Posts Tagged ‘‘Colour and Colour Prejudice with Particular Reference to the Relationship between Whites and Negroes’’

Right-Wing YouTubers Praise Priti Patel for Wanting to Repeal Blair’s Anti-Hate Speech Legislation

January 30, 2021

The noxious, smirking, ambitious idler Priti Patel was in the noxious Express last Sunday, delighting various right-wing Youtubers with her comments about the laws Blair passed against hate speech. These, she apparently declared, undermine proper free speech and so should be scrapped.

One of those applauding her was Alex Belfield, of whom I have previously blogged many times. Belfield is constantly reviling left-wing activists against racial and other prejudices of being oversensitive ‘snowflakes’. Instead of getting upset and moaning about comments or portrayals they find offensive or hurtful, they should instead grow up, stop whining and get over it. This is more than a bit rich coming from Belfield, as he is very ready to moan about anything which he feels casts unfair aspersions on White folks. For example, a week or so ago he got very annoyed at a sketch in a BBC comedy show, ‘Bamous’, or something like that. The show’s cast are Black, and it seems aimed very much at a Black, Asian and minority ethnic audience. The sketch that raised Belfield’s blood pressure was ‘the Black Broadcasting Corporation’, which portrayed what it would be like, or what it’s cast thought it would be like, if the Corporation’s management were all Black and they casually patronised and humiliated Whites who had suggestions for programmes and wanted to climb up the career ladder in television. Belfield tore into the sketch as yet another example of the Beeb’s ‘woke’ racism against Whites, and yet again demanded that the Corporation should be defunded.

I did find what little I saw of it offensive, and I only saw the clips Belfield included in his video, so I don’t know if this accurately reflected the sketch as it was originally broadcast. But I think the sketch reflected the anger of various Black actors and writers at having their ideas repeatedly turned down by the corporation. The historian David Olasuga said in an interview that he suffered from depression after having his ideas for programmes rejected, while Lenny Henry and others have also criticised the Corporation for not being sufficiently inclusive.

It also struck me that the sketch wasn’t all that original either. Previous comedy series by ethnic minorities have also lampooned White British racism through the same strategy of role reversal. Goodness Gracious Me, the Asian comedy show which ran on BBC 2 on the ’90s with the sketches ‘Going for a Blandi’, in which a group of Asian friends go to a restaurant serving traditional British food. And a friend of mine said he never realised how condescending shows like Great Indian Railway Journeys were about India and its people until Goodness Gracious Me sent it up in a sketch in which they looked at the British railway system making the same type of comments. Not that Goodness Gracious Me was anti-White. It also sent up British Asian culture and the bigoted attitudes of some Asians towards Whites. For all I know, Bamous might do the same to Black culture.

Belfield’s criticisms would also carry more weight if two of his comedy heroes didn’t specialise in racist material. He’s a friend of the notorious Jim Davidson, with whom he hosts a programme on his internet radio show in the week. He also seems to be a fan of the late Bernard Manning. Last week he put up a video praising Mark Lamarr and wondering what happened to the former host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The clips he used to show Lamarr’s skills as a interviewer came from a video in which he talked to Bernard Manning. And as older readers are probably all too aware, Manning was infamous for his racist jokes, although he always maintained that he was not personally racist. They were just jokes, right?

But those jokes are really hurtful to the Blacks and Asians, who were the butt of them. Way back in the ’90s Mike and I were on a bus coming home from an evening out drinking. We got talking to one of the other passengers, an Asian lad who’d been sent home from work. He was a waiter in one of the swish restaurants in town. Davidson had turned up for a meal, and the lad had been ordered to serve him. He refused because hated Davidson’s jokes about people of his colour. The manager insisted, the lad refused again, and was sent home. And I’m on the lad’s side and respect him for sticking to his guns against serving someone whose material he found deeply abhorrent.

