What have I read this week?
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
This is a nonfiction book about the history of race, specifically blackness and whiteness, including the author’s experience growing up black in Britain. I found this really interesting and I definitely learned a lot from it. I would definitely read more books by this author.
The most dramatic example of the revolutionary human capacities of black nationalism comes very early in its history in Haiti where, after the only successful slave revolution in human history, the independent black government made the white Polish and Germans who aided the revolution legally ‘black’ in 1804.18 The revolutionary and oppositional nature of black identity is also part of why so many millions of people racialised as white are inspired by the black culture, music and art in spite of all racist propaganda that they have been exposed to asserting that these people – and thus their culture – are inferior. It’s why John Lennon – great as he was – can never be a symbol of freedom for black people in the way that Bob Marley, Nina Simone or Muhammad Ali are for so many white people.
Back in 2005, future prime minister Gordon Brown let the world know that ‘the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over’ – leaving us all wondering when those days of apology were. In a 2014 YouGov survey, 59 per cent of Brits declared that they were proud of the empire. The historian Niall Ferguson gloated approvingly on his Twitter, ‘I won’. I’d love to see a similar survey done with only British citizens whose families come from non-white former colonies, and of course the not-quite-whites of Ireland. Wouldn’t the true measure of the British Empire’s supposed benevolence surely be attained by asking the billions of humans that descend from the people it ruled if they remember it so favourably?