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What Operation Yewtree Has Made Me Think About

May 5, 2013

This week Stuart Hall pleaded guilty to 14 indecent assaults between 1967 – 1985. We can be sure there were many more young victims of his predilection. We should thank the people brave enough to finally come forward and shame this man. Victims of sexual abuse are often met with suspicion. Sexual abuse is a crime needlessly tangled with sexuality, feminism and debates about gender roles when the most important question is this: was there consent?

The guilt of the Coronation Street actors, Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Freddie Star and the other unnamed accused (undoubtedly there are more) is soon to be determined. I sense we are already tiring of the pattern that is emerging; if you are old, white, male and have been famous for a few decades, you fit this mould.

There is good reason the high profile natures of those questioned, arrested or charged are so consistent. The 60s, 70s and 80s were wretched times to be a woman in the UK. The “saucy secretary” culture was prevalent and women were still expected to be homemakers and uneducated. It is no surprise that these men thought they had power enough to fulfil any wish they pleased to fulfil.

Behaviour that was once acceptable is now unacceptable. The grotesqueness of the Jimmy Saville scandal has promoted Operation Yewtree to turn back the clock. Victims once feared the police as the police were made up of men cut from the same cloth as their attackers. Not anymore. They are now calling their helplines, visiting police stations and pointing their fingers. And the police are listening sympathetically to their pain.

Since the start of this scandal I have had two absolute thoughts. Firstly, I hope these victims get the justice they deserve. Secondly, when are we going to get the justice we deserve?

By we, I mean minority, ethnic British people and by justice I mean this: when will the police, supposedly no longer cut from the same cloth as our attackers – racist, violent and prejudiced – listen sympathetically to our pain?

The same culture that allowed women to be spanked on the bum and teenagers to be fondled, allowed our men to be murdered for waking the streets, our homes to be burnt down or our children attacked.

I read a review of Alan Johnson’s memoir, This Boy. In it, his mother witnesses the murder of a black youth. She doesn’t go to the police. The murder remains unsolved. In the final third of Caryl Phillip’s novel, In the Falling Snow, a first-person account from  Earl, a West Indian emigrant, is harrowing. He recalls his journey from his home to Leeds with his best friend, only for his best friend to be murdered.  It’s a story that strongly recollects the tragedy of David Oluwale.  There is an article here if you don’t know who he is:

Though Phillips’ account is fictional, this country needs to have an emotional connection to his writing, because the story he retells is an re-enactment of this country’s truth.

I’m glad we’re revisiting the sexual crimes of the past. Because society has moved on we are in a position to ask questions of the accused. But I’m also sure the devotion to exposing these crimes is as much to do with celebrity as justice – victims have strong memories their attackers because they are famous and the police know where to find them because they are still on the TV.

What about our perpetrators? If we are going to have an appraisal of the wrongs of the past, we should be thorough, shouldn’t we? Stuart Hall got away with his crimes for so long because social conditions supported his rights over others. And white racists of the 60s, 70s and 80s got away with their crimes because their rights were supported over ours. Don’t you think it’s funny that no one denies that this country was filthy with prejudice for so long, yet no one seems to know what happened to the racists? Where did they go? Did they evaporate? There are people walking around today with blood on their hands. I guarantee it.

Where is our helpline? Where are our lines of investigation to lead us to elderly white men who have our questions to answer? Of course, this would never be possible. If one was set up it crash under a deluge of reports. This country will never be ready to revisit these crimes as vigorously for fear of reigniting even bigger racial divides in this country. Besides, the police have their flagship case of Stephen Lawrence to coo us with. That case is still open – what more do we want? A Crimewatch appeal every couple of years placates us.

There is a fervour to investigate historic sexual crime that race related criminals will never have to fear. I’m disgusted that still, with racism still alive, well and raw in our memories, those chickens will never home to roost.

Buy In The Falling Snow:

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