I’m no fan of Blair, and do think that right-wing critics of the legislation against hate speech do have a point. I think they are stifling a proper and very necessary debate about immigration and race relations. But I also feel that they are also necessary. I think the first such laws in Britain were passed in the 1930s or thereabouts and were intended to stop the demonisation of Jews by Fascists, like Mosley’s BUF. At the same time, the BBC had a very strict code over what could and couldn’t be said on air. There was a list of about 200 words that couldn’t be used by presenters. This included slang terms, such as ‘lousy’, for something that was simply bad or poor in quality, and the crude and insulting terms for people of different ethnic groups. When the Goons started in the 1950s the Corporation also had a list of subjects which were strictly forbidden for comedy. These were religion, the monarchy, disability, the colour question and ‘effeminacy in men’. These prohibitions went a long time ago, especially regarding religion and the royal family, although they remain very sensitive subjects. Issues of race and racism can be lampooned, it seems, but only from the point of view of ethnic minorities or which sends up racism. But Belfield would, it appears, like to overturn this and return television to the days of the 1970s when Manning and Davidson were both telling their jokes on mainstream TV.

If the jokes manning and Davidson told about race had no effect, and people took them as just jokes, then perhaps there’d be an argument for allowing that material back on television. I don’t believe that the producers of Love Thy Neighbour, a comedy about a racist White man who finds out that his new neighbours are Black, were being deliberately offensive or trying to promote racism. But there was much more overt racism then, including jokes going round playground and workplace that really did show a contempt for people of colour. I think one of the issues with racist jokes is that, even if they are meant to be innocuous, they can and do reinforce real racism in wider society.

Speech and the attitudes expressed matter. Sir Alan Burns, the last governor of Ghana, says in his book, Colour Prejudice, that much could be done to tackle racism simply through courtesy and politeness. His book, published in 1948, is clearly very dated, but that observation is undoubtedly very true. The legislation against hate speech, and the attitudes against racist comedy that has accompanied them, are really an attempt to make this courtesy mandatory.

It appears very much to me that Patel and Tories like her want to repeal all of the 1970s anti-racism legislation. The attack on Blair’s legislation against hate speech is just the beginning, and the explanation that they stifle free speech just a pretext. They’d like to drag us all back to the days when businesses could refuse service and employment to people on the grounds of their colour or nationality. When hotels and guesthouses could put signs up in their windows saying ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’. And when the Tory party could put up posters telling the British public that if they wanted Blacks for neighbours, they should vote Labour. But they should vote Conservative if they didn’t.

Patel’s Asian, and so is potentially one of those affected by such prejudices and the removal of the laws protecting people of colour. She obviously feels she’s exempt because of her lofty position as a government. Or perhaps she feels that British society has changed so rapidly these laws aren’t necessary. I think they are, and no matter how secure she is, others aren’t so lucky. And there is a real danger that the vicious racism these laws are designed to combat will return all too quickly.

For those reasons, the laws should stay and it doesn’t matter how funny some Tories think Manning and Davidson are. The racism the laws are intended to combat is very definitely no laughing matter.

A British Colonial Governor’s Attack on Racism

July 31, 2020

Sir Alan Burns, Colour and Colour Prejudice with Particular Reference to the Relationship between Whites and Negroes (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1948).

I ordered this book secondhand online a week or so ago, following the Black Lives Matter protests and controversies over the past few weeks. I realise reading a book this old is a rather eccentric way of looking at contemporary racial issues, but I’d already come across it in the library there when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. What impressed me about it was that it also dealt with anti-White racism amongst Blacks as well as the book’s main concern with anti-Black racism, discrimination and growing Black discontent in the British Empire.

Burns was a former governor of Ghana, then the Gold Coast. According to the potted biography on the front flap of the dust jacket, he was ‘a Colonial Civil Servant of long and distinguished experience in tropical West Africa and the West Indies.’ The book

deals with the important question of colour prejudice, and pleads for mutual courtesy and consideration between the white and the coloured races. Sir Alan analyses the history and alleged causes of colour prejudice, and cites the opinions of many writers who condemn or attempt to justify the existence of prejudice. It is a frank analysis of an unpleasant phenomenon.

