The BLM event in Axbridge feature poetry and prose. Pic Sebastian Lloyd

After I posted my take on the overthrow of Edward Colston’s statue, several people contacted me – but not in a good way. They posted slogans such as ‘All lives matter’ and ‘there were white slaves as well,’ on their social media – and commented on my post in a negative way.

One person challenged me saying the BLM organisation was a racist Marxist organisation dedicated to destroying ‘our British way of life.’ The one that most irritated me though was the defence of – ‘I’m not racist, some of my friends are black.’ This was apparently their get out of jail free card which exempted them from any criticism.

A brief BLM event in Axbridge Town Square which was socially distanced and featured poetry and an act of ‘taking the knee’ in June this year prompted some in the town to object to the event as it was ‘political’, and even worse ‘didn’t have permission.’

The BLM event in Axbridge feature poetry and prose. Pic Sebastian Lloyd

All of which suggested that despite all the denials racism was there in plain sight. I have always felt that racism – or more particularly the idea of ‘us and them’ is part of the human condition. This tribal element that is part of our make-up should always be resisted – but is built in as DNA as part of our survival techniques for the two or three million years when our ancestors battled it out with rival humanoid groups.

Racism exists on many levels but compared to when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s things have greatly improved. My Aunt in London openly shouted ‘wogs’ at a family who had just moved in across the street in Balham. My grandparents generation openly talked about ‘yids’ and ‘pakis’ in disparaging terms.

Even at school some teachers implied support for Enoch Powell’s views on race and the notion of ‘sending them back on the banana boat’ was an idea in common usage.

We’ve come a long way since then. BLM is in my view a near universal acceptance that the way black and minority ethnic groups were treated and viewed in the past was wrong. It wasn’t an endorsement of anything more than that – let alone condoning some sort of Marxist organisation.

And for me the ‘All lives matter’ line taken by some was a bit mealy mouthed and in denial – a chance to down play the whole thing and shut down any discussion. We don’t say ‘some of my best friends are vegans’ when the contentious debate about farming and eating meat comes up. It just reveals the continuing extent of the prejudice and denial of how history has been recorded by my own generation of white people brought up on one view of the past. Of which I might add, I am one.

Harry Mottram

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