Last Sunday I went to see a film about aliens attacking an estate in South London. Aliens land, people scream and blood is spilt. It sounds like a typical, albeit ridiculous, badly made alien film. ‘Attack the Block’ is not quite as it may appear from a first glance. The characters may lean towards stereotypes; the plotline may be slightly predictable but the underlying issues that the film addresses are dealt with brilliantly.
At one point Moses, the 15 year old leader of the gang of youths living in the tower block suggests that the government sent the aliens in because black people ‘aren’t killing each other fast enough, so they decided to speed up the process’. It’s a conspiracy theory alright, but one which, should aliens ever attack a block in Peckham, you could almost forgive the residents for believing.
Though there are no recent and reliable statistics on race and life expectancy it seems likely that black people do indeed live less long than their white counterparts. Black people are more likely to live in inner city areas where life expectancies are consistently lower. In an earlier blog I pointed to the fact that life expectancy in London varies up to eight years. In theUnited States, where the difference may well be more stark than in theUK, white men have life expectancies in 2003 of 75.3, while for Black men life expectancies are only 68.9. Though some non-white groups are reported to have equal levels of health to their white counterparts in the UK Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black-Caribbean people report the poorest health in the nation.
Black people are also more likely to suffer from serious mental health problems. Studies show up to 7 times higher rates of new diagnosis of psychosis among Black Caribbean people than among the White British. It’s not just natural causes that mean that ethnic minorities suffer from worse health than their white counterparts. Home office figures from a few years ago show that 1 murder victim in 5 is a member of a minority ethnic group. With a white population in theUK of 92% this means non-white are more than double as likely to be murdered as white people. Moses was on to something it seems. The tone of your skin still affects the length and quality of your life.
For a film described by one blogger as ‘the alien love child of Shane Meadows and Steven Spielberg’ it makes moving cinema. The film ends with the innocent hero of the film being carted way by the met for crimes he did not commit. And while black people are 8 times more likely to be stopped and search than white people it is a film that I hope the other white, middle class, wine sippers at my local independent cinema take seriously.