Dumping the past – and moving on

So the British Library has apologised to the widow of Ted Hughes, after suggesting that he may have benefitted from the slave trade through his ancestors. What? Apparently the poet laureate was named, as one of around 300 people and institutions that may have profited from slavery, or colonialism.

My first response – so what! How can anyone be held responsible for what the dead did? Maybe I too am a descendant of a slave trader? Who knows? Apparently, Hughes had family connections with a slave trader, born in 1592, who imported slaves to work on his tobacco plantations. Bizarre or what? Have people nothing more purposeful to do than dig backwards into history – and find dirt to throw? I am sick of it all.

Of course, Black Lives Matter, but this kind of dirt-digging goes too far. It’s time to move on. ALL lives matter – whether black, white, brown. Whatever religion, ethnic group or gender orientation. All of this stupid and ridiculous focusing on the past – none of which leads to improving the future – must surely cease. The past cannot be erased. But our knowledge of it can be used to improve all lives in the present. Harping backwards only reinforces divisions that we need to break down.

We also read that institutional racism is rife at universities: that they need to improve their awareness of prejudice, white privilege and so-called ‘micro-aggressions’ on campuses. Is this also more media hype to blow the leaves of racism into a storm?

Data released in February 2020, reveals that there were fewer than 150 black professors in British universities. Last year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that universities failed to address racist incidents, including physical assaults on BAME students. Such incidents are disgusting and people who are proved to have behaved in such ways should automatically be dealt with.

Then we have the term, ‘unconscious bias training’, which is perceived by some as a mere tick-box exercise. What then constitutes racism – and at what point does ‘unconscious bias’ fall into this description? Am I racist if I refer to a ‘coloured person’ instead of ‘person of colour?’ Further, if I happen to get mugged in the street and am asked by the police to describe my attacker – do I become racist if I then describe the person as having black skin and affro hair (if my attacker just happens to be black)? How silly it is all becoming.

How many times do we have to say it – ALL LIVES MATTER! Therefore the policies of every institution must reflect this simple statement. Posturing with ‘the knee’ at football matches does nothing. Words mean nothing. Action is needed.

We have been sent a huge warning – via the Covid 19 virus that mankind needs a shake up. So let’s get shaking. We are all human. Our colours are unimportant. Past is past – so let’s shake it off – and work together towards a non-racist, non-judgemental and equality-based future.

Sylvia Edwards: educational writer

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