Talking to Tee from Edward II
You ask me how things have changed since I was a kid? Names and faces have changed but it’s pretty much the same. More people get on together now than used to. Maybe more people try harder to get on even if they have prejudice against people because of the colour of their skin.
It’s like, one time; I was doing a gig in Denmark and was talking to this guy. Afterwards I was talking to some other people and they said “What you talking to him for? He’s the most racist guy in Denmark! He hates black people” But the way me and him were talking I would never have known that. I don’t know what he was up to, but in my experience I’ve always found that some people have prejudice against the race of black people, but with me or a particular person, they’re alright. But as a race, it’s a different story.
I’ve got people I grew up with and people I’ve met all over the world over the years who say “I’m not racist” and so on and I’m thinking “Yeah, yeah, yeah … I’ve never seen you with black people or going in black areas, but you talk as if you know what being black is”. It’s like that programme “How Racist Are You?” that was on TV the other day. People were protesting, saying that they weren’t racist but they weren’t even prepared to listen to what life is like for black people.
The BNP are playing on that, appealing to people’s racism that has always been there but not admitted to or not understood. Talking about immigration when people are scared of losing their jobs, like it’s the immigrant’s fault. Whipping up the fear of all that – but racism is racism. Different degrees of it maybe, but the core of it is wrong.
When EII started we used to get a bit of trouble. People saying we were, ‘polluting the British heritage’, where music’s concerned and stuff. That was a long time ago but yeah we used to get it from what I remember. And we used to get it the other way round too. I couldn’t believe it when I saw white people coming up to the white guys in the group - John, Simon, whoever - to say, “What are you doing in a reggae band? You’re white!”. I couldn’t believe it, I mean, I get it all the time, I’m used to it, but you get die-hard people into a particular genre of music and on this occasion white guys into reggae music giving the white guys shit, I couldn’t believe it!
EII never really played to all black audiences. It doesn’t happen so much now, all black crowds. It used to when I was younger but now everything is much more accessible to everyone. When I was a kid black music was our music, then bands like UB40 or whoever came along and it broadened it out. They made a fortune out of it but the people that wrote those songs or first recorded those songs, they’re not going anywhere, they’re getting a raw deal. From Elvis down … Elvis would be nowhere if it wasn’t for black people. And that’s just the way it is. I’m not saying it’s right but that’s just the way it is.
I think in the UK folk world, because our music is black orientated, we’re invisible to the establishment. We get crowds as big as Shooglenifty say, Bellowhead even or The Oyster Band and still they don’t recognize us for it.
I’m a believer that nothing is new. Just a different face. We have a saying in Jamaica you know and when I first heard it I thought, “What are these people on about?” but I think it’s so apt, “Everything is everything”.
When I was a kid I lived in a house with 3 families in it, in Hyson Green in Nottingham. Then after a few years my dad bought everyone else out and we had the house to ourselves, it was great, so much space! Two years or so before I left school, mum and dad bought a new house on an estate called Cinder Hill. It was like a mining estate, my dad was a miner for years. This was when I first ever really knew about racism. Because I grew up in a ghetto. I grew up in a street where everybody was different. Next door to me there was a Polish family, then a black family, then an Indian family. My mum would baby-sit for all kinds of nationalities so we grew up without knowing about racism – apart from a bit at school where you’d meet some bigoted people and stuff, but not in our area where we lived. But when we moved to a posh area … Jesus Christ! …. “You fucking black bastard, what you doing round here” all this kind of stuff. Things started getting violent, man, … you had to be to stay alive. Getting cut up, all kinds of shit just cos of the colour of your skin. I’d never done anything to nobody, hadn’t troubled them….
Nowadays you hear on the news things like the Stephen Lawrence case, but in my day those things were everyday. Skinheads burnt down the nightclub where my brother went – one day it was there, the next it was gone, burnt to the ground. People were being seriously hurt every day because of the colour of their skin.
They’re trying to bring it all back. But something strange is going on with the Youth. Now it’s white people fighting white people, black people fighting black people. The younger generation have grown up in a much more mixed society but the BNP’s ideas to them are new. They’ve not grown up with the things we grew up with. It’s kind of switching back to that now. They don’t necessarily have the experience of what, say, I went through in the seventies and eighties. They might not see how these ideas go and develop. European immigrants are now feeling it the same way, like when my parents came. But the BNP are whipping up fear about immigration and jobs and such, but then skewing it so it becomes specifically towards non-white immigrants because if they come at black people directly again it’s too blatant.
Things have changed so much for the younger generation but people’s attitudes don’t seem to change. After all these years of ‘political correctness’, or awareness shall we say, the BNP are still playing on the same fear and misunderstanding. A lot of people are born into it – kids taking on their parent’s attitudes. Unless you leave where you grew up, you aren’t going to see any different. Unless you go and experience things for real, your attitudes aren’t going to change. The circumstances of all of what we do make us what we are today. You can only change if you mix with different people. Experience different ways of life. There are generations of people who just live their parent’s views without questioning things. Either because they don’t get a chance to - because there’s no money, or no jobs - or because they choose not to.
My dad’s time it was the Teddy Boys, my time was skinheads, now time …. The BNP, the EDL …. Nothing’s new. Everything is everything, you see what I’m getting at?