Passing the Bar: The Death of Margaret Thatcher and Black Britain


Release Date

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The death of Margaret Thatcher may be the passing of an age but not the end of an attitude.

Thatcherism is a way of viewing the world and a stubborn refusal to negotiate on Conservative Tory principles regardless of harm or sacrifice of country. What effect did Margret Thatcher's leadership have on blacks in Britain? Having lived in London throughout that period I know several things with certainty. Firstly her social

policies led to a great deal of unrest and anger.

She loved to provoke and exploit the issue of immigration whenever possible and found a great ally in the National Front with their cry of Take Back Britain. The result was the Brixton riots of 1981. This was all brought to a boil due to the police tactic of harassment of blacks which was justified by the newly implemented Sus Law. Sus, which is short for suspicious person, was being constantly utilized and gave the police the right to arrest black people at will. Margaret Thatcher had a perfect enforcer in her Home Secretary, William Whitelaw. The prisons swelled.

It's interesting how similar the technique of the Sus Law in Britain is to the Stop and Frisk policy of New York's finest. The Brixton riots were bloody and sold many newspapers. The constant theme of Thatcher and her administration was Britain under threat. This threat justified everything from false arrest to planting of drugs and weapons on accused offenders. In short, entrapment was the order of the day.

In 1985 came the riots in Birmingham and then the Broadwater Farms Housing estate in North London. The Broadwater estate is like a large project. The atmosphere was claustrophobic and grim.

The police occupied the estate and I remember the feeling of being entombed whenever I entered. The police set up cameras and paddy waggons at each entrance. Along with all this came the constant attack on labour unions, the National Health Service and social welfare programs, even cutting milk in schools for children. Everything was justified by the same rhetoric: help the poor by easing the burden on the rich and thus create an incentive to private wealth.

Margret Thatcher used a similar argument to explain why she refused to back sanctions against apartheid South Africa. She justified doing business with this regime because she said she thought it the best way to help the blacks. Her main concern was humanitarian and had nothing to do with filthy lucre.

At the same time she refused to have anything to do with Nelson Mandela and the ANC because again as she said, she would never negotiate with terrorists (at least not until they're free and it makes good business sense).

The greatest success for Thatcher was the Falklands War: Quick and painless, (three days, in fact). That was war the way war should be. It was a source of pride and a great boost to the economy. Having seen what having the country on war footing could do in terms of allowing her carte blanche, she then tried to implement a state of war on the inner cities whereby the police would have to give account to no one but herself. This, however, proved to be a bit more problematic.

This appeal of the Britain under siege attitude has not died with Margret Thatcher. It is still very much in evidence and is alive and well and is used whenever necessary to explain unemployment or the economy. It's ironic that there are even members of the immigrant community that have much respect for her Iron Lady Image and the fact that she supposedly never backed down. They were particularly impressed that after the assassination attempt by the Irish IRA in Brighton, she refused to not deliver her address and appeared anyway to much applause (even by the IRA themselves).

Many would love to identify with her and her Tory values once they are allowed through the gate. The problem is that gate. Narrow is the gate.

Margaret Thatcher unleashed a number of demons during her reign as Britain's longest running Prime Minister in office in the twentieth century. Not that she invented corporate greed, but she presented it with an acceptable face. As for fear of immigration, she didn't invent that either but used it to such good effect that it is frightening to behold. She stirred fear and anger and the result was riot and blood offerings. In truth for most blacks she destroyed far more than she inspired. There are wounds, both physical and psychic, that still haven't begun to be addressed.

And best of all was her technique of blaming the poor for poverty. Having shut the mines, she then accused the miners of idleness which is epic in cruelty. She set the stage for the looting of British banking and they haven't stopped since.

In Britain when a lawyer dies they say that He passed the Bar. Well, Margaret, who started as a lawyer, has certainly passed the bar. The question is to whom.

Edgar Nkosi White is playwright and novelist. He is Writer in Residence at New York City College. His novel, The Rising is published by Marion Boyars and is available on Amazon.

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