If you are interested in the content of this blog then join us on Facebook and follow Radio Free Cornwall.

27.10.09

Darkie Day



I found the interesting reportage above on the Cornwall facebook site. Someone had attached it to a number of topics with the epitaph "Cornwall is racist". The short documentary is produced by the group - For Young Black Men ( 4YBM ).

Thankfully the individual did not write 'the Cornish are racist' as this of course would have been racist itself. To ascribe essential characteristics to a people, nation or ethnic group (stupidity, criminality, racism, etc) is itself racist. It would after all be just as inaccurate and racist to say that all afro-carribian people are homophobic.

That being said however within the Duchy there is to be found widespread intolerance and racism. The BNP does not have an exceptional vote share in Kernow but they are present. Low in numbers they may be but far-right nationalists, usually British and English but occasionally (sadly) Cornish, do exist and are known to instrumentalise Darkie Day for their own ends. First the offensive and racist elements are pushed to the fore by far-right activists. Then when anti-fascists and the government take an interest, the BNP, of course, is the first to shout about 'political correctness gone mad' and 'British traditions being undermined'.

Coming to Darkie Day itself no apologies will be made for it here. The offensive and racist elements should be removed. However we need to look past the current racist phenomena, which IS instrumentalised by the far-right, to the roots of a Celtic British minority tradition. We also must think about the limits of political correctness to ensure we are not manipulated by fascist troublemakers. A sensible suggestion for the modification of Darkie Day can be found here: Darkie Day.

Unity is Strength

It is sad and counter productive that very worthy campaigns, groups and NGOs, such as 4YBM, that do a great job for one minority group or another (racial, ethnic, religious, sexual etc) often treat the white population of these Atlantic isles, from Lands End to John 0'Groats, as one homogeneous ethnic group.

An English cockney from the East End, ethnically, may have more in common with his Afro-Caribbean neighbour than he does with a Welsh speaking hill farmer or Cornish fisherman.

The truth in fact is that these isles contain a rich ethnic tapestry that includes the Cornish, Welsh and Scottish national minorities. If a group like 4YBM wants to fight intolerance in Cornwall then they should connect a respect for the indigenous Cornish identity with their justified combat against racism. This, I feel, would be a much more fruitful strategy than to ignore all Cornish difference and treat them as simply English bumpkins too far from the big smoke to know what's good for them. Isn't to ignore the Cornish minority and their needs to give passive and implicit support to imperialistic English nationalism and anglo-cultural supremacism ?

For more thoughts on this subject see the blog post: Open Kernow.

Of course there is no claim that the daily experiences of a young black person and a white Cornish person are the same. The former may suffer direct and hostile prejudice on a daily basis whereas the latter is denied cultural rights in his/her schools and community. The public is now well aware of the problems faced by new minority groups, but what does your average UK citizen know or think about the situation of the Welsh or Cornish national minorities?

Between minority groups there can be many differences and much misunderstand but it is this blog authors opinion that unity is strength and, where we can, we should work together.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think a great deal could and should be made of the need to rename "Darkie Day" to Mummer's Day. A number of US cities celebrate what is, in essence, the same mid-winter festival as Darkie Day in this guise.

This does not dilute the cultural significance of the festival (a rose by any other name...) and maintains the Cornish tradition but in a manner less likely to be abused and misused by those who would have us at each other's throats.

I appreciate that many will say that Darkie Day isn't offensive, it is traditional. I do not subscribe to that argument, if people take offense, then it is by definition offensive, even if the offense is as a result of a lack of awareness and understanding. Similarly, there are many traditions that the UK has seen fit to lose (fox hunting, bear baiting, the brutal oppression of the people of a third of the planet...), however, I do not think that a midwinter celebration needs to be lost.

The United Kingdom has already largely lost the Celtic traditions of Beltain, and bar a few druids and other neopagans we have little celebration of midsummer/sammain. This is (to be fair) true of most of Europe outside of the Baltic and Scandinavian states where midsummer and midwinter are, by virtue of longditude more apparent!

In short, I think that the tradition is valuable, the name, however is incidental.