Why We Should Get Rid Of St George's Flag

BNP Skinheads
England will this weekend be fielding its footballing finest on Germany's conquered turf. I recognise that the World Cup is a moment of great patriotism for all nations involved. So, for me to bring up some unpleasant, seemingly kill-joy historical points won't be popular for some people. I'm not talking about the First or Second World Wars, although I alluded to the victor in my opening sentence. It's the red crossed, white flag of St George with which I am going to take issue.

To me, and quite a few other Black people of my generation and older, the national banner's hijacking by the murderous, racist thugs of the National Front and British National Party cannot be forgotten. In the past, a chill would surge through my spine at the sight of the flag, waved by skin heads or displayed in threatening tattoos and tee-shirts on their bodies.

Pub St George Flag
Personally, I think the outdated emblem of English supremacy should be scrapped. That's what happened with the old South African flag, after the fall of the racist apartheid regime in 1994 when Nelson Mandela came to power as the head of a 'rainbow' national government. In England, we could make a similar break with the dishonourable past of the Flag of St George and launch a competition in schools to come up with a replacement.

For those opposed to my view because they say, 'why should the actions of a nasty bunch of fascists mean we need to change the national emblem?'   I would say, what about the Nazi swastika? It originally came from India, but was misappropriated by Hitler's Germans. You don't have to ask Prince Harry whether or not public opinion in this country would tolerate displays of swastikas even though the war, during which it came to symbolise the Jewish Holocaust atrocity, ended more than 60 years ago.

A new flag would no longer be blood-stained with the misdeeds of England's invading past (Richard the Lionheart, the Crusades in the 12th century and all that). It would represent our country as it is today: a place as multi-cultural as the England football team. Then, like many other Black people, no longer would I feel compelled to support Brazil rather than my home side.

PS: Richard the Lionheart was French and he brought the flag of St George to this country from abroad, so it's not very English anyway.

*   See also 'Online battle for St George's bank holiday' (The-Latest, General News section)  

11 Responses to "Why We Should Get Rid Of St George's Flag"

platinum_master

Thu, 06/08/2006 - 20:24
Not wanting to be the person that you talk about, but why should we let the actions of facists and racists demean the St George's flag? Now, true is what you say about the swastika, but was that the German national flag during the war. Germany has always had its black, yellow and red flag to represent the nation, the swastika represented the Nazi Germans. My best friend is of Ghanian origin and proudly wears the colours of the St Georges flag everytime we go to watch England at the pub. He is not casted out of the pub for the colour of his skin, but made a part of the family atmosphere because of the flag that he proudly bears on his chest. The St Georges flag represents England as a nation, I will continue to fly the flag, as will all nations, such as the Indians during cricket, and also the Brazilians for the World Cup. God Bless the flag of this nation and what it represents.

Abena

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 22:25
<p>I can appreciate reclaiming the flag from the racists and fascists.&nbsp; I am enjoying the wonderful spirit of celebration with flags on cars etc.&nbsp; I can however understand why some feel some revulsion for the memories the flag brings...the swatsika is a religious symbol and if you are able to accept some proudly using it without feeling revulsion for the memories it evokes, then you will be justified in proudly flying the flag.&nbsp; For those of us who did not suffer from the oppression of&nbsp; racists in less enlightened times, the flag is simply a national symbol, and I can understand your flying the flag.</p>

Phil

Thu, 06/08/2006 - 21:42
Although i do agree, in essence, in&nbsp;what you are saying - you forget that the flag represents much more than just a nation, what about ST George. &quot;Lets forget for one second that there is no such thing as Dragons and mythical creatures, which never existed,&nbsp;or the fact that St George comes from Malta. You have missed one important fact. St George represents all that is part of the down-to-earth, respectable, reliable, hard working, tax paying members of this country - he kicked the shit out of someone to impress a bird - and he did it whilst on holiday in the Mediterranean,&quot; Al Murray (comedian). &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;

