The Lesser Of Two Evils: Britain's Distorted Versions Of History

Watching Bed Knobs and Broomsticks during the festive season, I couldn't help but realise Britain's obsession with the Nazis and World War II.
Not that I hadn't noticed this before nor is Bed Knobs and Broomsticks the only vintage family film to perpetuate an aggressively negative image of the German or Bavarian people, take Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and their made up country 'Vulgaria' whom the citizens all speak with German (type) accent.

I know only too well the acts of genocide preformed by Hitler’s army, not only am I reminded every year before and after Remembrance day in November, the subject also took up much of my secondary school history lessons, with the lesson ending with a 'must see' trip to France to what remains of the battle of the Somme battlefields. World War II is in fact a horrible piece of recent history, with an estimate of six million Jews killed in concentration camps under Hitler’s rule and often not mentioned that another four million non-Jewish people (majority Polish) were also put to death.

A sickening and saddening piece of European history yes, though Britain (as well as the rest of Europe) harbours a much worse past with its role in the slave trade. A history that has not only devastated the African continent but continues to burden the lives of millions of people of African descent in the form of racism. - Pot calling the kettle black!
It is estimated that over twenty million Africans were shipped to America (north & south) and the Caribbean, with the amount of Africans who lost their lives in transit (this includes the journey to slave forts, during captivity at slave forts and on the slave ships) said to possibly equal if not exceed the amount actually enslaved. This would work out to be four times as devastating as the Holocaust, and lets not forget to mention that slavery lasted close to 400 years!

I don't think you can find a more sadistic history like that of the British slave trade, yet hypocritically we don't have a day each year for the nation to reflect on the horrors of this past.  
Yes there is a Black History Month though the participation of this is at the discretion of local councils, there is no 1 minute silence or marches/parades and I'm very sure rural parts of the UK with smaller ethnic communities do not participate in BHM.
This year many of the London councils expressed their financially difficulty in participating in BHM due to the government’s budget cuts, with Haringey borough events department (responsible for BHM planning) having their budget completely revoked!

Black History when I was at school was extremely limited and as I'm informed by a London teacher, the continued focus is still on international history avoiding the black history in Britain.  
Though it’s not just the fact that black history in Britain is undersold that bothers me but the hypocrisy of it all. This celebration of Britain's triumph against evil Hitler and 'saving' the culture as we know it, is I’m sure an obvious attempt at hiding the fact that Britain entered WWII quite late despite being fully aware of what Hitler was doing earlier on, meaning that the Holocaust death toll could have been a considerably less had Britain not entered the war only to preserve their own interest!
In addition during the resent mixed race Britain season on BBC2 in October (2011) it raised the point that like Germany, Britain during the war eras were conducting unethical race studies and using similar techniques to discourage interracial relationships. - So what makes Britain any better?

Both histories need to be held in the public consciousness as they are both histories we need to learn from and discourage the repeat of. Though Britain’s poor attitude of mocking the historical errors of other countries instead of accepting and writing the wrongs of their own only stands to hinder its growth.
This is why this year’s riots could be seen as history repeating itself due to Britain’s inability to learn from its mistakes. 
Though it could be said that the lack of white British causalities in slavery could be seen as a valid reason as to why Britain upholds the history of WWII over that of the slave trade, which in itself serves to exemplify the racist legacy which has lasted from slavery.These unlearnt lessons of history are why the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade has not stopped forms of slavery existing, nor has the defeat of Nazi German Government encouraged a zero tolerance attitude to the genocides that are occurring in Africa and Arab  nations.

When will we learn?

Reference Links:
A season of BBC2 programmes about mixed race britain, BBC blog
World War II,

Recommended Reads:
A Short History of Alavery, James Walvin
The State of Africa, Martin Meredith
Mother Country, Stephen Bourne


Popular Posts