Should David Starkey be made welcome in Greenwich?

“What has happened is that a substantial section of the chavs that you wrote about have become black… The whites have become black.

“Listen to David Lammy, an archetypal successful black man. If you turn the screen off so that you are listening to him on radio you would think he was white.”

As part of the celebrations of Greenwich becoming a royal borough, the National Maritime Museum is holding an exhibition next summer called Royal River. Its curator? David Starkey.

The historian’s also a patron of anti-Greenwich Park Olympics pressure group NOGOE – although hasn’t exactly been a visible supporter of their cause. I expect they’re quite relieved about that today.

After he expressed views which many will find deeply offensive, should we be making David Starkey welcome in our borough next summer?

(Thanks to Transpontine for the reminder about Starkey and the museum.)


  1. He seems to be expressing something that is manifestly true. I would rather express it as a section of white youth taking up black culture though. It certainly appears that the white underclass are following in the footsteps of the dysfunctional black underclass. And that isn’t racist by any means.

  2. Yes I agree Jamie. The bandying around of the word ‘racist’ without any real thought to its meaning reminds me of the Jane Horrocks character in Life Is Sweet: ‘fascist’!

  3. Janie – what, it’s not racist to suggest that aggression and criminality represents ‘black culture’?

    His comment about David Lammy sounding white also indicates that he thinks black people are incapable of sounding calm, considerate and articulate.

    Starkey is a moron. What he said on Newsnight was racist. Race-baiting in the aftermath of these riots is really not going to be helpful.

  4. Yes, I think Starkey was making some valid points. Would you rather censor his views 853?

  5. The hysterical outrage from some colleagues on the left to what David Starkey said are as depressing as they are predictable.I consider myself to be broadly on the left and agree with DS completely. Too many people on the left immediately scream ‘racist’at anyone who rails against this awful, misogynistic, homophobic ganster culture (or do we have to say ‘gangsta’?) The fact is that millions of us really wonder what our country has now become.We are called racists for saying we think elements of black culture (now being taken on by many whites)is disgusting and that the adoption of this nihilistic fashion is damaging our nation hugely. I frankly despair of many on the left. As the poster above says, any discussion of ethnic issues is called racist. All that will do is drive many British people to be ever more alienated from the country we no longer recognise.

  6. I’m genuinely astonished by this article. Could you point to anything that Starkey said that you vehemently disagree with?

    Even if you can, to ‘ban’ someone from participating in what looks like an excellent exhibition next year just because of his opinions smacks as the worst form of censorship.

  7. His comments are valid, but his labels are bonkers!! ? He confuses race for class. If he re-phrased it as the under classes reclaiming the street, it might work. Quoting Enoch Powell was bonkers tho’!! Although I may do myself out of an argument given the girl from Orpington, the Peer Mentor, the Olympic Represantive….

  8. Jay, Starkey didn’t say that aggression and criminality represent black culture. He said that it represented ‘a certain form’ of black culture, namely the ‘gangsta’ culture which is so plainly being followed by many sections of our society. Are you seriously suggesting that this isn’t the case?

  9. Starkey’s words were clumsy and pompous, but not overtly racist. Some white people have adopted some elements of black culture. This is nor to say, as I have read on twitter today, that Starkey means that all black people are uneducated criminals. He does nor mean this. I was not shocked by Starkey’s comments as I hear them expressed by my successful, black friends all the time. Read the Mirror and the Times today. Tony Parsons and Shaun Bailey express exactly the same views.

