Netherlands

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‘I act against power’: Sylvana Simons is proudly disrupting politics as usual in the Netherlands

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/05/2021 - 10:11am in

Simons, who rose to fame as a glamorous television personality, leads an explicitly feminist, radical, intersectional party.

If you want to know how Sylvana Simons came to be the first Black woman in the Netherlands to head a political party elected to the House of Representatives, you’ll need to look back further than her glamorous 25-year career as a model, dancer, MTV host, television personality, and political activist. You’ll have to go back to when she dropped out of school and ran away from home at the age of 14 because there were “rules” she “didn’t agree with,” and then became a single mother at the age of 21, when she had not a penny to her name. 

It is this lived experience that informs Simons’ political views as leader of BIJ1 (“Together”), the explicitly intersectional, feminist and radical political party that she founded in 2016. Simons was elected to the House of Representatives in March, largely on the back of the urban youth vote. 

BIJ1 ran an impressively diverse list of candidates for parliament. Among the top 10 were five Black people, three of them women; a Muslim woman who is disabled; a trans woman; a sex worker; an artist and youth worker; and a woman of Indonesian background (Indonesia is a former colony of the Netherlands). The party’s manifesto breathed intersectionality. 

In April Simons made headlines with a scathing 5-minute speech in the House of Representatives on the failures of the government’s pandemic policies. “It turns out,” she said from the podium in the House of Representatives, “That allowing intensive care units to fill up with the goal of reaching herd immunity is harmful to the economy, harmful to our wellbeing, harmful to our freedom, harmful to our health, and has cost us many lives.” The government’s vaccine rollout had failed, she continued, and her party intended to pursue a parliamentary inquiry into the matter. 

 

The speech garnered applause and a rush of positive publicity.

For Simons, the pandemic debate was an excellent opportunity to show what her party stood for, and to push parliament to hold the government to account—an obligation she accuses them of having neglected. “What kind of country do we want to be?” she asked, rhetorically. “We propose systemic change. Do you want authorities to crush citizens, or to protect and help them?” 

Sylvana Simons was born in 1971 in colonial Suriname, four years before the South American country won its independence from the Netherlands—where her family has lived since she was 18 months old. She has been a well-known media figure since the mid-1990s, when she was a presenter for Dutch MTV. But in 2015 her fame morphed into notoriety when, as the host’s side-kick on the popular talk show De Wereld Draait Door (The World Moves On), she pushed back against a guest who used a derogatory term for Black people. The backlash was immediate: Simons was targeted with a tsunami of racist, sexist attacks on social media. 

Overnight, the popular media personality became the most hated woman in the Netherlands. The television guest appearances and invitations to give speeches at corporate events dried up, as the establishment rushed to distance themselves from the suddenly controversial Simons. But she told The Conversationalist that she has no regrets. “It was inevitable,” she said. “I had to practice what I preached: speak out if you are in a position to do so.”

The feminist writer and activist Anja Meulenbelt chuckled appreciatively upon seeing Simons suddenly regaining some of her pre-2015 popularity in the wake of her speech criticizing the government’s failed pandemic policy. Meulenbelt, an icon of 1970s second wave feminism, was one of the first people to join BIJ1. “Sylvana is audacious; she is not afraid of anything,” she said.  BIJ1 had succeeded, asserted Meulenbelt, where the established leftist parties had failed: “We don’t talk about representation; we are representation. We do what other leftist parties [only] talk about.” 

The praise Simons received for her pandemic policy speech was remarkable for the frequency with which it was accompanied by disclaimers—such as, “I’m not a fan of hers, but..!” or “I didn’t vote for her, but..!” or “In general I don’t like her, but..!”

Simons believes those disclaimers are just temporary. She has the stage now, and no longer needs opinion leaders and journalists for exposure. “People think that because of my anti-racism, my politics are exclusive,” she said, adding that the opposite is true. “My politics aren’t exclusive, but inclusive. I act against power. Against a government and institutions that don’t care about citizens but treat them like tools to keep the economy going. That affects all of us, regardless of the color of our skin. And sometimes that means pointing out that the situation of some groups, like Black people or disabled people, requires extra attention.” 

Simons said that her now-famous speech had been “brewing” for a year. But the fluidity and incisiveness of her remarks reveal that she must have been thinking deeply for at least a decade about the issues she addressed so eloquently. Her words reflected a combination of heightened political awareness and outrage over not only the handling of the coronavirus pandemic but also over social justice issues like equality, humanity—and dignity.

Part of her impact is based on her understanding of performance, said Aldith Hunkar, an independent Dutch-Surinamese journalist who has known Simons for many years. “She knows like nobody else which camera is pointed at her, and at which moment to look into it,” said Hunkar, who conducted a video interview in English with Simons earlier this month. She added that Simons was completely sincere—as well as “hyper intelligent.”

Sheila Sitalsing, a Dutch-Surinamese political columnist for the veteran daily newspaper de Volkskrant, described Simons to The Conversationalist as “sensational,” adding that she has “flawless political intuition” and is “factual, calm, with a sharp eye for the rule of law.” 

Simons is a huge fan of Mona Eltahawy, the uncompromising and outspoken Egyptian-American journalist, commentator and activist, but considers herself to be a “diplomat.” In describing her approach, Simons said, “I can find common ground with everybody,” no matter what their background. “I am not bothered by who you are,” she said. “This has to do with my life path.”

Now 50 years old, Simons became a grandmother last year. Reflecting on her life as a high school dropout and single mother who started out as a TV dancer and worked her way up, she said. “I say with pride that I have hardly any formal education. I wasn’t flattened by a system that didn’t work for me. I overcame institutional hurdles, including racism and sexism, and despite society’s consistently low expectations of me. I learned to make connections with everybody. I consider that my strength.”

But how did that life experience transform into a solidly grounded intersectional worldview seemingly overnight? Where did the theory come from? 

Simons mentions Gloria Wekker, a Dutch-Surinamese professor emeritus in gender studies who authored the acclaimed seminal work on Dutch racism, called White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Wekker joined BIJ1, taking it upon herself to educate the new party leader—and was struck by how quickly Simons read and understood the texts.

 “I asked Gloria which books I had to read,” said Simons. “The books made scientifically tangible what I have lived and felt throughout my life.” 

Feminism is, naturally, a big part of the story. But Simons cannot answer the question of which comes first for her—feminism or anti-racism. During the interview, she chooses feminism: “But one cannot exist without the other and I may choose anti-racism next week.”

Simons’s feminist, anti-racist message disrupts the Netherlands, a country that sees itself as a beacon of tolerance and progressiveness. She is not the only one speaking out fiercely against Dutch racism. A decade ago, the campaign “Kick out Black Pete” started, aiming to abolish the blackface tradition that pollutes the Dutch Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) festivities. And last year the Black Lives Matter demonstrations were numerous and huge in the Netherlands. Momentum was building for BIJ1’s politics.

Surprisingly enough, Simons reveals that 15 or 20 years ago she defended Black Pete from foreign criticism. “I’d tell people to butt out of our traditions, even though I’ve hated Black Pete since I was a child. But I too suffered from internalized racism. You know, we are raised in the Netherlands to say that we don’t ‘see’ color, that it’s all kumbaya, but underneath that layer of kumbaya we deny identities.”

Foreigners, in other words, are not the only people surprised to discover racism in the Netherlands. The Dutch themselves are surprised, too. “Our tolerance was a facade we were collectively hiding behind and that has only now started to crumble,” said Simons.

Aldith Hunkar, the Dutch-Surinamese independent journalist, agreed. “The Netherlands has built this system over 500 years and it still refuses to see the implications,” she said. “It’s learning very slowly. Simons has changed the discourse already, but it reflects the rigid, dismal Dutch mindset that she is not yet on a pedestal.” Hunkar, 58, resigned in 2007 from a position she held for 14 years as a television presenter for NOS, the state broadcaster, after accusing it of racism in its editorial decisions. 

