British racism, is still racism even if a tiny bit less brutal than the Belgians, Germans, Japanese. Most of the people transported into slavery from what is now thought of as Africa, were transported to North, Central and South America in British and French ships. That is not something to be candied over with “we were not as brutal as the Belgian king.” Tearing apart families and enslaving people is brutal enough and needs to be healed not by candy but by admitting the wrong!
The defensive, patriotic narrative of empire has become a drug. Like all addicts, those hooked on it cannot stomach critique
It feels like I live in the middle of a culture war. On one side is a kind of state-sponsored amnesia. It’s pervasive. It’s an Oscar-winning movie perpetuating the idea that Winston Churchill stood alone, at the Darkest Hour, as Nazi fascism encroached, with Britain a small and vulnerable nation isolated in the north Atlantic. In reality the United Kingdom was at that moment an imperial power with the collective might of Indian, African, Canadian and Australian manpower, resources and wealth at its disposal.
It’s also Poland passing a law so that errant historians, survivors or Auschwitz guides who raise the inconvenient fact of Polish complicity in atrocities now risk up to three years’ imprisonment. It’s Tennessee in the US legislating against the removal of Confederate statues when, as the former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu puts it, they “purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitised Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for”.