Grassroot responses from the Black community towards the race riots of the 1980s


Much of the literature on the topic of race relations and rioting is consumed by state narratives and those of elites as opposed to uncovering the voices of Black people who have endured, lived through and shaped their culture and lives around these concepts. This article builds upon existing work on race relations, providing agency to the Black community to articulate their rightful lived experiences, emotions and perceptions of the riots and issues of race relations during the 1980s. Grassroot experiences of the Black community will be compared to academic outputs relating to race relations and rioting regarding how such responses were captured in official policy, reports and secondary literature. The following research questions were addressed: What was the cause of the race riots in the 1980s? What were the subsequent reactions? What methods of resistance were utilised by the Black community? What was the impact of government officials and policies in response to the race riots? Contrary to popular sentiments, the events of the 1980s were not due to the innate criminality and delinquent culture of Black people, rather, humane reactions towards the poverty and criminalisation afforded to Black people by the state in which they were retaliating and responding in solidarity against. 

By including the academic works of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy this article incorporates emerging narratives which reiterate the aforementioned points. Through incorporating the cultural output of Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Agard and Benjamin Zephaniah a realistic presentation is offered of the experiences of criminalisation and racialisation endured by Black men, their recollections and their views on reforms.


Race, Rioting, Institutional racism, Police, Grassroot responses, 1980s

How to Cite

Bibi, M., (2023) “Grassroot responses from the Black community towards the race riots of the 1980s”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 9(1). doi:


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Marva Bibi (University of Leicester)





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This article has been peer reviewed.

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