Research on Englanders’ Arrested in Urban Revolts

Peter recently noted some Guardian reporting on the urban revolts in England. Let me add a little to that. The Guardian paper in England has reported on an analysis by Liverpool professor Alex Singleton on some 1,297 people who had their first hearing in magistrate courts on charges associated with the people’s revolts in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool. Most are Londoners.

As any social scientist who has studied such revolts in the U.S. could have told them in advance, most of those who revolted were the young male residents of very impoverished areas. That is exactly what the Singleton/Guardian analysis reports for these urban revolts. Singleton discovered most arrested lived in very poor urban areas, with a high percent in extreme poverty areas:

. . . with 41% of suspects living in one of the top 10% of most deprived places in the country. The data also shows that 66% of neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer between 2007 and 2010. . . . Only a very small number in our data were aged over 30. More than 90% are male.

Others have noted that people of color engaged in revolts in their areas, and impoverished whites in yet other areas. Most have been charged with theft, having stolen goods, burglary, or violent disorder. Increasing impoverishment and unemployment in an age where people expect a decent standard of living is the stuff out of which such urban revolts is made. The Guardian, to its credit, takes on the centuries-old rationale of the rich and elites in society, who always see “rioters” as criminal or just rioting for “fun and profit,” to quote a conservative U.S. social scientist on the African American revolts of the 1960s and 1970s. They note:

David Cameron [white conservative British prime minister] said this week that the riots “were not about poverty”, but the Guardian’s database of court cases raises the question that there may be, at the very least, a correlation between economic hardship and those accused of taking part in last week’s violence and looting.

Indeed, it does. And it always will be thus for this type of urban revolt. And the white racial framing denying the real reasons for such revolts seems to be age-old, suggesting some problems with theories like that of “racial formation theory” that substantially neglect issues of institutionalized racism and entrenched systemic racism and that tend to accent dramatic changes over time in a Western society’s “racial formations.” At least in whites’ racial framing of events like urban revolts by people of color, changes are much less than such optimistic theories of “race” typically suggest. This is true, too, for many other areas of systemic racism.


  1. Blaque Swan

    When US whites riot or threaten to resort to 2nd amendment remedies, it is because of economic or political reasons. At least according to US media.

    I understand white racial framing. I understand that the riots in England have to do with impoverishment, which itself is probably correlated to race and is a manifestation of institutional racism. I get that.

    Here’s what I don’t understand: do whites, whether US or Britain, not notice the different explanations for riots? Or, do they think no one else does? Or they really so self-deluded?

    • Joe

      Good questions. To my knowledge no one has studied whites thinking/framing on these perception issues around black revolts in recent years. I would hazard an educated guess that there is something to all those suggestions. Many whites are probably conned by the dominant racial/media/schooling framing of blacks rioting as “criminals” or for “fun and profit” as one older white social scientist described the riots of the 1960s. Yet, most whites probably have some dim awareness at least that underlying economic conditions are very important to Black revolts, for as you suggest it is not just Blacks who revolt against bad political or economic conditions. On a related point, It would be interesting to see the media’s reaction if the Tea Party movement was actually overwhelmingly Black in composition. I’ll bet the mainstream media support would go away in a heartbeat.

      • Blaque Swan

        It would be interesting to see the media’s reaction if the Tea Party movement was actually overwhelmingly Black in composition. I’ll bet the mainstream media support would go away in a heartbeat.

        Especially if they carried automatic weapons and signs that advocated refreshing the tree of liberty . . . how the mainstream media and Fox would respond, one can only imagine!

        As for studies on perception in general, many have been done, yes? I can easily google a few, right? I remember Tim Wise mentioning studies regarding witness testimony.

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