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This page was last updated on 15/05/2007 12:08:04

 

© Commission for Racial Equality 2007

 

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The other side to the story
15 May 2007

Front page logo - illustration by Swava Harasymowicz

Peter Tatchell on today’s hot topics

St George

Hail St George, England’s symbol of multiculturalism, rebellion and freedom of expression. For far too long, St George’s Day (23 April) and the flag of St George have been hijacked and misrepresented by the far right. It is time we reclaimed St George, ditching the myths and celebrating his courageous life.

it appears that St George wasn’t white or English. He was a rebel from the Middle East

While the historical facts are sketchy, it appears that St George wasn’t white or English. He was a rebel from the Middle East. His father was probably Turkish and his mother Palestinian. A soldier in the Roman army, he rebelled against the Emperor Diocletian and was executed for opposing the persecution of Christians by the Romans.

An early defender of human rights, St George is a heroic symbol of protest against tyranny and of the right to freedom of belief and expression. He is, in fact, a worthy icon for modern multicultural England, and for English liberal values and dissent. And, by the way, as well as being the patron saint of England, he is also the patron saint of Ethiopia. Nick Griffin and his BNP pals must be gutted. I hope so.

Mugabe

Even the evil South African apartheid regime never murdered as many black Africans as President Robert Mugabe. In just one small region of Zimbabwe, in just one decade – Matabeleland during the 1980s – his army slaughtered 20,000 civilians.

This is the equivalent of a Sharpeville massacre every day for more than nine months.

The world was outraged by Sharpeville but not by Matabeleland – or by any of Mugabe’s many subsequent killings. While there were international sanctions and boycotts against PW Botha’s tyranny, the world has done next to nothing to protest against Mugabe’s far worse excesses. Why the double standards?

Responding to black murderers differently from white ones is a form of racism. It judges black human rights abusers by lower ethical standards. This is patronising and infantalising. It implies that black Africans are less capable of moral behaviour.

Black Zimbabweans accuse South Africa’s ANC-led government of betrayal. During the apartheid era, the ANC urged the international community to support an economic, sporting and cultural boycott of South Africa. The demise of apartheid was, according to the ANC, aided by this international solidarity campaign.

Now, however, when black Zimbabwe calls on the world to support its struggle against Mugabe’s despotism, the ANC does nothing.

his government supplies the electricity that is used in Mugabe’s torture chambers

President Thabo Mbeki is silent about the imprisonment, torture, rape and murder of Zimbabwean democrats, trade unionists, left-wingers and students. Indeed, his government is complicit in these abuses: it supplies the electricity that is used in Mugabe’s torture chambers. Mbeki has also blocked UN sanctions, and endorsed as free and fair a succession of fraudulent elections. His so-called ‘quiet diplomacy’ has achieved nothing. Mugabe’s abuses have intensified, not eased.

Africa’s shining prince, Nelson Mandela, has likewise failed to speak out against Mugabe’s oppression, which includes the use of food as a weapon of war. The UN reports that the withholding of food aid by the Zimbabwe regime is putting six million people at risk of death by starvation.

A top Mugabe official claims it doesn’t matter if millions die, because most will be opposition supporters: ‘We would be better off with only six million people, with our own people who support the liberation struggle’. This policy of genocide-by-starvation is unprecedented since the mass hunger inflicted on Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Malcolm X

Two years after I outed Malcolm X as bisexual in the Guardian, I still get irate letters and emails from black people accusing me of disrespecting their hero. Why is it disrespectful to acknowledge the truth? Can’t a black person be bisexual and heroic? How does mentioning Malcolm’s same-sex relationships diminish his political stature and his contribution to black emancipation?

If Malcolm had not been assassinated, he might have later followed the lead of Huey Newton of the Black Panthers and welcomed the gay liberation movement as part of the people’s revolutionary freedom struggle.

Even today, there is not a single world-famous black person who is openly gay. Young black lesbians and gay men need role models. Who better than Malcolm X, one of the inspirations for my human rights activism, and one of the great modern heroes of black liberation?

Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner and the Green Party candidate for Oxford East

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This page was last updated on 15/05/2007 12:08:04

 

© Commission for Racial Equality 2007

 

CRE 30 years logo