Having recently read Daniel Rachel’s Walls Come Tumbling Down, a 500-page homage to the music and politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge (mid-1970s through to the early 1990s). A period in time, which I grew from child to adult, musically and professionally. I would say I started to mature politically during Rock Against Racism and then became genuinely active in politics during Red Wedge. The structure of the book is set out in a linear timeline. It is in effect an encyclopedia of crucial people and events driving these campaigns. The book did provoke many reflections, thoughts and inherent parallels with the Black Live’s Matter movement.
Times have, of course, witnessed many changes for the better since the darkness of the 70s where the racist attitude was not only endemic but ingrained and celebrated in popular culture and street violence. It’s 45 years since the birth of Rock Against Racism emerged. Still, we are struggling with the festering and illogical intolerance towards a person because they simply seem to be different continues.
As I write these words, the city I call home is searching its soul after a young black NHS worker was seriously injured by a racially-aggravated attack while walking home from his job. When I occasionally venture into Facebook land, I come across sarcastic, insensitive or misinformed memes deliberately designed to hurt people.
The painful truth remains the communities of my birth, childhood, and adulthood may face provocation from instigators of hate, funded by dark money and led by populist caricatures. But this is still no excuse. The tragic reality is that individual’s buy into these philosophies of hate because they are an embodiment of themselves. The thug on the street and that person who causally posts those memes on social media are part of this same philosophy of hate.
We find ourselves once again, in an era of false promises. Complex problems are brushed over with simple slogans. At the same time, politicians play to our fears as we seek to make sense of an unstable world. In these circumstances, as always, good intentions are positive, but its actions that make the difference and ultimately lead to change.