Stop smearing anti-racist skinheads, please

<span>Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

You do a disservice to the complex cult of the skinhead in your quick crossword (26 January). Despite the awareness and slight distancing effect implied by the question mark in the clue – “Racist or violent person?” – my heart sank. Am I alone? The compiler could at least have started with “Stereotypically…”

Of course, there is a very nasty history of racism and violence associated with the cult, in Britain and elsewhere, which needs to be remembered, understood and responded to when any such racism and violence resurface.

Equally, however, there are other, more nuanced histories. One is still being written, by the later waves of skins and rude boys inspired by the hugely popular two-tone movement of the late 1970s and 80s, which was and remains an explicitly anti-racist and anti-violent movement, albeit one that sadly attracted racist and violent elements at the time. There have been and continue to be many other iterations of the “good skinhead” since.

Indeed some skinheads, and ex-skinheads – those of a certain age who still wear smartly retro skinhead clobber, some of whom write for your paper – would, I know, consider themselves just as warm, kind, sympathetic, thoughtful, intelligent and non-racist and non-violent as, say, Shane Meadows’ Woody and co in the This Is England series, which did at least try to redress the cliches via a more sympathetic portrayal of white (and black), working-class skinheads in Thatcher’s Britain.

These were me and my mates and thousands of others – these are the other skinheads who should also be remembered.
Dr Sean Purchase
Brentford, London