Gang Rape Is Too Prevalent in the Caribbean Community
Howe, Darcus, New Statesman (1996)
Three Christmases ago, I got myself in quite a stew in a sharp confrontation with the black leaders of anti-racism, who were backed by the entire editorial team of the recently launched black weekly the New Nation. I was on my way to South Africa to do some travel-writing when a call came from Channel 4. They were handling a rather hot potato, they said. Channel 4 had commissioned a report detailing incidents of gang rape, committed by young black men in Brixton and surrounding areas, which bordered on the barbaric. One young woman had spent more than a couple of hours with her back raked against a concrete step while up to a dozen schoolboys screwed her.
Channel 4, aware of the ambulance-chasers in the anti-racist brigade, felt they could not broadcast this huge truth without some counterbalance. They wanted me to chair a studio discussion, to go out immediately after the report, in which the issues would be aired.
I cancelled my trip to South Africa. I knew the terrain well. Gang rape was part of the urban culture in which I grew up. I entered my teens in a working-class ghetto in Port of Spain, peopled by gangs based on the Diggers and Stompers of America. I was a Style-Cramper and a Law-Breaker. Other gangs were Spike Jones and the Fallen Angels, the Apple Jackers and Sun Valley. We fought each other over teenage loves and territory. Gang rape initiated male virgins into sex. And if you didn't share, the others would take your girlfriend away.
My girlfriend was called Betty. There was no place to be private except a disused building. I took her there one night and the gang moved in. I went with her to the police station and gave a list of names. I was determined to put my mates to the sword. There was no anti-racist movement through which I interpreted this social behaviour, nor any feminist movement. As far as I was concerned, it was the culture of the brute.
It was clear to Channel 4 viewers that I came to the studio with attitude. Nothing had changed in 40 years. The argument that white working-class boys (notably the Hell's Angels) did it, too, was not for me. …