Tag Archives: racism

Thuggery

All civilised people have been deeply shocked by the death of the black American George Floyd, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Floyd).

The death of George Floyd has, very naturally aroused strong emotions and has lled to demonstrations (most of them peaceful), protesting at his death, and calling for reform of the US police and judicial system, which the demonstrators see as biased against black people. Given the extremely tense situation (and the need for a fair trial of the officers involved), I wont comment on the case itself, as I don’t wish to further inflame an already extremely tense situation. I do, however wish to comment on the actions of a minority of those who have/are protesting over the tragic death of George Floyd.

I understand the sense of sadness and anger felt by those who have taken to the streets to protest at the death of George Floyd and what they see as indemic racism in the US judicial and policing systems. A small minority are, however participating in acts of vandalism which can, in no way be excused.

An example of the vandalism refered to above concerns the removal of a statue of the Bristol slave merchant Edward Colston and the throwing of it into the harbour by demonstrators, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Colston).
The Black Lives Matter demonstrators where incensed that a statue of a merchant who had been a participant in the transatlantic slave trade continued to stand in a public place, so took the action outlined above.

Now, no reasonable person is going to defend slavery. The idea of buying and selling human beings is abhorrent, as is the belief (which underpinned the trade in human lives) that black people are racialy inferior to white people. However Colston’s statue represents an important part of British history. It is not a noble aspect of our past. It is, nonetheless part of the historical record and vandalising a statue of a slave trader does nothing to bring back those who cruely suffered as a consequence of slavery, nor does it assist, in any shape or form in achieving justice for George Floyd and his family and friends.

However abhorrent the practice of slavery is (and it is undoubtedly a vile practice), we must (however hard it is to do so) look at men such as Colston in the context of the time in which they lived. Opposition to slavery was not widespread during Colston’s lifetime, indeed it had widespread support. This fact does not, of course mean that slavery can, in any sense be justified. It does, however mean that we need to show some objectivity when viewing men such as Edward Colston.

Prior to the criminal removal of the statue, discussions had taken place regarding the placing of a plaque mentioning Colston’s involvement in the slave trade, together with his donations to local charities. Such discussions where still ongoing at the time of the statue’s forceable removal. In my view the affixing of a plaque revealing the history of the man (warts and all) would have been the correct course of action, rather than the act of vandalism which took place.

Of course, if we all took it into our heads to remove statues because of our dislike of the persons they celebrate, there would be chaos. We all have our heroes and vilains. Take, for example the statue of Engels which stands in the city of Manchester, (https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/soviet-engels-statue). Whilst neither Engels nor Marx can be blamed for the crimes of Lenin, Stalin and other Communist dictators, the ideology of Marxism has led to the deaths of millions of human beings in Stalin’s Gulags and Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Whilst I can well understand why someone who had suffered under Communism might well want to pull down Engels statue, I would not defend them where they to do so. Engels lived for 30 years in Manchester and can be regarded as a prominent citizen. Those on the far-left who cheered on the vandalism of Colston’s statue, would be hopping mad where the same treatment to be meted out to that of Engels. They would rightly condemn the pulling down of Engels as criminal damage. So, to those who support the destruction of statues of people who they find objectionable, is it now open season for anyone (and everyone) to deface statues of people they dislike?

Of course human life is more important than property. However the tragic death of George Floyd does not excuse the acts of thuggery committed by a minority of those who claim to act for the betterment of the lives of black people.

Racism

This is a difficult post to write. As someone born and raised in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, I have, for as long as I can remember, had (and still have) a deep love for the culture and traditions of these islands.

Britain has been instrumental in assisting in the spread of parliamentary democracy across the globe. And Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens are literary figures known and celebrated throughout the world.

The area in which I live is composed of groups from all over the world. Friendships (and love) exist across the artificial barriers of race which is, of course as it should be for love and friendship should not be dependent on skin colour, religious affiliation (or the lack thereof), or any other artificial barrier.

Yesterday evening I popped into a pub with the intention of enjoying a few pints and perhaps catching up with a few of the regulars there. I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with a customer when another drinker said to the young man behind the bar “you don’t belong here”. It was an ugly thing to say, as the gentleman serving behind the bar is of asian heritage. He was, however born and grew up in London and is as British as I (a white man) am.

I don’t usually embroil myself in other people’s business. However I did say that what had been said was wholly unacceptable and that the young man behind the bar did belong here/was British.

I have, of course come across the expression of racist opinions previously. However these have been in the form of diatribes and/or rather more veiled comments regarding people who are not white. This was, however, the first time I had seen racism directed at an individual human being and it upset me.

The target of the abuse is, I believe 19, while the abuser is considerably older. Other than the racial element (which is shocking in the extreme), I felt that the man uttering the racist comments felt emboldened by the youth of the barman. I don’t believe that he would have aimed such abuse at a non-white person of his own (or similar) age.

