As someone who has lived in England their whole life, I have noticed a certain form of denial and ignorance when it comes to looking at aspects of history — in particular, history that involves and past treatment of ethnic minorities across the world. During Black History Month, we give it a respectful mention on the news and maybe (if you’re lucky) you get a hasty assembly at school. But then we all go home smiling to ourselves while thinking that when it comes to atrocities of the past — for example, slavery — no one can be worse than America, right?
A major example of this is that when British people think about slavery, we automatically push the conversation away from ourselves and towards America. With the same detached emotion you would show to a problematic cousin, the British shake their heads and move on with their lives.
But the problem with this mentality is that is based on complete and utter falsehood.
A topic that is very rarely discussed in modern day British society is colonization and the atrocities of it, and this silence in regard to this major part of our relatively recent history is very problematic.
One of the reasons why it is not widely discussed is because there is still a feeling of satisfaction when it comes to Britain’s colonial past and therefore many people do not view our countries’ actions as negative at all. There is a quiet narrative of pride. “We sure did teach those savages the civilized way of life,” is the ugly vein of thought that still runs through some people’s minds. And as a result, the devastating consequences for those countries to this very day is never acknowledged.
It has recently been revealed that barely acknowledging the subject is not all that British society and specifically the government has done, but it has been exposed that around 1,000 archive files on Britain’s colonial past have disappeared while ‘on loan’ to the government. This has not been the first time this has happened.
The disappearance of these files represents the neat compartmentalization and denial that the British government and society has when it comes to their past. This literal erasing of history means that in the future, the validity of people’s suffering and pain can be debated because evidence has conveniently disappeared.
This creates a lack of accountability and the creation of a history that makes British people who do not belong to an ethnic minority feel more comfortable instead of reflecting on the often dark and disturbing reality.