To know where Sylvana Simons is coming from, one must consider those 500 years of Dutch colonial, racist history. On March 31, the day she was inaugurated into parliament, the party gave its leader a present: a traditional Afro-Surinamese religious ceremony, held at a public square close to the parliament building. A priestess offered a libation to ask the ancestors and God to give Simons power and wisdom. 

Credit: Fréderike GeerdinkAfro-Surinamese ceremony honoring Sylvana Simons (center) on March 31.

Simons said the ceremony made her feel honored: “I was carried by the ancestors. As a child of the colonies, as Simba, the chosen one, I was honored. It meant a lot to me but also for the people who brought me to this point. They didn’t vote for a politician but for their daughter, sister, mother, aunt, and it is completely emotional. It was about spirituality, about keeping the connection with the people who gave their lives for our freedom.”

Going forward, Simons will need all her strength. The same election that brought BIJ1 to parliament also handed victories to several fascist parties, some of which have been in the legislature for several years, pulling policies and the discourse to the right side of the political spectrum. Simons hopes to pull them back to the left. “Pictures of the ceremony were shared [online] and those on the extreme-right of the spectrum saw them too. Everybody saw that my community lifted me so high—who can touch me now? It gave me wings. I flew into parliament.”

The official inauguration was short. The office assigned to her turned out to be in the former Ministry of Colonies. “That is no coincidence,” said Simons. “It closes the circle.”

The post ‘I act against power’: Sylvana Simons is proudly disrupting politics as usual in the Netherlands appeared first on The Conversationalist.

My Video Criticising Bristol City Council’s Motion Supporting Slavery Reparations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/05/2021 - 1:50am in

This afternoon I put up a video about the motion passed by Bristol city council a few months ago calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to ‘Afrikans’. The motion was put forward by Cleo Lake, a Green councillor for Cotham, and seconded by Asher Craig, the deputy elected mayor, head of equality, and Labour councillor for St. George in the city.

I make it clear in the video that I’m not against government help for Britain’s Black communities, which do suffer from marginalisation, poverty and a lack of opportunities and so on. I also don’t take issue with the idea that this aid should be governed by Black organisations themselves. And people of African extraction are just as disadvantaged as those of West Indian heritage. I just don’t think that reparations for slavery to all Black people are the right form of aid. While slavery did leave vast areas of Africa depopulated and impoverished, the people who did the actual slaving were also Africans, and these peoples could profit immensely. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey had an income of £300,000 per year, well above those of most British dukes of the period.

Furthermore, Britain didn’t acquire its slaves from all of Africa. We tended to get our slaves from West Africa, from peoples like the kingdom of Dahomey, Whydah, Lagos and others. But Africans were also enslaved by the Arabs from earliest times. The trade and Black slaves to Morocco continued until 1910 because Europeans didn’t conquer that country. There was also an east African slave trade, in which the peoples from this part of Africa were enslaved by the Yao, Swahili, Marganja and Arabs, as well as the Dutch and Portuguese. The payment of reparations as demanded by Lake’s and Craig’s motion would mean that we would also be compensating people, who were not enslaved by us but others, including the people responsible for the enslavement.

The motion also sets a precedent for other enslaved peoples to demand reparations from those who historically enslaved them. Would Lake and Craig also support similar demands for reparations from the Arab nations? White Europeans were also taken as slaves by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algeria. about 2 1/2 million Europeans were so taken, including Brits. The parish records of St. Briavel’s in the Forest of Dean in the 18th century record payments to a man, who was collecting donations to ransom sailors enslaved by these north African pirates. According to the precedent this motion has set, Britain and Europe would also be justified in demanding reparations from these north African countries.

Finally, part of the purpose of the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. While the scramble for Africa was basically a power grab by the European powers, Britain did take seriously the task of eliminating slavery, which the motion also doesn’t recognise.

I state at the end that I have written to councillors Lake and Craig about this, but so far have received no reply. Which indicates that they are either far too busy, or don’t really have an answer.

I know I’ve already put up a couple of pieces about this already, but this is quite an important issue and so I’d thought I’d make a YouTube post about it.

My Proposed Article on Bristol’s Slavery Reparations – Ignored and Rejected by the Press?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 8:20pm in

Okay, I’ve blogged about it before when Bristol City council first passed the motion all those weeks ago. These were a couple of pieces about the motion, brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake, and seconded by Labour’s deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Green, calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all of Britain’s ‘Afrikan’ community. I criticised this because this motion effectively means the payment of reparations to the African peoples responsible for the raiding and enslavement, and their sale to outsiders. It wasn’t just European, who purchased and enslaved the continent’s peoples, but also Muslims, Arabs and Indians. The motion falsifies history by reducing a complex situation to simple Black and White – White Europeans versus Black Africans. I believe Lake and Craig are playing racial politics here by trying to create a unified Black British community by presenting all British Blacks as the victims of White, European, British slavery when this was not historically the case.

The motion also raises other issues by setting the precedent for formerly enslaved peoples to sue their former captors. Thus Black Africans could also demand reparations from Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and the successors to the great Arab caliphates of the Middle Ages – perhaps Saudi Arabia? – Oman and other states for their enslavement. As could Europeans. 2.5 million White Europeans were carried off into slavery by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algiers. Would the councillors, who supported and passed Lake’s and Craig’s slavery reparations motion also support similar motions for the payment of reparations to these people from their former masters?

I wrote to Lake and Craig raising these issues, and so far have received no reply. Perhaps they’re too busy. Craig has received 6,000 racially abusive messages, which I condemn, so perhaps she hasn’t looked at it because it’s been lost in all the other mail she’s received about it.

I tried to get the press interested in this issue, and so submitted an article about it. I first sent it to the Guardian, and then to a number of right-wing newspapers when I heard nothing from the Groan. I thought the right-wing press would be perhaps be more likely to publish it, and it contradicts some of the attitudes and assumptions of the pro-Black activists that newspapers like the I, Independent and Observer share and promote. Along with the article itself, I sent the following cover message.

Dear Sir,

I would be very grateful if you would consider the attached article laying out some of the problems with the motion passed a few weeks ago in Bristol calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black community. There are a number of difficult and complex issues raised by this, which I do not believe have been adequately discussed in the press. One of these is that the motion calls for both Africans and Afro-Caribbean people to be granted reparations. While I’ve no doubt that Black African people are as disadvantaged as people of West Indian heritage, there is a problem here as historically it was African peoples who did the dirty business of slaving, selling them not just to Europeans, but also to Muslim, Arab and Indian slavers. It would therefore be unjust for people the British enslave or who actively collaborated in slaving to receive compensation for slavery.

Other problems with the motion are that it sets a precedent for other peoples to demand reparations for their enslavement. White Europeans would, following this logic, also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of 2 1/2 million Europeans by the Barbary pirates. And Black Africans would also be entitled to ask Muslim and Arab nations for reparations for their enslavement of them.

I also consider the motion to be racially divisive, as it seeks to create a unified Black community, who are represented as equal victims, against Whites, who are considered slavers, thus simplifying a complex historical issue.

I hope you will consider the article suitable, and look forward to your reply.

Yours,

And here’s the article itself.

Slavery Reparations: Not All Blacks Were the Victims, Some Were the Slavers

A few weeks ago Bristol Council passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations to the Black British community for their enslavement. The motion was introduced by Cleo Lake, a former mayor and the Green Councillor for Cotham in the city, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. The reparations were to be both financial and cultural. It was moved that they should take the form of proper funding for projects to improve conditions for the Black community and raise them to the same, sustainable level of equality with the rest of British society. These projects were to be led and guided by Black organisations themselves. And the reparations should include all ‘Afrikans’, by which eccentric spelling Councillor Lake meant both Afro-Caribbean people and Black Africans. The motion was passed 47 to 11. It was supported by the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Tories opposed it. They said that while it came from ‘a good place’, the motion was ‘divisive’. In fact, there are a number of reasons why it should be opposed. The most important of these is that Black Africans were hardly innocent of slaving themselves.

