Posts Tagged ‘Bristol City Museum’

Colston Four Now Want to Boycott Thatchers because Historic Slavery

February 12, 2022

Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, former leader of the Brexit Party, was on GB news the day before yesterday weighing in on a very nonsensical demand from the Colston Four. These were the four, who were acquitted of criminal damage when they threw the statue of Edward Colston into Bristol’s docks during a BLM protest. I don’t agree with such acts of public vandalism, but I appreciate the reasons for it. Colston was a slaver, and there have been demands since the 1980s for the removal of his statue. I think the best argument against its presence was from a Black woman speaking on Radio 4. She said it made her physically sick walking past it to work every day.

But if this is correct, then their latest demand is simply guilt by association. The four have apparently released a statement demanding that people boycott Thatcher’s Cider, because the present managing director is a member of Bristol’s Merchant Venturers. The Venturers are now now a charitable organisation made up of prominent businessmen. But they’re hated by a section of Bristol’s Black community because of their historic involvement in slavery. Back in the 1990s there was a terrible incident when a Black man was beaten into a vegetable by a White worker at fair on the Downs in the city. It was a racist attack. But the fair had been organised by the Merchant Venturers, and from some of the angry denunciations you could have believed that Venturers had deliberately organised the assault. Even the name ‘merchant’ can be controversial in Bristol. When the shopping centre Cabot Circus in Broadmead was being planned, one of the suggested names was ‘Merchants’ Quarter’. Black Bristolians objected to this on the ground that it was the city’s merchants who had been responsible for the city’s involvement in the slave trade. Well, they also traded in other things as well.

Bristol’s and the Merchant Venturers’ involvement in the slave trade ended over a century ago. And the Merchant Venturers themselves are not hiding their past. I found them perfectly open and polite. When I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum I wrote to them to ask if we could have any materials they might have on slavery. They kindly sent me catalogues of their holdings, and the property of previous members, that had links to the slave trade and slave plantations in the Caribbean. And yet from the hatred against them you could mistakenly believe they were some kind of Klan organisation plotting to put Blacks back into slavery once more from their premises in Clifton.

The Four claim that that Thatcher’s don’t care about slavery. Actually I don’t think they do. I think they only care about making cider people enjoy and making a profit from it. Historical slavery through a tenuous connection really isn’t relevant. But it’s the Four who strike me as uncaring about modern slavery. There are 30 million enslaved people in the world today. But this is mostly outside the west, and so the supporters and believers in Post-Colonial and Critical Race Theory simply aren’t interested. To them no criticism of extra-European societies and their atrocities and evils is permissible. They are only interested when it’s done by Whites. And so the enslavement of Africans by Africans, for example, is not mentioned and definitely not fought.

When the City Museum staged the ‘Respectable Trade’ exhibition on the city’s involvement with the slave trade in the 90s it included, at the end, a piece on the charity Anti-Slavery International, complete with magazines and literature and membership forms for those wishing to join. I have seen no such engagement with modern slavery by Black Lives Matter. If Farage is right, then it isn’t Thatcher’s that is guilty of supporting slavery through a lack of concern.

It is BLM and the Colston Four.

Bristol Announces Education Report about the Contribution of Different Communities to City

January 19, 2022

Yesterday a couple of bods from Bristol city council appeared on the news to announce the imminent public of two reports, both dealing with race and community issues. At lunchtime it was reported that there was a report coming out about how the city should educate people about city’s history as a major centre of the slave trade. Then on the 6.30 local news, deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Craig appeared to tell viewers about another report coming out about another education initiative, this time about the contribution different communities had made to the city. She thought it might perhaps form the basis for a new museum. The report was hailed as bringing communities together.

