Interviewing a black columnist and broadcaster from south London this morning, a BBC host was called an "idiot" for neglecting to confront the root causes of social unrest currently rocking the U.K.
Speaking to 68-year-old Darcus Howe, the former editor of Race Today magazine who not long ago became the focus of a campaign to highlight high rates of prostate cancer among black men, the host asked if he was "shocked" by the rioting and violence that has gripped London for the past three days.
"No, not at all," Howe replied, saying that he'd even expected it, noting that his grandson cannot count the number of times he has been stopped and searched by British police.
"Our political leaders had no idea," Howe said. "The police had no idea. But if you look at young blacks and whites with a discerning eye and careful hearing, they have been telling us -- and we would not listen -- that what is happening in this country, to them, is wrong."
But the interviewer interpreted his analysis as an endorsement of violence, so she asked why he would condone rioting and violence.
He replied by telling the story of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four, who was killed last week during a traffic stop, by Scotland Yard officers toting assault rifles.
"He has parents, he has brothers, he has sisters," Howe said. "And a few yards away from where he lives, a police officer blew his head off. He blew his face off with --" and the interviewer cut him off.
"Mr. Howe, we have to wait for the inquiry before we can say things like that," she replied. "We don't know what happened to Mr. Duggan, we have to wait for the police report on it," adding: "That is not an excuse to go out rioting and cause the sort of damage that we have been seeing over the last few days."
Howe shot back: "I don't call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses, of the people. [...] That is the nature of the historical moment."
Then the interviewer went full-bore after his credibility: "Mr. Howe, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself."
"I have never taken part in a single riot," he replied. "I have been on television stations that ended up in a conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian negro and stop accusing me of rioting. [...] You just sound like an idiot. Have some respect. I have grandchildren."
Watch this video from BBC News, broadcast Aug. 9, 2011.