In his article White Teeth Hari Kanzru makes the point that he hopes great works like Zadie Smith’s White Teeth will be discovered by the black and Asian people it is written about and not just the prize giving critics and gatekeepers of Literature. So how do we get the council flats to read. I am not going to refer to colour here because growing up I have found that across the board (Black, White, Asian, Mixed race) council flat children read less than their wealthier private home counterparts. Now the reasons for this are obvious: differing home values, parental incomes and interests but how do we change the council flat mentality. How do encourage aspiration and reaching further than MTV and ’Keeping up with the Kardashians’ as role models for those who come from the less wealthy backgrounds. The release of ‘Sket’ the movie today will expose the world of girl gangs in a light not formally explored by the media. So far the men have been the focus and the women who struggle physically and emotionally from gang involvement have been sidelined. Whether it has been ignorance on the part of police and social workers who do not want to believe that society has allowed its women to become thugs, or a complete disregard and intentional sweeping under the carpet, I have no idea. The point remains that something needs to change and if you ask me it is the minds of these people.
I appreciate that the government is making plans to demolish the high rises and build better physical communities but we all know the saying: you can take a girl out of the ghetto but you cannot take the ghetto out of the girl. Simply moving people with certain mentalities from one house to another will have little impact. I have said before and I will say it again, I grew up on a council estate; had friends involved in gang activity and had to distance myself from the packs in order to keep myself out of the judicial system. Why was that? I have personally enjoyed reading and used books as my get away. I read more books than most girls read magazines. I let myself get drawn into the fairytale and not so fairytale world so that my mind could be exposed to different ideas. I set my mind early on that there has to be more than Whitting Avenue Estate and so built my behaviour and knowledge so that I could move out of there. I was not interested in street cred and dating the local hood boy in the latest hood video because I did not imagine myself with a hood husband in the future.
In order to have sustainable change we need to set about changing the minds of the young people. For a person to change their mindset needs to acknowledge that the way they are living is unacceptable. The passion and drive needs to be developed on the inside so that they can change their behaviour. So the movie ‘Sket’ is the first piece of the puzzle by exposing what goes on wwith girl gangs but a reformation of education and the Literature the young people are exposed to needs to follow.
Now I wonder who will do that…