23. Moving into the grey – Slavery, Race, and Immigration

Moving into the grey – Slavery, Race, and Immigration
Michael Johnson’s “Survival of the Fastest” programme on Channel 4 put forward the idea that through the social engineering of slavery, only the strongest slaves survived the boat trip to Jamaica. This is part of the explanation as to why the fastest athletes come from Jamaica. The slave traders left the most aggressive, troublesome slaves in Jamaica: the last stopping off point to the New World. Modern athletes come from this gene pool. This programme is made over 150 years after the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 which abolished slavery in the Unites States.

In 1988 Jimmy ‘the Greek’ Snyder an American sports commentator was fired by CBS the American TV network for expressing the same theory, as it was seen as racist. A white man putting forward a theory using slavery and race to explain Black athletes’ track speed was never going to be tolerated. CBS did not want anything which might negatively influence its TV ratings.

Have things changed? Over 20 years after Jimmy ‘The Greek’, Michael Johnson has the two criteria to be able to make a programme like this without causing a stir: he still is one of the fastest athletes in the world, and he is black. Could this programme have been made by Christophe Lemaitre? Who? In 2010 Lemaitre became the first white man to run 100 metres in under 10 seconds. The answer is no: because slavery benefitted whites. This is a story of oppression and shame: the shamed cannot tell this story.

But one day they might be able to. When education, job opportunity, social mobility apply to equally to all UK citizens .. maybe. The shift to equality, and rights being wronged is a work in progress. Some would say there is not a lot of progress being made in the area of racial prejudice.
150 years after the abolition of slavery in the US Michael Johnson can attribute the possibility of athletic prowess to a racial gene pool, without it being a racial prejudice.

Ed Milliband leader of the Labour Party said that the Labour Party ‘got it wrong’ in 2004 for having a free immigration policy for EU accession states in Eastern Europe. In 2010 Gordon Brown called voter Gillian Duffy a bigot when she tried to bring up the subject of immigration. Two years later Milliband says they got it wrong. It took eight years to move from the free immigration policy to Milliband saying his party got it wrong: a shift from racial intolerance to understanding the effect of immigration on local populations; and not  perceived as being racist. Racism and Immigration are complex issues: it is hopeful that there appears to be some moving from black and white thinking to grey thinking. An opportunity to think about the complexity of these issues in the grey maybe overtaking polemics.
Moving into the grey – Slavery, Race, and Immigration

Copyright Adrian Scott North London Counsellor Blog 2012
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Disclaimer: This weblog content are the views of the writer and for general information only.
This article is designed to provoke argument and critique.

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