Slavery existed in Africa long before the European invasion, and Britain wasn’t the only country that traded in enslaved Africans.  So did the Arabs, Ottoman Turks, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The first Black slaves in Europe were enslaved by Arabs and taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. In addition to the transatlantic slave trade, there was also an Islamic slave trade to north Africa and Muslim nations in Asia. Although there were exceptions, Europeans did not directly enslave their African victims. Before the 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, powerful African states prevented Europeans from penetrating inland and seizing African territory. The European slave merchants were largely confined to specific quarters, rather like European ghettos, in these state’s main towns, from whom they purchased their human cargo. By the 19th century powerful African slaving nations, such as Dahomey, Whydah and Badagry had emerged in West Africa. In East Africa, the Yao, Marganja and Swahili peoples enslaved the people of other nations to sell to the Arabs. Some were purchased by the Imaum of Muscat, now Oman, for labour on his immensely profitable clove plantations in Zanzibar. It was to prevent Indian merchants from importing enslaved Africans into British India that the British government opened negotiations with the Imaum to halt the east African slave trade.

Part of the rationale for British imperialism was to stamp out the slave trade and slavery at its point of supply, and this was one of the causes of African resistance to British expansionism. The Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, for example, was caused by the British attempting to abolish the Arab enslavement of Black Sudanese. It was to halt slaving by Dahomey that Britain fought a war against its king, Guezo. In some parts of Africa, slavery continued up to the 20th century because these countries had not been conquered by Europeans. The slave trade to Morocco continued to 1910 because the European powers had blocked the European invasion of that country. Slavery also persisted in Ethiopia, whose armies also preyed on the peoples of the surrounding African states, prompting a British punitive expedition in the 1880s.

This obviously presents problems for the payment of reparations to all sections of the Black British community, because some African nations weren’t the victims of White enslavement. They were the slavers. Someone once remarked on this situation that if reparations were to be paid, it should be by Africans compensating the Black peoples of the Caribbean and Americas.

And there are other problems with slavery reparations. If reparations were paid to Blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors, it would set a precedent for similar demands by other ethnicities. For example, up until the conquest of Algeria by France in the 19th century, White Europeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim pirates from Morocco and Algiers. About 2 ½ million people, including those from Bristol and the West Country, were carried off. The demand for reparations for the Black victims of slavery means that, by the same logic, White Europeans would also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors from those countries. At the same time, Black Africans would also be entirely justified in claiming reparations from the Muslim nations that enslaved them, such as perhaps Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But there have been no such demands, at least to my knowledge.

I don’t doubt that Black Africans in Bristol or elsewhere in the UK suffer the same problems of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and discrimination as the rest of the Black population, nor that there should be official programmes to tackle these problems. And it is only fair and proper that they should be guided and informed by the Black community itself. But reparations cannot justly be paid to the Black community as a whole because of the deep involvement of some African peoples in slavery and the slave trade.

Furthermore, there’s a nasty, anti-White dimension to Lake’s motion. By claiming that all Blacks, both West Indian and African, were equally victims of the slave trade, she and her supporters seem to be trying to create a unified Black community by presenting all of them as the victims of White predation, simplifying a complex historical situation along racial lines.

I’ve written to councillors Lake and Craig about these issues, but so far have not received an answer. In Councillor Craig’s case, it may well be that my message to her got lost amongst the 6,000 abusive emails she is reported to have received. It is, of course, disgusting that she should suffer such abuse, and she has my sympathies in this. But this does not alter the fact that reparations for Black slavery raise a number of difficult issues which make it unsuitable as a means of improving conditions for Black Britons.

Well, I haven’t heard anything from any of the newspapers I submitted it to, not even an acknowledgement. It seems the news cycle has moved on and they’re not interested. But this doesn’t mean that the arguments against the motion are any less valid, and I thought people would like to read these arguments again for themselves, as well as about my efforts to raise them in the press.

Winning on the corporate tax rate argument is not done yet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 4:47pm in

The FT has noted this morning that:

Europe’s low-tax nations have responded positively to the Biden administration’s plans for a radical reform of global corporate taxation, even though they will lose out — but signalled that Washington can expect a fight over much of the detail.

My response would be that this is exactly  what diplomacy requires, of course. Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Malta were never going to tell the US where it might put its tax plan. That’s not the way the world works.

But, crucially, nor does this require that they cooperate with the OECD    or the US on this issue. Instead they will argue. There will be a number of areas that will  be easy picking for them.

First, they can argue on the tax rate. This might go on endlessly.

Second, they can argue on the calculation of the effective  tax rate and how that might be calculated. Debate on allowable deductions for things like capital allowances could bog this down.

Then they might argue on the nature of a sale and where it might be located. This is vital since the suggested method suggests profits will be apportioned based on the location of a sale.

After that there will be disputes on time scale, since any required calculation will take time to resolve given that audit will be involved.

That then opens the issue of ensuring payment is settled, especially if long after the event and even more so if redistribution of payments already made in the wrong place is required. The opportunities in this are endless.

The point is that these are all games. And they show that agreeing the principle is one thing. Where the OECD is also going to need serious political support is in agreeing  on these processes as well.

This one is not over yet, but has to be won.

My Letter to Councillors Lake and Craig About their Slavery Reparations Motion

Last week Bristol city council passed a motion supporting the payment of reparations for slavery to Black Britons. The motion was brought by Cleo Lake, a Green councillor for Cotham, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. Lake stated that it was to include everyone of ‘Afrikan’ descent as shown by her preferred spelling of the word with a K. She claimed this was the original spelling of the continent before it was changed by White Europeans. The reparations themselves would not be a handout, but instead funding for schemes to improve conditions for the Black community to put them in a position of equality with the rest of society. The schemes were to be guided and informed by the Black communities themselves.

This is all well and good, and certainly comes from the best of motives. But it raises a number of issues that rather complicate matters. Apart from her eccentric spelling, which looks to me like Afrocentric pseudohistory, there is the matter of who should be the proper recipient of these payments. Arguably, it should not include as Africans, as it was African kingdoms and chiefs who actually did the dirty business of raiding for slaves and selling them to European and American merchants.

Then there is the fact that the payment of reparations for slavery in the instance also sets a general principle that states that every nation that has engaged in slaving should pay reparations to its victims. So, are the Arab countries and India also going to pay reparations for their enslavement of Black Africans, which predates the European slave trade? Are Morocco and Algeria, the home countries of the Barbary pirates, going to pay reparations for the 2 1/2 million White Europeans they carried off into slavery?

And what about contemporary slavery today? Real slavery has returned in Africa with slave markets being opened by Islamists in their areas of Libya and in Uganda. What steps are being taken to counter this, or is the city council just interested in historic European slavery? And what measures are being taken by the council to protect modern migrants from enslavement? A few years ago a Gloucestershire farmer was prosecuted for enslaving migrant labourers, as have other employers across the UK. And then there is the problem of sex trafficking and the sexual enslavement of migrant women across the world, who are frequently lured into it with the lie that they will be taken to Europe and given proper, decent employment. What steps is the council taking to protect them?

I also don’t like the undercurrent of anti-White racism in the motion. By including Africans, Lake and Craig are attempting to build up and promote a unified Black British community by presenting the enslavement of Black Africans as something that was only done by Whites. This is not only historically wrong, but it promotes racism against Whites. I’ve heard Black Bristolians on the bus talking to their White friends about other Whites they know in the Black majority parts of Bristol, who are suffering racist abuse. Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter in Oxford, was thrown off Twitter for advocating the enslavement of Whites. Lake’s and Craig’s motion, while well meant, seems dangerous in that it has the potential to increase Black racism towards Whites, not lessen it.

I therefore sent the following letter to councillors Lake and Craig yesterday. So far the only answer I’ve received is an automatic one from Asher Craig. This simply states that she’s receiving a large amount of messages recently and so it may take some time before she answers it. She also says she won’t respond to any message in which she’s been copied. As I’ve sent the email to both her and Lake, it wouldn’t surprise me if this means that I don’t get a reply at all from her. Councillor Lake hasn’t sent me any reply at all. Perhaps she’s too busy.

