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OP-ED: A foundational history of racism in the UK

  • Published at 10:14 pm June 18th, 2020

Britain cannot wash away its white supremacist past

One way to understand the reasons and scale of racism is to pretend to be a white British person in 1650, and carry that on until 2020. 

British people are (deliberately) poorly educated about their history. The vast majority don’t realize that from 1600-1945, Britain was a passionate white supremacist nation, a belief that was propagated into all its native people, and the country advanced from being crudely backwards into being advanced because of the funds generated by looting Asian and African countries in their empire which was ploughed into the UK to fund social development. 

For example, Bengal’s standard of living and development was vastly superior to that of the UK in the 1850s. People living in Bengali villages lived a significantly better lifestyle than those in the UK. Churchill was racist because he was a brilliant product of this 300+ year culture.

Even after 1945, huge amounts of physical evidence was destroyed (Operation Legacy) and history was presented in a selective and whitewashed manner: The Empire is promoted as a benevolent force for good vs the looting, murders, raping and forcefully occupying force that it was, Churchill is solely presented as a war time leader and not remembered for the many other vicious racist deeds in his long life.

The notion that Churchill fought a war against racism is also a very impressive piece of whitewashing. In reality, Britain vs Germany was a war between the two most white supremacist nations at the time. Britain had 300 years of expertise in the subject and invaded and conquered lands which Germany was now seeking through its 20-year-old idea. Britain had to enter the war to survive, and not because it was embarking on a humanitarian mission to save the world from racism.

And the virtue of being on the winning side of WWII didn’t mean Britain became less racist or white supremacist in its beliefs afterwards. Germany endured de-nazification, whereas Britain has never undergone a similar de-colonialization program, parroting a triumphalist-only propaganda agenda instead, which would have you believe that Churchill and white British soldiers won the war alone, whereas the truth is that it was the USSR and the US interventions that sealed Hitler’s fate, and the British army had large BAME representation.

Post-war, blacks and Indians were invited by the British government to migrate to rebuild their colonial master state. Those immigrants suffered terrible abuse and yet it still took 20 years for the 1965 Race Relations Act. The progress for genuine racial equality has been just as slow moving since (eg, the Lammy report is yet to be implemented, and now another Tory investigation).

Up to 30% of the UK population was born or their parents were born outside of UK. These people’s family history and emotional attachment do not include Britian’s experience and perspective of WWII. Indeed, those from previous colony countries have a painful and bitter memory of Churchill and Britain. 

Certainly, their hereditary nations would have been far more advanced today without British colonial rule, so perhaps, they would never have come to the UK in first place. 

The UK may have eliminated the crude overt racism that was commonplace until the 1990s, and some have changed their behaviour, or are like the majority of urban millennials and Gen Z who have only known a multi-cultural society. 

But a significant number have simply disguised their racism and practise it through hidden and insidious Amy Cooper-type acts and micro-aggressions, which every person of colour in the UK has experienced at some point.

Scamming people into believing they are superior because of their melatonin levels is perhaps the biggest scam is history. Many are now understanding that they were scammed, and the cultural trauma is without parallel. Observing it happen in real time is hilarious and pitiful at the same time.

Toffael Rashid is a global marketing professional.

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