In this article Elliot Ross says Scotland should take responsibility for the major and highly lucrative role it played in the transatlantic slave trade. He refers to a recent BBC documentary, Slavery: Scotland's Hidden Shame, which followed the publication of a major book. It gave a thorough and critical expose of an aspect of Scottish history that has often been ignored or else reduced to little more than a footnote beneath grander and more comfortable narratives about Scotland's distinctive scientific and intellectual contributions to modernity. Recent emphasis on Scottish participation in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade has come at the expense of a proper understanding of the ways in which Scottish institutions and elites were enriched by chattel slavery. This "structural amnesia compounds the original injury and extends the contempt for black life that made the transatlantic slavery economy possible to begin with." Read the full article here.
In this article in today's Independent, Deana Heath, senior lecturer in Indian and colonial history at the University of Liverpool argues that the school curriculum must stop whitewashing the British empire and start being honest about the subjugation and exploitation of millions of people.
Heath says his students come to him having been educated through a school history curriculum that focuses almost entirely on English political and religious history, and knowing “practically nothing about empire and its legacies – including in Britain. The histories they have studied and texts they have read were virtually all about or by white men, so they also know nothing about the history of women or the histories of people of colour, either.”
Referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s recent proposals that British school children should be taught about the history of the realities of British imperialism and colonialism, Heath says this would “begin to redress the phenomenal gulf between academic history and the English school curriculum.” Criticism of Corbyn's proposals from people such as Jacob Rees-Mog is based in a "state of denial about empire" and demonstrates “a profound ignorance about British imperial and colonial history, particularly about the impact of empire on not only the colonised but also the colonisers as well.”
Heath's students’ experience has been that being able to interrogate difficult histories, such as that of empire, has given them “a much better understanding of themselves and their place in the world”. Which is, surely, what education is supposed to do.
Read the full article here.
An AQA GCSE sociology textbook that describes Caribbean men as "largely absent" from family situations has been withdrawn by the publisher. The main criticism is that this statement is made without any social or historical context.
Tamu Thomas from ‘Motherhood Reconstructed’ commented: ”I couldn't imagine what it would feel like if you were a black child, sitting in class and reading a statement like that. I do acknowledge that the number of families with absent fathers is higher in the black community, proportionally. But when something is put forward as fact like that without explaining the historical reasons why that might be the case, without any context, that's really dangerous. If we had an educational system that actually studied and analysed the black experience, including the impact of the slave trade and racism in society, it would be different.”
Read the full article on the BBC website.
In this article Paula Akpan laments the selective version of British history she was taught at her school. "...that I had to go looking for significant moments in black British history suggests to me that I had been kept ignorant." In school she learned about the US Civil Rights Movement, Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, and found herself wishing for such movements and heroes in her own country. This focus on racial tensions and struggles elsewhere "relieves this country of accountability".
Akan says she and many others have had to discover the history of black people in the UK for themselves through social media, discovering books such as Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race and David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. Olusoga traces this history back to Roman times, confronting the idea that black people only came here in the 50s, and states: “The denial and avowal of black British history, even in the face of mounting documentary and archaeological evidence, is not just a consequence of racism but a feature of racism.”
Read the full article here.
This recent article by Anthony Reddie, titled "The Wounded Psyche of White Privilege", trace the roots of Brexit to a new rise of an English nationalism he traces back to Elizabethan times and through the years of British Empire.
Reddie describes himself as a black liberation theologian and an anti-colonial educator, whose work over the past 20 years has been committed to challenging "the twin behemoths of alleged white superiority and black marginalisation". He states: "Whatever the merits on either side of the referendum debate, I remain convinced that the underlying socio-cultural and religious thrust of the Leave campaign was the conflation of notions of white entitlement and, as a corollary, the demonisation of black and other visible minorities in the UK."
He believes Brexit paved the way for the Windrush scandal. "The Brexit vote was a nationalistic, white-centred event that cynically used migrants as the scapegoat for the problems of the nation. The undercurrent of Brexit was a rejection of multiculturalism and the legacy of Windrush that has brought the infusion of new Christian faith communities and radical collective living born of Caribbean values and our African heritage into this nation."
Reddit also criticises the "diffidence" of the Church's response to Brexit claiming to have witnessed white church leaders showing "more care for dissatisfied and disillusioned poorer white people, who largely do not attend their churches, as opposed to black migrants who do, in disproportionately large numbers — often maintaining inner cities after they had been vacated by “white flight” in the 1980s and early ’90s."
Read the full article here.
An article by Dr Lawrence Brown claims the origins and spread of HIV can be seen as a legacy of Belgian colonisation in the Congo. "We now know that HIV-1 emerged from Leopoldville in the 1920s and spread first among African people. The colonization of the Congolese by King Leopold II and the Belgians helps explain how the virus became a global pandemic".
It also comments how the disproportionate effects of HIV on sub-Saharan African people is "... precisely because European colonization exacted tremendous violence, extracted critical resources, disrupted social structures, and weakened the health of indigenous populations. European nations broke their promise to protect and promote the welfare of the indigenous African people. Instead the Belgians dehumanized and debased African societies producing the social determinants of death that gave rise to deadly infectious diseases. HIV-1 was ignited in Leopoldville, but the resulting HIV global pandemic is also the apparition of a grotesque and horrific legacy—the European infection of mass historical trauma and the devastation of Congolese health wrought by King Leopold II, the Force Publique, and Belgian colonisation."
Read the full article here.
The shameful treatment of the 'Windrush Generation' that has come to light in recent weeks has been commented on in this article entitled 'Prejudice and Injustice' by MJR trustee Dr Clifford Hill. In it he comments: "Our mistreatment of people from the Caribbean islands goes back at least 200 years to the days of slavery under British colonial rule. This legacy of slavery has never been finally expunged from our social attitudes and culture." Read the full article here.
Edward Colston died nearly 300 years ago but remains a controversial figure in his home city of Bristol. A generous benefactor to the city, Colston has been unquestioningly venerated for many years, but with little or no mention of the fact that the fortune he donated from was generated by his trading in slaves: a major factor in Bristol's growth as a city. Bristol Council is about to recognise this aspect of his past, but this article on the BBC website asks if it going far enough. The group 'Countering Colston' has long been campaigning for this reconsideration of Colston who has dozens of streets, buildings, institutions and memorials named after him.
Bristol poet laureate Miles Chambers sums up the legacy of enslavement in Bristol: "Some people don't get that black people still feel the full impact of slavery today. We can look at the descendants of the slaves and economically they are still worse off; psychologically they are still worse off; mentally they still feel collectively as inferior; more African-Caribbean males are disproportionately in prison and in the judicial system; they do worse at schools; economically are paid less and are working less.
"The pattern continues and even though many people say slavery is over, because of those legacies we still feel enslaved. A name change or statue move is not going to rectify racism or eradicate the slave mentality that still exists, but it will help to say to black people: 'You are equal to us, you are British, you are valuable and you mean as much to us as any other citizen.'"
Read the full article here.
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.
Some strong words in this Huffington Post article, but worth a read. Racism, and the legacy of slavery, affects all of us. Which means we all need to seek to understand how other people are feeling, and be brave enough to ask ourselves: 'Could I be wrong about this?' This is harder if you don't perceive there is a problem. As the writer says: 'White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?' Read the article here...
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