I do wonder if, by writing this letter, I’m setting myself up for more condescension and gibes about my race and gender by Craig and Lake. When I Craig a letter expressing my concerns about the comments she made about Bristol and slavery on the Beeb, which I believed were flatly untrue, I did get a reply. This simply asserted that I wouldn’t make such comments if I had heard the whole interview, but gave no further information. It ended by telling me that their One Bristol schools curriculum would promote Black Bristolians, both Caribbean and African. They would be inclusive, ‘which hasn’t always happened with White men, I’m afraid’. So no facts, no proper answers, just evasions and the implication that I was somehow being racist and sexist, because I’m a White man.

Nevertheless, I believe very strongly that these a real issues that need to be challenged, rather than ignored or simply gone along with for the sake of a quiet life, or the desire to be seen to be doing the right thing.

I blogged about this a few days ago, and will write something further about any reply I receive, or the absence of one. As I said, I feel I’m setting myself up for patronising sneers and evasions from them, but it will be interesting to read what they have to say.

Dear Madam Councillors,

Congratulations on the passage of your motion last week calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black British community. I am writing to you not to take issue with the question of paying reparations and certainly not with your aim of creating a sustainable process, led and guided by Black communities themselves, to improve conditions for the Black British community. What I wish to dispute here is the inclusion of Black Africans as equal victims of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as other issues raised by your motion.. Black Africans were not just victims of transatlantic slavery..  They were also trading partners, both of ourselves and the other nations and ethnicities involved in the abominable trade.

I’d first like to question Councillor Lake’s assertion that Africa was originally spelt with a ‘K’ and that Europeans changed it to a ‘C’. We use the Latin alphabet, which the Romans developed from the Etruscans, both of which cultures were majority White European. I am not aware of any African culture using the Latin alphabet before the Roman conquest of north Africa. The ancient Egyptians and Nubians used hieroglyphs, the Berber peoples have their own ancient script, Tufinaq, while Ge’ez and Amharic, the languages of Christian Ethiopia, also have their own alphabet. The Coptic language, which is the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language, uses the Greek alphabet with some characters taken from Demotic Egyptian. And the Arabic script and language was used by the Muslim African cultures before the European conquest of the continent. I am therefore at a loss to know where the assertion that Africans originally spelt the name of themselves and their continent with a ‘K’.

Regarding the issue of Africans receiving reparations for slavery, it existed in the continent long before the development of the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th century. For example, in the early Middle Ages West African kingdoms were using slaves in a form of plantation agriculture to grow cotton and foodstuffs. Black Africans were also enslaved by the Arabs and Berbers of North Africa, and the first Black slaves imported into Europe were taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. And when the European transatlantic slave trade arose, it was carried on not just by Europeans but also by powerful African states such as Dahomey, Whydah, Badagry and others in West Africa. These states were responsible for enslaving the surrounding peoples and selling them to European and later American slave merchants. There were occasional slave raids by Europeans themselves, as was done by Jack Hawkins. But mostly the European slave traders were confined to specific quarters in the West African city states, which were sufficiently strong to prevent European expansion inland.

The British mostly took their slaves from West Africa. In eastern Africa the slave trade was conducted by the Arabs, Portuguese and the Dutch, who transported them to their colonies further east in what is now Indonesia. There was also a trade in African slaves in the 19th century by merchants from India. It was also carried out by east African peoples such as the Ngoni, Yao, Balowoka, Swahili and Marganja. These peoples strongly resisted British efforts to suppress the slave trade. In the late 1820s one of the west African slaving nations attacked a British trading post with the aim of forcing the British to resume the trade. In the 1850s the British fought a war against King Guezo of Dahomey with the intention of stamping out slaving by this west African state. In the 1870s the British soldier, Samuel Baker, was employed by the Khedive Ismail of Egypt to suppress Arab slaving in what is now the Sudan and parts of Uganda. The campaign to suppress the slave trade through military force formed part of the rationale for the British invasion of the continent in the Scramble for Africa. But it was also to protect their newly acquired territories in the Sudan and Uganda from slave-raiding by the Abyssinians that the British also launched a punitive expedition into that nation. And the Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, in which General Gordon was killed, was partly caused by the British authorities’ attempts to ban the slave trade and slavery there.

In addition to the use of force, the British also attempted to stamp it out through negotiations. Talks were opened and treaties made with African kings as well as the Imam of Muscat, the suzerain of the east African slave depots and city states, including Zanzibar and Pemba. Subsidies were also paid to some African rulers in order to pay them off from slaving.

I am sure you are aware of all of this. But regrettably none of it seems to have been mentioned in the motion, and this greatly complicates the issue of reparations for slavery. Firstly, there is the general question of whether any Africans should receive compensation for slavery because of the active complicity of African states. So great has this historic involvement in the transatlantic slave trade been that one commenter said that when it came to reparations, it should be Africans compensating western Blacks. Even if it’s conceded that reparations should be paid to Africans for slavery, this, it could be argued, should only apply to some Africans. Those African nations from which we never acquired our slaves should not be compensated, as we were not responsible for their enslavement or the enslavement of other Africans.

When it comes to improving conditions and achieving equality for Bristol and Britain’s Black communities, I do appreciate that Africans may be as underprivileged and as subject to racism as Afro-Caribbeans. I don’t dispute here either that they should also receive official aid and assistance. What is questionable is including them in reparations for slavery. It should be done instead, in my view, with a package of affirmative action programmes, of which reparations for slavery for people of West Indian heritage is one component. This would mixed amongst other aid policies that equally cover all sections of the Black community. I am not trying to create division here, only suggest ways in which the issue of reparations should in accordance with the actual historical roles of the individual peoples involved in the slave trade.

And this is another matter that concerns me about this motion. It seeks to simplify the African slave trade into White Europeans preying upon Black Africans. It appears to be an attempt to promote a united Black community by placing all the blame for slavery and the slave trade on Whites. This is completely ahistorical and, I believe, dangerous. It allows those states that were involved to cover up their involvement in the slave trade and creates hostility against White British. The Conservative journalist Peter Hitchens, speaking on LBC radio a few weeks ago, described how an Ethiopian taxi driver told him that he hated the British, because we were responsible for slavery. He was completely unaware of his own cultures participation in slavery and the enslavement of other African peoples. I’m sure you are also aware that Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter Oxford and the founder of the Taking the Initiative Party, was thrown off Twitter for a tweet advocating the enslavement of Whites: ‘The White man will not be our equal. He will be our slave. History is changing’. I am also concerned about possible prejudice being generated against White members of majority Black communities. I have heard Black Bristolians telling their White friends about the abuse other White people they know get in some  majority Black or Asian parts of Bristol because of their colour. I appreciate the need to protect Black Bristolians from prejudice and abuse, but feel that this also needs to be extended to Whites. Racism can be found in people of all colours.

The lack of discussion of African involvement in the slave trade also concerns me just as a matter of general education. Councillor Craig said in an interview on BBC television during the BLM protests that she would like a museum of slavery in Bristol, just as there is in Liverpool and Nantes. I feel very strongly that any such museum should put it in its proper, global context. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans, yes, but slavery was never exclusive to White Europeans. Other nations and races throughout the world were also involved.

The question of reparations also brings up the issue of possible payments for White enslavement and the question of measures to suppress the resurgence of slavery in Africa. As you are no doubt aware, White Europeans also suffered enslavement by north African pirates from Morocco and Algeria. It is believed about 2 ½ million Europeans were thus carried off. This includes people from Bristol and the West Country. If Britain should pay compensation to Blacks for enslaving them, then by the same logic these nations should pay White Britons reparations for their enslavement. Would you therefore support such a motion? And do you also agree that the Muslim nations, that also enslaved Black Africans, such as Egypt and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, as well as Morocco, should also pay reparations to the descendants of the people they enslaved?