Bristol’s a port city and so people of different races and nationalities have been living in the city since the Middle Ages. It had a Jewish community, complete with a miqveh or ritual bath, on Jacob’s Wells Road before Edward I’s expulsion of them from England. it also had strong links with Ireland, and it’s possible that there was a community of Bristol merchants in Dublin before Henry IIs invasion of 1169. It also had strong links to Wales, and so there’s always been people from Ireland and Wales here in the city. There were a few Icelandic merchants resident in Bristol in the 15th century. As the city also traded in wine from France and Spain, I’m fairly certain there were also French people and Spaniards here. There were also Black people in Bristol from the 16th century onwards following the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. However, the bulk of the modern Black population probably really only dates from the Windrush migration. Other immigrants to Bristol include Poles, Russians – there’s a Russian Orthodox church on University Road by the museum in Clifton, Chinese and peeps from India and Pakistan. A few years ago a book was published about Bristol’s diverse immigrant population.

But I don’t think this is primarily about all of the city’s various ethnic communities. I think it’s really an attempt to promote Bristol’s Black community. Last year, when I contacted Craig criticising her for some of her comments about the city’s involvement in the slave trade, her reply talked about the ‘One Bristol’ educational project. This would promote Blacks, and be ‘diverse and inclusive’, which didn’t always happen with White men. I don’t know if that last comment is a deliberate sneer or putdown.

It’s fair to say that the majority Black areas of the Bristol have the same problems and reputation of inner cities elsewhere – drugs, crime, prostitution and violence. When I was growing up people from outside the area drove along Stapleton Road in St. Paul’s with their windows up and the door firmly locked. Nearly two decades ago in 2004 there were a series of murders in the area and it was reported on the news that there was a gun-related incident everyday. I can remember going along the road on the bus to a lecture at UWE and seeing armed policemen on the street. I’ve heard from friends that there are local people in the community collecting and blogging about the area and Bristol’s black history as way of combating the alienation and marginalisation many Black Bristolians feel. From Craig’s reply to me, it looks like the ‘One Bristol’ education project is intended to do something similar by giving a more positive image of the community.

As for educating Bristolians about the city’s role in the slave trade, I’ve grown up knowing about it although there is still the strong belief among some Blacks, repeated by Craig in her interview on Radio 4 last year, that the city authorities have covered it up. In the 1990s the City Museum and Art Gallery staged an exhibition about the city and the slave trade, ‘A Respectable Trade’, named after the costume drama then showing on the Beeb, adapted from a book by Philippa Gregory. The M Shed museum on the city docks also has a gallery about Bristol and the slave trade. There are articles about the city’s involvement in the slave trade on the museum’s website, a slave walk in Clifton and a plaque on one of the warehouses down by the M Shed commemorating the victims who were enslaved and sold by Bristol merchants. The official name for the very bizarre looking ‘horned bridge’ across the dock’s is Pero’s Bridge, after one of the few named slaves who was brought to Bristol itself.

I have to say I’m a bit sensitive about some of the demands for the proper commemoration of the slave trade in the city. It sometimes seems to me that’s it’s being used by angry members of the Black community to attack White Bristol because of the poverty and marginalisation that still plagues their community. Back in the 1990s, for example, when the city celebrated the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, various Black spokesmen declared that it was a celebration of slavery. This followed American Blacks’ condemnation of the celebration of Columbus’ discovery of America a few years earlier. Indigenous Americans also attacked it as a celebration of their genocide. It wasn’t, of course, meant to be a celebration of slavery, but they had a point. Following Columbus discovery of the New World, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean were enslaved and worked, tortured and massacred until they died out. The Spanish then turned to Black African slaves to replace them. I don’t believe that the discovery of Newfoundland had any direct connection with slavery. That seems to have started in 1619 when Spanish merchants brought a consignment of them to Jamestown, and it seems that initially the English settlers didn’t know what to do with them. However, slavery and all the horrendous methods of repression soon followed. A Black artist produced a picture showing his feelings about the celebration of Cabot’s discovery. It shows the Matthew sailing up the Avon Gorge. watched by cameras from the Evening Post and the local news, while shadowy figures rampage across the suspension bridge. The painting’s now on display in the slavery gallery in the M Shed. To me it demonstrates a bitter mentality that automatically assumes any celebration like it must somehow be about the persecution or exploitation of Blacks, and it seems to me that a similar deep bitterness is driving the demands for proper education about the city’s slavery history. On the other hand, there have been a large influx of newcomers to the city from London and elsewhere, and it’s possible that, not being Bristolians, they really know little about the city and the slave trade. The education initiative could therefore be a response to them requiring to know more.

