Sunday, August 18, 2019

Scots and Racism

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland’s  national poet,Makar Jackie Kay, said the country had to “grow up” and take more responsibility for the treatment of black and ethnic minorities.

Kay, who was born to a Nigerian father and a Scottish mother in Edinburgh, said Scottish culture and broadcasting had failed to reflect the changes in the country’s population or in its education system. She said more action was needed to ensure that Scotland’s modern-day diverse population was reflected in public attitudes about “what it means to be Scottish”.
She said it was unacceptable to ask black people where they were from in Scotland in 2019, when the same question would not be asked of someone in Liverpool, Birmingham or London. Kay revealed she had been verbally abused at a Burns Supper in the city two years ago and told to “get out” of the event, despite being a guest speaker. “As soon as I started up, one of the men who had actually invited me started heckling me and kept going throughout my address. He later told me: ‘This is our club. You don’t belong here. Get out.’ It was deeply shocking and upsetting.”
She suggested not enough was known in Scotland about its past links with the slave trade, which she said Glasgow, where she lives, was “founded on”.
“The average Scottish child won’t know that Glasgow was founded on money from the slave trade, that a slave owner put the Gallery of Modern Art building there, why Jamaica Street is called Jamaica Street and why Virginia Street is called Virginia Street. They won’t know any of these things in the way that Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and London have all started to come to terms with their histories. We just don’t talk about it.
“We like to think of ourselves as a country that is hard done to by England, which we certainly are at the moment, but that’s not our only story. But if we’re going to grow up as a country, and we really need to, we’ve got to take some responsibility for our attitudes to race in this country.
“It seems acceptable to keep on asking people where they are from in the way that you just don’t do with a black Liverpudlian, a black Brummie or a black Londoner. You can’t accept that now, in 2019."
Kay said: “Scotland is different in so many ways to when I was growing up. It’s apparently the most gay-friendly country in Europe now. As far as race goes, there are many, many more people of different backgrounds living in Scotland than when I was growing up. But I don’t think Scotland has changed enough as far as race goes. I don’t think we reflect that in our culture, in our television or news programmes, how we think of ourselves and in what we teach about history in schools."
"I’m talking about cities and their identities being inter-woved and multi-layered, and people having a communal sense of identity. I think Scotland is behind. Any Scottish city is at least 30 or 40 years behind Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and London. That’s just the truth. We need to find ways of changing that. It’s not just about people being there and a diverse population, it’s about how we actually change our image of ourselves when we think of what it means to be Scottish.”

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