My Email to Simon Webb of History Debunked on Ideologies of Black Colonisation and the Slave Trade

I sent a couple of emails to various people last week discussing and attacking what I believe to be a dangerous form of anti-White racism within Black Lives Matter and similar Black, allegedly anti-racist activism. One of these was to Simon Webb, the vlogger behind History Debunked. Now Webb is a Torygraph-reading right-winger, who believes in the Bell curve stuff about Blacks having, on average, lower intelligence than Whites. It’s dangerous stuff and did lead to the passage of discriminatory immigration and eugenics legislation. But Webb does not believe in eugenics – indeed, he criticises it in one of his videos. He also denies being racist and states that he has many Black friends and has been involved in their education. He’s certainly provided evidence of this with photos of himself surrounded by Black children, to whom he’s reading. Now I’m aware that some of his statements must be taken with a pinch of salt. Both Brian Burden and Trev have shown very clearly that some British authorities, at least, were appealing to Caribbean workers to come to Britain at the time of the Windrush migration. But there are others posts he’s made where he cites his sources and where it seems that he is almost certainly correct.

I sent him this email as it describes my own experience of briefly collaborating with the Black And Asian Studies Association, and their hardly subtle anti-White bias. He has also discussed in several of his posts the apparent desire to airbrush Black African slavery out of history. This tallies with my experience in Bristol recently, where Cleo Lake and Asher Craig, in their demands for reparations for slavery for all ‘Afrikans’ seem to be determined to put the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans and Americans. While this is a private email, I hope it clarifies some of the reasons why I am so deeply suspicious and opposed to some of the policies now being articulated by the Black Lives Matter movement and associated activist groups.

I am very much aware that anti-Black structural racism exists, and have Black and Asian friends and colleagues who have suffered the most terrible abuse and threats simply because of their colour. But I don’t believe the distorted history and identity politics of BLM are helping the matter. Indeed, I firmly believe that they are driving White and Black apart, and that they are assisting the Tories by providing them unintentionally with material they can exploit to divide the great British working class.

Dear Simon,

I hope you will forgive my contacting you like this rather than commenting on your great YouTube channel. I’ve been watching your videos for a little while. Although I have to say that we probably don’t have the same party political views, I do share your concerns with the way myth and deliberate falsifications which are now being passed as authentic Black history by activists, educators and the media., I thought you might be interested to hear of my experiences with certain Black groups.

Way back in the 1990s and very early years of the present century I did voluntary work at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum at Bristol’s Temple Meads station. I really enjoyed working there, and met some great people, which include Black volunteers and historians. I was tasked with putting together a database of the Museum’s holdings on slavery. These were mostly copies of text documents and official papers the Museum had acquired from the Commonwealth Office. There was also a library of books people had kindly donated to the museum. These included not just the classic texts and studies against transatlantic slavery but also contemporary studies, including those of it in modern Black Africa. I also briefly cooperated with a Black organisatiion, the Black and Asian Studies Association in providing them with materials for Black history week. 

This cooperation ended when I had a look at a copy of their wretched magazine. I think it was number 32/33. I took immediate exception to the tone. While there were exceptions, the attitude behind most of it was that all White people were automatically racist unless shown to be otherwise. Moreover, that issue came out after the Observer had run an article predicting that by the middle years of this century, Whites would be a minority in Britain. The magazine simply reported this in its ‘things you should know about’ column. However, a few lines later it sternly rejected any limits on Black and Asian immigration to Britain as racist, and stated that Blacks needed their own, special, exclusive spaces. This is, in my view, colonialist. It resembles what we did in our colonies. 

I sent them a reply, which reminded them that certain parts of the Arab world also enslaved Blacks, backed up by an obituary in the Independent of a Sudanese Black civil rights activist, who had been told by his Arab compatriots that Blacks shouldn’t be educated and were to be used as slaves. I also pointed out that there was unreported class of White poor in South Africa, as covered by another piece in the Independent about a photographic exhibition of works on them, ‘Outlands’, as well as other bits and pieces. They sent me back a letter telling me not go get in touch with them again.

A few years agoafter I left the museum, I tried writing a book based on the material I had amassed at the Museum. This was rejected by the mainstream publishers, so I have had it self-published with Lulu. It’s in two volumes, and is entitled The Global Campaign. In it, I tried to set British transatlantic slavery in its wider imperial setting. America and the Caribbean weren’t the only British slave colonies. There was also Cape Colony, Mauritius, Ceylon and India, as well as the kidnapping of girls in Hong Kong, and slavery in Java and Sumatra. I also covered the infamous ‘coolie trade’ and the enslavement of indigenous Pacific Islanders.

