My sister has done her share of lecturing and teaching in some of England and Wales’s less illustrious educational institutions. Now (as I have bragged before on her behalf) she teaches law in the sixth form of one of the best state schools in the country. The school is so good she and her family can’t afford to buy a house in its catchment area. The young people whose parents can afford to get them in, however, are very lucky indeed.
Yesterday she rang me up for a gossip. In passing, she told me of the plight of one of her students, that I might laugh heartily at it. I did. This unfortunate young man suffers from what might be described as “urban Tourette’s”. Despite being of milky-white Anglo-Saxon appearance, living in the Derbyshire countryside, and studying at an establishment that sends a significant cohort of its graduates off to Oxbridge every year, he is not only convinced that he is an impoverished African-American, but that his deprivation has forced him to associate with members of the “inna-city” criminal underworld. This manifests itself in, for example, his shouting out the word “gangsta!” at random moments and in
doodling in tagging his classroom notes, street-stylee.
My sister is a mother of two children and occasionally wears comfy slacks, but she was born in Africa and is darker than me*, so her public mockery of his behaviour causes him some embarrassment.
*[No we can’t explain the colour of her offspring either.]
Hee! You said ‘slacks’!
It seems to be common among young white people here in London to talk as if they are black and from the ghetto. For example, “five” becomes “fah’v”, as in the phrase: “Fah’v ho’s” meaning “my sister and four of her friends”.
There are hundreds of them around here (little seaside town near Cape Town). Not a single wall, private or public, has escaped tagging. Most of them come from the very discipline-conscious local high school.
It’s sad really. They have no way of forging an identity of their own because of peer pressure to act stupid and fail all exams.
My friend comes from a rural part of Derbyshire, and one day he and a friend were strolling back home when, lo and behold, he was threatened by ‘The Screwdriver Gang’, a group of local white lads who clearly desperately wish they’d had the good fortune to be born in South Central LA. As their name suggests, they waved a screwdriver at my friend and demanded his friends watch:
Wannabe Gangster: ‘Give us yer watch mate’.
Mate’s Mate: ‘No’.
WG: ‘I need it’.
MM: ‘What for?’
WG: ‘To tell the time. I’ve got an important meeting to go to’.
Frightening place, rural Derbyshire.