Stories categorized “Racism”:

How Europe created a theatre of cruelty to deter migrants

Published April 2010.

April 17 2010 The Guardian (edited version) “British jobs for British workers.” It’s an easy thing to say. Gordon Brown came out with it in June 2007, just before he became Prime Minister. Since then, the easy words have been picked up and recycled by pundits and pickets and politicians from the British National Party […]

Problems of a black police officer

Published July 1997.

Police Constable Richie Clarke had always loved his work. It didn’t matter to him that he was black. In fact, he wanted to believe that it helped him – that some black people might show him a little extra trust and that some white officers would be less likely to get out of order if he was around.

The stolen children

Published March 1996.

When Archie Roach was a small child in the early 1950s, he lived in a place called Framlingham, a short row of tin shacks and little brick houses which stood on a dusty, dry plateau near the edge of a gorge about 300 miles west of Melbourne. Once, his family had lived by a riverbank, where they could hunt and catch fresh fish, but the white people had come and ordered all of them – Archie and his six brothers and sisters and their parents – to move into this bleak place. They said it was for their own good, so they could teach them how to read and write and pray.

Laughing at racism

Published February 1991.

It was the day after the crime. Everyone in Conroe was talking about the report in the Courier: “Girl found slain at Conroe High. Police say teenager strangled.” Politicians and church ministers were pleading for calm. The captain of detectives was on television, disclosing that the girl had been raped by her killer. Her body had been taken to the morgue down in Houston.

The priest who uncovers miscarriages of justice

Published February 1991.

Grundy is a small colourless town in the bleak backwoods of Virginia down by the border with Tennessee, a poor town where most of the men have black lung from working down the coal mine and almost everybody is just about everybody else’s cousin. There was a murder here, nine years ago.

Wanda McCoy, who was only 19, was raped in the shabby little house where she lived on the outskirts of town. The rapist cut her throat right back to the spine and she was dead long before her husband, Brad, came back from the mine. When the news got around the town, the mood turned ugly and someone hung out a sign that said: “Time for a new hanging tree in Grundy”. Then the police arrested Wanda’s brotherinlaw, Roger Coleman, a miner, and charged him with the crime, and Grundy calmed down again.

Now, Roger Coleman sits in a silent cell 500 miles away in Mecklenberg on Virginia’s death row, waiting for the state to electrocute him. Back in Grundy, however, the peace has been broken again by the intrusion of a stranger, poking around and asking a lot of questions about the murder. The stranger says that Coleman is innocent. He says he is going to find out who really killed Wanda. He is not welcome.

The deadly secrets of a small town in Texas

Published February 1991.

Conroe looked like a nice little town. I had cruised up the freeway from Houston for half an hour, through the forest that blankets this part of east Texas, turned off by the Holiday Inn and a couple of minutes later, I was in the courthouse square with its clean streets and its neat shops and the Stars and Stripes up high on the courthouse roof like a feather in Conroe’s cap.

A white man in a black town

Published February 1991.

Clarence Brandley always knew the truth. Long before his own trouble started – before the white girl was killed, before he was blamed, before he was condemned to death – he knew how dangerous it was to be a black man in a town like Conroe.

The town that loved lynching

Published April 1989.

The Scotsman April 1989 The old sheriff of Montgomery County, Ben Hicks, had an answer for everything. A black man had just been burned alive in front of his office in the courthouse square in the middle of Conroe while a crowd of hundreds of white men, women and children looked on. The sheriff himself […]

Scandal, rumour and racial politics in New York

Published March 1988.

The Scotsman and the New Zealand Dominion, March 21 1988 It takes a city as crazy as New York to produce a mystery like the saga of Tawana Brawley, a story which starts off with a sensational crime, rapidly turns into a twisted political plot and then becomes a city-wide debate where everyone shouts at […]

The long-lost truth about native Americans

Published February 1988.

The Scotsman and the New Zealand Dominion February 29 1988 In February 1911, Woodrow Wilson was just launching his campaign to become President of the United States, more than 500,000 automobiles clogged the streets of American cities, an aeroplane made the first transcontinental flight from New York to California and on a grassy hillside in […]

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