Apart from Britain’s historic role in the slave trade, there is also the matter of the resurgence of slavery in Africa today. Slave markets have been opened in Islamist-held Libya and Uganda. I feel it would be unjust to concentrate on the historic victims of slavery to the exclusion of its modern, recent victims, and hope you agree. What steps should Bristol take to help suppress it today, and support asylum seekers, who may have come to the city fleeing such enslavement?

This also applies to the resurgence of slavery in Britain. There have been cases of migrant labourers being enslaved by their employers in Gloucestershire, as well as the problem of sex trafficking. What steps is the city taking to protect vulnerable workers and immigrants here?

I hope you will appreciate the need for proper education in Bristol about the city’s role in the slave trade and the involvement of other nations, one that does not lead to a simplistic blaming of all of it on White Europeans, as well as the question the issue of reparations raises about the culpability of other nations, who may also be responsible for paying their share.

Yours faithfully,

Not All Africans Were the Victims of European Slavery – Some Were the Slavers

As I mentioned in a previous post, a few days ago Bristol city council passed a motion brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake and seconded by Labour deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Craig supporting the payment of reparations to the Black community for slavery. Bristol becomes the first town outside London to pass such a motion. Although the motion is a radical step, on examination it seems not so very different from what Bristol and other cities are already doing. Lake herself said something like the reparations weren’t going to be a free handout for everyone, or something like that. The motion, as I understand it, simply calls for funding for projects, led by the ‘Afrikan’ community itself, to improve conditions and create prosperity in Black communities so that they and their residents enjoy the same levels of opportunity and wealth as the rest of us Brits. This has been coupled with calls for ‘cultural reparations’. What this means in practice is unclear. It appears to me that it might include monuments to the people enslaved by Bristol and transported to the New World, the repatriation of stolen cultural artefacts or possibly more support for Black arts projects. But as far as I am aware, the city has already been funding welfare, arts and urban regeneration projects in Bristol’s Black majority communities, like St. Paul’s, since the riots forty years ago. It looks to me far more radical than it actually is.

The motion was passed by 47 votes to 11. Those 11 opposing votes came from the Tories. They stated that while the motion came from a ‘good place’, they were not going to vote for it because it was just reducing a complex issue to a binary. Mike in his piece about it says that it sounds like doubletalk to him. It does to me, too, but there might be a genuine issue there as well. Because Lake has made the motion about the ‘Afrikan’ community in Bristol as a whole, including both Afro-Caribbean and African people. Both these parts of Bristol’s Black community are supposed to qualify equally for reparations. Her eccentric spelling of the ‘African’ with a K exemplified this. She claimed that this was the originally spelling before Europeans changed it to a C. The K spelling indicated the inclusiveness of the African community. This looks like total hogwash. Western European nations use the Latin alphabet, which was developed by the Romans from the Etruscans. The Romans and the Etruscans were both Europeans. I am not aware of any Black African nation having used the Latin alphabet, let alone spelt the name of their continent with a K. The Berber peoples of north Africa have their alphabet, used on gravestones. The ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs. Coptic, the language of the indigenous Egyptian Christian church, which is descended from ancient Egyptian, uses the Greek alphabet with the addition of a number of letters taken from the demotic ancient Egyptian script. Ge’ez, the language of Christian Ethiopia, and its descendant, Amharic, also have their own scripts. It’s possible that medieval Nubian was written in the Latin alphabet, but it might also be that it was written in Greek. It therefore seems to me that K spelling of Africa is a piece of false etymology, invented for ideological reasons in order to give a greater sense of independence and antiquity to Africa and its people but without any real historical support.

At the same time there is a real difference between the experience of the descendants of enslaved Africans taken to the New World and the African peoples. Because the latter were deeply involved in the enslavement of the former. Some Europeans did directly enslave Africans through raids they conducted themselves, like the privateer Jack Hawkins in the 16th century. But mostly the actual raiding and enslavement of the continent’s peoples was done by other African nations, who sold them on to the Europeans. European slave merchants were prevented from expanding into the continent through a combination of strong African chiefs and disease-ridden environment of the west African coast. As a result, the European slave merchants were confined to specific quarters, like the ghettoes for European Jews, in African towns. Britain also mostly took its slaves from West Africa. The east African peoples were enslaved by Muslim Arabs, the Portuguese or by the Dutch for their colonies at the Cape or further east in what is now Indonesia.

Slavery also existed in Africa long before the arrival of the Europeans. Indeed, the kings of Dahomey used it in a plantation agricultural economy to supply food and cotton. They were also enslaved by the Arabs and Berbers of north Africa. The first Black slaves imported to Europe were taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. The trans-Saharan slave trade survived until 1910 or so because the Europeans did not invade and conquer Morocco, one of its main centres.

Following the ban on the slave trade within the British Empire in 1807, Britain concluded a series of treaties with other nations and sent naval patrols across the world’s oceans in order to suppress it. Captured slavers were taken to mixed courts for judgement. If found guilty, the ship was confiscated, a bounty given to the capturing ship’s officers, and the slaves liberated. Freetown in Sierra Leone was specifically founded as a settlement for these freed slaves.

The reaction of the African peoples to this was mixed. Some African nations, such as the Egba, actively served with British sailors and squaddies to attack slaving vessels. I believe it was British policy to give them the same amount of compensation for wounds received in action as their White British comrades. Other African nations were outraged. In the 1820s there was a series of attacks on British trading stations on the Niger delta in order to force Britain to resume the slave trade. As a result, Britain fought a series of wars against the west African slaving states of Dahomey, Badagry, Whydah and others. On the other side of the Continent, Britain invaded what is now Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe partly to prevent these countries being claimed by their European imperial rivals, but also to suppress slavery there. In the 1870s the British soldier, Samuel Baker, was employed by the ruler of Egypt, the Khedive Ismail, to stamp out slaving in the Sudan and Uganda. Later on, General Gordon was sent into the Sudan to suppress the Mahdi’s rebellion, one cause of which was the attempt by the British authorities to outlaw the enslavement of Black Africans by the Arabs. The Sudan and Uganda also suffered from raids for slaves from Abyssinia, and we launched a punitive expedition against them sometime in the 1880s, I believe. Some African chiefs grew very wealthy on the profits of such misery. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey in the 18th century had an income of £300,000 a year, far more than some British dukes.

Despite the efforts to suppress slavery, it still persisted in Africa. Colonial officials reported to the British government about the problems they had trying to stamp it out. In west Africa, local custom permitted the seizure of someone’s relatives or dependents for their debts, a system termed ‘panyarring’ or pawning. The local authorities in Sierra Leone were also forced to enact a series of reforms and expeditions further south as former slaves, liberated Africans, seized vulnerable local children and absconded to sell them outside the colony. Diplomatic correspondence also describes the frustration British officials felt at continued slaving by the Arabs and the collusion of the Ottoman Turkish authorities. While the Ottomans had signed the treaty formally outlawing the slave trade, these permitted individuals to have personal servants and concubines. The result was that slaving continued under the guise of merchants simply moving with their households. The Turkish authorities were generally reluctant to move against slavers, and when police raids were finally launched on the buildings holding suspected slaves, they found the slaves gone, taken elsewhere by their masters.

Slavery continued to survive amongst some African societies through the 20th century and into the 21st. The 1990s book, Disposable People, estimated that there were then 20 million people then enslaved around the world. Simon Webb, the Youtuber behind ‘History Debunked’, has said in one of his videos that the number is now 40 million. Slave markets – real slave markets – have been reopened in Uganda and in Islamist held Libya following the western-backed overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy.

From this historical analysis, some African nations should very definitely not be compensated or receive reparations for slavery, because they were the slavers. Black civil rights activists have, however, argued that the continent should receive reparations because of the devastation centuries of warfare to supply the European slave trade wrought on the continent. Not everyone agrees, and I read a comment by one diplomat or expert on the issue that, when it came to reparations, it should be Black Africans paying the Black peoples of the Americas and West Indies.

