Posts Tagged ‘Empire Windrush’

Beeb’s ‘Horrible Histories’ Pushing Myths and Falsehoods as Black History

May 7, 2021

One of the major aims of the ‘History Debunked’ YouTube channel is attacking the myths and sometimes deliberate lies, which try to present past British society as far more ethnically diverse and multiracial than it really was. This is being done in order to create an image of the past that fits and reflects today’s racially diverse society. Although undoubtedly well meant, it is a fabrication. Simon Webb, the YouTuber behind the channel, is a Telegraph-reading Conservative, but I don’t think he can be fairly accused of racism. He’s a published author, who does know his history and the reality behind the falsehoods he tries to debunk.

On Tuesday he put up a video attacking the latest editions of the Beeb’s Horrible Histories programme. This is a children’s history programme based on a series of best selling books. This is intended to present history in a fun way with much comedy, though Webb, with rather more serious tastes, decries it as slap-dash and inaccurate. A recent edition of the programme was on Black British history, and was simply full of myths and falsehoods presented as solid, historical fact. So much so, that Webb said he couldn’t go through all of them, and described the programme as propaganda aimed at children. So he confined himself with a couple of the more egregious.

The programme began with the Empire Windrush and the statement that its passengers had been invited to England to help with reconstruction after the War. This is a myth that’s been promoted by a number of people, including Diane Abbott. The truth is that Blacks weren’t invited to Britain by anyone and definitely not the British government. They were appalled at the immigrants’ arrival because they didn’t have anywhere to accommodate them. Webb states that some ended up living in air raid shelters because of the lack of proper housing. The truth is that the Empire Windrush was a troop ship that was returning to Britain from South America. There was hardly anyone on board, so the captain decided to open it up to paying passengers to reduce costs. The adverts for places aboard the ship in the Jamaican Daily Gleaner simply gives the prices of the various classes of accommodation. There is no mention of work in Britain. As for the motives of the people, who took passage aboard the ship, the Sheffield Daily News in Britain reported the comments of a Jamaican businessman, Floyd Rainer, who said that the immigrants had come to Britain because they were dissatisfied with pay and conditions in the Caribbean. They were seeking better opportunities for themselves, not to help Britain.

The programme then followed this with an item about Black Roman soldiers at Hadrian’s Wall. These were Moors from the Roman province of Mauretania. However, Mauretania was in North Africa, in what is now Morocco and Algeria. It was a province settled by Carthaginians, who were Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon, and the Berbers. Although comparatively dark-skinned, they had Mediterranean complexions, and were not Blacks from the modern West African country of Mauretania, has an American website claims.

It then went on to St. Adrian of Canterbury, who it was claimed was also Black. But he came from what is now Libya in north Africa, and so wouldn’t have been a Black African. However, the programme stated that he was an African, and left the viewer to imagine that he would therefore have been Black.

Mary Seacole was also shown tending British soldiers in a hospital during the Crimean War, which is also a myth. She set up a bar and restaurant and never did any actual nursing. It also showed Cheddar Man as Black. This is based on a reconstruction that was widely covered in the press at the time. However, Webb has done a previous video about it and similar reconstructions showing how flawed they are. In the case of Cheddar Man, the scientists behind the announcement that he was Black actually retracted this in a piece published in New Scientist. No-one really knows what colour people’s skins were 10,000 years ago.

I think the BBC actually means well with all this, and its presenters and compilers probably don’t think that they’re falsifying history. I’m sure they genuinely believe that they’re uncovering previously hidden aspects of the British past. I think projecting the presence of Black people back into the past is part of an attempt to deal with the continuing racist attitude towards Black and Asian Brits that still sees them as foreign, even though they have now been here for three generations. And a smaller number will have been here for much longer.

But I also think that the Beeb is also prepared to falsify history in this direction as well simply to make a programme. Back around 2003/4 the Beeb screened a series about the way modern artists and musicians were taking inspiration from the Psalms of the Bible. In one edition, feminist icon Germaine Greer went to Jamaica to meet the Rastafarian musicians, who sang the Psalms in the origin Amharic, according to the Radio Times.

Historically, this is nonsense. The Psalms were originally written, like almost all of the Tanakh, the Christian Old Testament, in Hebrew. Hence its alternative name of Hebrew Bible. It very definitely wasn’t written in Amharic, which is the modern Ethiopian language of the Amhara people. But Rastafarianism is based on the worship of Haile Selassie, the late emperor of Ethiopia, as the Lion of Judah and Black messiah. Hence, presumably, the insistence that the Psalms were written in Amharic. It seems to me that the Beeb obtained the cooperation of the Rastafarian musos for the programme on the understanding that the programme would be presented from their theological point of view. If they contradicted the assertion that the Psalms were written in Amharic, a language that didn’t exist when the Psalms were actually composed, then no programme. And so the Beeb and the Radio Times published this piece of historical nonsense.

I think a similar process may also be working behind the Horrible Histories and similar programmes present long held myths as facts about the Black past. I don’t know, but I think some of them might be made in collaboration with Black groups and individuals, who passionately believe these falsehood. The Beeb wants to make these programmes and include the views of Blacks themselves. These individuals insist on the inclusion of these myths, which the Beeb won’t challenge because its researchers don’t know that their myths, and the organisation is afraid of these organisations denouncing them as racists if they ignore these long-held Black views.

