Prominent British historian David Starkey, has been dropped by his publisher and forced to resign from his honorary position at Cambridge University after comments he made referring to African slavery, but how has these measures addressed racism we have to ask ourselves?
British historian David Starkey is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his views on race. In August 2011, Starkey made references to the London riots following the shooting of Mark Duggan by police, referring to them as a “A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture…”. (Watson: Historian David Starkey labels riots a black cultural problem)
His publishers never thought of dropping him then nor did Cambridge and other UK educational institutions. Why is this? Lest we forget that there has been a major international outcry following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It can be argued that no organisation wants to be the focus of a Black Lives Matter march or media coverage following allegations of racism.
Citing racism is the new media rage and once the mob is baying for blood and the mainstream media feigns outrage, you can almost be certain that jobs will be lost and the individual in question will be ostracised from the public domain in disgrace. Yet when all is said and done and the media abandons the story, and the mob moves on to the next exciting public lynching, what have we really achieved in terms of addressing racism?
So what did Starkey actually say? Well, in an online interview with David Grimes about the Black Lives Matter movement he said, “Slavery was not genocide — otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived“. (Sarah Spary: CNN: Disgraced historian David Starkey is dropped by publisher over racist slavery comments: July 3, 2020)
Starkey then went on to say that slavery was settled nearly 200 years ago, ignoring the documented fact that Britain went on to dominate African resources and profit from Africa well after the slave trade ended. Starkey is no idiot in regards to his knowledge of British history and he is probably well aware that the wealth of the African slave trade was a pivotal influence on Britain’s industrial might and prosperity. The Barclay’s Brothers, Barings and HSBC and even the Church of England are just some of the organisations that was built or benefited from the wealth of the slave trade. (Priyamvada Gopal: New Statesman: Much of Britain’s wealth is built on slavery. So why shouldn’t it pay reparations? 23 April, 2014)
In the book “The Slave Trade: The Formal Demographics of a Global System” in Joseph E. Inikori and Stanley L. Engerman (eds), The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies and Peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe (Duke University Press, 1992), pp. 117–44, online at pp. 119–120, Patrick Manning estimates that between the 16th and 19th century, 12 million Africans entered the slave trade. He estimates that around 1.5 million died during the passage and 4 million died in captivity within Africa (Wikipedia: Atlantic slave trade: Human toll)
I have not even gone into the centuries of psychological damage that has been inflicted on people of African descent. An article would not do it justice nor would a book.
My concerns with the modern Black Lives Matter movement and the hypocritical mainstream media that remains silent on the continued crimes of British financial and commercial corporations in Africa; is that censoring individuals like Starkey and asking for them to be sacked is not really addressing racism, it’s hiding from it in my opinion.
Starkey’s views should be challenged in a public debate where people could make up their own minds on whether his arguments hold weight or not. I am convinced that in a fair debate he would lose badly because the weight of factual history is against him.
I do not actually believe that Britain is ready to confront racism, as I would argue that without the threat of losing your job or being ostracised in public how many British people would share Starkey’s view and see nothing wrong with the crimes of the British Empire?
If society really wants to confront the ugliness of racism I challenge all of us to stop censoring people and threatening their livelihoods. Stop hiding from the issue and see what comes to the surface. It certainly will not be pretty.
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