Lauren

Mon, 06/12/2006 - 18:54
<p>St George's Day has got nothing to do with racisim. To start with, St George was Turkish and is also Patron saint of a lot of other countries. This is England and we should be allowed to fly our flag. Every garden in America has a Union Jack stuck in it and you'd be shot if you didn't have one.&nbsp;I don't give a shit if you are black or white, if you live in England, were born in England and or&nbsp;have a British passport then you are English. Everyone in England should celebrate St George's Day&nbsp;and feel included.&nbsp;Look up St George and then comment. It's nothing to do&nbsp;with those&nbsp;BNP pikies. If we can celebrate St Patrick's Day in England then surely we should&nbsp;celebrate our own country.&nbsp;</p>

Natalie

Tue, 06/13/2006 - 14:12
As I recall, the Union Jack was more so used by the National Front and BNP to help promote their racist views and actions.&nbsp; The British people and government allowed these groups to hi-jack&nbsp; national emblems and understandably,&nbsp; for many people, racism is still closely associated with both flags.&nbsp; The World Cup is a time for people to support &quot;their&quot; team, whether it represents their country or has their favourite player in the team. &nbsp; I was born and raised in London of West Indian parentage.&nbsp; I backed England but I will support Trinidad and Tobago.&nbsp; If you consider yourself to be English then you should be able to have pride in your country, display your flag and celebrate St George's Day.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; People will naturally become angry if other nationalities are encouraged to celebrate their heritage in England and the English are frowned upon for doing the same.&nbsp; It is important to remember, however, that not everyone, whether born in this country, black or white, will have the same warm and favourable feelings about the England flag.<br />

Abena

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 22:17
<p>St George's Day might have nothing to do with racism but the flag was misused by racists, a&nbsp; fact of history.&nbsp; You probaly mean every garden in America has the stars and stripes...America rejected British rule so I doubt if they would fly the Union Jack in every garden! </p><p>If you were born in England, live in England and or have a British passport, you are not necessarily English.&nbsp; You could be Welsh, Irish, Scottish or a host of other ethnicities.&nbsp;&nbsp;I am all for celebrating St George's Day even though I am not English but I do appreciate that for some the St George's flag, a symbol of Englishness can bring unwanted memories.&nbsp; The Editor is simply asking that we examine the proposition that the flag be replaced...</p>

elizabeth simpson

Mon, 06/19/2006 - 13:58
<p>by Elizabeth Simpson</p><p>You know most of these St George&rsquo;s flags are really the English flying in the face of adversity.&nbsp; We&rsquo;re being attacked by the liberal intellectuals who resent everything that this country stood or stands for.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a shame if some black people harbour resentment for days of slavery and empire but the Editor has hardly been oppressed by this terrible country.&nbsp; Most English people do not judge people by the colour of their skin &ndash; most people live and work in harmony with people of many creeds, colours and faiths more so than any other country in the world.</p>So how dare the Editor compare our colonial past with the recent wickedness of apartheid or the evils of nazi Germany.&nbsp; England may have taken advantage of less developed countries centuries ago and colonised them but those were tough times.&nbsp; If powerful countries didn&rsquo;t do their share of empire building, others would.&nbsp; It was dog eats dog &ndash; no politically correct musings in those days. And where we went we usually left something positive as many of the older generation immigrants would acknowledge.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s why so many were keen to come here in the 50s and 60s &ndash; not because they saw us as a nasty, oppressive regime.&nbsp; Indeed people are still clambering for British citizenship &ndash; it&rsquo;s the Holy grail.&nbsp; The English are the fairest and most reasonable of nationalities &ndash; probably too reasonable for their own good.&nbsp; &ldquo;Bite the hand that feeds you&rdquo;, comes to mind.&nbsp; We&rsquo;re bending over backwards in the name of multiculturalism.&nbsp; Every ethnic group must have its own cultural identity but &lsquo;English&rsquo; is a dirty word.&nbsp; The host nation is expected to wear sack cloth and ashes for the acts of past generations.&nbsp; It was a different world then &ndash; anybody vulnerable was oppressed whether through poverty, gender or race.&nbsp;<br /><p>If some people had their way the English culture, history and even the word &lsquo;English&rsquo; would be conveniently consigned to the multicultural dustbin.&nbsp; Double standards, I think.&nbsp; The merest criticism of this loss of culture is met with accusations of racism, xenophobia or &lsquo;Little Englander&rsquo;.</p>Most countries in the world fly their national flag with pride and don&rsquo;t need an excuse to do so.&nbsp; The Scandinavians (our former Viking invaders), the Germans, the French and the Spanish &ndash; they&rsquo;ve all done their share of empire bulding but they&rsquo;re certainly not handing over their cultural identity by way of an apology.&nbsp;<br /><p>But in England the intelligentsia who have been educated and given opportunities in this country have cowed many of the English into cultural submission.&nbsp; We appear to need the World cup as an excuse for patriotism.&nbsp; Some may be flying the flag in the name of football while others are flying it in the name of England &ndash; it&rsquo;s an act of thinly disguised beligerance.&nbsp; Many English feel resentment and anger about the continual attempts to diminish their cultural identity.&nbsp; Such feelings of anger and resentment aren&rsquo;t healthy for anyone. </p>