He was also the author of two other books, his memoirs of colonial service in the Leeward Islands Nigeria, Bahamas, British Honduras, the Gold Coast and the Colonial Office, Colonial Civil Servant, and A History of Nigeria. The Gold Coast was one of the most racial progressive of the British African colonies. It was the first of them to include an indigenous chief on the ruling colonial council. I therefore expected Burns to hold similar positive views of Blacks, given, of course, how outdated these would no doubt seem to us 72 years later.

After the introduction, the book is divided into the following chapters:

I. The Existence and Growth of Colour Prejudice

II. The Attitude of Various Peoples to Racial and Colour Differences

III. Negro Resentment of Colour Prejudice

IV. Political and Legal Discrimination Against Negroes

V. Social Discrimination Against Negroes

VI. Alleged Inferiority of the Negro

VII. Alleged Shortcomings of the Negro

VIII. Physical and Mental Differences between the Races

IX. Physical Repulsion between Races

X. Miscegenation

XI. The Effect of Environment and History on the Negro Race

XII. Lack of Unity and Inferiority Complex Among Negroes

XIII. Conclusion.

I’ve done little more than take the occasional glance through it so far, so this is really a rather superficial treatment of  the book, more in the way of preliminary remarks than a full-scale review. Burns does indeed take a more positive view of Blacks and their potential for improvement, but the book is very dated and obviously strongly influenced by his own background in the colonial service and government. As a member of the colonial governing class, Burns is impressed by the British Empire and what he sees as its benevolent and highly beneficial rule of the world’s indigenous peoples. He is in no doubt that they have benefited from British rule, and quotes an American author as saying that there is no other colonial power which would have done so for its subject peoples. He is particularly impressed by the system of indirect rule, in which practical government was largely given over to the colonies’ indigenous ruling elites. This was peaceful, harmonious and had benefited the uneducated masses of the Empire’s indigenous peoples. These colonial subjects appreciated British rule and largely supported it. He did not expect this section of colonial society to demand their nations’ independence. However, this governmental strategy did not suit the growing class of educated Blacks, who were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment as inferiors and demanding independence.

As with other, later books on racism Burns tackles its history and tries to trace how far back it goes. He argues that racism seems to go back no further than the Fifteenth century. Before then, culture and religion were far more important in defining identity.  He’s not entirely convinced by this, and believes that racism in the sense of colour prejudice probably existed far earlier, but there is little evidence for it. There have been other explorations of this subject which have attempted to show the history and development of racism as a cultural idea in the west. Other historians have said much the same, and I think the consensus of opinion is that it was the establishment of slavery that led to the development of ideas of Black inferiority to justify their capture and enslavement.

Burns is also concerned at what he and the other authorities he quotes as the growth in anti-Black racism that came following the First World War. He compares this unfavourably with a comment from an African lady, who went to a British school during Victoria’s reign. The women recalls that she and the other Black girls were treated absolutely no differently from the Whites, and that the only time she realised there was any difference between them was when she looked in a mirror. This is interesting, and a good corrective to the idea that all Whites were uniformly and aggressively racist back then, but I expect her experience may have been very different from Blacks further down the social hierarchy. Burns believes the increase in racism after the First World War was due to the increased contact between Blacks and Whites, which is probably true following the mass mobilisation of troops across the Empire.

