James Dingley: Radical gestures over symbols and statues do not solve real problems faced by poor people and ethnic minorities

As I recall, it was a black man in America who was killed by a policeman, who has since been arrested and charged with murder — and quite right too.

The statue of Edward Colston, who was involved in the slave trade, is retrieved from Bristol harbour, days after it was dumped by "the usual suspects". Dr Dingley writes: "These instant revolutionaries strike chic radical poses that cost them nothing. Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary working people, who include most of the ethnic and racial minorities, are often ignored"
The statue of Edward Colston, who was involved in the slave trade, is retrieved from Bristol harbour, days after it was dumped by "the usual suspects". Dr Dingley writes: "These instant revolutionaries strike chic radical poses that cost them nothing. Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary working people, who include most of the ethnic and racial minorities, are often ignored"

Consequently, why all the fuss?

And why does it now have to embrace us and the issue of historic slavery?

And, since we are going to discuss injustice and social inequalities and rights, why only black?

Dr James Dingley, a Belfast based academic who is chair of the Francis Hutcheson Institute

I have no truck with the murder of anyone, nor do I approve of any form of discrimination, unless there are clear, practical rational grounds for doing so, eg sound scientific evidence against ill-informed opinion.

Pursuit of truth requires a strong prejudice against falsehood, which is where my reservations clock in regarding the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

First, it seems to be largely populated by the usual suspects, eg white activists pulling down the statue in Bristol.

These are the instant revolutionaries who often appear more intent on striking chic radical poses that cost them nothing whilst doing very little to provide practical solutions to problems.

Second, whilst posing as left-wing they increasingly take up what used to be right-wing causes and politics, eg identity politics was precisely what Hitler was about.

Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary working people (often without work), who include most of the ethnic and racial minorities, are often totally ignored.

Here I mean good regular jobs with security and a decent income and good social and welfare services to provide adequate infrastructure support would do marvels to integrate minorities and placate grievances. But that might require some serious intellectual work and hard political graft from our modern ‘street performance artists’, who prefer to pull down statues on a Sunday afternoon, the pubs being shut.

Third, as a result of the street performance artists’ behaviour many ordinary working people may well find themselves totally alienated both from black lives and left-wing politics.

The vast majority of people are quite attached to their historical figures and folk heroes, warts and all, and all national histories are a mixed bag.

Simply attacking them and denigrating historical figures who we now judge ill, in the name of black lives, invariably alienates the vast (white) majority and makes the task of racial integration more difficult.

Worse, it may well lead to a backlash against genuine equality programmes. But, then what is the issue, racial equality or slavery or what?

If we are now to discuss slavery, let’s have an honest debate and add a few facts.

Slavery was an historic reality throughout the world until the 20th century – Irish slavers captured St Patrick and brought him to Ireland.

Before that both Roman and ancient Greek society was founded on slavery — mostly of whites. Slavery was a normal part of life throughout Africa and white slavers never captured the slaves, local black African chiefs went out on slave hunting expeditions to capture fellow blacks to sell to white Europeans.

Meanwhile, in North and East Africa Arab slavers had their own lucrative slave trade (try demonstrating against that in Saudi Arabia).

Whilst in most of Europe serfdom (peasants tied to the land and their local lord) was only marginally better than slavery and a norm into the 19th century. Meanwhile, the modern day record on human rights of many black African countries does not do anyone much credit.

Then, don’t forget, it was the West, led by beastly British imperialists who led the charge to abolish slavery world-wide, who developed ideals of liberal democracy, human rights and laws against racial prejudice.

And whilst it is now (pseudo) left-wing chic to denigrate imperialism it was a serious debate amongst socialists before 1914 about the beneficiary effects of imperialism in bringing modern civilisation to backward regions.

Meanwhile, most of our immigrant population is here, presumably, because they felt they could have a better life here than in any of their ancestral lands, and they were often invited here to help cure labour shortages.

Yes, the West is a white, Christian society, that is a simple objective fact, and it will always be difficult for outsiders to fit in, although, over time, they have in the past (around 1800 the black population of Britain, where slavery was illegal, was proportionately the same as today).

It takes time and accommodation is a two way process, in which relatively small minorities have to be prepared to assimilate. But launching attacks on the host population’s identity, symbols and myths does not help, even if aided by local street performance artists.

However, informed debate and discussion about our history and contemporary society can be positively aided by the input of outsiders, if conducted in a non-confrontational manner. Violent assaults may just alienate and feed a backlash to everyone’s detriment.

James Dingley is chairman, Francis Hutcheson Institute

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