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Rights and Responsibilities of the Black Community

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I should be putting the finishing touches to my follow up to ethnic voices in the media, but events have passed me by.

One of the points made in that previous blog was a feeling that the media was only interested in hearing from black or other ethnic minorities when problems occurred in those communities. Well I can't complain about a lack of black faces on TV over the last 3 to 4 days now. What I have been seeing over the last 4 days are attempts by Black politicians, community leaders and community workers to explain something that many of them do not really seem to grasp that well themselves.

These riots are not primarily about race or a confrontational relationship with the police, they are not about stop and search or spending cuts and a lack of resources in our communities. Some of these issues have played a part in igniting the flames and must be dealt with.

However they are not the reason why we are now in our 4th day of rioting. These riots are about what happens when the feeling of entitlement that runs all through British society (not necessarily a bad thing), is not tempered by equally strong feelings of responsibility.

There is nothing wrong with feeling entitled to have nice clothes, a fancy phone or computer as longer as you are willing to take the responsibility of working to afford those things. What we are seeing from the significant though by no means wholly representative numbers of black youths involved in the rioting is the growing problem within the black community where our children feel as entitled as any other group of children in this country (as they should) but do not have a matching sense of responsibility to their families and the wider community.

It is true of me as it is almost every other black person I know that we are always aware of race and the part it can play in so many of our day to day interactions. As such we are always keen to make sure our children are aware of their rights, that they are just as good as anyone else and as entitled to all the good things this world has to offer any one else.

What I fear has happened is that we have failed to temper that message of entitlement with a message of responsibility. The black community is a fractured entity in many parts of London, too many parents have abdicated the responsibility of raising their kids, when our kids are failing at school we are to quick to blame inadequate schools and inadequate teachers. Yet it is at home that we should be teaching our kids a love of learning, providing them with books rather than mobile phones and gameboys may do them a bigger favour in the long run. It is at home that we should be teaching them the values that will see them through whatever life throws at them.

Having been raised by a hardworking single mother I know how long and hard she had to work to put a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and food in our belly's. It is an example that I failed to heed for too long but I know exists within the majority of the black community. Unfortunately amongst a significant minority it is not being passed on to our youth. It is a failure both of the individual parents and of the community as a whole.

It may be an understandable failure as many people in the black community are just trying their best to provide for their families and keep them safe in these trying times but if we do not take responsibility to support our neighbours and our neighbourhoods how safe can we really keep our own children.

It may seem as if it is too late to change attitudes in our neighbourhoods as we are intimidated but gangs of youths running around without fear of censure by the police, let alone individual citizens disappointed by their behaviour.

But if we as a community can't take responsibility for our youth, if we can't come together and temper their sense of entitlement with a sense of responsibility for their communities and their families then what hope is there for us.