Britain is “descending into a cultural war zone”, said Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express. “Bombarded with continual accusations of bigotry and bias”, our institutions are “surrendering to the woke fanatics”. The BBC decreed that “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory”would be played, but not sung at the Last Night of the Proms, reportedly as a sop to Black Lives Matter – until it abruptly U-turned this week (while reiterating its insistence that the original decision had been an “artistic” one).
At the British Library, staff have declared a racial “state of emergency”; its “Decolonising Working Group” rails against “Eurocentric maps” and relics of “colonial violence”.
The British Museum, meanwhile, has knocked its founding benefactor, Sir Hans Sloane, off his pedestal, because of Sloane’s links to the sugar trade. A bust of the 18th century physician will now feature alongside signage explaining his work in the “exploitative context of the British Empire”, and will be locked in a cabinet.
One question that is seldom asked is what Britain’s ethnic minority people actually think about these culture wars, said Sunder Katwala on Politics.co.uk. The answer is: “not much”. Polls show around two-thirds of non-white Britons support removing statues of slavers; but a clear majority also feel that this is a distraction from the real issues of race equality. On the Proms anthems, an informal poll of ethnic minority opinion on Twitter “resulted in a broad landslide for indifference”. Overwhelmingly, people think it’s a trivial and divisive argument. “In other words: have your silly season media culture war over the Proms, if you must. But not in our name, thank you very much.”
(The Spectator, Daily Express, Politics.com, and The Week, 5 September 2020)
My comment: I agree with the sentiments in the last paragraph. History is history, often cruel and messy. Put images of these historical figures in museums and let the public draw moral lessons from what they learn, without preaching and finger-pointing.