But what I found as an historian with an interest in African and other global civilisations is the book’s almost wholly negative assessment of Black civilisation and its achievements. Burns quotes author after author, who states that Blacks have produced no great civilisations or cultural achievements. Yes, ancient Egypt is geographically a part of Africa, but culturally and racially, so it is claimed, it is part of the Middle East. Where Black Africans have produced great civilisations, it is through contact with external, superior cultures like the Egyptians, Carthaginians and the Arabs. Where Blacks have produced great artistic achievements, such as in the Benin bronzes of the 16th/17th century, it is claimed that this is due to contact with the Portuguese and Spanish. This negative view is held even by writers, who are concerned to stress Black value and dignity, and show that Blacks are not only capable of improvement, but actually doing so.

Since then a series of historians, archaeologists and art historians have attempted to redress this view of history by showing how impressive Black African civilisations were. Civilisations like ancient Nubia, Ethiopia, Mali and the other great Islamic states of north Africa, and advanced west African civilisations like Dahomey. I myself prefer the superb portraiture in the sculptures from 17th century Ife in west Africa, but archaeologists and historians have been immensely impressed by the carved heads from Nok in Nigeria, which date from about 2,000 BC. Going further south, there is the great fortress of Zimbabwe, a huge stone structure that bewildered western archaeologists. For years it was suggested that Black Africans simply couldn’t have built it, and that it must have been the Arabs or Chinese instead. In fact analysis of the methods used to build it and comparison with the same techniques used by local tribes in the construction of their wooden buildings have shown that the fortress was most definitely built by indigenous Zimbabweans. There have been a number of excellent TV series broadcast recently. Aminatta Forna presented one a few years ago now on Timbuktu, once the centre of a flourishing and immensely wealthy west African kingdom. A few years before, art historian Gus Casely-Hayford presented a series on BBC Four, Lost Civilisations of Africa. I think that’s still on YouTube, and it’s definitely worth a look. Archaeologists are revealing an entire history of urban civilisation that has previously been lost or overlooked. Nearly two decades or so ago there was a piece by a White archaeologist teaching in Nigeria, who had discovered the remains of house and courtyard walls stretching over an area of about 70 km. This had been lost as the site had been abandoned and overgrown with vegetation. He lamented how there was little interest in the remains of this immense, ancient city among Nigerians, who were far more interested in ancient Egypt.

This neglect and disparagement of African history and achievement really does explain the fervour with which Afrocentric history is held by some Blacks and anti-racist Whites. This is a view that claims that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and the real creators of the western cultural achievement. It began with the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop. White Afrocentrists have included Martin Bernal, the author of Black Athena, and Basil Davidson. Following the Black Lives Matter protests there have also been calls for Black history to be taught in schools, beginning with African civilisations.

More positively, from what I’ve seen so far, Burns did believe that Blacks and Whites were equal in intelligence. The Christian missionaries Samuel Crowther, who became the first Anglican bishop of Africa, and Frederick Schon, had absolutely no doubt. Crowther was Black, while Schon was a White Swiss. In one of their reports to the British parliamentary committee sitting to examine slavery and the slave trade, they presented evidence from the African missionary schools in the form of essays from their pupils to show that Blacks certainly were as capable as Whites. Possibly more so at a certain age. As Black underachievement at school is still a very pressing issue, Crowther’s and Schon’s findings are still very important. Especially as there are real racists, supporters of the book The Bell Curve, keen to argue that Blacks really are biologically mentally inferior to Whites.

Burns’ book is fascinating, not least because it shows the development of official attitudes towards combating racism in Britain. Before it became such a pressing issue with the mass influx of Black migrants that came with Windrush, it seems that official concern was mostly over the growing resentment in Africa and elsewhere with White, British rule. The book also hopefully shows how we’ve also come in tackling racism in the West. I’m not complacent about it – I realise that it’s still very present and blighting lives – but it’s far, far less respectable now than it was when I was a child in the 1970s. My concern, however, is that some anti-racism activists really don’t realise this and their concentration on the horrors and crimes of the past has led them to see the present in its terms. Hence the rant of one of the BLM firebrands in Oxford that the police were the equivalent of the Klan.

Burn’s book shows just how much progress has been made on, and makes you understand just what an uphill struggle this has been.