The causes of stabbings in the black community cannot be understood from intellectual or prejudicial positions, argues Julian Lee, while Nick Moss thinks widely used definitions of such crimes are part of the problem. Plus letters from Alan Clark and Linda Marriott

It is acknowledged that columnists like Afua Hirsch (Rod Liddle is wrong about black deaths, 16 January) write stuff that is a reflection of their views; what is harder to accept is when those views are informed only by intellectual or prejudicial positions. Both Hirsch and Liddle arrive at conclusions about the causes of black teenage deaths (predominantly in London) without having had adequate (or perhaps any) experience of this tragedy on the ground.

Although the majority of black boys in London achieve well in school and thereafter, a few things cannot be denied: black boys in London are massively over-represented in stabbings; black-on-black violence is significantly gang-related; gangs in London are crime-focused; the age of recruitment and grooming of young people for gang activity is dropping to primary school levels. Poverty and deprivation (of life chances and opportunity) can drive boys and young men into violent criminal activity. When male role models for these boys are neighbourhood gang elders (often replacing absent fathers) and a “gangsta” culture prevails, the boys stand little chance of escaping.

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