The Caribbean connection to England’s riots

Photo credit: Amy Weston/WENN

‘What on earth is going on?’ has been the question on everyone’s lips as England burned over the last few days.

As we watched our tv screens and listened to the reports, one also couldn’t help but notice something striking and disturbing – many of the rioters seemed to be young, black Caribbean people.

This fact came into sharp relief on Tuesday night when three young Pakistani-descent young men in Birmingham were mowed down – from all accounts, by black men of Caribbean descent.

As tensions ran high in Birmingham, Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon Jahan, the youngest of the three men killed, appealed for calm and begged for there not to be reprisal.

Still, this brings us to the uncomfortable question – what on earth is going on with Caribbean Britons?

When I lived in the UK, the state of Caribbean Brits was frankly shocking to me. By nearly ever measure – crime rates, education, income – they are at the bottom of the barrel. Is this what the Windrush generation of our grandparents and parents worked for?

It is weird because it stands in contrast to the state of Caribbean Americans who are often ‘model immigrants’. Some years ago, the May 2007 edition of Essence magazine reported:

A new study found that many Black college students are first or second generation immigrants. Making up just 13 percent of the general Black population ages 18-19, they account for 41 per cent of Blacks in four Ivy League schools (most commonly from Jamaica, Nigeria, Haiti, Trinidad and Ghana) and 27 per cent at all the colleges surveyed.

In the UK, the situation is very different yet these aren’t two different sets of people – in a lot of cases, they are literally cousins!

So why is it that in the UK black West Indians are the bottom of the pile- underachieving in every way possible and in the US we are seen as model immigrants to the extent that African-Americans resent us?

What’s really going on?

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