As the issues of racism and privilege moved across the ocean to my home country of the United Kingdom, British people are re-examining their beliefs and the role that they have played in allowing racism and any form of “privilege” to continue in our world. Yes, our colonial ways have come back to haunt us once again.
As the streets of the UK filled with Black Lives Matter protestors, we have already witnessed the fall of a number of statues of known British slave traders and racists from our past with calls for the statue cull to continue.
I am a white, British citizen which means that I belong to a nation with a history of colonising vast areas of the world during the time when we were known as the British Empire.
We are the head of the Commonwealth, a collective of 54 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific, all of which were once ruled by the British Empire. That´s right. We conquered and ruled over at least 54 countries in our time, all far away from British shores. Commonwealth countries include many small states and islands, yet Canada and Australia are still part of the Commonwealth, despite their size. We hold no power as such. I guess the Commonwealth is a way of honouring old ties that should never have been.
Even outside of the Commonwealth, we meddled away in many other countries. The first pilgrims left British shores to travel across the pond to settle in lands we now know as the United States of America, displacing the Native Americans in the process.
The same happened when we sent convicts and prisoners to a penal colony in Australia for their sins. They would become the original settlers who eventually displaced Aborigines.
We raped and pillage our way across the lands we now know to be India, stealing their natural resources for our own use. We ruled India until the 1960s when Gandhi and his associates led a peaceful revolution that returned India to the Indian people.
The British had their fingers in the African pie, too. There are too many African countries to mention here. Instead, I’ll use the example of South Africa, which is still a member of the Commonwealth as the country was once ruled by the British. Yes, we were responsible for apartheid with white rule only coming to an end with free elections in 1994.
While slavery is rooted in most early civilizations, along with most European countries, we played a big part in the trade of slaves that saw millions of Africans sold as commodities and sent to all four corners of the Earth including the United States of America.
Our meddling and conquering ways have created havoc in this world. We have a lot to answer for. We do not deserve the title “Great Britain,” that’s for sure.
Many of the men who participated in creating and maintaining the British Empire are still honoured today by way of statues that litter British cities and towns, I believe it is time to stop idolising people from the past who contributed to the rise of privilege and slavery by treating them as false idols. These relics belong in a museum to remind us of our tainted past. They should not be examples of heroes on top of a pedestal for us all to look up at.
Only when we stop idolising such men can we move on from our old ways of privilege so that we can create a world based on fairness and equality.
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(c) Samantha Wilson 2020. All Rights Reserved.