In this new two-part documentary staring at 10pm tonight on Channel 4, rapper Professor Green explores why many working class white men feel demonised, forgotten and angry. One of the issues he looks into is that of educational failure among children from poor white communities – particularly boys, who get the poorest GCSE results and are the least likely to go to university. This is an issue MJR has investigated as part of our 'Proving Legacy' research. Read more about 'Working Class White Men' and the educational attainment problem in this interview with Professor Green.
This year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, running from January 18 to 25, reflects on the experience of the churches of the Caribbean, which includes the legacy of slavery.
Bob Fyffe writes that: "This particular Caribbean experience is a challenge to us in our context to reflect more deeply on the injustices in our own nations in Britain and Ireland which create the divisions that impede our participation in God’s mission, with the call to actively work to end all division."
"The contemporary context is deeply marked by the history of the colonialism which stripped people of their identity, dignity and freedom. Christian missionary activity, closely tied to the colonial system, seemed to support, encourage and excuse it. During five-hundred years of the colonial system, scripture was used to justify the enslavement of the indigenous people. In a dynamic reversal, those same scriptures became the inspiration and motivation for people to reclaim their liberty. Recognising the hand of God in the ending of enslavement, the Caribbean Christians offer Exodus 15, a song of triumph over oppression, as the motif of the Week of Prayer."
More information on the week of prayer can be found here and resources downloaded here.
In this hard-hitting blog for the William Temple Foundation, Greg Smith considers white, male privilege and the role of the Church in a world still beset by racial inequality. Despite some progress in the past forty years Smith laments that still "so little has been achieved in the struggle against oppression and the legacy of colonialism and slavery", and that being white, male, middle-class and university educated (as he readily admits he himself is) still confers significant social and economic privilege over all others.
"Despite all the enquiries and reports, and equality and diversity policies, institutional racism remains in place and life chances in education, employment, income, the criminal justice system, health and housing are significantly higher for white middle and upper class people living in the south of England than for any of the minority ethnic communities. Violent hate crimes are frequent and tend to peak when political events give permission for racist thuggery, verbal and online abuse goes on unchecked and subtle forms of racism expressed in a look, body language or unfavourable customer service are an everyday experience."
As for the Church, again while there is much work and progress to be commended, still for the most part there is white male domination, particularly of leadership, and unwillingness to address issues of legacy. “Conversations about colonial history in white-led evangelical circles often begin and end with a self congratulatory, virtue signalling narrative around Wilberforce and the abolitionists, plus a mention of the great Christian leadership of Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu.” Read the full blog here.
This Guardian article from 2015 outlines a walking tour of key sites of Manchester's radical history. This of course includes 'Peterloo' in 1819 where sword-wielding cavalry charged into a defenceless crowd who had gathered to call for parliamentary reform, leaving 15 dead and more than 600 injured. Several of the speakers were also involved in the fight to abolish slavery, one of a number of parallels in Manchester's history. “It was the largest crowd ever gathered at that point in British history,” says radical historian Michael Herbert. “The sight of the British army attacking its own people was unusual, almost unprecedented. It was a really shocking event with reverberations that went on throughout the nineteenth century.”
Those reverberations can still be felt and echoes of Peterloo can be heard today. As Herbert has said more recently, the event: "was about political reform as a response to hunger, unemployment and poverty, which has inescapable parallels with food bank Britain in 2017." Peterloo has been described elsewhere as "a war on the emerging working class movement".
With Peterloo's 200th Anniversary coming up on 16 August 2019, this walking tour would be a good way to familiarise yourself with Manchester's history of political protest and campaigning for economic and social justice. An extra stop to find out more about Peterloo and other significant events would be the People's History Museum (on the map on Bridge Street to the West of point D).
The recent debate about whether Liverpool University should re-name its Gladstone building due to the former Prime Minister's support of colonial slavery raised some interesting comments, including this Guardian article by Michael Rosen. The number of buildings, roads, bridges, rivers etc named after historical figures with reputations at least partially forged in Britain's Colonial past is huge, to say nothing of the many statues. This is particularly the case in places like Liverpool and Bristol where the slave trade played a major role in their growth as cities. And just think of the number of 'Victorias' here and in former colonies around the world.