After the incident, the young man behind the bar thanked me for my intervention. All I could say in response, was that I was upset by what the customer had said, but obviously not as upset as he (the barman) must have been.

The London School of Economics has a good article about the spike in “hate crime” following the referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/03/19/hate-crime-did-spike-after-the-referendum-even-allowing-for-other-factors/.

Of course many people who voted in favour of leaving the EU are not racists (and members of the non-white communities did, themselves vote in different ways, some for leaving the EU and others in favour of remaining). It should also be pointed out that there are undoubtedly amongst those who voted for remain, people who harbour racist opinions. However one can not ignore the spike in crimes of hate following the Brexit Referendum, or say that racism did not play a part in explaining why some Leavers voted to leave the EU.

I do believe in immigration controls. This is a small island and one can not ignore the adverse impact that uncontrolled immigration would have on the country. However immigration controls should not be based on race, but should be predicated on the needs of the economy, and bringing families together (where relatives are already legally present in the UK). In short, racism is an ugly cancer which has no place in a decent, tolerant society which is, at bottom what Britain is.

If Gandhi Was A Racist, Who Then Shall We Honour?

Back in 2016, Oxford University announced that it would not bow to the demands of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and the statue of Cecil Rhodes would remain, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-35435805.

The Rhodes scholarship enables students to benefit from funds left in the will of the late Cecil Rhodes, irrespective of skin colour. However, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign contend that Rhodes was an “imperialist” and a “racist” and his statue has no place on the campus of Oriel College, Oxford.

I smiled with wry humour when I learned that radical students at Manchester University are objecting to the erection of a statue of Gandhi on the grounds that he described black people as “savages” and “dirty (amongst other offensive terms of abuse), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/manchester-council-urged-reject-mahatma-gandhi-statue-racism.

Let me be crystal clear. I did not smile at the offensive words used by Gandhi. Racism is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner. We all share a common humanity and skin colour does not define the value of a person, as value inheres in us all by virtue of our common humanity. Why then the reason for my wry smile? If Gandi can be attacked, who, then deserves a statue erected in their name? Please, someone show me the individual (living or dead) who is so saintly that they deserve a statue.

Both Rhodes and Gandhi where products of their time as, indeed are we all. In times to come those of us (including myself) who enjoy eating meat may be viewed by posterity as uncivilised, cruel individuals who predated on the inocent animal kingdom. Who, then will erect a statue to one of the meat eaters of today, irrespective of their charitable deeds, literary talent or whatever?

Will the vegetarians of today (or the future) be considered worthy of statues? What about the non meat eater who is a serial adulterer and treats his wives with utter contempt. If he is a great artist will his poor treatment of his wife be overlooked and a statue be erected in his name? Or will the policers of morals jump up and down and say “over my dead body”?

As Hamlet remarks, “treat every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping”. I answer few, if any of us, for we are all imperfect humans, living in a complex and imperfect world. So, no, Rhodes statue should not fall and those agitating for it to do so should find something more useful to do with their time.

Kevin

Legacy

Some things
Have wings
Of light,
While others fly at night
Their poison carrying down the years,
Provoking bitter tears.

One such has gone
But his legacy lives on
In those who can not wait
To employ their knuckles tattooed with “Hate”.

An intelligent man
Frequently can
Do more harm
Than a stupid one,
For he is possessed of charm
And learning to.
True he has gone
But the bitterness lives on.

The word “fascist” is ugly to me
And I can not agree
With those who would label him so,
Yet I know
That it is possible to stoke
The fire and deplore the thuggish smoke
On which we all choke.

This is not quite fair
As there where
Racists ere
He spoke.
Yet he threw a match
Which did catch
Provoking flame
Blame
And smoke.

The Rise Of The Finnish Far-Right Soldiers Of Odin

Yesterday’s Daily Mail (4 February)carries a worrying article regarding the rise of the far-right Soldiers of Odin in Finland, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3426685/Nazi-daggers-SS-hats-hangman-s-noose-night-patrol-Soldiers-Odin-neo-Nazi-led-vigilantes-vowing-Europe-s-women-safe-migrant-sex-attacks.html. The group patrol the streets of Finland at night and there is evidence their presence is causing fear within the immigrant community.

Fragile

Sadness
And madness
Bares fruit
On the London commute.
“White people think we live in trees.
Please
Tell
How I ring the bell”.
She is unwell
Her mind full of some song
Of real or imagined wrong.
“Stolen from Africa” she says.
Soon we will go our separate ways.
Her days
Full of god knows what.
The train stops
And she gets off.
Has there been racism in this lady’s life?
Or is it some other strife
That made her rant and shout
As we travellers went about
Our daily commute.
I can not get to the root
of it
A mind shattered into bits.

