The Manchester Student's Activism Reminds Us How Little We Know About Empire As A Country

I knew exactly what was going to happen when I saw the Manchester students painting over imperialist Kipling’s work. They will hear “the truth they’ve spoken // Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. We live in a country which little understands race and empire but with the confidence of the pub, loudmouth starts a conversation. And every time this happens, the same thing happens. The same talking heads, same tweets, same racist abuse. Does anyone learn anything about empire or race? No. But we learn about Britain and what it thinks of young people of colour (POC).

The morality of imperialism is often the starting point of this discussion. Moral relativism is the dominant idea. Some think economic “investment” extraction; implementation of the English language and democracy mollifies the human rights abuses of the empire. The Student Union committee at the University of Manchester, myself, and a lot of historians disagree. “If” is a lovely poem, but Kipling isn’t lovely, and discourse about glorifying imperialists is much-needed. The idea that racism was so common that it was fine or that because the British imperialists built trains it was morally excusable, is wrong. Only if you didn’t ask the black and brown people of the colonies or consider their views would you come to that conclusion. Presumably if like Mr Kipling you consider them “half devil and half child” you probably didn’t care for their views. Ignoring POC like these student’s detractors do is the only way you get to…

Read Story

Share This Post