Nevertheless, Lake’s motion states that all Black Bristolians or British are equal victims of British enslavement. This seems to be a view held by many Black Brits. A reporter for the Beeb interviewed some of those involved in the Black Lives Matter protest last summer when the statue of the slaver Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol. The journo asked one of the mob, a young Black lad, what he thought of it. ‘I’m Nigerian’, said the lad, as if this explained everything. It doesn’t, as the Nigerian peoples practised slavery themselves as well as enslaving others for us and their own profit.

It feels rather churlish to raise this issue, as I’ve no doubt that people of African descent suffer the same amount of racial prejudice, poverty and lack of opportunity as West Indians. If the issue was simply the creation of further programmes for improving the Black community generally, then a motion in favour really shouldn’t be an issue. At the same time, if this was about general compensation for injustices suffered through imperialism, you could also argue that Black Africans would have every right to it there. But the issue is reparations for slavery and enslavement. And some Black Africans simply shouldn’t have any right to it, because they were the slavers.

It would be difficult if not impossible to create schemes for improving the condition of Britain’s Black community under the payment of reparations without including Africans as well as Black West Indians. But it also seems to me that the Tories unfortunately also have a point when they complain that Lake has reduced it to a binary issue. She has, simply by claiming that all ‘Afrikans’ were the victims of British enslavement.

And it’s been done in order to create an inclusive Black community, which ignores the different experiences of slavery by the various peoples that make it up, against White Bristol.

When You Know How to Shop, There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 7:00pm in

Old school

These days, all that some Indian urbanites know about seafood comes from whatever is at the supermarket or on the menu at their favorite restaurant. The result is a generational loss of knowledge about how to choose fish that is local, sustainable and in season. Marine geographer Divya Karnad is working to change that. 

Karnad’s “Fishploration” tours of Chennai’s traditional fish markets aim to reconnect urban dwellers with an older way of buying seafood. “I feel like at least with the younger generation, they’re totally disconnected,” she told Hakai. In Karnad’s opinion, to make responsible seafood purchases, one must be able to identify a fish, know how it was caught, and know whether it’s in season. 

chennaiA fish market in Chennai. Credit: Rajesh Pamnani / Flickr

She uses her tours to build participants’ knowledge in these areas so that even if they do buy most of their fish at the supermarket, they’ll be able to make better choices. In addition to the tours, she publishes monthly guides to the city’s local fish markets and has launched a collective called InSeason Fish to promote buying fish the traditional way. And while Karnad recognizes that her tours’ small scale limits their impact, several of the participants walked away with newfound knowledge. “I thought there were only four to five varieties of fish, but now what I was able to witness here was that there are more than 40 to 50,” said one.

Read more at Hakai

News you can use

In Chad, troubadours are the local newscasters, traveling from community to community on donkeys and camels, often with megaphones, to broadcast information in the local language. Now, they’ve become critical players in the country’s pandemic prevention efforts, particularly for the three-quarters of Chadians who don’t have TV, radio or the internet.

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“They are the most reliable people to deliver information by word-of-mouth,” said Chad’s top UN representative. “It is essential to work with them in order to avoid… rumors, misinformation and suspicion of health interventions.” To do this, the UN has been working with some 80 troubadours, equipping them with accurate, easy-to-understand information about the virus, and dispatching them to some of the country’s most remote communities to deliver it in person.

The troubadours are part of what has been a highly successful response to the virus in Chad. In total, the country has recorded fewer than 4,000 coronavirus cases and only 137 deaths. 

Read more at UN News

Urban growth

In cities without a lot of space, tiny forests are coming to be seen as a way to help protect the environment while improving underutilized space. 

Designed to pack an ecological punch on a compact amount of land, “micro-forests” can support urban biodiversity in a space that is often no bigger than a tennis court. According to Daan Bleichrodt of the Dutch nonprofit IVN, most urban neighborhoods in the Netherlands have around 200 square meters of barren land. These spots can be converted into natural forests that mature over time. They’re grown using a Japanese planting method known as miyawaki, which involves a mix of densely planted native trees grown in nutrient-rich soil. Hundreds of micro-forests have been planted globally, from Bristol to Beirut. One study found that a single tiny forest attracted 600 species of native plants and animals. 

One downside is that, because the forests are designed to be wild, they can attract animals like deer and foxes that aren’t well suited to dense urban neighborhoods. But proponents believe their benefits outweigh the drawbacks. “I feel that if we plant hundreds of these forests we can mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Bleichrodt.

Read more at the BBC

The post When You Know How to Shop, There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Historical Ignorance and Prejudice on Sadiq Khan’s Monuments Panel

Sadiq Khan has been at the centre of more controversy this week. The Tories hate him with a passion because he’s a Labour politico, and they can’t tolerate the idea, let alone the reality, of someone from the left being mayor of London. And so he has joined his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, the head of the GLC when Thatcher was in power, as the target of right-wing hate and venom. They also dislike him because he’s a Muslim, and so in the mayoral elections a few years ago we had the noisome spectacle of Tory candidate Zack Goldsmith implying that Khan was a radical Islamist cosying up to terrorist or terrorist sympathisers to bring down Britain. All rubbish, of course, but there are still people who firmly believe it.

Following the attacks on Colston’s statue in Bristol and the campaign to remove other statues of slavers and other British imperialists elsewhere in Britain, Khan has set up a panel to examine the question of doing the same in the capital, as well as renaming streets and other monuments with dubious historical connections. The panel has fifteen members, but it has already been denounced by its critics as a panel of activists. There have been articles in the Depress, Heil and Torygraph strongly criticising its composition and the selection of its members. The Torygraph’s article complained that it contained no historians, who could set these monuments into their proper contexts or any Conservatives. This is actually a fair point, because the actions of some of the panel’s members strongly indicates that those individuals have zero knowledge of the history of slavery.

One of Khan’s choices for membership of the panel is Toyin Agbetu, who managed to cause outrage in 2007 at a service in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. Agbetu disrupted the service and tried to approach the queen, shouting that it was all a disgrace and You should be ashamed. We shouldn’t be here. This is an insult to us’. I think that he was outraged that the British were congratulating themselves were ending the slave trade when they should never have been involved in it in the first place.

Another appointee is Lynette Nabbossa, a business academic and head of an organisation to provide role models for young Blacks. She has claimed that White supremacy is rooted in British history. In October she wrote that the UK was the common denominator in atrocities across the world, and

‘No matter where you find examples of white supremacy, all roads lead back to my country of birth.

‘It was the UK’s racism that birthed slavery and colonialism. We say it is in the past but our schools, colleges, universities, streets, museums etc have never stopped honouring the enforcers of our oppression.’

These are statements of historical ignorance and racial prejudice which should cast severe doubt on the suitability of these individuals for membership of the panel. 

British imperialism was based on the notion that the White British were superior to the non-White nations they conquered and ruled over, and this country and its ally, America, have been responsible for propping up various horrific dictators and murderous despotic regimes around the world. But neither Agbetu nor Nabbossa seem to know or understand that slavery existed long before the British empire, and that White supremacy wasn’t just a British phenomenon. What about the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch empires? Apartheid has its origin amongst the Afrikaners, who were Dutch colonists. Britain only gained Cape Colony, the founding settlement of what later became South Africa, in 1800, seizing it from the Netherlands during the Napoleonic Wars. And we were hardly responsible for atrocities in Africa committed by some of the newly independent African regimes, like Idi Amin’s Uganda, the Rwandan genocide or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

They also don’t seem to realise how near-universal slavery was as a global phenomenon. It was a part of many African societies before the establishment of the Atlantic slave trade. Muslim slavers transported Blacks slaves north to the Arab states of north Africa, while African and Arab traders exported slaves from east Africa across the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean to Arabia, India, and south east Asia. The first Black slaves in Europe were imported, not by White Christians, but by the Arab-Berber states of al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. And the campaign against slavery began in White, European culture. This has been stated repeatedly by western Conservatives and attacked and denounced by their opponents on the left. But it’s true. I haven’t been able to find evidence of any attempt by a non-western society to abolish slavery before the Europeans. The closest I found is a document in one of James Walvin’s books, a complaint from a Muslim Egyptian against the enslavement of the Black Sudanese. This was not an attack on slavery as a whole, however. The Egyptian objected to it in the case of the Sudanese because they were Muslims, and under sharia law Muslims are not supposed to enslave other Muslims. The author of the complaint does not object to the enslavement of non-Muslims.

