Tag Archives: slavery

Statue of Black Actor and Poet Alfred Fagon Defaced in Bristol

On 9 June, I wrote a post entitled “In Defense of our Monuments”, (please see https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/06/09/in-defense-of-our-monuments/). In that article, I argued that people should be judged by the standards of their time, and condemned the actions of those who damage our monuments.

Last Sunday the statue of Edward Colsoun, a Bristol slaver, was thrown into the harbour. Now we hear that the statue of black actor and poet Alfred Fagon has been covered in a corrosive substance (possibly bleach) and an assessment is being made to determine whether it can be repaired, (please see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-53011774).

The BBC reports that “Anton Phillips, an actor and friend of Mr Fagon, said following the “dumping” of the Colston statue it “doesn’t surprise me”.” Sadly it doesn’t surprise me either. Indeed, at the time of writing my post “In Defense of Our Monuments”, I was fearful that something of this nature would happen. However I took the decision not to mention my concern lest someone happening on my post took it into their heads to target monuments erected to non-whites.

Damage to monuments is wholly unacceptable irrespective of whether they celebrate the lives of white or non-white people. I unreservedly condemn the defacing of the Fagon statue (as I do that of Winston Churchill). To rephrase the old quotation, “vandalism begets vandalism”, a fact which those who defaced Churchill’s statue, and threw Colston’s into Bristol harbour, should have considered before embarking on their criminal damage.

Anyone who damages our monuments should be subject to the full force of the law. Heavily fined and/or imprisoned. Its simply not acceptable for thuggery of this nature to take place in the UK.

In Defense of our Monuments

(If you have not read this post, https://kmorrispoet.com/2020/06/08/thuggery/, you may wish to do so prior to reading the below).

Back in 2016, I composed my poem Rhodes, in response to the demands of Oxford students that the statue of Cecil Rhodes should be removed from Oxford University. A recording of me reading that poem can be found below. My apologies for the less than perfect quality of the recording.

The ongoing demonstrations by Black Lives Matter has led to renewed calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from the campus of Oriel College. And the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has announced the establishment of a Commission to examine whether landmarks such as statues should be removed from the streets and squares of London. (See https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/uk-statues-protest-movement-scli-intl-gbr/index.html.

As reported by CNN (please see the above link), protesters daubed, “was a racist” on the statue of Winston Churchill, whilst others placed a plaque on the 18th-century Scottish philosopher, David Hume accusing him of racism.

Churchill was a product of his time and (as with many other men and women of all political parties and walks of life) undoubtedly held views which would now be considered racist. He did, however lead Britain through World War II and was an artist and author of some distinction. Consequently to mindlessly brand Churchill as “was a racist” shows the crass stupidity of whoever took it into their tiny head to vandalise the statue of a great war leader and prime minister. Churchill was much more than a “racist” and I’ve nothing but contempt for the person or persons who saw fit to deface his statue.

Turning to David Hume. Hume was one of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment. To single out his “racism” whilst disregarding his philosophical achievements beggers belief. As with Churchill, Hume was a product of his age and should be viewed in that light.

I wonder where all this will stop. In the city of my birth, Liverpool there have been calls (I suspect by a tiny minority) to have Penny Lane renamed due to it having gained it’s title from a merchant with interests in the slave trade, James Penny. The University of Liverpool has already bowed to student pressure and renamed Gladstone Hall, due to the association of the 19th-century prime Minister’s family with slavery, (see https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-mayor-joe-anderson-responds-18391938).

Whatever their origin (ignoble or noble), street names, monuments etc become part of communities, interwoven into the fabric of society and we should be wary of simply removing them merely because a vociferous minority clamour for us to do so. Its often said that “he who shouts loudest gets heard”. This is, unfortunately often the case even when the person (or persons) shouting loudest are not representative of the wider community or of society.

Most inhabitants of these islands rightly admire Churchill and are attached to their locality (including street names and monuments). Unfortunately the vast majority do not tend to get heard, partly owing to the disinclination of many people to become actively involved in politics. Sadly this often means that the loud mouths (such as the person or persons who vandalised Churchill’s statue) get heard, whilst the silent majority do not.

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.

Who Then Is The Slave?

Is the young woman who knocks on the door
At just gone midnight
In heels, and oh so
Short dress, (and we all know what she is there for),
A slave
Even if she be paid?

And what of the lady who cleans the floor?
The well paid “whore”
Receives much more.
If both be paid,
Who then is the slave?

