With the recent wave of increased knife crime in London, particularly in Clapham, Mile End and Hackney, that often leaves victims hospitalized or dead, the London murder rate has begun to soar and recently rose above that of New York in the last two months. In light of the surge in knife crime, the search for a solution becomes more and more of a priority to those affected.
An important myth to debunk is that knife crime, gun crime and gang affiliated violence in London is new; what’s actually new is the extremely skewed news coverage by mainstream media that is aimed at scaremongering. Laced into these painfully white, middle-class think pieces are a lack of empathy for issues affecting communities touched by knife crime and not-so-subtle jabs at the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan who, admittedly did implement questionable and futile solutions, is pained to be responsible for the upsurge in knife crime.
This spike in knife crime is undeniably a result of socio-economic pressures put on low-income communities (notably working-class black communities) in combination with racist preventative measures like Stop & Search and critically underfunded programmes most notably, the opening of various youth clubs by both national and local governments. These centers are not only given inadequate funding from the start, but they are deliberately starved of money through endless cutbacks which eventually lead to the youth clubs becoming hotspots for gang recruitment in London. Additionally, the underlying issue with these youth clubs that appear is that they’re short-term, reactionary measures put in place with no real investment made to maintain the programmes and activities that are used to keep young men off the streets (especially in periods like the summer holiday where teens look for ways to occupy themselves) which nullifies the efforts of the people working in these centres.
When discussing gang affiliated violence and knife crime, the argument that violent lyrics such as “twelve inch on my waist go through chest plates little n**** this knife is dangerous” from 410’s Think Again and the glamorization of “the [gang] lifestyle” in drill music is the keystone behind the toxic mindsets from which knife crime often arises. However, whilst it would be naive to totally ignore the influence of drill music, the links aren’t as linear. Once we stop scapegoating and admit that while drill music is a problem but definitely not the only problem leading to gang behaviour then we’ll be making progress.
How? Because when it comes to looking for the causes of (and the solutions to) knife crime in London, what is often brushed under the carpet for the sake of blacktivism is hypermasculinity and the lack of accountability the black community places on the boys involved. In order to keep a united front, a lot of the black British community blindly rally behind the young black boys “trapped” in gangs or involved in knife crime because we refuse to accept that, although the systemic racism that young black men face is real, a lot of these boys don’t deserve to be mollycoddled.
As previously mentioned, whilst the black community has been forced under a set of socio-economic weights that actively force a lot of boys into gang behaviour for survival, it’s also important to recognize that many boys willingly join the lifestyle simply because of how gassed up it has become (partly due to the influence of drill music) and it is down to how the black community, as a collective, respond to these situations that we can make a change. It is also up to us to create spaces where we can dismantle the hypermasculinity that festers within young cishet black men that leads to involvement in gangs.
There is no single enemy at the front when it comes to gang crime, young black men are a victim to a system that exists to neglect them so it’s down to the black community to push relentlessly for changes that the government won’t make themselves.
Photo: The Home of UK Rap / YouTube