I have a rather embarrassing tablecloth which has been passed down through the generations. It is headed ‘The Civilisation of Fiji’.
The first side shows the locals in an ‘uncivilised’ state. On the next side, Britannia arrives complete with her trident, shield and helmet. We then see the natives dressing and finally the local black people are all dressed as smart Victorians.
It is cringingly embarrassing showing how our ancestors believed that they were inherently superior and were determined to impose our way of life on others, however inappropriate.
Did they really think that the hats and long formal coasts were a good idea in Fiji?
But at least they did not practice deliberate genocide on the local population.
We do not need to go back to the Victorians to find open racism.
Jack Leslie was one of the great Plymouth Argyle players. He joined Argyle in 1921 and, in 13 years at the club, scored 131 goals.
He was so good that he was called up to the English national team.
So why have we not heard of a Plymouth player representing England?
His father was Jamaican and he was black. His call-up was cancelled when selectors realised that he was ‘a man of colour’. It was not until 1978 and Viv Anderson became the first non-white player to represent England.
In the 1970s, my brother was a detective in London. After he had visited a witness, she rang the local police station.
“Two people came round claiming to be police officers. They could not have been. One did not look anything like a police officer and the other was black.”
He was delighted that he ‘didn’t look anything like a police officer’ but was upset by the blatant racism against his friend and colleague.
Today, racism is more subtle. It is more than 50 years since the first Race Relations Act.
Overt racism is no longer acceptable. When they are open again, if I made openly racist comments in the local pub or restaurant I would probably be thrown out. (Spoiler alert – I do not plan to).
Working with Devon and Cornwall Police, I can only remember one incident of overt racism.
A white man being booked in at the custody centre shouted a racist remark at another man.
The sergeant on duty immediately added this offence to his others.
The Black Lives Matter campaign has helped us to look again.
Our racism is now more subtle. If two identical CVs are sent applying for a job, the one with the traditional British name is more likely to be shortlisted than someone with an ethnic minority name.
And this even applies in medicine.
Also there are a disproportionate number of black people in prisons and a smaller proportion of black barristers, police officers and judges than in the community.
There is even evidence that people from black and ethnic minority groups were more likely to be fined from breaching the lockdown than white people.
The irony is that when our ancestors left Africa about 50-70 million years ago, we were all black.
We can blame vitamin D for the racial problems of today.
Vitamin D is manufactured in the skin from a natural chemical process which requires sunshine.
In the bright sun of Africa this was not a problem but, as our ancestors migrated to colder climates, their skin produced less vitamin D.
Also, the darker the skin, the less vitamin D is produced.
People who lack vitamin D develop rickets leading to an abnormal pelvis and problems in child birth.
Over the millennia it is likely that people with lighter skin survived and those with darker skin developed rickets.
Many would have died in childbirth.
Us Europeans are only white because of vitamin D. That is not a huge difference.