Retro column: Racism fight that's been 'a long time coming' in words of song

The recent protests against racism and the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement have temporarily gone quiet but it would not take much for it to gain momentum again.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

It’s been a long time coming!

The whole of my lifetime has meant awareness of racism in some form or other. Not personally, I am glad to say.

My generation were the Baby Boomers, many of us having been conceived when our fathers returned home from the war full of testosterone, some of them having been away for years.

Black civil rights movement leader Rev Dr Martin Luther King speaks to a huge protestBlack civil rights movement leader Rev Dr Martin Luther King speaks to a huge protest
Black civil rights movement leader Rev Dr Martin Luther King speaks to a huge protest
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That meant a real period of adjustment in many marriages, and some which didn’t survive the long separations.

It was only after the war, into the 1940s, that the full extent of the horrors of the racism perpetuated by the Nazis came to light with their extermination of Jews and many other minority groups.

Figures given suggested six million Jews and 11 million others consisting of Roma, handicapped people, gay men and religious dissidents.

We enjoyed the carefree innocence of childhood in the 1950s before entering the uncertainty of growing up.

We didn’t know that they were less than perfect times.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

People started to become influenced by their cinema heroes and believed that smoking made you look cool, just as the stars did, and we didn’t know that racism was acceptable in America.

We knew nothing about racism, sexism or homophobia and we had never seen a black person then.

We used to take money to school for the little black babies in Africa who were being taught by Catholic missionaries, or so we were told.

Come to think of it, we’d no real idea where America or Africa were, anyway!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I first became aware of racism through television footage in the late 1950s from Little Rock, Arkansas when the Little Rock Nine, African/American students who were initially prevented from entering the racially-segregated high school were escorted in by federal troops to the accompaniment of vicious and evil taunts from the racist white crowd.

Anyone studying racism in America is well aware of the evils of slavery, when between 6-7 million people were snatched and transported from Africa to the New World.

Or Indian removal migration in the 19th century when Native American Indians were forced by the American government to leave their ancestral homelands and live in designated Indian territory.

Things did not get any better as the years unfolded.

1955 saw the start of the Civil Rights Movement when Rosa Parks made her famous bus protest, the start of the bus boycott and a decade of protest to include the Selma to Montgomery marches and Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, it was not until 1965, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, before the Voting Rights Act was passed.

As Rev King said then: “One hundred years later from the abolition of slavery, and the negro is still not free.”

I read books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Roots’ and Color Purple.

Hollywood’s depiction of black people in the 30s and 40s was of happy, singing black mamas and smiling, subservient house boys.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They were actually the only acting roles black actors could obtain then.

When my aunt emigrated to America in the 1920s from the Republic of Ireland, she encountered racism when trying to obtain a job.

Irish women were called ‘white negroes’ as they were usually Catholics and therefore thought of as reckless breeders.

Likewise, when my own mother came to the UK from Ireland at the end of the 1930s to work in the health service, she was horrified to see notices in windows saying ‘No Irish, no Blacks and no dogs’.

Even in Sheffield in the 1970s, racism was alive and well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A black friend of mine trying to obtain a job in a supermarket found that black checkout girls were often as unacceptable as black waitresses.

It seemed that white customers could be uncomfortable with it.

More recently we have had the Stephen Lawrence case, unbelievably 27 years ago, and has anything changed? and the injustice of the Windrush generations.

And now the George Floyd murder. On and on it goes.

On a personal note as being closer to home, I have been appalled by the vicious, disgusting racial tirade sent to Sheffield United player David McGoldrick. It is as bad as anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So, is it any wonder that resentment has festered and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has sprung up? Of course, we know that all lives matter, but historically black lives often seemed to matter less and unfortunately even today, in some cases still do.

‘I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character – I have a dream.’ Martin Luther King 1963.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Subscribe to The Star website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Thank you

Nancy Fielder, editor