Points West stated that the report about educating Bristolians about the contributions of Bristol’s multiracial communities will make five recommendations, while the one about slavery will make fifteen. It’ll be interesting to see what they are.

History Debunked Attacks Racially Segregated Schools, Demolishes Free School System

June 26, 2021

Here’s another video from another Conservative youtuber, Simon Webb. Webb’s channel, History Debunked, specialises in attacking various myths and pseudo-history being pushed as authentic Black history. In this video he attacks the call from supporters of Critical Race Theory that there should be separate schools for Black pupils, and particularly for boys. He has seen for himself how such schools actually lead to worse academic performance and behaviour in such a school in Tottenham in Haringey. But some of the reasons for its failure – management by parents, instead of qualified teaching staff – are also a major problem for the Thatcherite free school project, which was intended to allow parents to break out of the state education system.

Webb begins by quoting a passage describing how one Black activist, Derek Ball, urged Blacks to abandon their demands for integrated schooling during the Civil Rights struggle, and instead concentrate on building good, all-Black schools to boost Black educational achievement. The argument for these is that, despite attending the same schools as Whites and Asians, Blacks, and particularly Black boys, still fall behind because of the lack of suitable role-models.

Webb describes how the Seventh Day Adventists in Haringey in 1980 set up their own, all-Black school as part of this ideology. Staff at the school, John Loughborough, were good, moral, upstanding people. Unfortunately, they had a problem recruiting proper teaching staff, so they were being taught by the friends and relatives of the people who founded it, who wanted a job. Webb states he noticed how the academic achievement and basic behaviour of the children of friends, who sent their kids there, progressively decline. Their interest in and performance in vital subjects like maths and physics declined. At the same time, their interests narrowed to Black music, culture and politics. The teaching staff were unable to keep discipline, and so their behaviour became worse, instead of better. By the 1990s, when Haringey closed it down, it was the worse school in the borough.

Webb states that he has heard similar stories from across the Pond, and there are also similar stories about Muslim and Orthodox Jewish schools in this country. In the case of the Orthodox Jewish school, the educational curriculum was extremely narrow, so that its former pupils were left unprepared for life in wider British society. The same is true of the Muslim schools, while many of the pupils at the former John Loughborough school have a chip on their shoulder about how poor their schooling was, and its inability to prepare them for mainstream British society. He states that the problem with schools is that their management requires a very specific set of skills, which most parents don’t have. He states that in all the similar schools of which he knows, Black, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, there are similar problems – a narrow curriculum, safeguarding issues and poor discipline.

The demand for racially segregated schools to benefit Blacks goes back several decades. I can remember the idea being debated in the 1990s. Round about the time Bristol City Museum was setting up its ‘A Respectable Trade’ exhibition about the city’s role in the slave trade, a women wrote into the local paper, then the Bristol Evening Post, calling for such schools. There were similar moves before then. After the riots in the St. Paul’s area in 1981/2, the council sent into schools various teams and advisors to teach the children not to be racist. This included the school at which my mother taught. This was accepted by staff and parents, though I do remember that the headmaster at the time refusing to allow the same anti-racist educators to take Black children out of the school to have special lessons on their Black identity, or something like that, as he was firmly against any kind of segregation.

