Danny Boyle’s history lesson in British history had some glaring omissions at the London Olympic ceremony last night. Granted, it would be impossible to include everything but considering that profits from the slave ‘trade’ fuelled the industrial revolution it was worth a mention, surely?
Especially given that depictions of the industrial revolution featured so prominently in the opening ceremony. Skipping over Britain’s most shameful and bloody chapter of history – which claimed tens of millions of African’s lives and left deep generational scars and a legacy of racism that persist up to today – is nothing short of disgraceful. Let’s not forget that the exploitation and sacrifice of so many African helped build Britain’s economy to make it the worlds’ most powerful nation by the advent of colonialism.
Another example of carefully airbrushing out the Maafa (African Holocaust) from Britains’ collective conscience. It was either ignorance or deliberate amnesia.
And while I was pleased to see the Olympic ceremony include a model of the SS Windrush, and representations of the first generation of Caribbean immigrants arriving in their Zoot suits, there was nothing at all to remind us of the hardships and daily explicit racism faced by those pioneers in the late 1950s and onwards.
Tory MP Aidan Burley – he of the Nazi-themed party – tweeted that the ceremony was “multi-cultural crap”, and his sentiments and intentions were appalling. But from another perspective it was deeply disappointing. The use of many black volunteers and nurses for the performance presented a picture of Britain to the world that excluded the reality of struggle against intolerance and the existing racial disparities affecting the nation today.
Given that the show featured the Suffergettes it was a great shame that there was no recognition of the struggle for race equality. The other day a gentleman called me about an event carrying the title “should Black History Month be abolished?” Going on last nights’ offering alone, the answer has to be “no”, we need a lot more of it to foster much greater awareness of the history of black people in Britain.