I have been watching Black and British.  It is an attempt at making us all aware of the history of black people in Britain.

  • For some, this would sound like an exercise in political correctness.
  • You could think that this is a subject only black people should be interested in.
  • You could argue that teaching black children about the injustices their ancestors experienced is likely to maintain or even aggravate the tensions and conflicts that already exist.

I think you would be wrong.

  1. Thinking about the question in the title , I want to say one thing above all: history should be taught. Not all schools bother with it these days.  I am glad someone is encouraging an interest in history.
  2. A person without a memory is said to suffer from amnesia.  It is not a sign of good health.  The same is true of a nation or any group within a nation.
  3. We cannot pretend that race is not an issue today. Exploring the history of Britain without looking at the slave trade, colonialism and immigration, seems to me to be bound to give us a distorted view and to make black children feel excluded from the conversation.
  4. If thinking about some of this history makes us uncomfortable, so be it. It is not good to be in denial.  Let us face unpleasant facts and learn the right lessons.
  5. I do not believe white Britons should feel guilty for what our ancestors did, neither should we accept unquestioningly the views of any one historian or select group. Oscar Wilde wrote, “The truth is never pure and rarely simple”  – you know, The Good Guys versus The Bad Guys.  There needs to be proper study, recognising the complexity of many of the issues.
  6. Most Lancastrians in the Nineteenth Century probably knew very little about the slave trade but, unknown to them, the cotton they span mostly came from plantations worked by slaves. What would a just society have looked like?  
  7. Finally, I would like to see Scottish, Welsh and Irish history included in the same way. Remember that my motto, that of Monmouthshire, means Loyal to Both.