And that, I believe, is one of the reasons why I think I was turned down. Slavery and its history has always been linked to Black civil rights activism ever since W.E.B. Dubois, who wanted equality for Black in America and independence for Black Africa. The problem here is that much of the slavery the British pledged to end was indigenous. It was by other Blacks in Africa, as well as by Arabs, Indians, Sri Lankans and the peoples of modern Malaya and Malaysia. It contradicts the cosy, received narrative that it was all Whites’ fault.

I also believe that it may have been unacceptable because not only did I deal with indigenous African slavery, I also showed its parallels with European serfdom, and argued that Europeans turned to the enslavement of Africans because their traditional sources of slaves – eastern European Slavs – had been cut off by the expanding Ottoman Empire. There were other reasons, I’m sure. A friend suggested that I may well have been turned down because, not being a tenured academic, I was outside the closed guild of people publishing on it.

If you want to read the book for yourself, it’s available from Lulu or I can send you a copy.

I‘ve also tried corresponding with Asher Craig, the Black head of equalities in Bristol in response to her comments about slavery in the city during an interview last years, and with her and Cleo Lake, a local Green councillor, after they both pushed through a motion in the city council calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to all ‘Afrikians’, which I also criticised for creating an ahistorical division between Whites and Blacks. I haven’t had a response from either of these two ladies.

Yours with very best wishes,

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2 Responses to “My Email to Simon Webb of History Debunked on Ideologies of Black Colonisation and the Slave Trade”

  1. Pip Says:

    BLACKS & WHITE TRASH

    YOU TUBE: The origin of ‘White Trash,’ and why class is still an issue in the U.S.
    •Aug 17, 2016
    PBS NewsHour
    In “White Trash,” Nancy Isenberg delves into the history of class in America, starting with British colonization. At that time, America was seen as a wasteland — a place to discard the idle poor. The agrarian communities they subsequently formed often remained poor due to a phenomenon Isenberg calls “horizontal mobility.” Jeffrey Brown speaks with the author about how we can evolve past class.

    THE LONG LEGACY OF WHITE TRASH
    White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (2016)
    Nancy Isenberg
    EPILOGUE
    America’s Strange Breed
    Two persistent problems have rumbled through our “democratic” past. One we can trace back to Franklin and Jefferson and their longing to dismiss class by touting “exceptional” features of the American landscape, which are deemed productive of an exceptional society. The founders insisted that the majestic continent would magically solve the demographic dilemma by reducing overpopulation and flattening out the class structure.

    In addition to this environmental solution, a larger, extremely useful myth arose: that America gave a voice to all of its people, that every citizen could exercise genuine influence over the government. (We should note that this myth was always qualified, because it was accepted that some citizens were more worthy than others—especially those whose stake in society came from property ownership.)

    The British colonial imprint was never really erased either. The “yeoman” was a British class, reflecting the well-established English practice of equating moral worth to cultivation of the soil. For their part, nineteenth-century Americans did everything possible to replicate class station through marriage, kinship, pedigree, and lineage.

    While the Confederacy was the high mark—the most overt manifestation—of rural aristocratic pretense (and an open embrace of society’s need to have an elite ruling over the lower classes), the next century ushered in the disturbing imperative of eugenics, availing itself of science to justify breeding a master class. Thus not only did Americans not abandon their desire for class distinctions, they repeatedly reinvented class distinctions. Once the government of the United States began portraying itself as “leader of the free world,” the longing for a more regal head of state was advanced. The Democrats swooned over Kennedy’s Camelot, and Republicans ennobled the Hollywood court of Reagan.

    American democracy has never accorded all the people a meaningful voice. The masses have been given symbols instead, and they are often empty symbols. Nation-states traditionally rely on the fiction that a head of state can represent the body of the people and stand in as their proxy; in the American version, the president must appeal broadly to shared values that mask the existence of deep class divisions. Even when this strategy works, though, unity comes at the price of perpetuating ideological deception. George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt were called fathers of the country, and are now treated as the kindly patriarchs of yore; Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt descend to us as brash, tough-talking warriors. Cowboy symbols stand tall in the saddle and defend the national honor against an evil empire, as Reagan did so effectively; more recently, the American people were witness to a president dressed in a pilot jumpsuit who for dramatic effect landed on an aircraft carrier. That, of course, was George W. Bush, as he prematurely proclaimed an end to combat operations in Iraq.

    Left out of our collective memory, meanwhile, are corporate puppet presidents such as William McKinley, who was in the pocket of Big Steel and a host of manufacturing interests. When presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 responded to a heckler with the line, “Corporations are people, my friend,” he inadvertently became the new McKinley. The “1%” were his constituency, and wearing blue jeans did little to loosen his buttoned-up image.