Abena

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 21:42
English flying in the face of adversity. &nbsp;Please!!! Give us a break.&nbsp; You poor things being attacked by liberal intellectuals.&nbsp; What you can&rsquo;t take is anyone whether conservative intellectual or ordinary working class person or simply thinking, knowledgeable person letting you know that what you see as an innocent expression of national identity is actually a symbol of oppression for some. &nbsp;Acknowledging what someone is saying without dismissing it as an attack on you would be a sign of maturity and the beginning of understanding.<br /><p>I am not sure how you came to see a link with slavery with what the Editor wrote except perhaps, it&rsquo;s your own guilt. &nbsp;I don&rsquo;t remember the Editor saying anything about slavery but the fact that you made the leap speaks volumes. &nbsp;Not a Freudian slip but a jump, more like.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a shame if some white people cannot understand that the glorious days of &lsquo;Britannia rules the waves&rsquo; is seen differently by some. &nbsp;How can you presume to know what the Editor has suffered or survived in this country which could be terrible? &nbsp;A little hint was given with </p><p><strong>&lsquo;To me, and quite a few other Black people of my generation and older, the national banner's hijacking by the murderous, racist thugs of the National Front and British National Party cannot be forgotten. In the past, a chill would surge through my spine at the sight of the flag, waved by skin heads or displayed in threatening tattoos and tee-shirts on their bodies.&rsquo;<br /></strong></p><p>That is an experience which you so neatly dismiss with &lsquo;it&rsquo;s a shame if some Black people harbour resentment&rsquo; as if to say it&rsquo;s so unsporting, so churlish of them to remind you of uncomfortable facts.&nbsp; Sorry to tell you most English people do judge people on the colour of their skin. &nbsp;The only reason they work in seeming harmony with people of other creeds, colours and faiths is because the law compels them to. &nbsp;For years, many Black people spoke of their experience at the hands of the police and other institutions but were dismissed by those who did not share their unfortunate experience. &nbsp;It took the unfortunate death of Stephen Lawrence for the country to acknowledge that there was such a thing as Institutional Racism. &nbsp;Uncomfortable fact but nevertheless true.&nbsp; So don&rsquo;t presume to judge what someone has experienced until you have walked a mile in their shoes. &nbsp;The book <strong>&lsquo;Black like me&rsquo;</strong> described the shock experience of a White person who temporarily took on a Black identity<br /></p><p>The Editor dares to compare your colonial past with the recent wickedness of Apartheid and the evils of Nazi Germany because there are similarities.&nbsp; Uncomfortable if you&rsquo;ve been brought up on the fiction of a benign colonial contribution to World Civilisation to be brought face to face with the fact that all human beings are capable of the most atrocious behaviour and the English are no different. &nbsp;If you were to ask the people of Diego Garcia what they think of your colonial adventures a mere 30 years ago, they would have a different story. &nbsp;So please understand the Editor dares, because he knows.