Bristol’s racism has been in the news a lot
Bristol’s racism was highlighted by the toppling of the statue of Edward Coulston. Since then we have been told of discrimination official and unofficial over the decades. The bus company refused to employ non-whites until the law forced a change in the 1960’s. The strength of feeling shows the underlying issue has not gone away.
Did I turn a blind eye to Bristol’s racism?
I have been asking myself that question and am not sure of the answer. I was a student at Bristol University in the early 1970’s. There were not many black or Asian students at the time and even fewer lecturers, as I recall. However, I did not see this as a result of deliberate policy. I did not know how many black people applied to study or lecture in Bristol or what might deter them. The ones I knew appeared to be treated like anyone else.
Was Bristol’s racism all outside the University?
When out and about in the city, I saw black people only rarely. In the shops, on the buses (!) and in the street. They were getting on with life, as people do. I do not recall seeing any incidents of discrimination. I never had reason to go to those areas of Bristol with high percentages of black or Asian people. My time was largely spent in Clifton, Redland, Stoke Bishop and the city centre. I went to the Colston Hall a few times, but never knew why it was so named. I knew nothing of Edward Colston.
Did I know about Bristol’s racism in history?
I knew about the slave trade and that the wealth many of the richest families in Britain, especially in large ports like Bristol, was made from that trade. I thought it had bypassed the majority of poorer people. I also knew that slavery was abolished in 1833 and assumed most people had learnt to accept black people by the 1970’s. I remember being surprised and concerned at the support for Enoch Powell. That was a vocal minority, surely?
Why does my ignorance of Bristol’s racism matter?
If I had gone for so long in such ignorance, how many others were like me? If I am right, it is unfair to blame all white people for the ongoing racism in Britain or to say we were complicit. What else does it mean? It means now is the time to put right a long-outstanding wrong. I am trying to play my small part in my writing, both in my books and in my blogs. Perhaps there’s something you could do?
Is Bristol’s racism mentioned in my book DOWN?
Yes. Of course, as it’s a mystery, things aren’t as simple as that. But it’s there. I have answered a few questions about DOWN in a previous post.
And racism will be an element in my next book, New Money, coming soon, which is set not in Bristol but in Wales, like the two others in my series Accounting for Murder, Book I Double Entry and Book II Old Money