Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

White gang violence

with 5 comments

I was in Glasgow recently. When we were about to see a movie and I suggested a cinema a but further out from were I stayed, I was quite surprised to hear that the cinema was in a part of the city that I should absolutely avoid at night. Upon seeing me raise my eyebrows, my friends showed me this video:

Find the video here

Several thousand youths who take part in gang violence in Glasgow. The average life expectancy for a man in the poorest parts of Glasgow: 54 years – as compared to 76 years UK-wide. It’s a rough place.

What’s also interesting though is that the video shows how white kids participate in gang violence. Glasgow, the “knife capital of Europe”, “public health hazard”, is way worse an environment that the “banlieues” around Paris or German “migrant ghettos” . This shows again the idiocy of assuming that the problem of youth violence in European cities can be pinned down to (Arab) ethnicity, (non-white) race or (Muslim) religion. And it confirms what I have mentioned here earlier: that youth violence is a problem created by social class and communal neglect rather than race or culture.

I wonder though how much media exposure gang violence in Glasgow would get if the kids in the video were Muslim immigrants from the Maghreb or Turkey…


Written by henrik

February 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Good point, Henrik. Why not ‘white violence’, or ‘white knife culture?’
    We had a stabbing death of a Sudanese youth in Adelaide last year, and since then the Sudanese are always reported as being in a ‘culture of violence’.
    The pain of the death in the community was compounded by racist reporting


    February 22, 2009 at 2:42 am

  2. Interesting. In North America, there is no stereotype of Arabs and Muslims being poor, as there is a different immigration pattern for people from Asia. Most are economic or educational immigrants.

    The idea that youth violence in Europe can be pinned down to (Arab) ethnicity, (non-white) race or (Muslim) religion is quite strange to me. Surely, the class difference comes from more European Arab immigrants being refugees.


    March 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm

  3. @ restructure:
    It’s a development that has come up in the political debate in several countries over the last years, as far as I know. It’s a patters that views criminals as being people outside the presumed national culture. Criminality thereby seems to become more and more connected to an idea of culture that is foreign.

    One prominent case in Germany is the ‘foreigner violence’ campaign by a conservative politician. See info here:,1518,525734,00.html

    Also in Switzerland there seems to be a discourse of connecting immigration with criminality, including harsher laws on deportation of immigrants who violate the laws:

    A similar law has been passed recently in the Netherlands:

    I would agree that the difference to the US has to do with the patterns of immigration. Two key difference are that European countries started immigration with the purpose of hiring “guest workers” who lost their jobs after the economic boom ended in the 1970. In connection with this, these countries never accepted that they were countries of immigration. Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and others have maintained the idea of being a homogenous national community. In these countries, a ‘ius sanguinis’ citizenship law (law of the blood) still exists.

    These reasons, in my opinion, contribute to many immigrants belonging to the lower class. What’s an important point to me is to point out though that class correlates to criminality rather than culture/race/ethnicity. This is disregarded as national culture in the public debate is “cleared” of criminality.

    See my previous post on this:


    March 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm

  4. I think culture does have a lot to do with it–but not in the sense that you use the word. I do not mean the historical culture of the people, but the culture of the neighborhood. I recently conducted an interview with a criminologist who has worked on the Glasgow issue (the interview is on my blog if you are interested) and he points out that violence is usually about what the individual is prompted to do by those surrounding him, or her.

    The video is ridiculous.




    July 4, 2009 at 8:11 pm

  5. Thanks Masha,

    I just read your interview and it’s extremely informative. Thanks for pointing my attention to it. Of course, culture is a central element in youth violence – every gang is formed around their own norms, rules and their respective expressions. My point in this post however was something else. I didn’t want to focus on how group dynamics work within gangs (though it’s a very important thing to study). I wanted to point out that there is a distorted perception of youth violence in Europe in that we see it here as a problem associated with non-white and mostly Muslim immigrants. You are right in saying that the video I linked to is very sensational, but if the empirics are right then Glasgow stands out starkly compared to Paris, Rotterdam or Berlin (places associated with non-white youth crime). Only this is not reflected at all in the media coverage on the issue. The post was meant to expose a racist framing of youth violence – not to explain the cultural dynamics of gangs. involved in it.


    July 6, 2009 at 12:44 am

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