I was walking along the Thames embankment one sunny summer day some years ago, with, unusually for me, hardly a care in the world. I was overflowing with goodwill towards everybody. A man was coming towards me along that cheerful river bank and I decided to wish him a very good morning – not perhaps what one normally does when passing a stranger on a London street, but that was how I felt.
We approached each other, and I was just about to utter my greeting when he growled at me and muttered a decidedly hostile ‘Whitey!’ between his teeth. He had walked on before I had time to react.
Do we know how much we indigenous Brits are resented and possibly hated by the immigrants who have come to live with us? Of course many of them are only too glad to be here, and some at least are deeply grateful for the opportunities that our society affords them. But I don’t believe the man who passed me so hastily on the embankment was unique. If he was representative of a sizeable number, he embodied a very real risk to the stability of the multiracial society that, thanks to uncontrolled immigration over seventy years, has been firmly established here.
Over the last few years much has happened to increase that risk. The hugely exaggerated response to the highly irregular killing of a black criminal by a policeman in the United States was orchestrated into an international protest movement which has resulted in the ‘black lives matter’ campaign, the elevation of that black criminal to the status of hero and the ludicrous custom of ‘taking the knee’. More serious is the removal of numerous public statues to eminent and historically significant figures not only in this country but across the world. There has emerged from all this a crude polarisation that has resulted in the reinvention of all black people as virtuous and admirable – it’s now almost a crime to suggest there may be some exceptions to that – as opposed to all white people who are vicious and capable of terrible evil.
This is obviously dangerous nonsense, but it is not often challenged and is widespread not only in Britain but in America and throughout the world, a grotesque over-reaction that was attributed at the time of ‘black lives matter’ to Marxist ideologues. These left-wing thinkers were pursuing the anti-West agenda of the Frankfurt School as exemplified in the writings of Rudi Dutschke and the Italian Antonio Gramsci, who prescribed the ‘long march through the institutions’ whereby Communism is to be steadily rolled out through Western establishments. The fashion for ‘decolonising’ the National Trust, the Church of England, the BBC and other bodies has been interpreted as evidence that this is happening.
The most pernicious, because most effective, of the propaganda campaigns being waged against the indigenous populations of Europe is the claim that Europeans were responsible for transporting Africans under appalling conditions to work as slaves in the New World. Because this is historically true, it’s an accusation that seems irrefutable. It needs to be looked at closely.
In 2010 the Yale University Press published an Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade by David Eltis and David Richardson. It provides an astonishingly detailed account, with numerous maps and charts, of the movement of enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, usually to work on sugar plantations, over four centuries, from about 1500 to the mid-eighteen-hundreds, by which time the large-scale transatlantic ‘trade’ had ceased.
The first point that Eltis and Richardson make is that slavery has existed in all societies at different times throughout history. Another crucial point that emerges from their research is that whereas the European traffickers, and especially the British, kept meticulous records of their transactions, there exists very little documentation of what happened in Africa itself. This is not because enslavement did not occur within Africa: it’s simply that the African tribes and kingdoms didn’t possess such efficient bureaucratic machinery. Africans were trapped and enslaved in huge numbers by marauding bandits, piratical gangs that made no pretence to organisational efficiency, but which were just as inhuman and ruthless as any Europeans.
The gangs often worked in conjunction with established rulers. The kings of Dahomey, for instance, Bossa Abadee in the eighteenth century and Gezo in the nineteenth, were happy to sell their own people into slavery. The kingdoms of Asante, Gambia, Senegambia and Sierra Leone, Oyo (Yoruba), Gold Coast, Biafra, Angola and Madagascar were similarly involved, though it’s on record that the kingdom of Benin, famous for its remarkable bronze sculpture, participated less in the trade than most of its neighbours.
Eltis and Richardson are clear that the end of the slave trade was precipitated in the first decade of the nineteenth century by the enlightened actions of the Danes, the British and the Dutch, motivated by Christian principles – a point that’s often made in attempts to exonerate those countries. Exoneration is not the point: all those places were involved, for many years; but so were the African countries which are not on record as having attempted to stop the traffic.
On the contrary, the trafficking of humans for purposes of enslavement continues in Africa to this day, as was vividly illustrated recently when the athlete Sir Mo Farah revealed that he had been trafficked from his native Somalia to this country as a child. The continuation of such practices here, though officially outlawed, is one of the worrying consequences of mass immigration which are quietly ignored by government and the authorities. Historically, blame applies to Africans as much as to Europeans, unless we regard the Africans as too innocent and childlike to be held responsible for anything – an attitude that must surely nowadays be considered racist in the extreme.
In light of these historical considerations, modern demands for reparation and apology seem irrelevant and, often, impertinent. For the sake of the future we face collectively, of ourselves and of my friend on the embankment and his ilk, shouldn’t we all bury the hatchet?