The midnight visitor may
Have a pimp to pay
But ’tis by no
Means always so.
Yet, if the man has no idea
Whether she comes out of fear
Is he a slave master
Complicit in a disaster?

But what of the cleaner brutalised by a boyfriend
Who all her money does spend
On drink,
Although she be paid
Do you not think
That she also is a slave?

Should only black teachers teach black children about slavery?

Some time ago, I came across this post, https://solifegoeson.com/2017/12/20/white-teachers-who-teach-black-kids-about-slavery-piss-me-off/. I commented, however as my comment was not published I feel compelled to state my opinion here.

In the above post the author argues (essentially) that white teachers should not teach black children about slavery because they (the teachers) do not understand the experience of non-white people (the prejudice faced by those who’s skin is black). At the end of the post the blogger does recommend that one way forward is for those who teach to come from a greater diversity of backgrounds. However the whole tone of the article is hostile to the concept of the teaching of slavery to black children by white teachers.

I am not black. I am, however disabled (I am registered blind). Throughout history disabled people have faced discrimination. This discrimination manifested itself in various forms, including the forced sterilisation of those with disabilities on eugenic grounds. Eugenics reached horrific heights during the Third Reich when Nazi doctors, SS officers and nurses murdered the disabled under the T-4 programme. Indeed the use of gas was first employed on the disabled prior to it being used to exterminate approximately 6 million Jews (men, women and children). You can find out about Action T4 here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_T4.

I don’t, as a disabled person, (nor as someone who holds a degree in history and politics) argue that only disabled people are capable of teaching about the T4 Programme. To argue thus would be narrow minded on my part. Yes, as a disabled person I face difficulties and (on occasions) discrimination not encountered by non-disabled people, however those possessing empathy/those of goodwill can understand (and teach) about such matters.

It concerns me that if we carry the argument promulgated in the above article to its logical conclusion, that only disabled people will teach about disability related matters, only women will lecture on the discrimination faced by women throughout the ages etc. This risks leading to a closed academic environment, one in which I don’t wish to live.

Slavery Museum

Walking around the Museum of Slavery, in Liverpool
I come face-to-face with the cruel
Past
Where ships crossed the ocean vast
With their human cargo.

Many a negro
Slave
Paid for beautiful properties to be built
By Liverpool merchants who gave
Generously to charity
To set themselves free
From guilt.

Its true
That slavery isn’t new.
It was practiced in Greek and Roman time,
Yet the crime
Of the transatlantic slave trade
Has made
More of a mark
Perhaps because those of lighter skin
Committed the sin
Of taking those of dark
Complexion
From their native land,
Which was a rejection
Of the truth that beneath the skin
We are one in nature
(Or god the creator),
Depending on your view
Of what is true.

Our love died long ago
And I know
Not what Happened to you.
But I remember walking through
That place
Just Two lovers of different race …

(http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/).
(https://lovelycurses.com/2018/02/01/black-poetry-writing-month-traveling-through-time-slavery/).

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.

Book Review – Trafficked: The Diary Of A Sex Slave By Sybil Hodge

I recently read Trafficked: The Diary Of A sex Slave by Sybil Hodge. Below is my review of Hodge’s (fictional) account of people trafficking,

 

“A gripping account of a young woman tricked into becoming a prostitute by a person previously regarded as a friend. The victim is trafficked first to Italy

then, on attempting to escape is moved to the UK where she is forced to have sex with wealthy men in a luxury apartment. I won’t spoil the ending but would

recommend Hodge’s book”.

(for the original review on Amazon please visit the following link, http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R22AQIBFX62W5O/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B005GAC5VQ).

Racism In America

Today’s Daily Mail has an article about the role played by black people in the history of the White House. The majority of those who built the White House where negro slaves while until very recently black servants where not considered equal with their white counterparts. I was, obviously aware of the history of racial segregation in the United States, however this article provided me with information of which I was previously unaware. For the article please visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2510890/New-film-The-Butler-reveals-White-Houses-shameful-history.html?ico=home

Forthcoming Book Promotion

I hope to be in a position to give away my story, Samantha free for 5 days. I published Samantha using Kindle Select which allows titles registered with the programme to be provided, free of charge for a period of 5 days every 90 days. I originally provided Samantha free in early March so, by my reckoning I should be able to do likewise in June. Please watch this space.

Samantha tells the story of a young girl forced into prostitution in the English city of Liverpool. Can Sam escape her life of sex slavery or will she end her days in the murky waters of Liverpool’s Albert Docks.