What is it about groups of young black and Asian people that provokes waves of fear and anxiety among those in power?
The British establishment lurches from one race panic to another. From talk in the 1950s and 60s of over-sexed immigrants coming to steal white women, to the invention of race-specific crimes, such as “mugging”.
The effective “banning” of the film Blue Story by the Vue cinema chain in late November is the latest instalment.
A brawl involving rival groups of teenagers at a single Birmingham cinema was the cue for screens across Britain to pull the film. They claimed an unprecedented outbreak of violence wherever it was shown.
Yet surprisingly, in an age when teenagers apparently film themselves relentlessly, no evidence for the wave of violence has turned up. No video footage, no coverage on social media, no police reports—nothing.
But lack of evidence has never yet stopped authorities from clamping down.
Until 2017 the Metropolitan Police asked music promoters to fill out a risk assessment form called a “696” prior to live gigs. No club would accept your booking if the police didn’t agree.
Cops racially profiled Grime as a “high risk” genre, saying it was a magnet for gun and knife crime. Many artists could never perform.
This attempt to force Grime underground wasn’t driven by lyrics—it was driven by fear of the audience. As far as the police were concerned, a large group of young black people could only mean trouble. Similarly, the attempt to scupper Blue Story bears little relation to its content.
The film is a tragic tale of two young friends who become bitter rivals in a street war. It’s a far better argument against guns and knives than anything that has ever come out of mouths of a government minister or top cop.
Developed and directed by rapper and film maker Andrew Onwubolu, the film makes a point of depicting violence and even death at disconcertingly close quarters. Nothing about this is glorification—precisely the opposite.
The story structure will be familiar to most, and not all the acting is great. But the honesty and setting gives its target audience something that feels more real than soap opera.
That’s probably why a weekday lunchtime screening at my local cinema was packed with young people.
The dread that gripped the banning cinema bosses has little to do with gangs squaring-up to each other. Instead it reflects the establishment belief that there’s something violent and primitive about people with darker skins. That the gang violence depicted in Blue Story is somehow intrinsic to our very natures.
Vue bosses last week reinstated the film after an anti-racist public backlash.
They did however insist on “beefed-up security” to deal with the on-going threat that really only existed only in their heads.