Part of the rationale behind British imperialism was the campaign to stamp out slavery around the world, particularly in Africa. When Jacob Rees-Mogg made a speech in parliament claiming that BLM had shot itself in the foot and that people were now interested in the careers of imperialists like Gordon of Khartoum, he had a point. Gordon was sent to the Sudan by the Anglo-Egyptian authorities to put down the Mahdi’s rebellion. All very stereotypically imperialist. But the Mahdi wasn’t just rising up against infidel oppression. He and his followers were slavers and slaveowners. Slaving was an integral part of Arab Sudanese society and trade, and they were outraged when the British tried to stamp it out and protect the indigenous Black peoples.

Slavery was also part of the African societies further south, in what became Rhodesia and Malawi. The Kapolo slaves there, apart from other indignities, had to use broken tools when working and eat their food off the floor. And the explorer Richard Burton, writing in the 1840s, says in his book Wanderings in West Africa that the condition of the slaves on that part of the continent was so wretched and the enslaved people so starved that if Black Americans saw them, they’d give up all ideas of freedom and be glad of their lives in the west.

As for slavery being the product of White British racism, the opposite is true. According to scholars of western racism, such as Sir Alan Burns, the last British governor of Ghana and the author of Colour and Colour Prejudice, and books such as Race: The History of an Idea in the West, there was little racism in Europe before the 15th century. White racism and modern ideas of White racial supremacy arose after the establishment of the Atlantic slave trade to justify the enslavement of Black Africans. But this all seems lost on Agbetu and Nabbossa.

Now they are only two of Khan’s panel. There are 13 others, and it’s probably that the Tory press seized on them to make mischief. The others may well be more moderate and informed. I’ve certainly no objection to the inclusion of a Star Wars actor, who outraged Tory sensibilities by describing Boris Johnson as a ‘c***’. It’s not the word I would use, and it is obscene, but Johnson is a thoroughly nasty piece of work, as is the party he leads. I’d therefore say that, barring the language used to express it, it’s an accurate assessment of the vile buffoon. Tom Harwood, chief catamite at Guido Fawkes, has also been stirring with the claim that the panel was considering the removal of a 16th century statue of Queen Elizabeth. This is something he seems to have pulled out of his rear. The panel has not said anything about Good Queen Bess’s statue, and it’s just Harwood trying to cause trouble by lying. Which is standard Guido Fawkes’ practise.

But the inclusion of Agbetu and Nabbossa does cast severe doubt on the panel’s expertise as a whole and the suitability of its other members to make informed judgements on controversial historical monuments. But the ignorance and racial prejudice of the two also shows that we really need to have the global aspects of slavery taught. The deeds of the past should not be covered up, but they should be placed in context. It needs to be made very clear that slavery is a global phenomenon, that it was not invented by White Europeans preying on Black Africans and that it was also deeply ingrained in many African societies and practised by the Islamic states and empires as well as Hindu India. Such knowledge might be a shock to people like Agbetu, who seem to labour under the illusion that Africa was somehow free of it before the European invasions, but that is no reason why it should not be taught.

Otherwise you get bad history and the politically correct anti-White racism these two promote and demand.

Is the BBC Really Trying to Change the Name of the Anglo-Saxon Period Because They Think It’s Racist?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 1:36am in

Simon Webb posted this video on his ‘History Debunked’ channel nearly three weeks ago, on the 23 November 2020. In it he discusses the BBC’s decision to stop calling the period between the departure of the Romans in 410 AD and the Norman Conquest of 1066 the ‘Anglo-Saxon period’ because the term is apparently perceived as racist. A BBC programme he was listening to on the radio referred to it as ‘the early medieval period’ and there is, or was, apparently, an article in the Corporation’s BBC History Magazine stating that there are moves to change it, as it deters Black people studying it because they associate ‘Anglo-Saxon’ with White supremacy. And in America there are moves to stop using the term altogether and simply refer to it as the early middle ages.

Webb takes this view that this is an attempt by the Beeb to rewrite the past so that it resembles the multicultural present. But he points out that his was the period when what had been Roman Britain was settled by Angles, Saxons and Jutes. ‘English’ comes from the word ‘Anglish’, for Angles, who also supplied the country’s name, England, from Engla Land, ‘Land of the Angles’. He states that this process of settlement is described in the last chapter of his book, Life in Roman London, published by the History Press, which is one of the few popular treatments of this subject. As for the term’s racial connotations, well, the Anglo-Saxons were White. Webb shakes his head in amazement at this attempt to rewrite history in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and wonders where it will end.

The BBC wish to replace longstanding historical expressions – YouTube

I’m not sure what’s actually going on here. Historians have referred to the period between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest for a long time as the early Middle Ages. It used to be referred to as the Dark Ages. Some older readers of this blog will no doubt remember Michael Wood’s great series, In Search of the Dark Ages, broadcast by the Beeb in the ’70s/’80s. However, historians and archaeologists have largely stopped calling the period that as more has been found out about it, and the period has increasingly seemed to be less dark. I think it might still be used for the couple of centuries after the departure of the Romans from Britain and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon England. Other terms used for those centuries are ‘Post-Roman’ and ‘Sub-Roman’. And the term ‘early Middle Ages’ of course makes perfect sense for the rest of Europe, which weren’t settled by the Anglo-Saxons, although northern Germany, the Netherlands and Jutland in Denmark were their ancestral homelands from which they migrated to Britain. The term also makes good sense for Ireland and the Celtic parts of modern Britain, Wales and Scotland. But in the context of English history, the period absolutely should be called the Anglo-Saxon period. That’s what the people, who founded and created England have been called following King Alfred himself. There were Black people seen in the British Isles and Ireland during this period. Round about the 8th-9th century or so the Vikings of Dublin brought in a shipload of ‘blamenn’ – blue, or Black men. I think the historian David Olusoga has also talked about the arrival of another shipload of Black people in Cumbria round about the same period. Medieval people certainly knew that Black people existed. They describe them as living in Africa and believed they had acquired their Black complexion through being burnt by the sun. But Black people in Europe at the time would have been very, very rare and the vast majority of the population would have been White. That’s not racism, but a simple statement of historical fact.

I’m afraid that racism has cast a very long shadow over this period ever since the Nazis. For many years I was a member of a Dark Age re-enactment society, Regia Anglorum. This tried to recreate the history of the British Isles round about 1066. While re-enactment in Britain is largely acceptable, except for World War II, or at least, the idiots who want to dress up as the SS, in Germany it’s regarded very much with loathing and contempt. This is because of the appropriation of the history and archaeology of the Teutonic tribes and the Vikings by the Nazis. The overtly Fascist fringe has done the same over here, harking back to the Celts and especially the Anglo-Saxons. As a result, some perfectly historical symbols were banned for very obvious reasons. Some of the pottery from migration period Anglo-Saxon graves is decorated with the Swastika, and you can find it on rock carvings in Scandinavia. But obviously no self-respecting re-enactor for the early middle ages is going to use it on their clothing or equipment because of the connections with Nazism. I can’t talk about re-enactment as a whole, as it’s a very large milieu and there were are large number of different groups, but the organisation I joined was very definitely non-racist and certainly had members from different ethnic groups. A number of the people in Regia when I was there, including some of its leading members, were Jewish. And their religion made absolutely no difference to anyone, whatsoever.