&nbsp; You might be comfortable believing the fiction that colonial adventures were in another age but some of it is very, very recent. &nbsp;So please wake up and smell the coffee.<br /></p><p>You might want to believe that you are the most reasonable of all nationalities.&nbsp; You are welcome to continue believing in fairies.&nbsp; Throughout history there have been English people of the greatest calibre and the worst. &nbsp;It is because of the best that English fair play has become legendary. &nbsp;It is this fair play that the islanders of Diego Garcia are relying on to give them justice. &nbsp;I wish them luck because they will need it especially if so many English people refuse to acknowledge that incredible injustice needs to be redressed. &nbsp;Imagine being deported from your island home only so Britain could lease it as a military base to the US. &nbsp;Horrible fact but true&hellip;And if you don&rsquo;t understand why so many Black people were eager to come to England in the 50s and 60s to help rebuild the &lsquo;mother country&rsquo; then you have no idea what it meant for so many of my parent&rsquo;s generation to celebrate Empire Day.&nbsp; You have no idea why so many of my grandparent&rsquo;s generation fought so valiantly in defence of the Empire. <br /></p><p>As for clambering for a British passport, do you hear yourself? &nbsp;Why do you think people clambered for Roman citizenship in that Empire&rsquo;s heyday&hellip;simply that it can be helpful to have the protection of the players on the world stage. &nbsp;It is a survival thing and not because it is any Holy Grail.&nbsp; &lsquo;Bite the hand that feeds you&rsquo; indeed.&nbsp; Your grasp on fact is so tenuous, it would be funny if the matter was not so serious. &nbsp;By all means continue to believe that you are put upon and trampled under by multiculturalism. &nbsp;Fairytales are necessary to put kids to sleep.&nbsp; And please don&rsquo;t miss the point. &nbsp;English is not a dirty word to most right thinking people&nbsp; - it evokes a complexity of feelings including fairness, stiff upper lip, resilience, piracy, treachery and justice&hellip;.I could go on. &nbsp;Sack cloth and ashes&hellip;you would have to acknowledge fact for a little remorse to enter your mind. &nbsp;Acknowledging reality would mean accepting that there was good and bad and not just good.&nbsp; You might be more comfortable believing that the bad is a thing of the past&hellip;fact is some people still suffer from recent bad behaviour.</p>The Editor never said English culture should be consigned to the dustbin but simply asked that one symbol and its misuse and the effect of that misuse should be understood.&nbsp; That patronising nonsense about being given opportunities&hellip;the thing about real education is it opens your eyes. &nbsp;The English have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be ashamed of&hellip;.your thinly disguised belligerence is just a sign that you would rather believe the fiction than embrace a history which is both glorious and disgraceful.