  10. David Starkey’s comments, and those of some of the contributors above perfectly illustrate the real danger of prejudice and confirmation bias. During a debate on the riots, Mr Starkey bemoans the effect of “black culture” on our society. He and commenters here reference patois, gangs, fashion and rap music – as being a bad influence on the rioters. So the simple question I ask is – where’s the evidence? Have you heard all (or even most) of the 1500 people arrested speak? Do you know what they were wearing? What kind of music they are in to? No of course you don’t. If the rioters conform to the kind of stereotypes being thrown around, how do they explain Laura Johnson the straight A law student from Bexleyheath arrested on 5 counts of burglary?
    What has actually happened is that people, including quite clearly David Starkey, have entered the last week with a negative view of “black culture” and at the first sign of black kids, baseball caps, inarticulate tv and radio interviews etc. the confirmation bias kicks in. Look, those people I thought were dodgy are proving me right! I’ll ignore the white kids, the 40 year olds, the skinny jeans and the qualifications, they’re probably just the exceptions.
    If anyone here can provide evidence that those involved in the riots are all, or even a majority, part of this “black culture” then I’d love to see it. But that won’t happen because it doesn’t exist. Apportioning blame without evidence is a sure sign of one’s prejudices taking over.
    Oh and I see that as always people are failing to recognise the difference between banning views and making those who hold them unwelcome. Darryl is clearly not suggesting that Mr Starkey be censored. He is more than entitled to hold those views and articulate them whenever he gets the opportunity. That doesn’t mean we have to give him the opportunity or encourage him to do so. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  11. The thing is, even Toby Young says that Starkey was ‘sailing close to the wind’. And it seems to me that the BBC invited him to the programme as part of their obsession with providing an adversarial pro-and-con discussion to any news item at all that they come across. But the problem is that the other side of the argument from Starkey had ‘maybe poverty and deprivation had something to do with this, maybe we should try supporting young people more’ which is hard to argue with unless you’re going to go with nuts, which is the road Starkey chose.

    So okay, there’s going to be a countering view, but then Starkey’s great strength, which Toby Young points out, and perhaps why the BBC chose him is that he is remarkably provocative. I wasn’t born when Powell made his speech but I know that it has been infamous in British politics since – that it works as a symbol for intolerance and hatred. So quoting it with approval – even qualified approval – is poking the hornet’s nest and right now that’s not helpful.

    I’ve tried to stay calm and sound reasonable while I’ve been typing this comment because I note that disagreement with Starkey is described as hysterics or screaming above. While watching Newsnight last night I was disgusted and was grumbling back at the television. Reactions to last night’s Newsnight are not feigned, and are not a product of people saying what they think they should. Some of us are genuinely embarrassed to have those sort of views represented on our national broadcaster.

  12. Whatever Starkey’s real beliefs, my take on what he said was that “black” = bad, and that antisocial behaviour by white people in the riots was because they had somehow become “black”. This is a huge insult to black people and, as an aside, also seemed to be excusing the many white people involved in wrong doing; somehow transfering blame to black culture.

    Perhaps this isn’t what DS really thinks, or meant to say, in which case, clarification from him would be helpful.

    The riots and looting show that the country has to confront issues of culture and values in a small part of the population. I just think that saying that this is a “black” issue is at best a huge over simplification, and at worst outright racism. It would have been difficult, but my view is that the BBC should have pulled the plug on this broadcast.

  13. Starkey is clearly totally ignorant of modern multiculturalism. David Lammy hit the nail on the head earlier today when he tweeted that Starkey’s comments were simply irrelevant: ‘he is a tudor historian talking about contemporary urban unrest’

  14. Blisset. Only a very small proportion of people who were thieving have been arrested let alone charged. We all saw the profile of the people who were captured, not just on TV but on amateur footage. Don’t be distracted by the “millionaire’s daughter” or “law student” type of headline. They ARE the exceptions.

  15. Steve,

    Congratulations Steve you have perfectly illustrated my point. Your anecdotal experience of the people you noticed in the footage you’ve seen does not equal evidence of the profile of all people involved.

    Even if it did, the only thing you know about them is what they look like. You don’t know how they speak, what music they listen to, what job they do, what level of education they have, where they live. Everything else has been assumed based on their appearance, and that is extremely dangerous. So it’s quite clear what you mean when you say “the profile of the people” caught on camera. Just don’t try to pretend that it means anything else.

  16. Are we talking all black culture, a plethora of black culture or a smidgeon? Are we talking about Black African, Black Moorish, Black Caribbean?

    Ah we are talking primarily hip hop culture, so in essence Black culture has been around since around 79!!!

    I suggest you read up on the history of the human race … it started before the 70’s …

  17. Blissett
    Why not try your “prejudice test” on yourself. Which news headline would surprise you the more, and why?
    “Laura Johnson the straight A law student from Bexleyheath arrested on 5 counts of burglary”
    “Young black man from Bexleyheath arrested on 5 counts of burglary”
    We all have prejudices. They are not necessarily dangerous.

  18. The guy said David Lammy sounded white. It was obvious that for Starkey white = good, black = bad.
    Gangsta rap is rubbish but one of the most socially constructive songwriters ever was a black man – Curtis Mayfield. Oi music was white (and even then not all Oi music was terrible but mainly it was a sub-culture that glorified violence)

  19. He’s not racist, it’s just that racist patwa has found its way into his tongue.

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