From what I can make out, there was little racism in Europe until after the Middle Ages. There was conflict between ethnic groups, states and nations, but little in the way of racism based on colour. From what I’ve read I think that modern racism really emerged through transatlantic slavery, although I think that the wars with darker skinned people, such as the Arabs and Moors during the Crusades and the Muslim conquest of the Balkans also played a part. The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in ‘Anglo-Saxon’ history, simply refers to a period. It has, or shouldn’t have, any connotations of racism or White supremacism.

This needs to be got across, assuming that some people genuinely feel that it is somehow racist and that this isn’t a misperception or exaggerated reaction by whoever makes these judgements after Black Lives Matter. But to stop calling that period of English history ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is in itself a falsification of history. It should go on being called the Anglo-Saxon period, but also made clear, if necessary, that it is an historical term, not one from any racial or racist ideology.

Introducing Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi: One of the ‘Wrong Type of Jews’

Double Down News are another left-wing, alternative news site and agency. In this video, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi of Jewish Voice for Labour, talks about the abuse and attempts to silence her she and the other left-wing, pro-Palestinian Jews have faced. She describes what a breath of fresh air Jeremy Corbyn was and the hope he gave people like herself, that there would be real change at last after 30 years in the Labour party. She talks about the eminent Jewish academics, who have criticised the establishment’s exclusive concentration on support for Israel as the defining factor in Jewish identity, and the powerful role left-wing Jews like herself have played in combating racism and prejudice all over the world, from the battle against Mosley’s BUF to the American Civil Rights movement and apartheid South Africa.

Anti-Semitic Abuse for Being Pro-Palestine

She begins by describing the abuse she personally got when she was 19 and presented a pro-Palestinian talk at Uni. she was called ‘safe-hating’, ‘the wrong kind of Jew’, ‘anti-Semitic’ and a ‘kapo’. This is especially despicable, as they were the Jewish collaborators with the Nazis in the concentration camps. She is bitterly critical of this type of abuse, not just because it’s especially offensive for people who have really suffered under Nazis and other vicious anti-Semites – she equates it with being called a ‘paedophile’ – but because it also delegitimises the struggle against real Fascists. Here the video shows footage from the notorious Charlottesville Nazi gathering, with the storm troopers of the Alt Right marching along chanting ‘The Jews will not replace us.’ Wimborn-Idrissi’s talk and the abuse she received was covered by the Jewish Telegraph, who put it all on the front page. Which shows you what a despicable, right-wing establishment rag it is.

Heijo Meyer and Israel’s Nazi-like Persecution of the Palestinians

She also gives the real truth about Corbyn’s infamous attendance at the speech given by Heijo Meyer, which was used to pillory Corbyn as an anti-Semite. Of course he’s no such thing, and the video shows images of the greatest prime minister Britain rejected demonstrating against racism, including his arrest for protesting against apartheid. Meyer was a Dutch Holocaust survivor – and the video shows this with Meyer rolling up his sleeve to show the tattoo on his forearm which the Nazis used to mark the inmates of the death camps. Meyer’s was speaking at a Holocaust Memorial Day event. He was describing how the techniques used by the Nazis to dehumanize people like him – Jews – in the camps to enable them to murder them are also being used by Israel against the Palestinians. And what Wimborne-Idrissi says is horrifying is that the parallels are there.

This section of the footage is grim, as it show the Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression – homes in rubble, a disabled person tipped over in their wheelchair by Israeli squaddies, a little girl with horrifically blackened, swollen eyes.

The talk was part of a series of events that also showed other communities had suffered oppression, like the Travellers. But they were shouted down by a very obnoxious, very vociferous group of Zionists. She found it deeply disgusting that these people were trying to shout down and intimidate an eighty year old man, and urged Corbyn to call the rozzers to have them removed. And in fact the fuzz were prevailed upon to do their duty. But unfortunately by that time they’d been successful in drowning out the Travellers, so that people hardly heard a word from them.

The Media Silencing of Left-Wing Jews

Naomi points out that the media refuses give Jews like her a voice. Instead they give space to organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism as if they were long established and authoritative. There the video show a group waving placards, ‘Labour – For the Many Not the Jew’. This is the mendacious slogan dreamed up by novelist Howard Jacobson when he was in New York. Which is a good and sufficient reason for no-one to buy his books or listen to anything he has to say ever again. It also shows the Beeb’s Kirsty Wark and other journos as an example of this media bias. But Jews have opposed Zionism and Israel for a long time. This is accompanied by images of prominent Jewish critics of Zionism like the awesome Norman Finkelstein and various anti-Zionist Jewish conventions. Some of these are in Black and White, and are of packed, mass meetings. One looks like the Bund. This was the mass socialist party of eastern European Jews. Its slogan was ‘Wherever We Are, That’s Our Homeland’, and they were fiercely anti-Zionist.

She talks about Marek Edelman, one of the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising, who said that ‘to be a Jew is always to side with the oppressed, never the oppressor’. And that was why Jews like her aligned with the oppressed and fought against racism, and why it was just so revolting that their opponents wished to associate Jewry with the type of people they’d always fought against. She tells how the Jewish journalist, Anthony Lerman, has published articles attacking the anti-Semitism smears in the Labour party, and also Kenneth Stern’s criticism of the abuse of the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism. Stern is the Jewish academic, who formulated it. He meant it to be used in compiling statistics about anti-Semitic abuse. But he is concerned about the way it is being used to silence critics of Israel. He testified on this to Congress, and the video has a clip of his speech. He says he’s worried about the way its being used against Jewish non-Zionist college students and the way organisations are compiling dossiers and passing round opponents on critics of Israel. The anti-Zionist college students should also be heard. This is significant, because I think Stern is himself a Zionist. He’s just a decent man and not a racial fanatic like some of the organisations abusing his definition of anti-Semitism. But unfortunately all you hear are the pro-Israel fanatics. You don’t hear or see anything broadcast or printed by Lerman or Stern, except a few learned articles if you look online.

Fleeing Real Anti-Semitism, and Hope for the Future

She also talks about some of her and her families experiences as refugees from the pogroms and persecutions in eastern Europe, of not fitting because you’re weird with a funny accent. But there has to be hope. Jeremy Corbyn brought 300,000 new people into the party. And an increasing number of a new generation of young Jews, especially in America, are turning away and against Israel.

She concludes by praising Double Down News for giving left-wing Jews like herself a voice, and urges people to support it.

Meet The Wrong Type of Jew, The Media Doesn’t Want You To Know Exists | Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi – YouTube

Naomi makes excellent points, and people should hear not just her voice, but the many other Jews like her. She is right to point out, early in the video, that the political and media establishment are anti-Semitic in their attempts to create the impression that Jews constitute a single, monolithic block. That’s what their oppressors have always done.

Unfortunately the media has shown that they have absolutely no intention of giving any space to good peeps like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas and the Jewish Socialist Group. The Beeb, a company which increasingly looks like it has a proud future behind it, has been one of the leaders in pushing the anti-Semitism smears. And it wonders why it comes fifth ranked as trustworthy by the British public, lower even than Channel 5.

The Beeb is reviled as left-wing and ‘woke’ by the Tories and their poodle media because of its anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic stance, and ’cause they see it as anti-Brexit. But in domestic politics and economics, it’s solidly pro-Tory and pro-Israel. Hence its steadfast refusal to let any other voice be heard, Jewish or gentile, to contradict the anti-Semitism.

But left-wing, sincerely anti-racist folks of all religions and ethnicities have and are waking up to the Beeb’s disgusting bias. Which is why they’re joining the right in switching it off.

If we are going to hear the real truth, it has to come from news sites like Double Down News, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and the David Pakman Show in America, Amy Goodson of Democracy Now! and Abby Martin of Tele Sur, Ash Sarkar of Novara Media and Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary. She’s another anti-racist gentile, who’s been accused of anti-Semitism, despite having a Jewish partner. Seder and Pakman are both Jewish. Seder has described himself as the most Jewish guy you know, and has no time whatsoever for Israel screaming anti-Semitism ever time America cuts its aid budget.

When we hear the truth, more often than not it comes from these broadcasters. Because it surely is not coming from the establishment media.