Recent events in America have unleashed a storm of protest against the treatment of black people all over the world. Not just current treatment, or the recent actions of the Police and other authorities, but historical ones too. This is understandable, and it has been suggested to me that the George Floyd incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In the last week, numerous corporations and organisations have felt it necessary to make public statements and even apologies on the issues of Black Lives Matter, and the long history of institutional racism in the western world. Laudable perhaps, and possibly also necessary for marketing purposes and attracting customers in future. Both Nike and Apple have been involved, ignoring the fact that they are happy to exploit Asian labour by paying the workers in countries like China a pittance for long hours, compared to salaries in the West. Is that not also a form of racism, and one that is acceptable to most customers who buy i-phones, or the latest trendy trainers?
So if this is just the beginning, then where does it end?
Pulling down and defacing statues has caught on quickly, following on from the same thing happening to Confederate Statues and war graves in America a couple of years ago, as well as this week. One commemorating an 18th century slave trader in Bristol was thrown into the water, and those in honour of Cecil Rhodes and Churchill in London were defaced last weekend. Having statues that supposedly honour such people (Churchill was a well-known racist) is questionable, I agree. But is it not better to learn from their mistakes in the past, and allow them to remain to remind us?
I would suggest it is.
Because when you begin to eliminate history, you start to re-write it. You conveniently forget that African and Arab trade slavers existed long before any white men became involved with them. In fact, many still exist in some countries today. I don’t see anyone protesting about that history, or those current events. What about the Egyptian and Roman empires? Both were built on slavery, and expanded by the use of slaves. Should we pull down The Forum in Rome? Demolish The Coliseum? Have any of those demonstrators pulling down statues ever enjoyed a holiday to Rome, or Egypt?
The Pyramids are said to be one of the seven wonders of the world. Mausoleums to pharoahs, built on the blood and sweat of countless slaves. We know that, we learn about that, and when we go to look at them, we appreciate that. Let’s blow them up though, because surely they commemorate cruelty and slavery? Let us topple the statues to Tiberius and Caligula, and cast them into the Tiber. If it’s good enough for one slave empire, why not for all of them?
How far back is far enough?
And what about churches, and western religions? Most built with the huge wealth of countries who dealt in slavery, or stole natural resources like gold from countries in South and Central America. They killed the people there that opposed them, (who were also slavers of course) before enslaving others to work in their mines and goldfields. The wealth generated was given in large part to the Catholic Church, who actively used to oversee all those operations on the pretext of bringing religion to heathens. So when we admire European cathedrals, and the amazing statues and relics stored within, let’s not forget where the money came from. Exploitation, and slavery.
Time to pull them down perhaps?
On the news today, I heard that the film ‘Gone With The Wind’ is no longer to be allowed to be shown on television in Britain. How long before they start banning others? What about all those Hollywood epics about Egypt? And the films ‘Young Winston’, or ‘The Darkest Hour’? They are about Churchill, so let’s ban those too. And what about books? How long before Margaret Mitchell’s book of ‘Gone With The Wind’ is banned too? She got an award for that, so let’s take that back hile we are at it. Then it would seem logical to ban ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, ‘Huckleberry Finn’, and any historical book that has a contemporary view on black people that has since been identified as racist?
An Asian reporter on BBC News declared this morning that he feels ‘uncomfortable’ about reading the ‘Tintin’ comic books with his young son, due to the way some characters are portrayed. Save his embarrassment, just ban them. Then everyone can start to forget history, and begin to change the facts to suit this new and different agenda.
Fortunately for me, I will likely be dead before all that has happened.
I have been reading and watching the growing number of disturbing reports in Britain that claim the fact that virus deaths are disproportionate in people from backgrounds that include African, West Indian, and the Indian sub-continent are ‘deliberate negligence’. There is a Facebook group of British Muslims who openly accuse the NHS and the government of allowing their relatives to die, because of their ethnicity. One member even called it ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Now I see on the BBC that the new Labour Party leader is calling for a public enquiry into this, and it is to be led by Baroness Lawrence, a black woman who is famous for campaigning for justice for her murdered son many years ago.
I have to say that I personally find these accusations to be appalling. I worked in the NHS for 22 years, and know many who still do, including my own wife. I never saw any different treatment given to non-white people, and I worked in an area of huge cultural diversity.
To save Baroness Lawrence the time, and to save public expenditure, I can offer the following suggestions about why the differential in deaths in ethnic minority groups might be happening. And it has nothing to do with racism, as anyone who knows me well will affirm that I am not racist.
1) Traditional living conditions, and culture.
It is rare these days for white British extended families to continue to live in the same house. You might be hard-pressed to find a house where grandparents, parents, children, and aunts and uncles all share the same dwelling. However, in many families with an Indian and Pakistani background that is NOT unusual. The same applies to some West Indian and African families. Therefore, their chances of infecting more people when they return from work or shopping trips are far greater.
Many people of the Muslim faith, and some Evangelical Christian groups come from those same backgrounds. Despite the current restrictions, it has been noted that some are still gathering in groups for religious services and celebrations. This is not the case with prdominantly white Church of England and Catholic followers.
3) City living.
The majority of people from those backgrounds live in areas where other people from those backgrounds also live. And they tend to be in larger cities, like London, Manchester and Birmingham. In Bradford, Yorkshire, Muslims from ethnic backgrounds make up 25% of the population. Therefore, living in populous towns and cities makes those people more susceptible to becoming infected.
4) Pre-existing medical conditions.
I can tell you from years of personal experience that people from those ethnic groups have a higher than average incidence of Diabetes. Much of this is caused by diet and lack of exercise, especially in the older age groups. They also have a very high rate of kidney falure, and the need for regular dialysis. This is supected to be genetic in origin. Being generally ill before the arrival of Covid-19 means you are much more likely to die, if you are infected. That is commonsense, not racism.
Much has been made of economic factors affecting survival. If this was the case, then the black and Indian doctors and nurses who have died would not have been affected, surely? Their income is above average, and in the case of surgeons, very high. And just as many white doctors and nurses have been infected and died. This is about being constantly exposed to infection. Not about how much you earn, and whether or not you are unemplyed and live on a housing estate.
By contrast, white British families tend to live separately. Children move out of home earlier, and grandparents rarely live in the family home. Uncles and aunts have their own accommodation, and family gatherings are usually limited to birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Our culture changed over the decades since my youth, but theirs did not. It’s not racist, it is just a fact. White British people have also been abandoning organised religion in huge numbers over the past forty years. Church attendances are falling, and nobody I know ever goes to any form of religious services. So, less gatherings, not racism.
In these difficult times, the last thing we need is criticism of the NHS, itself an employer of a huge percentage of staff from those same ethnic minorities claiming that those same people are actively allowing their relatives to die, and in some cases accusing them of facilitating their death by mistreatment.
Baroness Lawrence and the Labour leader should know better than to become involved in this sham of an enquiry.