This morning while traveling on the train, a lady who described herself as coming from Zimbabwe addressed her fellow commuters. Among other things she said that white people believe Africans still live in trees and asked that someone tell her how to ring the bell (the communication cord to stop the train).
I don’t know what was going on in this lady’s head (no one had said anything to provoke her outburst) and I can only conclude she is in need of medical help.

With Respect …

In my experience the 3 little words “I’m not being … ”, (insert the relevant missing word of your choice) are often the precursor for an insult or other offensive comment.

  1. “I’m not being rude, but …”. Meaning – I am going to say something insulting. I am, however going to deny my intention to be rude.
  2. “With respect…”. Meaning – I have no respect for you or the ideas you are expressing. I am, however going to use those words as a figleaf to hide the fact I’m insulting you.
  3. “I’m not racist but …”. Meaning – I hold highly reprehensible views on race. I am, in fact a racist bigot.
  4. “Some of my best friends are …”. Meaning – I don’t like this particular group of people, however I hope to disguise this fact by using the forgoing words.
  5. “Its not you, its me …”. Meaning – It is (in my opinion) entirely down to you that this relationship (insert relevant example) isn’t working. I am, however going to let you down gently by pretending that it is all my fault.

Shakespeare’s words, “One may smile and be a villain” spring to mind.

 

Harper Lee, Author Of “To Kill A Mocking Bird” To Publish New Novel

An interesting piece in The Telegraph about the author of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Harper Lee who will shortly publish (after a silence of 55 years) her second novel entitled “To Set A Watchman”, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8485628/Why-Harper-Lee-remained-silent-for-so-many-years.html). The New York Times also contains a good piece which focuses, more particularly on Lee’s new novel, “To Set A Watchman” which is due out in July of this year, (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/books/harper-lee-author-of-to-kill-a-mockingbird-is-to-publish-a-new-novel.html?_r=0).

Dining With Enoch

London is a melting pot with people from all parts of the world living, working and sometimes loving together. The lady who assists me in formatting my books and other administrative tasks is black British. Her boyfriend is white. This is, to me a sign of progress, that love and friendship can overcome racial and other differences.

Unfortunately not everyone thinks in the same way. Yesterday evening as I sat in my favourite Indian restaurant enjoying a curry I overheard the following snatch of conversation

Man, “Enoch Powell was right”.

Fellow diner sitting on an adjacent table, “Yes”.

Back in April 1968, the late Enoch Powell (a member of Edward Heath’s Conservative Shadow Cabinet) delivered what has come to be known as “The Rivers of Blood” speech, so called because of the line

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like

the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.'”

Powell was referring to the racial conflict which he believed would flow from allowing non-white immigrants into the United Kingdom. He called for “voluntary repatriation” of non-white immigrants and opposed the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation.

The speech lead to Powell’s dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet and is, to this day still sighted by opponents of a multi racial society.

I have known the owner of the Indian restaurant for many years. He and his staff are wonderful, kind, charming people and it is particularly sad that a customer chose to invoke Powell’s views on race in an approving manner in that restaurant. I wonder if the speaker considered the irony of his support for Powell’s sentiments as he sat enjoying his curry in an Indian restaurant which (had Powell had his way) would, in all probability not have existed. I doubt that this gentleman has much capacity for self examination so the answer is, almost certainly no.

Ultimately love and friendship cut across racial lines and Powell’s views are, thankfully slowly dying out.

For information on Powell’s speech please go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rivers_of_Blood_speech

The Face Of Bigotry

This morning I popped into my local Whetherspoons pub for breakfast. As I sat tucking into my fry up the words of a fellow customer reached me.

“I don’t go into Croydon because of the blacks”.

The man then proceeded to regail his fellow patrons with his views on race relations which where reminiscent of those expounded by the late Enoch Powell in his “Rivers Of Blood” speech delivered on 20 April 1968, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/3643823/Enoch-Powells-Rivers-of-Blood-speech.html. The speech derived it’s title from Powell’s statement

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like

the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

I am white and my first girlfriend was of West Indian origin but born in the UK which makes her as British as I am. It is not the colour of a person’s skin but what lies within which renders them human. The colour of one’s skin is a mere accident of birth and to imply (as my fellow pub goer did) that an entire section of the population ought to be avoided due to the colour of their skin is monstrous. I was sorely tempted to walk across and express my displeasure to the speaker, however this would have served no purpose other than making me feel better and could have resulted in a blazing argument. Such an argument would have benefited no one so I held my tongue.

One of the strengths of the area in which I live is that people of many races live together in harmony. People are just that, people. Skin colour is surface deep, it is the heart which beats within that matters.