Churchill’s statue had been targeted by a small element amongst largely peaceful anti-racism protestors, with one protestor graffiti-labelling Churchill as a racist.
As news footage has shown this weekend, this was not a counter protest or an attempt to defend Churchill’s statue from being targeted but a gathering of mostly white, racist males intent on disorder and violence.
It was a reaction to the Black Lives Matter global movement and possibly borne out of a feeling that their white privilege had been called out, there was a real risk of acknowledging the racism that has affected society and a change was potentially going to happen.
As they violently faced off against the police, ironically giving Nazi salutes and singing Rule Britannia harking back to Britain’s colonial age, this was not a small minority of protesters but an assembly of far right racists drawn from the English Defence League and the Football Lads Alliance.
What we saw had nothing to do with defending England or football. Whether attacking people in Hyde Park, urinating on a memorial or chanting ‘we are racist, we are racist and that’s the way we like it” was shocking to see. This was most certainly not ‘our finest hour’.
Was Churchill a racist? Definitely. A white supremacist? Absolutely. A war hero? No doubt.
Churchill was a complex wartime leader. He is often quoted and represented as having the British bulldog spirit of never giving in and to keep pushing forward. His views as a white supremacist are less well known.
Churchill once said: “I do not apologise for the takeover of the region by the Jews from the Palestinians in the same way I don’t apologise for the takeover of America by the whites from the Red Indians or the takeover of Australia from the blacks. It is natural for a superior race to dominate an inferior one”.
The impact on the Palestinians, native Americans, Aborigines and countless others that have suffered for no other reason than their race at the hands of white oppressors is a blight on human history. A truly superior race would surely be looking to help the less fortunate in society rather than pillaging, looting, raping and massacring their fellow human beings.
Churchill led Britain to victory giving us the very freedoms that we enjoy today so arguably deserves to be remembered and commemorated. He was the leader we needed to fight Hitler’s Nazism. What is often overlooked and forgotten is that it was not Britain that defeated Hitler but the British Empire and its Allies.
Without this contribution, in terms of manpower and financial resources drawn from the lands populated with people of colour from Africa and Asia, those freedoms would not be enjoyed today.
Without the Windrush generation coming to Britain post war to supply manpower to rebuild Britain as well as the wealth taken from the Empire lands by force, we would not be a developed nation today. This historical amnesia is borne out of institutionalised racism that white washes the narrative.
A great debt is owed to all the people who fought for Britain, white, black, brown from across the British Empire. People like my father who was part of the British Army who settled here in the UK post war, working on the shop floor, post- recession like many of the Windrush generation.
He was not thanked and welcomed but treated like many blacks and Asians as outsiders in a society that gave rise to the National Front, the precursor to today’s far right organisations like the English Defence League, the British National Party and Britain First.
These racist thugs caught on camera are not nameless or unknown to wider society and nor should their vile actions be tolerated in a multicultural developed community.
They should be charged for inciting hatred and crimes against humanity especially those who have been filmed being violent. Criminal action should have the full force of the law but will it change mindsets? I doubt it. It may even be seen as a badge of honour in their racist networks.
Assuming that they have jobs, their employers should hold them to account for their behaviour and racist views outside of work. Personally I do not see what value it would bring to discipline a racist.
What these racists need is to escape their narrow world view, be re-educated about the contribution of people of colour to British society and spend time with someone who is different to them to see their shared humanity.
I would like to see these so-called ‘statue defenders’ be enlightened. To see employers defend our statutes of legislation, have these racists escape their white ivory towers and spend time with someone who is visibly different to them, face their victims, see past the pigmentation and see the person looking back at them.
In a day of darkness was the image of Patrick Hutchison, a black anti racist protestor, carrying away an injured racist 'protestor' for his safety and protection (no doubt to be treated by a BAME NHS worker) showing the world what compassion and humanity really looks like. Possibly Britain’s finest hour this weekend. Will this particular racist rethink his position in light of Hutchinson’s selflessness. Will others? I can only hope so for all our sakes.
Shakil Butt is founder of HR Hero for Hire, and former HR and OD director at Islamic Relief Worldwide