The issue with Boris Johnson’s British morality | Colonialism


Why would an elected public consultant in a supposedly progressive nation fail to sentence President Donald Trump’s unhealthy management and as a substitute hail the democratic qualities of america, particularly at a time when tens of millions of Individuals are out on the streets demonstrating towards the widespread and deep-rooted injustices of their nation?

Solely a frontrunner who’s wilfully blind to Trump’s problematic stance on racial justice and the huge demonstrations which have materialised after George Floyd’s brutal homicide by the hands of cops would wrestle to publicly acknowledge and condemn the US president’s divisive and harmful actions and phrases.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, nevertheless, did simply that in Parliament on June 10. The Scottish Nationwide Social gathering’s Kirsty Blackman requested Johnson whether or not he nonetheless believes Trump has “many, many good qualities”, particularly after the latter’s “horrendous” and sometimes reckless response to Black Lives Matter protests. With out batting an eyelid, a rambling Johnson reaffirmed Trump’s management and claimed the US has been a “bastion of peace and freedom” since 1964.

That is an absolute, shameful lie.

The US has endured limitless uprisings over institutionalised racism and police brutality since 1964. Johnson’s try to effortlessly expunge America’s lengthy historical past of racism and state-sanctioned violence at residence and overseas from throughout the Atlantic Ocean is very disturbing. His willingness to whitewash America’s violent previous is a powerful and insightful reflection of Britain’s long-established willingness to each glorify and minimise its equally damaging colonial previous. In spite of everything, the US’s troubled and violent historical past is just second to the UK’s disastrous colonial presence in Asia, the Center East and Africa.

Johnson’s wilful blindness in regards to the rising requires racial justice shouldn’t be restricted to his refusal to acknowledge the position Trump has performed in deepening America’s racial divides both. He’s so splendidly misplaced in espousing the “grand heritage” of Britain’s colonial conquests that he additionally stays wholly unmoved by the rising and common opposition to monuments and symbols that commemorate and honour colonialism, racism, slavery and white supremacy. 

Individuals have been tearing down Accomplice statues for a decade. The “Rhodes Should Fall” marketing campaign, which began in 2015 on the College of Cape City, led to a wider motion to “decolonise” training throughout South Africa and past. Just some days in the past within the Belgian metropolis of Antwerp, a statue of King Leopold II, who seized an enormous swathe of Central Africa and killed as much as 10 million Africans, was set on fireplace and finally taken down by the authorities. Following years of protests and criticism, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte lastly accepted earlier this month that Black Pete, a Christmas character historically performed by a white individual in black face paint, is problematic and will die out. 

Progressive Britons are additionally taking motion to tear down monuments to slaveholders, colonialists and racists of their nation. A statue of enslaver and human trafficker Edward Colston was toppled throughout a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol. The determine of slaveholder Robert Milligan was taken down from its plinth at West India Quay in London’s Docklands. The College of Oxford not too long ago introduced its choice to take away a statue of Rhodes following pupil protests. There have additionally been requires the removing of wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statue in London’s Parliament Sq. as a result of his racist, white supremacist views and his position within the Bengal famine.

However Johnson is one way or the other shocked by the worldwide outrage expressed in direction of outdated and divisive symbols of slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. In a bit defending Churchill, titled, “Somewhat than tear some individuals down we should always construct others up”, Johnson writes, “What has the world come to when certainly one of this nation’s best ever leaders – maybe our best – must be shielded from the wrath of the mob?”

His dog-whistle reference to the “mob” in London sounds perturbingly acquainted to Trump’s labelling of the demonstrators as “thugs” within the US. Furthermore, Johnson suggests Britain ought to construct statues of Black and Asian leaders that helped make the Commonwealth “nice”, presumably to face alongside symbols of slavery and colonial oppression.

He stays satisfied that there are excellent Black and Asian leaders who valued or understood Britain’s brutal previous and labored exhausting in direction of constructing the Commonwealth ostensibly for the nice of the “enlightened natives” in African, Arab and Asian lands. Johnson’s glowing and fanciful view of the Commonwealth’s affect adopts a British, fairly than an African, Indian or Palestinian view of colonialism. From Lagos to New Delhi and the Gaza Strip, the folks that bore the brunt of British colonialism, don’t subscribe to the prescribed morality of the Commonwealth’s historical past.

But Johnson has expressed a willingness to “resist with each breath in my physique any try to take away that statue from Parliament Sq.” and described any transfer to dispose of varied statues of white British heroes as “a distortion of our historical past”.

However the actual distortion is how Britain has did not be open about its colonial previous. How Britain’s colonial historical past remains to be not taught in English faculties. And the way Britain can’t come to phrases with the brutality of the previous, and transfer on. 

Certainly, the morality of pleading with Britain and the Commonwealth to retain symbols of white supremacy, with the caveat that the whole lot ought to be positioned in context, misses the purpose altogether: commemorating the context – the Transatlantic Slave Commerce and colonialism – is the issue. Applauding the boys who championed yesteryear’s racist violence in at present’s progressive world is actually an issue. 

And the concept that “we have to sort out the substance of the issue, not the symbols” is solely short-sighted, expedient hogwash. In an environment the place the massive, residual context of British colonial rule is plentiful within the race-driven failings round overwhelming police brutality in direction of Black males, the Grenfell scandal, the Windrush Era scandal and excessive loss of life charges from COVID-19 amongst Britain’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals, celebrating colonialism or slavery is definitely egocentric and inhumane.

Sadly for Britain, like Trump, Johnson prefers to view the world via the restrictive prism of conservative white privilege. He has described Black individuals dwelling in Commonwealth international locations as “flag-waving piccaninnies” and “the tribal warriors … [who] all escape in watermelon smiles”. That enduring and regressive colonial mentality is the underlying spirit behind his woeful defence of the British Empire. But Johnson is the prime minister of Britain, an official embodiment of its political values, morality and character.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial coverage.



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