a popular strategy for young women to get pregnant, become young single mothers and thus get on the priority list for a council flat. With the influx of new immigrants filling housing registers, this strategy became even more popular. I know at least ten girls (three of them good friends) who did this.
My point is that single mothers, especially vulnerable ones with children in foster care and children’s homes, are an easy target. Fathers have always been natural protectors of women and children, take them away or incentivise women to have children with men who cannot provide, drug dealers, bad boys etc, and you have the perfect recipe for ‘easy targets’. In my father’s case, despite being a man, he had no local connection with the area and was ignorant of the need to find a community to align with. The local community used to be strong in our area, and even though working class areas have always struggled with crime and dysfunction, there was at least a sense of familiarity and shared cultural values. People knew each other’s families and monitored each other’s children. Despite being descended from immigrants myself, I can see exactly why the resentment of the white working class developed in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the case of Telford I am sure there are many fathers around who have had to deal with these gangs harassing their daughters. I would like to hear from them. I predict they feel impotent due to the police’s lack of action – in the case of Rotherham fathers tracked down their daughters’ abductors only to be arrested themselves. Fathers may also find it hard to negotiate our highly liberal culture, where young girls often receive the message that they free to be sexually liberated and not to be as discerning as past generations have encouraged.
By the time I was fifteen I was the target of other members of the local gang. My friends all had older brothers, fathers around and, in some cases, BNP connections. They were not easy targets. Myself and my male friends were. They were stalked, robbed and stabbed and I was assaulted by the gang. Female gang members would harass me in the street. All because I refused to participate in some sexual act one of them wanted. I was labelled frigid and ‘stuck u’’. My father tried to protect me but was set upon by them in large numbers and threatened with more violence. The police did nothing. The case never went to court. At that time a friend of mine started dating a Turkish drug dealer who told me that his group were rivals with the gang. He said: ‘We will sort them out… by the way here is my little brother. He fancies you’. Gang protection never comes for free. Despite the fact that they were nice to me, I knew these men where almost as bad. I realised I had to stop hanging out in my own area. I would rush home after school and made an effort to make new friends in other places. By doing this I managed to avoid further trouble. Many are not as lucky.
Working class council estates have always had issues with crime and dysfunction, but it is my belief that when you add tribalism and race to the mix, the result is situations like Telford. You see, not only was I an easy target because I was a vulnerable outsider and from a single parent household, I was also – in their minds – ‘white’. I was not the same as them. I did not share the same culture or even the same values as their families. We had nothing in common. I am not saying these gang members never targeted black girls, but I am saying it is much easier to sexually harass and abuse people from outside your culture. In areas like Telford, where the predominant ethnic group is Muslim and subscribes to a version of Islam that supports zealotry, the stage is set for tribal warfare. I also experienced intense harassment from the Pakistani and Afghan men who ran the market stalls in my area. They did not harass the black or Asian girls. They picked on white girls.
As I explain above, this is not predominantly about race; many Sikh girls are targeted, and probably Hindus as well. But I have heard gang members themselves speak about how they view these white girls as easy prey, infidels and not ‘human’. There is a pecking order in the minds of these criminally minded men, and working class white girls from ‘chavy’ backgrounds are at the bottom of that list. Hard working, moderate Muslims are also silenced by these mafia style gangs. I experienced a similar culture of ‘no grassing’ in the Caribbean and West African community.
This country needs an honest, real conversation, and instead these issues are being swept under the carpet. There is nothing wrong with the British majority wanting to live amongst those who share their values and culture. I have my own opinions about socialism and the social services and how they trap the poor and working class into a cycle of dysfunction and dependency, but what I have focused on in this article is my belief that if the multicultural ideal is ever to work, the British and white working class need to be listened to and not demonised, otherwise the resentment will build. Being concerned about integration is not racist, it is reality. My heart goes out to the families affected by Telford grooming gangs, and hope that as a nation we are able to face these issues in an open and unbiased way.