    Power (whether social, economic, or merely symbolic) is rarely probed. Or if it is, it never becomes so urgent a national imperative as to require an across-the-board resolution, simultaneously satisfying a moral imperative and pursuing a practical cause. We know, for instance, that Americans have forcefully resisted extending the right to vote; those in power have disenfranchised blacks, women, and the poor in myriad ways. We know, too, that women historically have had fewer civil protections than corporations.

    Instead of a thoroughgoing democracy, Americans have settled for democratic stagecraft: high-sounding rhetoric, magnified, and political leaders dressing down at barbecues or heading out to hunt game. They are seen wearing blue jeans, camouflage, cowboy hats, and Bubba caps, all in an effort to come across as ordinary people. But presidents and other national politicians are anything but ordinary people after they are elected. Disguising that fact is the real camouflage that distorts the actual class nature of state power.

    The theatrical performances of politicians who profess to speak for an “American people” do nothing to highlight the history of poverty. The tenant farmer with his mule and plow is not a romantic image to retain in historic memory. But that individual is as much our history as any war that was fought and any election that was hotly contested. The tenant and his shack should remain with us as an enduring symbol of social stasis.

    The underclass exists even when they don’t rise to the level of making trouble, fomenting rebellions, joining in riots, or fleeing the ranks of the Confederacy and hiding out in swamps, where they create an underground economy. Those who do not disappear into the wilderness are present in towns and cities and along paved and unpaved roads in every state. Seeing the poor, whether it is in the photographs of a Walker Evans or a Dorothea Lange, or in comical form on “reality TV,” we have to wonder how such people exist amid plenty.

    As she cast her eyes upon southern trailer trash in the middle of World War II, the Washington Post columnist Agnes Meyer asked,
    “Is this America?”

    Yes, it is America.

    It is an essential part of American history. So too is the backlash that occurs when attempts are made to improve the conditions of the poor. Whether it is New Deal polices or LBJ’s welfare programs or Obama-era health care reform, along with any effort to address inequality and poverty comes a harsh and seemingly inevitable reaction. Angry citizens lash out: they perceive government bending over backward to help the poor (implied or stated: undeserving) and they accuse bureaucrats of wasteful spending that steals from hardworking men and women. This was Nixon’s class-inflected appeal, which his campaign staff packaged for the “Silent Majority.” In the larger scheme of things, the modern complaint against state intervention echoes the old English fear of social leveling, which was said to encourage the unproductive. In its later incarnation, government assistance is said to undermine the American dream. Wait. Undermine whose American dream?

    Class defines how real people live.

    They don’t live the myth. They don’t live the dream. Politics is always about more than what is stated, or what looms before the eye. Even when it’s denied, politicians engage in class issues. The Civil War was a struggle to shore up both a racial and a class hierarchy. The Confederacy was afraid that poor whites would be drawn in by Union appeals and would vote to end slavery—because slavery was principally a reflection of the wealthy planters’ self-interest.

    Today as well we have a large unbalanced electorate that is regularly convinced to vote against its collective self-interest. These people are told that East Coast college professors brainwash the young and that Hollywood liberals make fun of them and have nothing in common with them and hate America and wish to impose an abhorrent, godless lifestyle. The deceivers offer essentially the same fear-laden message that the majority of southern whites heard when secession was being weighed. Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences wherever possible.

    The dangers inherent in that deception are many. The relative few who escape their lower-class roots are held up as models, as though everyone at the bottom has the same chance of succeeding through cleverness and hard work, through scrimping and saving. Can Franklin’s “nest egg” produce Franklin the self-made man? Hardly. Franklin himself needed patrons to rise in his colonial world, and the same rules of social networking persist. Personal connections, favoritism, and trading on class-based knowledge still grease the wheels that power social mobility in today’s professional and business worlds.

    If this book accomplishes anything it will be to have exposed a number of myths about the American dream, to have disabused readers of the notion that upward mobility is a function of the founders’ ingenious plan, or that Jacksonian democracy was liberating, or that the Confederacy was about states’ rights rather than preserving class and racial distinctions.

    Sometimes, all it took was a name: before becoming known as a Reconstruction-era southern white who identified with black uplift or Republican reforms, the scalawag was defined as an inferior breed of cattle.

    The scalawag of today is the southern liberal who is painted by conservative ideologues as a traitor to the South for daring to say that poor whites and poor blacks possess similar economic interests.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks too, for this. Very informative, and from what I can see absolutely and unquestionably true. And the same tactics are being used over here in Britain to persuade the working class to vote against their interest. We have the right-wing media telling them that the schools and universities are run by Communist professors who have nothing in common with them and actively despise them.

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