There are some excellent books and materials on Black British history out there. Three I’ve come across are Gretchen Herzen’s Black England – Life Before Emancipation, the collection Under the Imperial Carpet – Essays in Black History, edited by Rainer Lotz and Ian Pegg, and Our Children Free and Happy – Letters from Black Settlers in Africa, edited by Christopher Fyfe and published by Edinburgh University press. But there is an awful lot of myth and falsehoods as well.

However well meant, these need to be rejected as falsehoods, even if they’re told as truth by the Beeb.

‘No Confidence’ Vote Needed Against Racist May’s Betrayal of the Windrush Generation

April 20, 2018

This is another issue that’s so glaringly unjust, I can’t let it go. This week it’s been revealed that Tweezer, when she was Dave Cameron’s Home Secretary, had all the landing permits awarded to the generation of immigrants that came with the Empire Windrush. And not only that, the piece of legislation that specifically protected them from being deported as illegal immigrants, was removed in secret.

How utterly disgraceful!

As a result, the people of that generation, who have every right to live here in the UK, have been denied the proof they need to show it. About 7,600 people have already been deported in ‘secret flights’, many of them shackled in various ways, including leg restraints.

These are men and women, who came to this country to work. They were given the worst, dirtiest and lowest paid jobs that we didn’t want. But we benefited enormously from their hard work and their skills. You think of the various Pakistani doctors and Jamaican nurses, who entered and expanded our health service. Quite apart from all the others, who worked as cleaners, street sweepers, domestic staff, or on the buses. They had to put up with horrific racist abuse. In Bristol there was a colour bar on the buses against employing Blacks. Bristol’s Black citizens launched a campaign against it, which was backed by the great socialist legend himself, Tony Benn. And the Whites, who befriended them could also get abuse and vilification from the racists. One of my aunts had it done to her in the 50s or 60s, because she had a Black friend. It’s commonplace now, and almost completely unremarkable. But at the time people were attacked for having Black friends. Never mind interracial romances and marriages.

It should be very obvious to everyone that these deportations are monstrously unjust, and that the person responsible for them should be sacked. Which would be Theresa May.

May, however, did what Tories always do, and started lying to protected her sorry rear end. First of all she claimed the decision to destroy the documents had been taken in 2009 by Labour. A lie. It was taken by her, a year after in 2010. Then she blamed that convenient scapegoats, civil servants. I’ve absolutely no respect for the upper ranks of the civil servants, many of whom have been promoted way beyond their ability, and seem to be as snobbish and class-ridden as the rest of the establishment. You think of the name of their ‘staff association’ the ‘First Division’. That’s so smug and self-congratulatory, that it just about says it all about the mentality of the people who named it. But civil servants don’t take action except on the authority of ministers. Someone must have told them to do so. And that person was Tweezer.

She’s now got herself into the papers, saying that the decision was wrong, and no-one will be deported. Too late. People have been. And the British public aren’t happy. Mike put up a stream of comments from his Twitter feed from people condemning May’s decision, and the racism that underpinned it.

Yes, racism. The Tories have always been against immigration. I can remember the Mail and Depress railing in the 1980s against the hordes of ‘unassimilable’ immigrants. There was one article I remember in particular, which complained how disgusting it was that Black folks from the Caribbean had a greater right to enter this country than Whites from Canada under the-then immigration rules. And a few days ago I blogged about how I found in Bristol Central Library a book of articles, arguing that the British regarded race as the defining feature of ethnicity, not culture. With contributions from the extreme right-wing Salisbury Review, and journos from the Torygraph, Mail and Express.

One of the best comments I’ve seen from the peeps on Twitter was from Michael Rosen, the children’s poet laureate. He said that May’s demands for documentation, which she had deliberately arranged so that the Windrush people couldn’t provide it, wasn’t Fascist, but was certainly Fascistic. Mr Rosen’s Jewish, and so I’m confident that his family know about this from personal experience of Nazi persecution. As do so many other British Jews.

Mike was so outraged, that he urged people to get on Twitter and demand a ‘no confidence’ vote on May. Absolutely. I totally agree. It’s too early to call a general election, but May should go, because of the immense harm her government is doing to the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, the way they’re destroying the welfare state and privatising the Health Service. And, of course, because of their carefully camouflaged racism. Despite all their smooth assurances, nothing has been done for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. And in fact the Tories have repealed even more fire safety legislation, so that horrific accidents like that are now even more likely.

And then there’s the issue of the vans May sent round, trying to encourage illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Some Tory called Nick Timothy got on Twitter to claim that May was against them, and that the decision for them was taken when she was absent on holiday.

Well, as the host says on the Beeb panel game, Would I Lie to You, ‘it was a lie’. May wasn’t happy with the message on the vans, but only because they weren’t nasty enough. She thought people might think the Tories were being too soft on illegal immigrants.

Which tells you all you need to know about the Tories, the people who vote for them, and the supporters in the press. Since Thatcher, governments have been desperate to curry favour with them and particularly with Murdoch. Enough’s enough. May’s the racist leader of a racist party, although I know individual Tories, who are very definitely anti-racist. Tories, who will be as shocked at this as people on the Left. The time’s long past that May and the rest of her vile crew were gone.

I back Mike’s call for a ‘no confidence’ vote. She’s a disgrace, and this attack on people, who came here seeking a better life and to make our great country their home, is particularly deplorable. And her wretched decision then also has implications for the children of people, who came here from the EU, after Brexit.

Get her out, before she and her storm troopers humiliate and deport even more decent, law-abiding people.