Photo by Paul Husband


akala destroys the hypocrisy of british colonialism

March 19, 2019
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A passionate musician and activist, Akala is very familiar with the subject of British colonialism and imperialism as exemplified in his book Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. And in a sit-down with The Guardian, Akala unpacked the measures British colonizers took to downplay their cruelty and harmful intent in colonizing other nations, from burning records to hiding the colonial archives. “Nobody colonizes another group of people because they love them and want them to have democracy and the rule of law,” he says.

Digging deeply into the implications of the colonial mindset, Akala draws parallels between global European perspectives on people of color with how they view us on a more personal, day-to-day level. For example, how the whole concept of “Black on Black” crime is rooted in a racism that describes Black folks as hyper-violent. Despite the genocidal brutality that white Europeans inflicted on indigenous populations, they viewed the people they oppressed as aggressors. Even now, Black violence in British society is viewed as an inevitability. Which is a strange position for a violent nation to take.

“The idea of Black on Black violence is rooted in this 19th century, pseudoscientific, gene-based racism,” says Akala. “‘Black people are genetically violent. So actually it doesn’t make a difference whether they’re well-educated or not. Whether they’re a Premier footballer or a corner street drug dealer… [it] doesn’t make a difference if they’re 16 or 46.’ The Black-on-Black violence narrative is literally rooted in that history of empire. In that inherent historical guilt, in that fear. And in the sense that Black people are just unredeemable.”

So, what’s the answer to the increase in knife-crime around Britain? According to Akala, the solution does not lie with increasing police presence or laying down tougher sentences. Mass incarceration isn’t the answer from everything we know about how it affects communities and families, so what do you think the solution is?

Akala explores these questions and others pertaining to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black bodies in his new book, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, out now.