As Rosen points out, simply re-naming may not be the best thing to do. "Let’s never forget: these were crimes against humanity. Simply taking away their names might in a paradoxical way serve the forces of occlusion, quietly sifting away these leaders and perpetrators." He suggests an alternative would be "to rename buildings, but in situ under the heading “Formerly known as …”, giving us the chance to read about that person’s history and indeed the reasons for the renaming." Read the article here.
The Government’s Race Disparity Audit, published yesterday along with an Ethnicity Facts and Figures website has revealed significant differences in the life outcomes of British ethnic minority and white people. The report reveals that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are twice as likely to be unemployed than white British adults and that white British pupils on free school meals perform worse in school than any other group. The Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomed the report saying that "focused action" was now needed. Others have pointed out that many of these statistics were already common knowledge – see for example MJR's research into educational attainment – and "decades of reports" and talking needed to become action. Kimberley Macintosh of the Runnymede Trust commented: "With the Race Disparity Audit bringing injustice and inequality out of obscurity and into the mainstream – raw and exposed – it’s time to act." The Runnymede Trust have also just published a report showing that austerity is hitting Black and Asian women the hardest.
Read more from the Guardian and Independent. Download the Race Disparity Audit and visit the website.
A new study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank claims that Government figures for the number of children permanently excluded from school are “the tip of the iceberg”, with five times more children being educated in schools for excluded pupils than official data suggests. The official figure is 6,685 – itself a 40% rise in three years –, but PPR estimate the true hidden figure is closer to 48,000, with boys outnumbering girls by 3 to 1. A report in the Guardian on the study notes that: "Black pupils from Caribbean backgrounds are still significantly overrepresented in pupil referral units, though most pupils (70%) are white British." The correlation to poorer white pupils (as measured by free school meals) is also clear. This research echoes findings shared by MJR at our Proving Legacy event last year. Read the IPPR report here.
'Journeying to Justice' is a new book edited by Antony Reddie which explores the search for equality and justice amongst British and Jamaican Baptists amidst the legacy of colonialism, slavery and racism. The book will be launched at Luther King House in Manchester on Monday 6th November 6:30-9pm. There will also be a lecture by Antony Reddie and Richard Kidd. Organised by Luther King House, the Centre for Theology and Justice, and the Baptist Union. For further info and how to book click here.
Manchester prospered from the horrors of slavery for much of the 18th century. Yet by the end of that era the growing, newly-industrialised town was leading the campaign for its abolition. The turning point was a meeting held at the Manchester Collegiate Church (now Manchester Cathedral) on 28 October 1787 led by the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.
Find out about Clarkson and others such as Bright, Cobden, the Gregg and Heywood families and the unique relationship with Abraham Lincoln on this guided walk around Manchester city centre. October 18, 2-4pm. Tickets available here.
Also, on October 12, 6-30 to 8.30pm, there will be a talk: 'Slavery and Abolition in Manchester' at the Portico Library. Tickets and more information available here.
On Monday September 11 MJR held its second gathering to present research into aspects of the legacy of slavery. Called 'Talking Legacy', presentations were made by Nigel Peacock ('The Legacy of Slavery: Towards an Aetiology of African-Caribbean Mental Health') and Alton Bell ('Physical Health Research: The outcome of African Chattel Enslavement circa 1500-1800. A presentation of the suggested link between the legacy of the enslavement of Africans in the Caribbean and the propensity of their descendants to develop debilitating diseases'). These can now also be downloaded from our Resources page. A lively discussion followed with a number of interesting comments and questions that might suggest future research (such as: What about the other side of the legacy of enslavement i.e. that left on the white population?)
The day also included the MJR AGM with reports on activities over the last year and some exciting plans taking shape for the future, which we hope to be able to go fully public on soon.
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