FRONTLINE: Railton Road, Brixton was Black Britain’s frontline in the 1970s and 80s
TALKING OF black history, in the 1940s and 50s there were the ‘No Coloureds, No Irish, No Dogs’ signs in Britain.
In the 1960s and 70s it was ‘Go Black Home’. In the 80s and 90s and the turn of the millennium we established our own neighbourhoods – Brixton, Handsworth, Moss Side.
In the twenty-tens, it seems, we have come full circle. Now the mantra, in so many sniffs, grunts, and cut-eyes is: ‘We Don’t Want You Lot Around Here’.
The WE are the new middle classes. Invariably white. The YOU LOT.... well, I’ll come to that in a moment.
The ‘HERE’ is the neighbourhoods that we used to call ‘ours’ – Brixton, Handsworth, Moss Side. And the WE are making it more and more abundantly clear that they don’t want YOU LOT around HERE. They’re even refusing to call it Moss Side anymore.
Now, hear me out. This isn’t the first time that I have written about how the hood as changed. But in the last year or two white folks have taken over our black neighbourhoods. WE have surrendered Brixton over. WE have handed Tottenham and Hackney over. And Harlesden... well, those who know the turbulent political history of that black neighbourhood, WE had control seized from out of our hands there because WE couldn’t organise the proverbial domino game in a rhum shop.
It’s one thing to lose the keys to your kingdom, it’s quite another thing to hear the new neighbours tell you that you’re not welcome home.
It has come as a shock to some of my bredrin who have found themselves being told to their faces by the new residents (in not so many words) that they are now surplus to requirements in da hood. And these are big, strong, hard-looking, tough black men we’re talking about. But the new neighbours don’t business. Their houses are now worth a million and they don’t want no hood rats infestation.
For one thing, it was because white folks moved in and survived that other white folks moved in. And it’s because white folks moved in that the police put up all those CCTV cameras in Brixton. My friend Chris told me the other night with a big grin on his face that his house on Landor Road, which was for years on the Stockwell frontline, now has neighbours who are bankers.
That’s all good. Like the wise old fish man Spirit who used to sell fish at Broadway Market in Hackney used to say, “I got nothing against gentrification, as long as we all get gentrified.”
Well some of US did get gentrified. But not all of us. So when the new neighbours are talking about ‘We Don’t Want You Lot Around Here’, I’m not sure if they’re talking about all of us black folks or just the ones who are still gang-banging, smoking weed publicly, playing loud music in quiet neighbourhoods and acting like we own the place.
Like I said, this was the experience of several people I know who have not had the street life taken out of their system. They get stared at in the gym with that cut eye that says ‘We Don’t Want You Lot Around Here’. They get told by the bouncers outside the bars and clubs ‘We Don’t Want You Lot Around Here’. And even if they brush with the law they are told in no uncertain terms, ‘We Don’t Want You Lot Around Here’.
And now man and man have started talking about how the Feds purposely wrecked their hood communities like Holly Street in Hackney, so that they could gerrymander the neighbourhood with people who would make the house prices go up and then defend their investment with their lives.
‘You Lot’ are not wanted in the hood anymore. But if ‘You Lot’ started acting like the white folks do, you might be made welcome.
The real estate in the hood is now too valuable for ‘You Lot’ to act like you rep these streets.