Ms Serwah

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 23:52
<span><p>&nbsp;</p></span> <p><span>Perhaps we should have a national debate on the issue. I agree that the English should be free to celebrate being English. If they can&rsquo;t do so in England where can they do so?&nbsp; True, the English cannot for ever pay for the sins of their forefathers, but a prerequisite of reconciliation is acknowledging past wrongs, followed by restitution where possible. That's&nbsp;the important issue&nbsp;the Editor has raised.</span></p><br />&nbsp;<span>We must consider whether or not St George&rsquo;s Flag causes great offence, whether there are deep scars because of past abuse associated with it, and whether in order not to offend, it is justifiable to abolish the flag and for our multicultural country to&nbsp;have new untainted one.</span><br /><p>&nbsp;</p><span>It&rsquo;s all very well to say that &lsquo;centuries ago it was dog eat dog&rsquo; and that the colonialist left something positive. It is not disputed that there may have been some positives, but there were also many negatives that still haunt ex-colonies.&nbsp; Perhaps readers might want to look at books like &lsquo;How Europe underdeveloped Africa&rsquo; by Walter Rodney and consider the view that some of the problems in Africa and the Caribbean are a direct result of colonialism and exploitation. Although the colonialists are no longer wielding political power, they and multi national corporations are still controlling the natural resources of many former colonies, and the markets.&nbsp; The Fair Trade lobby for instance recognises this and is trying to make a difference.</span><br /><span><p>&nbsp;</p></span><span>Although unlike the Nazis, the English may not have sought to systematically kill a particular group of people, they oppressed those who were not white, and did not treat them as equals. They did not do much to stop atrocities against Africans in South Africa and Rhodesia (as it was then called) to name a few countries. </span><br /><span><p>&nbsp;</p></span><span>Sadly there was overt oppression of non-whites in the UK, and strange as it may seem to some, people like the editor experienced it. He did not wallow in self-pity, but did something about it by forming the Anti- Racist Alliance. This helped&nbsp;the historic Stephen Lawrence campaign for justice. Today we might not see signs reading &lsquo;no blacks, no dogs', but from time to time black people are killed merely because they are black&hellip;Stephen Lawrence and&nbsp;Anthony Walker for example. It is still very difficult for qualified people of African descent to get jobs that match their qualifications and experience. There is some tokenism, but we need more serious&nbsp; attempts to address the problem. It is for this reason that the Race Relations Act, and other laws were passed.</span><br /><span><p>&nbsp;</p></span><span>I think it is unfortunate that some do not appreciate the fact that the effects of slavery remain, and sadly some black people have been oppressed in this country. Some Caribbeans came here in the 50&rsquo;s not because England was such a wonderful country, but because their countries had been exploited by the colonialists, and they were reduced to working in Britain to make a better life for themselves and their families.</span><br /><span><p>&nbsp;</p></span><span>For those who were oppressed, and those who are suffering discrimination on account of their colour, St George&rsquo;s flag may symbolise the negatives of Empire.</span>

Gary Roberts

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 11:23
<p>Just because a national flag was once misused and abused by a small portion of the population, I can't think it's right to scrap that flag entirely. The majority of people in England proudly displaying the flag in their windows during the World Cup are doing so for one innocent and simple reason - to support a team of millionaire football players as they travel the globe kicking a ball around with guys from different countries. </p><p>If the presence of that red and white flag happens to remind more sensitive souls of ugly historical events, it's a shame but it's not the reason we need to take action. There's a certain amount of over-analysis contributing to the St George's flag 'controversy' here. If you take the time and do your research, you might find unhappy truths in a lot of characteristically English things, not just in the country's flag.<br /><br />And are the people displaying this flag in the next few weeks - largely teenage boys and men - likely to care about or even understand the significance of what this Editor is arguing? I fear his point, admirable though it may be, is falling on deaf ears.<br /></p>

Abena

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 20:06
<p>Ignoring someone's pain just because the pain was caused by a minority seems rather insensitive to me.&nbsp; I did not live in England during the National Front days so don't have those memories but wouldn't presume to dismiss a valid argument on the basis that it was 'misused and abused by a small portion of the population'.&nbsp; I wasn't at the Sharpeville massacre either but could understand why South African needed a new flag. &nbsp;A people who don't know their history are condemned to relive it.&nbsp; The debate is worth having and to have a proper debate, one needs to acknowledge the other side's point.&nbsp; I can see the argument for reclaiming the England flag as many have done this summer and that is a good thing but to dismiss the need for alternative action (such as replacing the flag)&nbsp;as mere sensitivity is kind of laughable.&nbsp; Why was such fuss made about Prince Harry and the swatzika which after all is an old Hindu symbol?&nbsp; It's because 60 years is too soon to forget what the symbol stood for in more recent times.&nbsp; In the same way, the goings on of the NF is more recent and some memories are still very raw. To ask that history be acknowledged is not over-analysis,it is just asking to be acknowledged as human beings, players in history and not a mere blip on the landscape.</p><p>Just because those flying the flag might not be aware of its impact on some or deeper meaning to others&nbsp;does not mean there is no need to educate them.&nbsp; The opportunity to learn about our common history should never fall on deaf insensitive ears.&nbsp; People need to be told why they must care. <strong>'no man is an island, entire of itself..'&nbsp; </strong>Learning to care about what makes us all tick is what might make this island great again</p>