I live in the Bermondsey area and perhaps the most terrifying thing I've seen in the last ten years in London was the sight of little old ladies giving fascist salutes from the balconies of tower blocks to a passing BNP march. Some were old enough to have experienced the Blitz. Many were old enough to be grandparents.
I was walking home with an Asian man who was lost, and sure enough, within five minutes we were attacked by a gang of local teenagers. We had obviously been part of the counter-demonstration, and they took great offence to us walking 'their' streets. Which happen also to be my streets. We were 'jostled', abused and spat at, and just managed to escape into a cab office.
That night an Asian man was stabbed within 300 yards of the Bermondsey South station, it was a matter of luck it wasn't the man I met and was attacked with. The infamous Osprey Estate is not that far away. The culture of redneck, white-trash blackshirt bigotry therefore is well established in Bermondsey as it is in other parts of South London, such as Welling and Eltham, where the name Stephen Lawrence is not a sensible conversation starter in the local pubs.
The typical, Millwall supporting, Bermondsey teenage racist has absolutely no hope of growing up any different. Parents? What if they are to blame, what's the solution then? That sterile old beef. 'It's not the environment - it's those awful parents' ? You go into the Osprey Estate and tell the parents how lousy they are at bringing up their kids and see what happens.
And why are the PARENTS the way they are? Why - because of THEIR parents of course, and their embicility was caused inevitably by THEIR parents, until you end up with eugenicists in white coats deciding who can and who can’t be allowed to reproduce.
Times like this are a nightmare for black people in the area. But there is a historical precedent. Bermondsey does have a tradition of whiteness. The old saying in Southwark goes:
'Peckham's Black, Bermondsey's White, and Dulwich is Rich'.
The point being that poverty, and a succession of feeble local politicians, created segregation in the borough, and that has created racism. The same story was probably repeated all over the country during the late 50's and early 60's. Ward councillors and members of the housing committees would have been told emphatically not to put black families in white neighbourhoods, or else. The result is the informal segregation of communities at the housing and schoolslevel which has been so damaging down the years.
It would be interesting to trawl through the minutes of the thousands of housing committee meetings of the decade 1956-66 to see ifthere were any proposals for cross-party agreements not to exploit race in local elections or concede to racist demands for segregated housing - and who made them and who refused them.
Then we might be a step closer to understanding why so much race hate has been conserved in our cities.