I grew up on a street in east London in the 1970 & 80s with Irish and Jamaican next door neighbours, there were people of all backgrounds on my street, growing up in a multicultural environment was an amazing gift, I was very lucky.
Even as kids, my mates and me all knew we had differences in our backgrounds but we just did what kids do best; play and have fun together, we all loved the same things and had similar hopes and aspirations. What I learned at 13 being around these friends, you couldn’t buy for 35 grand a year at Eton. but therein lies the problem; that people from multicultural backgrounds do not run the country, but people from Eton do; and they tend to be wealthy white men who are completely shielded from diversity.
Racism in the UK starts with the people at the top, and if they do it then the aggressors on the football terraces or on the streets feel their ignorance is validated. We have a prime minister who regularly uses disgraceful racist language, and the UK is currently mourning the death of a royal who once asked Australian Aborigines whether they ‘still throw spears at each other’. some may say this is typical upper class banter and popular commentators regularly call them ‘gaffes’ as if to exonerate them.
The royal family have been held up as the ultimate icon of nationhood for a millennia, yet I now realise that many of my friends looked at them and saw that they would never fit in a much more complex way, because they weren’t white. How is it possible apply your life with a society that constantly tells you that you can never attain its highest position?
Even for all of the awful racism and violence that has troubled the US its system allowed Obama to represent the aspirations of all American children to dream no matter what their colour or background, America proved that a black man could be its head of state and in doing so lifted the glass ceiling off millions of lives. in the UK we have no such system, we have an outdated, racist, feudal monarchy. we do not live in a democracy. the fact that the highest position in the country can only be occupied by a white aristocratic person defines everything that's wrong with the country on every level, especially its problem with race.
So the conversations banded around for most of my youth and professional life about the low aspirations of black youth (or tbh even the low attainment of young white working class males) in the media are simply window dressing for the fundamental issues around how we expect people to apply themselves under a system where they feel no investment because of these extreme divisions, something that seemed so distant in the innocence I felt on that Leytonstone street all those years ago, a place where multiculturalism felt like it had real positivity. It still can if the right changes are made.
Tim Stoner (b.1970) lives and works in London and Andalucia, Spain. He studied at Norwich School of Art (1989-92), The Royal College of Art (1992-94) and The Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (1997-98). He has shown at Stuart Shave / Modern Art, London (2016, 2018 & 2020), Alison Jacques Gallery, London (2007), The Approach, London (2000 & 2002), The Whitechapel Gallery (2015), The Stedilijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam (2002) and has also been included in group shows at the ICA, London (The Futures 1st Prize Winner in 2001), Berliner Guggenheim (2005), Frankfurter Kunstverein (2003), Tounta Art Centre, Athens (2004), Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2003), Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York (2003) and Kunst Im Tunnel, Frankfurter Kunsthalle (2011).
He was Wingate Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome in 2001, and has also previously received a Foundation for Sport and the Arts Award, Boise Travel Scholarship, Delfina Residency award (Malaga) and an Erasmus Scholarship to the Hochschule Der Kunste, Berlin. his work will be featured in the forthcoming publication 'The Anomie Review of Contemporary British Painting'