I also recall Thatcher’s attempt to break up the state education system. As well as the City Academies, which were so terrible she and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, were actually winding up before Blair later relaunched them as academies when he came into power, she also announced she was passing legislation for free schools outside Local Education Authority Control. No longer would parents have to tolerate sub-standard education as the hands of evil lefty teachers and local councils. No! Parents would now have the power to break free and found their own schools, run how they wished. Which would undoubtedly do well due to market forces. All absolutely tripe, of course. Teaching really is a skilled profession, which not everyone can do. But right-wing governments like those of the Tories and Blair have been able to use it as a political football and partially privatise it by playing on the general belief that ordinary people know how to teach and manage a class better than the professionals. I remember back in the 1980s how the right-wing press, including the Bristol Evening Post, was constantly attacking teachers with scare stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating children. Thatcher herself, in one of her wretched speeches, was scathing about ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while her lapdog paper, the Scum, ran the story about children in Brent or Lambeth being taught to sing ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’ because the original nursery rhyme, ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’, was supposedly racist.

And the concerns about the narrowness of the curriculum in some of the free schools and academies run by religious organisations are perfectly justified. A few years ago there were concerns about the Muslim schools up north, with allegations that they were being run very strictly in accordance with traditional Islamic practice. The sexes were segregated, discipline harsh, and the curriculum narrowly religious. There have been allegations since that this wasn’t the case, and such concerns were the result of Islamophobia. The Christian schools set up by a the evangelical Christian head of a haulage company have also been criticised for their severe and humiliating discipline, as well as teaching Creationism as science. As for Orthodox Jewish schools, the French academic, Alfred Kepel, in his book about the rise of religious fundamentalism, The Revenge of God, describes one such school in Paris where the only secular subject was maths.

I am certainly not against faith-based schools. Both Mike and I went to an Anglican church school and got a Christian education. But the school also strongly condemned sectarian and racial prejudice, and did take children to other, non-Christian places of worship, like the local mosque, as a way of teaching them about those faiths.

Nevertheless, the very narrow focus of some religious or racial organisations in the education they wish to provide should be of concern. Whatever their faith or none, children need and deserve a broad education which promotes their personal achievement and growth and prepares them for wider British society rather than isolating them in self-imposed ghettoes. And they also need to be taught by properly qualified, experienced and skilled staff, rather than ordinary people, who wrongly think they can teach thanks to decades of being told so by the right-wing press.

The free schools and academies may not provide this, and in many cases they certainly don’t. But they make profits for the academy chains and support the Tory ideology of attacking the state provision of education.

I’ve no doubt that racially segregated education is a failure, regardless of whether it is intended to benefit Blacks or other ethnic minorities. So are the free schools and academies generally.

All of them should be wound up, and schooling returned to the state and control of local authorities.

DPAC on Cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances

May 7, 2014

DPAC on their website have reported that David Willetts, The Conservatives’ minister for universities and science, has announced that they are modernising the Disabled Students Living Allowance. This was set up to give support to the thousands of disabled students who would otherwise be unable to attend university. It has, according to DPAC, given out ¬£125 million of funds to 53,000 students.

Willetts has, however, declared that from now on students with dyslexia and dyspraxia will only receive support ‘where their support needs are considered to be more complex’. In other words, those, who aren’t judged to have such serious needs will be denied support from the fund. Responsibility for providing this instead will fall to the universities. As the report says, the richer universities will be able to afford it, but the poorer will not.

This is absolutely correct. A number of universities are actually contracting or cutting courses after the massive expansion in Higher Education in the 1990s. I was shocked to hear from a fellow volunteer at an event at Bristol City Museum that the University of West of England has cancelled many of the MA courses. And UWE is one of the leading members of the new universities.

DPAC have also noted that the Tories’ excuse for cutting support for the disabled is the usual, tired clich√© of ‘concentrating them where they are most needed’. It’s the same excuse they use time and again for the same cuts attacking the poor, the working and lower middle classes, the sick and disabled.

DPAC’s report can be read here: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/05/yet-another-cut/.

One of the points ‘Red’ Ken made in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, is just how far ahead Germany was in providing education, especially in science and engineering in the 19th century. He contrasts this with the attitude of the Tory premier, Lord Salisbury, who sneered at the provision of free primary education as ‘cramming learning into louts’.

The Tories: keeping people poor and ignorant since the 19th century.