Mary Seacole: Divide and Rule ?

Book here for Lecture; Mary Seacole: Myths in the Making of the Nursing Profession. 10th April King’s College.

You can end up doing a hell of a lot of harm when you set out to do some good.

For example, it was said yesterday that a new £50 note should recognise the contribution made by Britain’s diverse communities by featuring a person from a black, Asian or minority-ethnic background, an MP has told the House of Commons. Helen Grant, the Conservative Member for Maidstone and The Weald, has urged MPs to pass the bill amid fears a disproportionate number of “historic white men” have appeared on banknotes.

Statistics show 14% of the UK’s population are from non-white backgrounds, prompting calls the nation’s currency should better reflect its diversity. All but three people featured on British banknotes have been men. A person from a minority background has not featured on legal tender in the British Isles since the Roman Empire, when Emperor Septimius Severus was of north African origin,

Suggested candidates include Nurse Mary Seacole and the suffragist Sophia Dulip Singh.

Helen Grant’s appeal is a lively demonstration of the persistence of unintended consequences. For her laudable ambition for us all to be what I think in the jargon is called “more inclusive” will inevitably lead to further ghettoization.

The nub of it, as always, is in the choice of words. Ms Grant uses the phrase “Britain’s diverse communities.” Wrong from the start. For if you wish to promote segregation, then make special reference to people on the basis of their differences in appearance. In short, if you start drawing attention to our racial and cultural differences, then you will create division and sectarianism.

By contrast, if your aim is really to produce social harmony, than at once stop all this talk about “communities” and insist instead that we are all one community in Britain made up of people of different appearance, racial and cultural backgrounds.

We should be proud of the fact that we are one people united in diversity.

That should be our message and our slogan: we are one community whose strength is that we can celebrate our differences

Ms Grant’s well-meant proposal leads only to the ghetto.

Seacole: Read about the Seacole Myth

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15 Comments on Mary Seacole: Divide and Rule ?

  1. I used to teach mostly overseas MA students and adults on OU courses. They came from Botswana, Nigeria, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jamaica, Thailand, Iran (escapees), and even one from Saud (female with a male guardian who fell asleep in the first seminar and was never seen again). We sometimes spoke of prejudice but never once did anyone say anything but that they felt welcomed in Britain with not a trace of prejudice. In a couple of cases, where people had failed to get posts they were after, I put the question direct -Do you think colour came into it. Always a flat No. MPs are idiots. (A Texas teacher said that the preferred, woke, term in the US is PoC -Person of Color, but we had the bogus outrage from labour when a Tory used the word recently.) A colleague of mine used to joke that whenever he attended a conference where there was someone from govt or Ofsted or whatever as key speaker, they always made a beeline for him in the socialising afterwards – ‘Cos I’m usually the only brown person in the room.’

    • Not surprised. Many immigrants come from places that really DO have discrimination and racism of a real sort, and know quite well that whomever is featured on the banknote is not of the slightest importance compared to being put in concentration camps or the equivalent.

  2. Most white liberals are overly sensitive to unimportant superficial human traits such as skin color and ethnic background, yet have a cloth ear for linguistic, and a blind eye for huge cultural differences.

  3. The EU motto is “United in Diversity” which I have long thought both ludicrous and oxymoronic. We can no more be Divided by Unity than United in Diversity, surely?

    • I believe they even had the impertinence to make a reference to Cleisthenes’ Athenian democracy.
      The Royal Society has the best motto ever – Nothing in Words.

  4. ‘…insist instead that we are all one community in Britain made up of people of different appearance, racial and cultural backgrounds.’

    Insist away but – in my opinion – people of different appearance, racial and cultural backgrounds can never be one community.

    • It looks that way at the moment but there are a couple of bright spots. First, we all came out of NE Africa a long long time ago, so might one day coalesce again. Second, things are probably no worse than they were in C16th Europe between protestants and Catholics – and those supremacist/isolationist attitudes have pretty much disappeared aside from backward places like Eire and El Salvador. Things have improved in America too. When whitey first got there he was appalled at the inter-tribal savagery. Hobbes based his ‘nasty brutish and short’ pronouncement on it, and Adam Smith referred to Injun brutality a century later. That’s all gone the way of papist/prod hate.

      • It is in Northern Ireland – not Eire – that ‘supremacist/isolationist attitudes’ linger feebly on. And even in the worst of times they exercised only an unrepresentative minority on both sides. I think it unwise to use this clapped-out turf war as a comparator for the growing onslaught against Western Civilisation.

  5. Another case of double thinking language by the EU. Imagine for a moment instead of United Kingdom: Diverse Kingdom. Doesn’t quite work. EU tries to use United, but means united under heel, not united in the community at a grass roots level, and not really diverse either. Diversity is an empty politically correct euphemism for, bow to the power of the state, or something. Like multi-culturalism and the tactic of political correctness, words are twisted out of context for weapons.

    Diversity has spilt like a poison into the language of the green regulation. Bio-diversity this and bio-diversity that. What a crock. Many of these pushers seem more like Eugenicists. Those pushing diversity are often the real racists. Tribal and nasty. The assumption that diversity is better, needs challenging. Diversity sounds a lot like redistribution. To each according to their need. Spread around the incompetence until everyone is equally zero. We are so diverse, that we are the same. Like NPC bearded hipsters, they look identical. The lefties use words as cover, and often have the opposite intent.

    The unspoken end game of EU is communism, in my opinion.

  6. We should have Wellington and Nelson on our banknotes. Perhaps also King Alfred, St Dunstan and St Charles, King and Martyr. Why depict people on British banknotes who are visibly not British?

    • Wellington’s an up-to-date choice: ‘The French always have been, are now, and I trust always will be our principal enemy.’

  7. What contribution exactly have these diverse people made? I have no doubt many work hard at their studies or jobs. Have they introduced democracy? The Industrial Revolution perhaps? What does Britain have now that it didn’t have before they came?

    • Doubtless the lecture will say, but it’s never a loss to encounter diverse experiences and views. I’ve not travelled much but through teaching in universities have had fruitful discussions with people from Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Iraq, Thailand, China, UAR, Turkey. Greece, Cyprus, Germany and even weirder and hard to understand exotic places like Texas … Buddhist comes to mind first as a great loss that Europe could have benefitted from.

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